If the New York Mets provides me a UTR challenge, the Phillies system captivates me with its potential. Since the inception of the Organizational All-Star rosters in 2014, the Phillies has had the same cast of characters gracing the top echelon of my spreadsheets. It all starts with Mark Leiter, who was my choice as the reliever “One to Watch” prior to the 2014 season. Yes, its the same Leiter name that appeared in 11 seasons in the MLB (Father, Mark) and Uncle Al who played 19 seasons and provides analysis on the MLB Channel. With that linage, the younger Mark blasted into the 2014 season, not from the bullpen, but in the LoA Lakewood & HiA Clearwater rotations. He posted similar numbers in 2015 all-way-up through Double-A Reading and again appeared as a UTR-OAS for 2015. Assigned to start the 2016 season in Reading, and thus dropping from the UTR radar, Leiter provided consistent numbers despite seeing a limit in innings. The now 25 year-old Leiter could return in the relief role, but to shore-up the bullpen in Philly. He would join another 2014 UTR-OAS, Edubray Ramos, who is projected in the middle relief role with the Phillies. The blurb that I provided for Ramos after the 2014 season came to fruition, in that once he proved himself in a full season, he accelerated to Philly. As much as I liked Leiter, Ricardo Pinto became another favorite 2-time UTR-OAS. He appeared in 2014 after a solid season with short-season Williamsport and then a “Legit UTR” in 2015, jumping to HiA as a 21 year-old. He finished 2016 at Double-A Reading by logging the most innings as a pro (156), posting respectable stats pitching in a league 2.5 years his junior. Pinto was added to the 40-man roster in November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Two more repeat OAS are Brandon Leibrandt and Matt Imhof. Leibrandt saw abrupt action in 2015 and 2016 due to injury and tragically, Imhop had to retire from baseball due to a freak training accident.
OK…true followers of UTRMinors pitching are wondering…..what about the mound-love for Ranger Suarez? Oh boy, I could not complete a UTR review of the Phillies without mentioning this now 20 year-old that I targeted out of the Venezuelan Summer League and wrote this:
If you’ve been following Marc and I, you know we are not scouts, nor do we pretend to be. We just started this to bring non-prospects (“notspects”) to the forefront, because through all the research that we do for our fantasy leagues….all the press is about the top ranked kids. We became huge fans of the under the radar kids and we wanted an outlet to tout their performances. When it comes to Ranger Saurez…please oh please….let the Phillies give him at shot at Short-Season Williamsport to start 2015…as I want to “scout” him in-person. This kid has spent three season in the VSL and pitched 102.2 innings and only walked 4 batterswhile striking out 95. What’s more impressive is that in 2014, he was given the opportunity to start for the first time. He made 14 starts, going 5-4 with a 1.56 ERA in 80.2 innings and K’ed 78 and one walk issued. I know that pitching in the VSL, or other foreign leagues, that one shouldn’t get too worked up. But this lefty is too intriguing to dismiss. Let’s see what happens! Well…he didn’t get to Williamsport until this past season and I missed three opportunities to see him on the mound for the Crosscutters. All is good, as the kid will continue to be productive and should reach Double-A Reading in 2019, when he returns to my backdoor in pitching against Altoona. Keeping along with the International flair, Carlos Indriago was another arm coming out of the VSL and was in UTR competition with Suarez. Indriago joined Suarez in Williamsport in 2016, but was moved into the bullpen where they could be a nice 1-2 punch for the Phillies in the future.
I started about mentioning the potential of the Phillies minor league pitching. Currently Aaron Nola and Hector Neris are the only homegrown pitchers within the big club staff. There were eight pitchers that just missed being listed below. Ive already mentioned Ranger Suarez and there might be a right-handed version of him (if not better) coming. 18 year-old Sixto Sanchez needed 2 or 3 additional starts to earn enough possible points to get that final UTR-OAS spot. He saw 11 starts in the GCL and finished 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA, 0.759 WHIP, and 5.50 K/BB ratio. Drew Anderson was my “OTW” for 2014, got off to a good start but hit the DL and missed the 2015 season. He fired back in 2016, so continue to watch the 23 year-old in 2017 (Double-A Reading?). To round off the those that got left-off: Jose Taveras, Denny Martinez, Mauricio Llovera, Felix Paulino, and Tyler Viza.
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
1. RHP Luke Leftwich – 21 / .084
22 years old – (LoA Lakewood / HiA Clearwater)
7th round – 2015
Leftwich also has baseball blood-lines, as his father and grandfather both played in the big leagues. Luke seen his first full season in 2016 starting at LoA Lakewood where he went 7-3 with a 2.00 ERA and 88 K’s versus 18 BB’s over 67.2 innings. The righty wasn’t ready for a late June promotion to HiA Clearwater posting a 5.07 ERA and may indicate his offering might be best suited in the bullpen.
Watson was a top round pick in 2013 but hasn’t been able to gain traction in his development. He suffered an shoulder injury requiring surgery in 2013 and missed the whole 2014 season. He then was hit with a 50-game drug suspension which abbreivated his 2015 season (47.2 IP). Things got back on-track in 2016 with time spent across two levels.
Kilome is starting to blossom and catching rave reviews from touters. Just 21 years old, Kilome is filling out his large 6’6″ frame which cannons a fastball in the 92-97 range and a near plus breaker. In his first full season, Kilome was one of the most dominate pitchers in the South Atlantic League. He got rocked during his first three outings to start the season, but posted a 2.73 ERA over 105.2 innings with 123 strikeouts. Most touters are projecting Kilome with top-of-the-rotation hype that could see Philadelphia in 2019.
Some are surprised by Garcia, but not here at UTRMinors. The young lefty repeats as the Phillies #5 UTR-OAS and who was recently added to the 40-man roster. Garcia could someday become Kilome’s mid-rotational counterpart. His ceiling would be that of a #3 starter with his solid control over his secondary pitches.