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Top Prospects Review: Part 1

Jesmuel Valentin (Photo courtesy Cheryl Pursell)
Lehigh Valley’s Jesmuel Valentin turns a double-play against Syracuse on August 4, 2018. (Photo courtesy Cheryl Pursell)

With the minor league season over and the major league season winding down, it’s a good time to take a look back at our list of the Top 50 Prospects that we published prior to the season. We’ll start at the bottom and work our way to the top with our review.

40. Jesmuel Valentin, INF – Valentin was among the last cuts that the Phillies made out of spring training and opened the season with Lehigh Valley. By the end of April, he was recalled by the Phillies and spent three months in the majors prior to being optioned back to the IronPigs where he spent the rest of the season. Instead of being a September call-up, Valentin was designated for assignment, cleared waivers and was assigned to Lehigh Valley.

The 24-year old hit just .177 in 46 games with the Phillies this season and .240 in 37 games at Lehigh Valley. The fact that Valentin can play second, short and third makes him somewhat valuable but he’ll have to show that he can hit for a much higher average in the majors if he’s going to stick somewhere.

If he’s not somehow placed back on the 40-man roster within five days of the end of the World Series, Valentin will be eligible to be a minor league free agent.

41. Alberto Tirado, RHP – The 23-year old spent the season with Clearwater where he posted a 3-1 record and a 2.18 ERA in 23 games covering 33 innings of work. Injuries have hampered Tirado’s development and forced the Phillies to move him to the bullpen full-time in 2018. He again lost a month of the season to an injury.

The Phillies took Tirado off the 40-man roster last November and he is eligible for minor league free agency following the season.

42. Jiandido Tromp, OF – The Phillies have patiently waited for Tromp’s bat to come around and he showed some glimpses of offensive potential in 2017 but showed very little development in 2018. After coming up to Triple-A last season to fill holes created by September call-ups, Tromp played in three playoff games for Lehigh Valley and in a perfect world, would have been able to spend the entire season with the IronPigs. Instead, he didn’t impress in the spring and opened the season with Reading where he had already played 122 games, and only played in six games with the IronPigs at the Triple-A level. Tromp, who turns 25 later this month, hit just .225 with the Fightins with four home runs and 23 RBI in 89 games. Last season he hit 18 home runs with Reading.

Tromp is eligible for minor league free agency this winter.

43. Edgar Garcia, RHP – Finally, some good news. Garcia made 47 relief appearances with Reading this season and saved eight games with a 7-2 record and a 3.62 ERA. He had a late season audition with Lehigh Valley and posted a 7.71 ERA in five appearances. His Triple-A numbers were skewed a little by his last appearance when he allowed two earned runs without retiring a batter in a relief appearance in Rochester.

Garcia would be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this December if he’s not placed on the Phillies 40-man roster by November 20th. Considering how well he pitched with Reading and the fact that he’s still just a 21-year old, he’ll likely be added to the major league roster to protect him. If the Phillies can’t figure out a way to do that, he’s very likely going to be grabbed by another organization.

44. J.D. Hammer, RHP – Hammer came to the Phillies from the Rockies when they dealt Pat Neshek to Colorado last season. He had a phenomenal season in 2017, posting a 0.57 ERA and a 0.64 WHIP with Clearwater in 12 games. Overall, he was 6-2 with 13 saves and a 1.87 ERA between three stops in the minors.

Hammer was sidelined with a sore shoulder in spring training and didn’t pitch in a minor league game until June 5th when he pitched for Clearwater. Unfortunately, he pitched just three times and was shut down again with a sore shoulder. On the season, Hammer pitched in just 12 games in the minors and went 1-2 with a 2.63 ERA.

The Phillies are hoping for a bounce-back from Hammer next season. The 23-year old isn’t eligible for the Rule 5 Draft or for minor league free agency.

45. Yacksel Rios, RHP – Rios is very familiar with the roads between Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia. After opening the season with the Phillies, he was optioned out and recalled five times with the latest being on September 1st when he rejoined the Phillies with other September call-ups. In 32 games with the Phillies this season, Rios has a 5.63 ERA and a 3-2 record. He does have a solid strikeout rate with 31 strikeouts in 32 innings of work. The 24-year old has shown some signs of promise but has been unable to string together any sort of consistency with the Phillies.

Rios’ name could come up at the end of the season if the Phillies need to find a 40-man roster spot for a more coveted prospect but ideally, they’ll be able to hang on to him to see if he can develop into a more consistent pitcher.

46. Mark Appel, RHP – The former number-one overall draft pick surprised a lot of people when he announced his retirement just prior to the start of spring training.

47. Mark Laird, OF – Like Appel, Laird decided that he had enough of minor league baseball and announced his retirement in March. Laird was a ninth round pick in 2015 and put up decent numbers average-wise, hitting .3-2 in three minor league seasons but had no power – just three home runs – and was going to need to either show more power or hit for an even higher average to have a shot at playing in the majors.

48. Trevor Bettencourt, RHP – After establishing himself in 2017, Bettencourt opened the season with Reading but a month later was on the DL and missed nearly three months with a right shoulder strain. He spent the final month with Clearwater where he went 1-1 with a 0.53 ERA in 10 relief appearances but overall made just 24 appearances during the season with a 2-1 record and a 2.15 ERA.

Bettencourt is not eligible for the Rule 5 Draft or for minor league free agency.

49. Brandon Leibrandt, LHP – It looked like Leibrandt would be pitching in Philadelphia before the end of the 2018 season until he wound up on the DL in early July with elbow inflammation. Elbow inflammation generally leads to Tommy John surgery and that’s exactly where this injury led Leibrandt, who could miss all of the 2019 season after rehabbing the injury. Prior to having his season cut short, Leibrandt was 4-1 with a 1.42 ERA with Lehigh Valley and had a WHIP of just 0.87.

Even though he’s injured, Leibrandt will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if he is not added to the 40-man roster by November 20th. A team could take a shot on him and leave him on the DL all next season and then see what they’ve got in 2020, although he would still have to be kept on the team’s major league roster for the full season.

50. Francisco Morales, RHP – After a strong start to his professional career in the Gulf Coast League in 2017, Morales stumbled in 2018 with Williamsport. The 18-year old went 4-5 with a 5.27 ERA in 13 starts for the Crosscutters. Considering his age and the fact that he’s got some promise, the Phillies are likely to keep him around but it’s turning out that he’ll be more of a project than his debut season had suggested.

Morales does not have to be added to the 40-man roster because he is not eligible for the Rule 5 Draft of minor league free agency.

 

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