Bohm, Howard form foundation for Phillies

By By Joe Bloss / MiLB.com | December 2, 2019 2:31 PM

Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.

The magnifying glass over the Phillies' farm system focuses on its top two prospects. Top-ranked Alec Bohm , depending on how the club acts in free agency, could occupy third base sometime next season. Second-ranked Spencer Howard , after a healthy and dominant rise to Double-A in the second half of 2019, is on track to provide innings to a starting rotation that struggled to fill holes last year. 

Zoom out, however, and the system showed its value down the ranks. Former first-round pick Adam Haseley  arrived early and held his own in an outfield decimated by injuries. Double-A Reading produced the Eastern League's best regular season with an 80-59 record and featured nine of Philadelphia's top dozen performers. Here's a look at all 12:

Phillies Organization All-Stars

Catcher -- Deivy Grullon , Lehigh Valley (108 games), Philadelphia (four games): With J.T. Realmuto  occupying the starting spot with the big league club, Grullon -- the No. 19 Phillies prospect -- used a career year in the International League and a September callup spent mostly in the bullpen to state his case for the backup role in 2020. With 21 homers, the 23-year-old tied Bohm for most in the system. His .851 OPS, 77 RBIs and 9.8 percent walk rate all set career bests. A strong start propelled Grullon -- he hit .393 with 19 strikeouts in 17 games in April.

First baseman -- Austin Listi , Reading (62 games), Lehigh Valley (71 games): The 26-year-old was named the Phillies' Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2018 but posted a .702 OPS -- more than 200 points lower than his .915 mark of last year -- in 62 games with the Fightins to start this season. Listi, though, bumped his numbers up when he reached Triple-A for the first time. He left the yard 12 times in 259 at-bats and looked more like his old self with an .838 OPS. And his production for the year -- 45 extra-base hits, 83 RBIs, 67 runs scored -- nearly equaled that of his breakout 2018 totals of 63 runs, 44 extra-base hits and 84 RBIs.

Fightins hitting coach Tyler Henson  said the discrepancy in Listi's production had to do with his efforts to learn third base at Double-A. The promotion to Triple-A moved him back to first base and the comfort in the field translated at the plate.

"Once he moved up to Lehigh, he did a heck of a job with drawing walks, and I think we saw the guy that had such a good year in 2018," Henson said.

Second baseman -- Phil Gosselin , Lehigh Valley (78 games), Philadelphia (44 games): A native of the Philly suburbs, Gosselin signed a Minor League deal with Philadelphia and had some memorable moments for the big league club after an April 17 callup. But the 31-year-old spent most of the season as an IronPig, hitting .314 with a .901 OPS and 132 wRC+ to post his best numbers since 2014 with Gwinnett in the Braves system.

Third baseman -- Alec Bohm, Lakewood (22 games), Clearwater (40 games), Reading (63 games): The third overall pick of the 2018 Draft lived up to expectations. MLB.com's No. 34 overall prospect put up a 367/.441/.595 slash line for a month in the South Atlantic League, then dominated the Florida State League over the next seven weeks with an OPS north of .900. Upon arriving in the Eastern League on June 21, Bohm led the circuit in homers (14), RBIs (42) and total bases (119) through the end of the year. Altogether, his 160 wRC+ topped all Phillies Minor Leaguers. Of that group, none who totaled at least 250 plate appearances had a lower strikeout rate than Bohm, who Henson said can hit any pitch in any count.

"The most impressive thing to me … was just the presence he brings in a clubhouse, the presence he brings in a lineup, how much better the whole team gets when he's in the lineup. You don't see that that often," the hitting coach said. "He's going to be a special player, and I think that over time we're all going to witness that."

Shortstop -- Nick Maton , Clearwater (93 games), Reading (21 games): The Phillies' No. 14 prospect improved in several categories before getting his feet wet at Double-A over the final weeks of the season. His .276 average, .738 OPS and 11 stolen bases for the Threshers were career highs. The 22-year-old drew 50 walks between the two stops, good for sixth-most in the organization, while his 51 RBIs slotted ninth.

Maton, Henson said, is an aggressive hitter who will have to learn to avoid chasing as he climbs the system. But ...

"Nick, he's got some of the best hands I think I've ever seen out of a hitter," Henson said. "They're fast. They're strong. He can snatch a ball and hit it out pull-side with ease. And he plays really good defense. I'm anxious to see this next year and watch his growth."

Outfielders

Josh Stephen , Reading (113 games): Stephen spent 2018 at Class A Lakewood but didn't really fit in the picture at Clearwater to begin this year. As the higher-ups mulled his placement, Stephen's greatest strength supplied the answer.

"He handles the fastball better than probably 90 percent of people in baseball," Henson said. "He doesn't swing and miss. He doesn't foul them off. His percentage of putting the ball in play and put it in play at a pretty good exit velo on the fastball stood out."

The result was the best offensive year yet for the 2016 11th-round pick. Stephen's .483 slugging percentage ranked third among non-complex hitters in the system, while his 47 extra-base hits were fourth. He added nearly 200 points to his OPS from the year before, finishing with an .826 mark to go with a 140 wRC+ -- fifth-best among Phillies Minor Leaguers.

Adam Haseley, Reading (44 games), Lehigh Valley (18 games), Philadelphia (67 games): A lot was asked this season of Haseley, the eighth overall pick in the 2017 Draft. His first 41 games came at Double-A, where he hit .268 with an .827 OPS and 21 walks against 30 strikeouts. Just six games into Haseley's first taste of Triple-A, Andrew McCutchen tore his ACL and brought him to the big leagues earlier than expected. The 23-year-old traded in his prospect status for 1.7 bWAR and a spot in the conversation for Opening Day center fielder in 2020.

Were there signs that Haseley had it in him?

"Yeah," Henson said. "His game-planning is unbelievable. He's by far way more advanced than anybody else we had In Double-A, with having an idea of how guys were going to pitch to him and get him out. He is one of the only guys I've ever had that studied the pitcher as much as he does."

Mickey Moniak , Reading (119 games): Yes, Moniak was drafted first overall in 2016. No, his numbers might not yet match the caliber of a top pick. But the Phils' No. 8 prospect is still only 21 and showed signs that he's no longer a kid from California. Moniak set a career best with a .439 slugging percentage. His .741 OPS also was his highest in affiliated ball. He reached double-digit homers -- 11, to be exact -- for the first time as a pro. No Phillies Minor Leaguer matched his 13 triples, and his 67 RBIs, 52 extra-base hits and 204 total bases put him in the top five in the system.

"For him, it's learning how to manage at-bats, learning how to control the strike zone," Henson said. " ... Early, you got to see Mickey get himself out a lot -- early in counts, on soft pitches and just trying to force the envelope, trying to make everything happen. As the year progressed, he got way better at it. And, obviously, then his power numbers started to climb."

Utility -- Darick Hall , Reading (132 games): Hall entered the season as one of the best power hitters in the system, totaling 55 homers in 2017-18. Not much changed. The 24-year-old added 20 dingers and a system-best 38 doubles to slug .454 for the Fightins. Although he hit a career-low .235 in 456 at-bats, Hall more than doubled his walk rate from Double-A last year, bringing it up to 11.2 percent. The 25 percent strikeout rate wasn't ideal, but it didn't stop him from posting a 133 wRC+, sixth-best among Phillies prospects.

"Darick Hall did have a good year," Henson said. "I think there's way more in his tank than what he obviously showed. The last month, he kind of scuffled. I think he's a guy who hits 30 [homers] and drives in 80-100 a year."

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Spencer Howard, GCL Phillies East (one game), GCL Phillies West (one game), Clearwater (seven games), Reading (six games): Shoulder soreness limited Howard to 71 innings on the season, but that was enough to slide up to MLB.com's No. 88 overall prospect. He fanned 38.4 percent of batters he faced in the Florida State League, posting a 1.29 ERA and 1.54 FIP for the Threshers. Those numbers ticked only a tad higher in his first taste of Double-A, where the 23-year-old whiffed 31.2 percent of batters, compiling a 2.35 ERA and 2.62 FIP.

"He's got four plus pitches," Threshers pitching coach Brad Bergesen  told The Philadelphia Inquirer, referring to Howard's fastball, changeup, slider and curveball. "Every game [in 2018] he would have a couple and then maybe the other two weren't working, so he put them in his back pocket. This year, a curveball might pop out the first couple times and he's not just getting away from it. He's able to make an adjustment and carry out that four-pitch repertoire game to game."

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Ethan Lindow , Lakewood (23 games), Clearwater (three games): The 2017 fifth-round pick took home the Paul Owens Award as the top Minor League pitcher in the system. Over 94 2/3 innings at Lakewood, Lindow pitched to a 2.66 ERA and struck out 103 batters while walking 20. Only five Phillies prospects fanned more than his 119 on the year. He finished the season by yielding three earned runs in three starts at Clearwater, putting up a 1.87 ERA there. His emergence was a much-needed boost to a system thin on starters.

"He's a special pitcher," Phillies director of player development Josh Bonifay told The Inquirer. "He attacks the zone. He mixes all pitches in the zone. He limits hard contact. That's hard to do at a young age. He's able to spin the fastball where it gets above the barrels. He's able to put hitters away with his off-speed pitches."

Relief pitcher -- Tyler Carr , Lakewood (11 games), Clearwater (27 games), Reading (one game): Carr, a 2018 31st-round pick out of South Alabama, has zoomed through the Minor Leagues. He allowed one earned run for the Blue Claws, then posted a 1.64 ERA and 0.93 WHIP over 49 1/3 innings for the Threshers. And the 23-year-old right-hander couldn't have ended the season more appropriately, making one appearance with Reading in which he struck out six of the nine batters he faced and gave up a lone hit in 2 2/3 frames. Results can vary from year to year for relievers, but more of the same from Carr and he won't be eligible for this list much longer.

Joe Bloss is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jtbloss. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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