Gavin Floyd, left, and Cole Hamels have something in common with the rest of the pitchers in the Phillies’ minor league system.
Baseball America recently published its list of the top 20 prospects, and the news wasn't promising.
The most glaring part of the report is the Phils didn’t have a single pitcher crack the top 20 in any league, including Gavin Floyd and Cole Hamels, once fixtures atop this list.
Is it any surprise? Floyd had a disasterous 2005 campaign, and Hamels, once again, couldn't stay healthy for an entire season.
Floyd, in particular, is back to square one after falling flat in both Philadelphia and triple-A Scranton. The 22-year-old represents four years of wasted development and untouchable trade status. He appears far from major-league ready, gaining a wide, cross-organization reputation as a pitcher who wilts under pressure. As for Hamels, his health issues date back to his sophomore year in high school.
Young pitching is a major concern and should be addressed this offseason. Fixing the minor leagues, on a broader scale, is an even bigger undertaking, and the result of years of neglect, flawed strategy in terms of the draft, and poor leadership. It can't be fixed overnight.
If there is a silver lining, you wouldn’t know it from reading Baseball America. In terms of supplying the big club with viable backups, the team can still plug some bodies into gaps in case of injury.
Prospect ratings can be a little misleading anyway. Baseball America doesn’t like players who’ve stuck around the minors a while. The Phils had a bunch of veterans in Scranton and Reading this season who could still produce in the bigs.
Shane Victorino, somewhat of a prospect even though he spent time with the Pads and Phils, doesn’t show up on the list, even though it appears the International League MVP will compete for an outfield job this spring. The coaches love him, and he's still only 24.
Carlos Ruiz could also challenge for a backup catcher spot. He didn’t get a mention, either. Good-hitting infielder Danny Sandoval could also contribute, depending on whether the Phils keep him around, and in terms of pitching, Paul Owen’s winner Robinson Tejeda and Eude Brito were also eligible for this list, but were not included.
The highest-rated minor leaguer was, in fact, Ryan Howard, rated fourth in the International League, even though he graduated to the bigs months ago.
Eastern League MVP Chris Roberson didn’t even crack the top 20 of the Eastern League. He broke the Reading franchise record for hits in a season, yet Michael Bourn, who had a so-so year, ranked 18th in the EL. Bourn is four years Roberson’s junior.
The reason why I say Baseball America is misleading can be demonstrated in centerfield, where I’d put Victorino first, followed by Roberson, and then Bourn in terms of prospects. Baseball America would rank them the opposite way.
Any hope for Floyd and Hamels?
Call me crazy, but I’m still holding on to hope for Hamels. Imagine if Hamels shows up this spring completely healthy. He would automatically have the inside track at making the starting rotation as the lone left-hander.
I'll keep dreaming.