We continue our annual look at the top 50 prospects in the Phillies organization by highlighting players ranked between 11 and 15 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.
11. Spencer Howard – SP (23) | B: Right, T: Right | July 29, 1996 (22) – Most good players hit a point where things just seem to all come together for them and you can almost see that proverbial light bulb come on. Spencer Howard had just that type of season in 2018. After inconsistencies throughout much of the early season, things just clicked and he became a much better pitcher. The guy with decent, but not overwhelming stuff, became dominant up to the point of throwing a no-hitter in the South Atlantic League playoffs. Of course, the task is to repeat that over a full season, but the good news is that Howard showed everything that the Phillies said he would show when they drafted him in the second round of the 2017 Draft.
His fastball has progressed into the mid-90s and can go a tad higher. Reports of him reaching 100 in his no-hitter may be a bit of a stretch, but the bottom line is that his velocity is definitely getting better. He compliments the fastball with a slider and change-up, both of which have the potential to become very good pitches for the young righty.
Howard opens the season with the Clearwater Threshers in High-A ball and has the potential to reach Double-A before the end of the season if all goes well. Howard doesn’t have a lot of mileage on his arm since he only became a starter during his junior season at Cal Poly. With the lower mileage also comes a lower experience level, so his breakout is likely genuine and he may not need a full season at High-A in 2019.
12. David Parkinson – SP (21) | B: Right, T: Left | December 14, 1995 (23) – Parkinson is the type of pitcher who has to be smarter than the average left-hander and maintain near-perfect command of his pitches if he is to succeed. He doesn’t have a big velocity fastball to brag about – he’s generally upper-80s to around 90 – and his complimentary pitches are average at best right now, but show signs of some improvement. His command is there, so that’s part of the battle; a big part. His change-up is his becoming a pitch that he can easily deceive hitters with and he hides it well, keeping the same mechanics, arm speed and arm angle as his fastball.
As he continues to work his way up the ranks of the minor leagues, hitters are a little more discriminating and better at finding the slightest weak spot in a pitcher’s arsenal and taking advantage of it. It will be interesting to see how Parkinson does with a somewhat unexpected promotion to Double-A Reading to start the season after he pitched in just five games with High-A Clearwater last year. The Phillies are betting that he can handle better hitters at the higher level even with just 29 total innings with the Threshers, which is an interesting evaluation. Then again, Parkinson had just a 1.24 ERA in his short audition with Clearwater. Yes, his walk rate was up and his strikeout rate was down from where they were with Lakewood earlier in the year, but when you use the eye test to evaluate Parkinson rather than just rely on some numbers, you get the feeling that he can pitch at a higher level.
13. Daniel Brito – 2B (116) | B: Left, T: Right | January 23, 1998 (21) – Even though he’s still just 21, most scouts believed Brito would have progressed faster and been at least a level higher than he is to start the 2019 season. The problem has been that he has been inconsistent offensively and he hasn’t reproduced his 2016 season when he hit .284/.355/.421 in the Gulf Coast League. His power numbers are also lagging behind where it was thought that they would be at his point in his career even though he’s still just 6′ 1″, 170. Brito can let his swing get a little large at times and he can also get a little impatient at the plate, especially when he goes hitless for a little while and starts to press. Last season, he needed a decent May (.267/.316/.333) and a big June and July during which he hit a combined .287/.348/.356 to reach a decent slash line of .252/.307/.342 for the 2018 season.
Defensively, Brito picked up some hardware as the Minor League Gold Glove Award winner at second base last season and he’s got some pretty flashy leather. On occasion though, the inconsistency hits him in the field and he’ll boot a somewhat routine play. Hopefully, that’s just a bit of youthful loss of focus. Once he reins that in, he’ll be a well above average fielder with the potential to keep winning gold gloves at higher levels.
The Phillies have kept Brito in Clearwater, where he played 27 games last season, and they can always move him up later if he gets off to a strong start.
14. Francisco Morales – SP (13) | B: Right, T: Right | October 27, 1999 (19) – There is still a lot of work to do with Francisco Morales, but much of it comes back to simply getting him comfortable with his mechanics and getting him to repeat his delivery on a consistent basis. When he gets into a rhythm, all of his pitches benefit from his delivery that uses his long arm stretch and follow through to make his offerings look like they’re coming from more like 50′ 6″ than 60′ 6″. His slider is probably better than a bunch of major league pitchers who throw the pitch and is probably among the top three in all of minor league baseball. He gets nice movement on the pitch that he can move in and out and up and down effectively to make hitters come up with just a bunch of empty air on swings. His fastball is in the low-to-mid-90s, which again is dictated more by his mechanics than anything else. With a consistent delivery, he should be able to be mid-90s minimum and maybe even climb a little higher when he needs a little extra.
Control issues have plagued Morales and he walked 5.3 hitters per nine innings last season, which is entirely too high at any level, but especially in a league like the New York-Penn League where hitters are prone to chase a lot of pitches. The lack of control pushes his pitch count up and he has trouble pitching deep into games. Once again, he has the ability to cut his walk numbers, but that only happens when he keeps his delivery simple and readily repeats his delivery.
The Phillies have Morales at Low-A Lakewood to start the 2019 season and it’s likely they’ll just put him into the rotation and let him get his starts at that level, hoping that a full-season will get him to fall in love with his delivery and cut down on his inconsistency.
15. Arquimedes Gamboa – SS (109) | B: Both, T: Right | September 23, 1997 (21) – You can tell how high the Phillies are on Gamboa, because not only did they send him to the Arizona Fall League, but they added him to the 40-man roster over the winter to protect him from being selected in the Rule 5 Draft. His inclusion on the roster was mainly because right now he could step in defensively at shortstop for a major league team; he’s that polished defensively.
The problem is when he takes the glove off and puts a bat in his hands. Last season with Clearwater, Gamboa hit just .214/.304/.279 in 114 games and he posted a 23-percent strikeout rate with the Threshers. He has a little pop in his at-bat and could develop a little more as he gets more comfortable and develops a better hitting approach. When he puts the ball in play, he can make things happen because he’s got good speed and is a guy that opposing fielders can’t play back on. At time, Gamboa puts things together offensively and makes more contact, making him a much more effective player. If he can harness those times more effectively and prolong them, he can certainly put up good enough numbers to where he can play in the majors with a weakened offensive approach and a strong defense.
Gamboa has some experience at second base and he played some third base in the AFL, which will help to add some versatility to him in case he can’t hit enough to be a major league regular, he can at least be a defense-first utility player. The 21-year old will open the year with Double-A Reading.