Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Drought On The Farm

           Major League Baseball is going through a youth movement. Rookies have become superstars as soon as they come up to the Majors. Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Matt Harvey, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin have all become big shots for their team within their first year or two. So why do the Phillies not have any of these tearing through the minor leagues? Is it poor drafting, bad trades, a lack of minor league management, a combination of the three, or just good fortune?
Drafting top notch players, turning them into home-grown superstars, and signing them to colossal contracts has become ever so popular in recent years. Players such as Evan Longoria, David Wright, and Phillies such as Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard have done it. These Phillies were drafted during Ed Wade’s stint as General Manager. He drafted players who helped us win the 2008 World Series. Chase Utley, Pat Burrell, Brett Myers, Ryan Howard, and Cole Hamels were all drafted by Wade and were the core of the team. Wade was a sub-par GM but his early drafts produced several good players. Recently draft picks have not produced and helped the club as those in the past did. Let’s examine Phillies draft picks who have either been traded or are stagnant in the minors.
When talking about first round draft picks, Harper, Strasburg, and Machado come to mind but for the Phillies recent first round picks have been nothing but low lights. 2008 first round supplemental pick Zach Collier is down in AA while later picks Lance Lynn and Wade Miley were busy making the All-Star team last season. This year Collier is batting an abysmal .202 with 4 home runs and 15 RBI’s. 2008 first round pick Anthony Hewitt isn’t making waves either. The right fielder at AA Reading this year is batting .262 with 8 stolen bases and 10 RBI’s. Hewitt has moved through the system at a snail’s pace which may have limited his potential or do the Phillies prospects not have enough talent to begin with?  Kelly Dugan, the Phillies 2009 2nd round pick, has done well this year at single A Clearwater but he is already 22 years old. The Phillies should let prospects move up the difficult ladder of Minor League Baseball faster in order to have a greater chance of helping the Phillies.
Domonic Brown looks like he has finally arrived after years of underachieving and a progressing doubt that Brown wouldn’t become anything. He was brought up slowly through the system despite being the 4th ranked prospect by Baseball America after the 2010 season. Darin Ruf another highly regarded Phillies prospect has only 33 Major League at bats and he is 26 years old. The only reason he was playing was the September roster expansion after tearing up AA and winning the Eastern Leagues MVP. If the Phillies want to grow their own players they will need to change the way they draft. Drafting and management are not the only problems, trading is an issue that builds on the previous two.
In July 2009 the Phillies made a huge improvement to the team by trading for the reigning Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee. The team dealt Carlos Carrasco, Jason Knapp, Jason Donald and Lou Marson for the ace and Ben Francisco. To say Philadelphia got the better end of the deal is an understatement. Lee helped lead the team to the World Series while the prospects are either a free agent or not blossoming into the players Cleveland had hoped. Carrasco is in AAA, Knapp is a free agent, Donald is also in AAA, and Marson is on the 15 day disabled list.
In winter 2009 the Phillies traded for Roy Halladay. They gave away Cliff Lee but this is neither here nor there since a year later the Phillies signed him as a free agent. To receive Halladay the Phillies gave up Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, and Travis d’Arnaud. d’Arnaud still has potential for the Mets but is currently hurt. Michael Taylor is another story. He is currently in AAA in the Athletics system but struggled at the Major League level this year batting .043. Now in AAA he is batting .325 with 6 home runs. Drabek is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery.
In July 2011 the Phillies traded for right fielder, Hunter Pence. They gave up quite a lot, Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Domingo Santana, and Josh Zeid. Singleton, who was suspended, will most likely have a chance to play with the Astros at some point this season. Cosart was the highest regarded prospect when the deal occurred. He is currently at AAA with a 2.65 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP, and 57 strikeouts. Santana is not having the best of seasons, but last year in A+  he batted .302 with 23 home runs. Zeid at AAA this year has a 2.82 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 22.1 innings. This trade worked for both teams but Zeid the oldest of the prospects, 26,  has not recorded an inning for the Astros. That said there is still time for these young players but once again the Phillies failed to draft players who could be the future core of the team just like Hamels and Howard.
These trades show that even prospects that were highly regarded for the Phillies didn’t turn into anything special. The front office needs to make better decisions with their minor leaguers. They have a chance to redeem themselves on June 6 at the MLB First Year Player Draft, but will this be too late or will the fans call for the firing of GM Ruben Amaro Jr? Only time will tell.

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