We continue our annual look at the top 50 prospects in the Phillies organization by highlighting players ranked between 21 and 25 on the list. We’ll keep revealing five names on our 2019 list of the best prospects until we reach the top. We’ll provide the player and the positions he played in 2018, with the number of games at each position in parenthesis. Following that is the side of the plate the player hits from and which arm he throws with. We also list their birth date and age as of April 1, 2019 in parenthesis and provide a short scouting report on each player.
21. Cornelius Randolph – LF (103) | B: Left, T: Right | June 2, 1997 (21) – In some ways, Cornelius Randolph compares to Domonic Brown in that he can be riding a 10-game hitting streak and take on 0-for-4 and start pressing and changing his approach and mechanics. After two very frustrating summers to begin his professional career, Randolph hit 13 home runs in 2017 and thought he had found a power stroke. The result was that he looked to hit everything out of the park and his start to 2018 was a bust and by the end of June, he was still well under the .200 mark, hitting just .187/.274/.238. That’s where Randolph started the ascent up to loftier levels when he batted .314/.291/.434 from July 1st until the end of the season.
Defensively, Randolph has actually declined in his defensive skills and is, at best, adequate in left field. He hasn’t shown the range to play in center and lacks the arm strength to play right.
This is the season where Randolph has to show that he’s able to put together what he did in the final couple months of 2018 with at least some of the power that he showed in 2017. It’s likely that the Phillies will have Randolph open at Double-A Reading with a move to Lehigh Valley at some point. A big spring could change their plans and they could have him open as part of the IronPigs outfield in 2019.
22. Kyle Young – SP (13) | B: Left, T: Left | December 2, 1997 (21) – If you like your pitchers big – and most GMs and minor league directors do – then Kyle Young is the guy you’re looking for. At 6′ 10″ and 220 pounds, the left-hander is an imposing figure. Young uses his frame well and gets big extension making the pitches look like they’re coming from much closer than anywhere near around 60-feet. Young wound up on the DL last July and it seemingly threw the rest of his season out of whack. The injury cost him about six weeks where he wasn’t pitching at all and then he spent a couple weeks in the GCL and New York-Penn Leagues before making it back to Lakewood for one September start.
Even with all of his size, Young doesn’t throw very hard. His velocity is around 90 on his fastball and he’ll occasionally move a tick above that. As stated earlier, his extension makes his velocity play up slightly, but he’ll need a little more on his fastball if he’s going to make it above average. He throws a decent change-up and a breaking ball that isn’t crisp and can sometimes be picked up by hitters who know it’s likely going to dip out of the zone. Prior to the injury, Young was 3-3 with a 2.97 ERA at Lakewood and figured to move to Clearwater in the not too distant future. It’s likely that he repeats some time with Lakewood, although with the injury, the Phillies could decide to move him to Clearwater where he would pitch in warmer weather early in the season and they have their organizational coaches and facilities closer to him.
23. Jose Pujols – RF (112), CF (1) | B: Right, T: Right | September 29, 1995 (23) – Pujols has been in the organization since 2013 and two out of the last three seasons has begun to show good power in the minors. Pujols made the jump from High-A to Double-A last season and the good news is that he didn’t seem to require much time to adjust to the stronger Eastern League pitching, like he did when he made the move from Lakewood to Clearwater in 2017. In that span he went from 24 home runs in 2016 to just eight the following season with Clearwater. The Phillies kept him at Clearwater to open the season and moved him to Double-A Reading in early August. He hit four home runs in 26 games with Reading while batting .270/.365/.427 in Baseballtown. Overall, he hit 22 home runs and drove in 76 with a .295/.365/.503 slash line.
If Pujols were moving toward the majors years ago instead of now, he might have already been written off because he strikes out too much – he had a 33-percent strikeout rate last season – but in today’s game, if he continues to build power the strikeout numbers can be overlooked at least somewhat. His combined average (.295) and OBP (.365) get him a bit of a pass on the strikeouts. It’s also worth noting that he has slightly lowered his strikeout percentage as his career has gone on.
Defensively, Pujols doesn’t cover a lot of ground, but he makes the basic plays and has a plus-plus arm that plays well in right field. Basically, he’s good enough to stick in right field.
Pujols opens the year with Reading and if he can repeat the early success he had there last season for a longer period of time, he’ll be at Lehigh Valley by the end of the season.
24. Rafael Marchan – C (47) | B: Both, T: Right | February 25, 1999 (20) – The Phillies held a short-lived experiment with Marchan at first base, which ended quickly. They moved him behind the plate even though they had some reservations about his durability and defense. So far, the durability is there and his defense is coming around. His fielding percentage has improved every season and he’s got a strong arm and has developed good mechanics that saw him throw out 43-percent of baserunners in 2017, a career-high. While his footwork to throw out runners has progressed, the mechanics of blocking pitches in the dirt are still coming around.
Offensively, Marchan makes good contact and hit .301/.343/.362 at Williamsport last summer, but he has yet to hit a home run in professional ball. Some power could still come as he continues to mature physically and develops better habits at the plate, but the trick is to not let it affect his contact and plate discipline.
This is the summer where the Phillies find out more about that durability as Marchan will be in his first full-season league as the primary catcher for Lakewood. The 2019 season provides a test for Marchan in all phases of his game and it’s likely that he’s going to move a level per year, at least for the next couple of seasons as he pulls it all together. With depth in catching, the Phillies aren’t likely to rush him toward the majors any faster than he can handle.
25. Mauricio Llovera – SP (22), RP (1) | B: Right, T: Right | April 17, 1996 (22) – When you think Mauricio Llovera, thing Vince Velasquez; at least in frustration level. Both pitchers have all the tools to put together strong outings, but both also struggle to be consistent. They both throw strikes, but don’t have the command to put the ball exactly where they want it in the strike zone, at least on a consistent basis. Just as with Velasquez, there have been whispers that Llovera would be better suited to work as a reliever, but the Phillies appear to look at both of them, at least for the time being, as starters.
Llovera has a mid-to-high 90s fastball and he occasionally cranks it up to as high as 98. He has good, but not great movement on the pitch, so it will be interesting to see if hitters at higher levels have more success finding the pitch with the bat. He took a nice leap forward in 2018 with the development of a change-up that became much more effective than what he had thrown in the past. His slider is above average, but again, finding consistency with it has been an issue for Llovera.
If Llovera finds consistency and learns a little more about pitching rather than just throwing, he could be at least a back-of-the-rotation starter and maybe a little more. The fallback position is to have him pitch out of the bullpen where he would be able to get a little more velocity because of the lighter workload and still have a couple good secondary pitches to use. The Phillies are smart to keep him working as a starter; you can always move him to the bullpen later if things don’t work out. He should open the year at Double-A Reading after a full, successful season with the Threshers in 2018.