MLB 26-and-under power rankings: No. 21 Philadelphia Phillies

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FOX Sports’ 26-and-under power rankings are a new twist on classic prospect ratings. Yes, prospects are important, but with all the game-changing young talent already available, farming systems alone cannot tell the whole story. So let’s take a deep dive into each one MLB club, ranking them all by players in an organization who start their season 26 or younger, from the bigs to the farm. Every weekday until March 24th, we’ll be counting down from last to first.

number 21 Philadelphia Phillies
Total score for 26 and under: 14 (out of 30)

When the Phillies’ long-awaited rebuild fell short of schedule, hampered by the organization’s inability to develop an impact hitter, team leadership turned around and opened the checkbook. The result? A 2022 NL championship and a roster most intent on competing for the next half decade.

This is not the youth movement led by Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, JP Crawford and Maikel Franco that was supposed to rise from the ashes of 2008. All of these players ended up underperforming or in other organizations or both. And even after owner John Middleton & Co. committed to Bryce Harper ahead of 2019, things looked bleak at The Bank heading into last season; an expensive team mired in mediocrity, with a roster of underperforming young hitters.

And then 2022 happened. Now, with a rekindled fan base, superstar shortstop Trea Turner added to the fold, and a slew of talented arms in the minors, the future of this team, for the first time in a long time of time, it looks legitimately brilliant.

But if the Phillies want to make Red October an annual tradition, they’ll need to (1) foster the continued growth of their promising trio of young position players and (2) supplement their imposing but shallow big league rotation with this exciting group. young arms that have registered from the farm.

Major League Position Players: 6 (of 10)

For years, this organization’s bugaboo was a failure to develop anything resembling an impact home run hitter. They sniffed out a number of early draft picks, including 2016 No. 1 overall pick Mickey Moniak, and didn’t discover much on the international stage either.

But in 2022, the trio of Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott and Brandon Marsh bucked that trend. Bohm and Stott were former Phillies first-round picks who settled in as reliable everyday infielders. Marsh was acquired from the Angels at the deadline to snag prospect Logan O’Hoppe, a hidden gem the Phils snagged in the 23rd round in 2018.

Those three players combined to produce three bWAR for the Phillies in 2022, not an amazing total, but still a solid and meaningful contribution. In addition, all three players have a chance to make a jump in production. If Bohm can elevate the ball more and make better swing decisions, he has the natural hitting ability to become a real offensive force. Stott, who will move to second with Turner taking over at shortstop, had some really impressive plate discipline numbers for a rookie and should average higher in his second season. And if Marsh, already one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, can improve his strikeout rate from the low threes in the MLB to normal bad levels, he would become an above-average starter.

These are three really solid big leaguers who provide valuable Philly reliability, with the potential for much more. Not many World Series teams can boast a third of their lineup being 26 or younger. So even if Bohm, Stott and Marsh never become All-Stars, this trio is still critical for the Phillies in 2023 and beyond.

Major League Pitchers: 2 (of 10)

There is only one “young” pitcher on Philly’s projected opening day roster. Her name is Bailey Falter and you might think she’s a piece of shit. That’s because Falter’s ending in 2022 was a total disaster, a family heirloom thrown off a cliff.

In Game 4 of the NLCS against San Diego, Falter’s mission was to get one run through the Padres’ order. Nothing sexy, he just needed to keep his club in the game while getting as many outs as possible. Instead, the Pads dragged him into the dust and sent the long lefty down in the first inning. Falter’s last line? Two outs recorded, three hits, a walk, four runs, a bomb and an early trip to the showers.

But you know what they always say…you don’t judge a book by its final page? Falter was actually pretty solid as a starter for the Phils a year ago, pitching 84 innings with a 3.86 ERA. Other than that implosion in October, he should have a prominent place in Philly. For a major league roster currently bereft of young pitching, Falter is an unremarkable but important type of arm.

Potential pitchers: 5 (of 5)

There is no type of player more volatile and less reliable than a high school right fielder. Consider that prospect when I tell you the Phillies have the consensus best pitching prospect in the world.

Andrew Painter, a 6-foot-7 righty from Florida whom Philly drafted 13th overall in 2021, set the minor leagues on fire last year with a school bully, a ’90s heater, a lockjaw slider and a promising change. Right now, scouts say the order is more good than great, which matters less when you have things that shut down like Painter. To put it simply: he’s as good as a 19-year-old can be. He has already wowed observers in the big league outfield and has a legitimate shot to make the team.

Keep in mind that prospects and die-hard analysts like me said the same things about Shane Baz a year ago, MacKenzie Gore two years ago, Forrest Whitley three years ago, etc., etc. with landmines, road bumps and a mountain of potential injuries for even the most talented arms.

But this system is more than Painter and no one else. Mick Abel and Griff McGarry, both right-handers, project as future MLB contributors on the mound. Abel, the team’s first-rounder in 2020, doesn’t have Painter’s electric arsenal, but he’s in the mid-90s with two notable off-speed pitches and looks like a future mid-rotation piece.

McGarry, on the other hand, a fifth-round pick out of Virginia in 2021, could rival Painter in terms of raw stuff. The 23-year-old has a mid-90s jump heater with exceptional secondary characteristics and a huge slider that both look like more pitches. What he lacks, however, is the consistency, command and refinement typical of an MLB starter (not to mention a reliable third pitch). The best version of McGarry is a difference maker, an inefficient No. 2 or No. 3 starter who can dominate for stretches. The smaller version of McGarry is still valuable, but he’s coming out of the bullpen in high-leverage situations in short order.

Either way, he’s a guy to get to know.

Then there’s Noah Song, the wildest wildcard. A first-round talent, Song was drafted by the Red Sox out of the Naval Academy in 2019, but only pitched a handful of games before joining the armed forces for his mandatory military service. The Phillies selected Song in this winter’s Rule 5 draft with the expectation that he could be released from active duty at some point in the next few years. Fortunately for them, Song was given the green light to return to professional baseball earlier this week and reported to Phillies camp in Clearwater, Florida on Thursday. He hasn’t pitched in a professional game in more than three years, but in his prime, Song was a dominant force. He could struggle in the spring and return to Boston as a Rule 5, or he could stay and help the Phillies in the big leagues this year.

Potential Position Players: 1 (of 5)

Philly’s top three prospects, Hao Yu Lee, Justin Crawford and Johan Rojas, have immense potential, but all three have huge question marks that limit their short-term impact in the league.

Lee is a hard-hitting infielder Philly came out of a Taiwanese high school in 2021. He put up good numbers last year as a 19-year-old in his first taste of full-season ball, but scouts. wonder if it will develop significant power. Crawford, the son of major leaguer Carl Crawford, is the starting version of his All-Star father: blazing speed, chart-topping, gap-to-gap pop and excellent outfield defense. But as a 2022 draftee, Crawford has a lot to prove before galloping across the field grass at Citizens Bank. And while Rojas, who Philly added to its 40-man roster this winter, is much closer to contributing in the bigs than his farmmates, he underwhelmed offensively in 2022. He could be listed as a bench option as early as 2024, but unless contact ability takes a step forward, Rojas won’t be much more than that.

epilogue

A big cash bag from Middleton opened Philly’s window for contention in 2022. And now, that window should remain open for the next half-decade thanks to a roster of established stars in their age-30 seasons and around Harper, JT Realmuto, Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola aren’t exactly young anymore, but they aren’t old yet.

The trio of young bats that will be available in the starting lineup (Bohm, Stott and Marsh) provide a reliable floor with the promise of much, much more. Even if none of them develop into 4-WAR All-Star types, the Phillies will still compete for playoff spots for the next five years. And if one or more of those guys step up, the Mets and Braves should keep an eye out. Speaking of guarding, general manager Dave Dombrowski isn’t one to go around on pitching prospects. If Painter looks ready for action this fall, don’t be surprised if the hot-shooting pitcher finds himself on the big league roster for an October run.

Industry insiders emphasized that the Phillies are very much a “Dombrowski-led team,” meaning they’re willing to trade depth for potential impact players, as evidenced by the recent trade of Gregory Soto. However, the fact that Dombrowski has held on to Painter, Abel and McGarry is, at least to some extent, indicative of how the organization views those three arms.

Jake Mintz, the stronger half @CespedesBBQ is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He’s an Orioles fan who lives in New York City and therefore leads a lonely existence most Octobers. If he’s not watching baseball, he’s almost certainly riding his bike. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Mintz.

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