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Floundering at the big league level despite fanatical off-season spending, the Phillies could really use a boost from their farm system in 2021. Who couldn’t, right? But whereas some teams are so deep their prospects have to join the queue when they’re big league ready, Philadelphia is a land of opportunity for youngsters. Without a minor league season, the club was forced to promote several players with little to no experience in the upper minors: Spencer Howard, Alec Bohm, Rafael Marchan, and former #1 pick Mickey Moniak. I’m eager to see how 2021 plays out for everyone in the game who saw aggressive assignments and whether or not the results impact future processes. Hell I’m just eager to see minor league baseball again, but this season tossed so many variables into the equation that the game might feel ripples forever. 2021 feels incredibly important for the Phillies. They’ve demoted General Manager Matt Klentak and appointed Ned Rice in the interim. Jim Hendry was floated as a possible replacement by Jon Heyman (truckful of salt, I know), and I’d like to see Hendry get another chance after he loaded up the Cubs just before Theo Epstein came aboard. Feels like Girardi might have the loudest voice in the room, which feels like a net positive for an organization that hasn’t made the playoffs in 19 years. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

One problem with evaluating Phillies prospects is reading. Sorry, Reading, the AA level, is one of the issues. Double A is typically the preferred level for anyone trying to get a read/handle on what a player could become. Josh Stephen is a decent example. As a 21-year-old outfielder in AA, he posted a 140 wRC+. Normally this puts up a “follow-me” flag. And Stephen does deserve some eyeballs as he heads into AAA at 22. But so what if he hits there? He didn’t hit in High-A Clearwater. By which I mean he skipped the level after not hitting in class A Lakewood (82 wRC+). Didn’t hit in Low A either (91 wRC+). 

So what do we know about Stephen after four years in the system? That maybe he doesn’t have enough bat to carry the profile? I don’t think we can really say that about a guy who was always young for his level. To make matters better, he’s rule 5 draft eligible next December, so they’re running out of time before they could lose him. And now he’s headed for the juicy AAA balls, assuming they’re still juicy. 

It’s not all bad news though. Pitchers go through this same crucible, and though it’s not the easiest path to value (see Adonis Medina’s 2019 stock movement), it might produce extremely resilient prospects, and I’m not sure there’s a more important aspect of making a living on the mound. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?