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May 05, 2023

Phillies prospect watch: Justin Crawford, Mick Abel are hot, Scott Kingery struggles again

Símon Muzziotti and Jhailyn Ortiz are two other outfielders hitting well to start the season.

The Phillies are struggling to stay around .500 as they try and figure out their bullpen, get the non-aces on track in the rotation and find any kind of consistent hitting.

In the minors, the Phils have a bevy of talented youngsters — most of whom are blocked by superstars in the majors — making their cases early in 2023. But you never know. An injury could open the door for one of the prospects below to get an opportunity. Or, the players we document here could become hot trade pieces for the Phillies at the deadline as they will no doubt be looking to add a starting pitcher to the fold come late July.

As we do from time to time here at PhillyVoice, let's take a look down at the Phillies' farm system. Who is currently hot and who is currently not?  

Who's hot

Mick Abel, SP, Reading

The Phillies No. 2 prospect (with No. 1 Andrew Painter and No. 4 Griff McGarry both currently sidelined), has been pitching well this season, boasting a 2.93 ERA over four starts so far with the Double-A Fightins. He's struck out 17 batters over 15.1 frames but has been limited innings-wise. If the Phillies have rotation issues and Painter doesn't come back healthy quickly enough, there could be a scenario that sees Abel advance to the majors to help the Phillies this summer.

Justin Crawford, CF, Clearwater

The Phillies' most recent first-round pick is playing how you'd hope a new first-round pick would play in Single-A, hitting .328 with 10 stolen bases in the early going of his pro career. Crawford is just 19 and is already the third-ranked prospect in the Phillies' organization.

Símon Muzziotti, LF, Lehigh Valley

The Phillies' 11th-ranked prospect is on an absolute tear to start the year in Lehigh Valley, hitting .379 through the first 25 games of the season — the highest batting average in the entire league. His 39 hits in total are also tied for the top mark in Triple-A. He hits from the left side, which might explain why he was passed over for promotion for Dalton Guthrie. 

Jhailyn Ortiz, RF, Lehigh Valley

Ranked 16th among the Phils' current crop of prospects, Ortiz has eight hits in his last four games and is hitting .325 overall in 2023. He gives the Phillies yet another homegrown option at a corner outfield spot. The issue with both Muzziotti and Ortiz, however, is not only that they are blocked by All-Star talent (like Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos and Bryce Harper if he returns to right field), but also that the Phillies likely would rather have these hitters play every day to continue to round into major league form, rather than picking up occasional at-bats as fifth outfielders in the dugout. We'll see if these two prospects make an impact in Philly this season.

Ethan Wilson, RF, Reading

Wilson has had quite the three-game stretch. In Reading's series against Hartford, Wilson fired off seven hits, 14 total bases, two homers and six RBI. On the year, the 23-year old, ranked as the seventh-best prospect in the system, is hitting .357 and could be gunning for a promotion to Lehigh Valley.

Francisco Morales, RP, Lehigh Valley

Is the Phillies' 10th-best prospect a future closer? Morales, 23, has a pair of saves in Lehigh Valley so far this season with 16 strikeouts in 11.2 innings in relief. His numbers and stuff are impressive and he could find his way to the majors soon if the MLB bullpen continues to struggle.

Caleb Ricketts, C, Clearwater

This name might be new to even the most hardcore Phillies fans, but his play down in Florida might make him a household name. The 29th-ranked prospect, Ricketts follows in the footsteps of some recent catching prospects in the organization with a hot bat. He's hitting. 372 through 18 games to start 2023.

Who's not

Scott Kingery, SS, Lehigh Valley

He's not technically a prospect but it feels appropriate to track the onetime utility man of the future here. After having a breakout spring in Clearwater, many thought Kingery might have another chance at big-league success this season. He just barely was left off the big league roster but hasn't been nearly as impressive in Triple-A, hitting a meager .226. He does lead the Iron Pigs with 10 stolen bases.

Michael Plassmeyer, SP, Lehigh Valley

A candidate to make the majors out of spring training, the Phillies elected to give Plassmeyer a chance to start in Triple-A and he's been struggling in that role. In six appearances he has a 6.75 ERA with opposing hitters hitting .292 off of him. He does have 28 strikeouts to just nine walks though.

Jordan Viars, DH, Clearwater

Viars was the Phils' third-round pick two years ago and even though he is just 19, he's fallen short of early expectations in the minors. Playing DH, Viars has hit just .147 this season. He was slotted as the team's 12th-best preseason prospect.

Who's hurt

Andrew Painter, SP

The top player in the farm system is making progress on his injured elbow and the optimism remains sky high. Here's a snippet from a recent Inquirer update from their beat writer Scott Lauber:

Andrew Painter continues to play catch off flat ground from at least 90 feet on almost a daily basis in Clearwater, Fla., and “hasn’t had any issues,” according to agent Scott Boras, in his recovery from a torn ligament in his throwing elbow in spring training.

The Phillies continue to believe Painter will make his major league debut this year. If so, the 20-year-old phenom — and preseason top pitching prospect in the sport, according to Baseball America — could be an X factor for the pitching staff after the All-Star break. []

Griff McGarry, SP

McGarry remains on the injured list as he works back from "side tightness" that became a big issue for him in April.

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