Power is at a premium, yet the Phillies' top home run hitters at the four highest levels of the minors fail to earn any respect among industry insiders and enthusiasts.
Here's an odd dichotomy. Big league power has fallen off a cliff, yet the Phillies' prospects who can actually take a pitch yard, right now, won't even get a look at a big league camp and haven't cracked a prospect magazine or Web site top 30. And the weirdest part is we're living in the post-"Moneyball" era where an Oscar-worthy film informed captive audiences that production, any way you can get it, is all that matters.
It's discrimination! The older, bruising first baseman is part of the great unwashed.
Granted, a high slugging percentage is part of the job description at first. But there's this question: How many home runs does a plodding first baseman need to rake in order to meet the job requirements as a prospect in the current iteration of the Major Leagues? Twenty-four? That's how many Matt Rizzotti hit in Reading, good for third in the Eastern League. It's also the number Cody Overbeck totaled between Reading and Lehigh Valley.
Rizzotti can't field. Overbeck can, a little, and at 25, is still young enough to develop. Of all the prospects, he seems to be the most overlooked. They both mash, clearly. Yet neither has received so much as an invite to Clearwater where Jim Thome, of all people, will strap on his first baseman's glove for the first time in years. The Phillies seem to be quite serious about this, by the way.
Class-A had its own set of productive Phillies first base farmhands you've never read about: Darin Ruf hit 17 homers for Clearwater. The Sally League had Jim Murphy, who hit 22. The next Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder? No. But good enough for an honorable mention in the footnotes of these lists? Why not? Why never?