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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

10/3/22 : 2022 Phillies Minor League Standouts

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

I’m not one to do prospect rankings - just not my thing - in fact a large portion of the input for the most noteworthy “expert” prospect rankings is predicated on information provided by each team as to which players they choose to hype.  There are very few folks who actually spend significant daily time watching the players in each system from top to bottom - those that do are usually employed as scouts or in some type of player development capacity 🤓👀 - but there are knuckleheads like myself that hone in on a particular team’s system willingly as a hobby.

I can honestly attest to watching at least portions of most every Phillies minor league game this summer as well as multiple practices, scrimmages and live BP’s - it certainly makes me an odd ball but I still get a kick out of watching the game being played, taught and learned at the minor league pro level - for me it’s a passion of discovery and an honest and sincere love of baseball.

That being said I’m embarking on my first ever attempt at writing a “Minor League Standout” series using the Phillies 2022 seasons.  It’s not a “prospect” list - to me every player is a “prospect” with a chance of climbing the ladder as long as they are afforded the opportunity to put on the jersey and put in the effort to impact the organization.   My postings are a positional review on which players I saw this summer have upward and standout growth and as a result put themselves in a  better position going into 2023 spring training.  While not built upon seasonal or short term stats I will reference them but rely more upon observations and positive values I saw develop as the year progressed.  Since Fall Instructs were cut short the new draftees and un-drafted free agent signings will be out of scope for this series - I simply haven’t seen them enough nor did they play enough games this summer to consider them as 2022 standouts.  It’s mind boggling to me how newly signed players are listed as “top prospects” over others shortly after they’ve signed and haven’t played many professional games - to me the proof is in observing 😳.

This will be a limited list of players - in my off-season “work” on the 7th annual minor league digest I will write my observations on every player I saw play this past summer either in person or via our daily/nightly routine of MILB TV viewership or other video feeds - I am hopeful to publish the new book sometime before the new year.   I am sure folks are waited with bated breath for it’s release 🤓.

Despite the naysayers the “Phillies Day Care” group that pushed themselves to the major leagues have established that there is reliable and good major league talent and development in the organization that has been erroneously discounted by many - younger players are generally in complimentary roles when they get to the show - no one can argue that this season’s contribution from the Phillies minor league system wasn’t a major boost.  Some say it was a surprise - not to us that watch each day.  The Phillies had twelve players ( 7 pitchers & 5 position players ) make their major league debuts this season.

So here goes - A fan’s view of the 2022 Phillies Minor League Standouts - position players in part one followed by Pitchers in part two.  My focus is on players who spent the majority of their time in the minor leagues in 2022.

First Base :

No Phillies minor league position player enhanced their future value more than Darick Hall.  The Paul Owens Award winner set personal high marks during the summer with 37 total home runs ( 9 in the majors ) and 104 RBIs ( 16 in the show ).  Ever since we saw him his initial season we’ve been touting the power bat ability and consistency of producing runs.  He’s also a very good fielding first baseman.  Over the years we’ve gotten to know him it was easy to recognize that he’s got a great personality, loves to talk baseball and hitting and is an intuitive learner who is willingly coached.  Darick belongs in the major leagues, in 2023 that should happen for him on a consistent basis.

Rixon Wingrove & Josh Ockimey are other first baseman who had solid seasons of growth - I’ll detail my observations on them in the upcoming digest.

Middle Infield ( Second Base & Shortstop )  :

Middle infielders are exposed to both positions in their Phillies player development - some are obviously more enabled to play shortstop than others but most every middle infielder will see some action at both second base and shortstop.

Hao Yu Lee is a fun player to watch, his baseball instincts and IQ are very good and he can flat out rake ( right handed hitter ).  The 19 year old from Taiwan has a competitive fire and passion for the game that shines thru.  He displays a lot of joy playing and from what we’ve seen has the skill set to continue the climb upwards.  An injury set him back temporarily this summer but when on the field he excelled, finishing the year at High A Jersey Shore.  Defensively I think he’s capable of playing shortstop at the upper levels but I’d surmise that second base or even third base as perhaps truer possibilities - has the arm and hands to handle each spot.  Good looking player who should continue to rise in 2023 - time at Reading certainly within reach.

Nikau Pouaka Grego ( 18 years old ) is another fun player to watch,  he’s got great hands and bat speed as a hitter with more pop in his bat than one might suspect.  We saw him in person a lot on the backfields this summer playing for the FCL Phillies.  I truly see an Alex Bregman comparison in Nikau’s game.  While just a teenager his international playing exposure and experience is already off the charts - even now he’s playing for Team New Zealand in the World Baseball Classic. We’ve seen Nikau defensively at second base, third and a little bit at short stop this summer but feel that second may be where he’s more suited.  He won’t turn 19 till September of next year but it’s hard to not see him as a Clearwater Thresher to open the 2023 season.

William Bergolla ( 17 years old ) got a late start to his initial pro season due to some lingering short term injuries but once he took the field he took off taking over the lead off spot in the batting order for the Phillies White team in the Dominican Summer League and playing a key role in the team’s championship run.  We were able to watch him play multiple times on live stream feeds.  As a left handed hitter he posted a .380 batting average and .470 OBP in 83 plate appearances ( 24 games ).   Defensively he was solid at shortstop primarily but did see some time at both second and third base.  He turns 18 on October 4th - we hope to see him stateside in 2023.

Scott Kingery had a subpar statistical year and if that’s all you consider you would potentially dismiss his future projection.  Kingery started the season in extended spring training working his way back from shoulder surgery and for the majority of the season at Lehigh Valley struggled to find consistency but the rust seemingly subsided mid summer and his on base percentages became respectable - he finished with a strong September both hitting and defensively at shortstop  - I still remember the best player on the field in his Reading days and see glimpses of that player still - he should get a shot at earning a job in 2023 big league spring camp.

Marco Soto, Erick Brito & Jamari Baylor are amongst others I saw with positive trends to end the season - will delve into more detailed thoughts on them in the new minor league digest 🤓.

Third Base :

Kendall Simmons was promoted to High A Jersey Shore on August 5th and finished the season strong posting a .281 batting average and .361 OBP in 17 games.  In his September AB’s he hit .381 with a .441 OBP.  Kendall has perhaps the quickest bat I’ve seen on high inside pitches - the way he gets on top of those defy both baseball logic and physics 🥸.   He’s battled inconsistencies in his four year pro career to date along with some injury bugs but the athleticism and baseball skill set we’ve also seen is intriguing as to what he can become - particularly as a hitter.   The overall season numbers don’t indicate the potential breakout that can occur.  When you watch him hit the power is very evident.  Defensively his approach at third base aligns more to his amateur days as a shortstop than the reactive nature the position requires - I like him better as a second baseman but continued exposure at third and hard work will make him stronger there.  Kendall ended the year in a good frame of mind and we both feel that 2023 can be a very positive year for him.

Catcher :

Rickardo Perez ( 18 years old ) posted great numbers this summer for the FCL Phillies ( .349 AVG & .387 OBP - 93 plate appearances ).  The bat speed and hard contact were evident each time we saw him play this summer.  He’s a left handed batter who consistently squared up the baseball.  Defensively we saw a solid, strong arm and glove - moves well behind the dish.  We envision him potentially opening 2023 with the Threshers on what should be a very young but also very talented team.

Arturo DeFreitas, Leonardo Rondon & Herbert Iser are other catchers I see with positive trends going into 2023 - will detail further in the coming digest.

Outfield :

Johan Rojas, Carlos De La Cruz and Baron Radcliff all finished the season on the upswing - Rojas and De La Cruz are continuing to play in the Arizona Fall League.

Johan Rojas ( 22 yrs old ) posted a .367 OBP in September and ended with better numbers at AA Reading than he did at High A Jersey Shore.  His 62 stolen bases placed him 8th in the entire minor leagues in that category, he’s an outstanding defensive center fielder with plus skills in all defensive categories.  From my perspective it’s a lock that he’s placed on the 40 man roster this off-season - we will see him again in 2023 big league spring training.

Carlos De La Cruz is 6’8” and very athletic.  He’s played all three outfield positions in his brief pro career to date and this season added first base to the mix.  It’s expected that 1B will be where he’s gonna see most of his action in the AFL.  When we first saw him hit on the backfields multiple folks remarked how the ball jumps off his bat - it makes that special loud sound that results from barreling the ball on the sweet spot.  He can drive baseballs high and deep into the sky.   Carlos had a breakout season in 2022 posting a .271 batting average with 22 doubles and 17 home runs combined at Jersey Shore and Reading.  He has gotten more decisive as a hitter and looks quicker with a shorter swing that pushes the ball where it’s pitched, for example we’ve seen inside out flares to right field that in our opinion he couldn’t deliver in years past.  He should also be added to the 40 man roster this off season, the best is yet to come for the 22 year old.

Baron Radcliff has posted strong OBP’s in each of his first two pro seasons with a cumulative number of .360.  The big fella has always had a great eye at the plate but has also struggled with being long in his swing.  The power bat has always been there - when he connects the drives are also very long.  In the second half of this season he adjusted and went shorter and quicker to the ball with a simplified, less movement swing - it resulted in a break thru month of August with Jersey Shore where he hit .347 in 75 AB’s and still had the power - 8 home runs and 24 RBIs.  In his two seasons he’s hit 30 home runs ( 17 this season ) and driven in 91 runs.  The promise of how he ended the season intrigues folks on how he might perform next season - double A Reading is a definite target for 2023.

Leandro Pineda, Ethan Wilson, Marcus Lee Sang, Darium Gutierrez, Jorge Garcia, Raylin Heredia, Jefferson Encarnacion & Jhailyn Ortiz trends along with others will be detailed in the upcoming digest.

Utility :

Dalton Guthrie was outstanding this season at the AAA level and it earned him his first major league promotion.  We’ve had the good fortune of chatting with Dalton on multiple occasions at the complex, he’s always had a great focus on succeeding even in the down times when we saw him there in rehab work from injuries.  Offensively things started to turn for him during July of 2021 shortly after being promoted to the AAA level for the first time - he posted a .354 batting average in 79 AB’s but then lost time to injury ( oblique ) and didn’t return to Lehigh Valley till late August.

This spring training he volunteered for a different role with a concerted effort to transition to the outfield.  He played sparingly in April with the Iron Pigs but still posted a .395 average in 38 AB’s - as the season progressed so did his playing time and he excelled.  He had a system leading 27 doubles and .302 batting average when he was promoted to the major leagues on September 4th. Dalton has always delivered the same positive battle to the end and leave nothing behind approach since he’s arrived in the organization - the never give up attitude and play like your hair is on fire work ethic is contagious - he’s also got great athleticism and a burner’s speed.  There should be a consistent job for him in the show, he’s a winner.

Madison Stokes is another who has become a valuable multi position player - I’ll detail my observations more on him in the upcoming digest.

The second part of this series will focus on pitchers - till then Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️  - and let’s get a dub tonight in Houston to celebrate a playoff spot 😎

Photos by Cheryl Pursell, Mark Wylie, George Youngs Jr and Michael Dolcemascolo

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