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May 18, 2021

Phillies prospect watch: Former first-round picks struggling to start the year

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Phillies-Cardinals-Mickey-Moniak-Kate-Frese_041721-133.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Phillies outfielder Mickey Moniak.

The Phillies are suffering through injury issues, and depth issues. They also are a roster chock full of veterans who may or may not be contributors to the team long term.

Which is why the prospects in the Phillies organization right now are of utmost importance.

Which of the Phillies' top prospects are playing well down on the farm? Which ones are struggling? How long until one of the team's top young players makes the leap to the big leagues?

There is a clear hangover effect for almost everyone in the minors following 2020, the pandemic-rattled season that contained exactly zero innings of minor league baseball. There is a learning curve, and we tried to assess performance accordingly. Keep in mind that there have been roughly two weeks of games so far.

Here's who's hot and who's not in the Phillies farm system:

Who's hot

*Prospect rankings via FanGraph's top 41.

Bryson Stott, SS, Jersey Shore (No. 5)*

Stott, a recent first round pick, got a spring training invite but didn't show much in limited chances. The 23-year-old suffered from having no team to play for during the pandemic last summer and had a slow start this May, but his last two games have gotten him on the right track. Stott hit a solo shot, walked three times and scored four runs Saturday, and had a pair of hits and three more runs the night before. His on-base rate is a respectable .438 and his .235 batting average is on the rise. 

Arquimedes Gamboa, SS, Reading

Gamboa isn't known for his bat, he is a talented infield prospect who was in spring training and briefly on the 40-man roster. Understandably, right now he is in the minors to work on his hitting. His average isn't great so far, but he is coming off his best game of the year. The 23-year-old had a three-run homer, four RBI and scored three runs in a recent 13-12 loss for the Fightin's.

Luke Williams, 2B, Lehigh Valley

Williams is a 24-year-old mid-level prospect who seemingly had the makings of a journeyman career, but a red-hot start to his 2021 season — after not playing in 2020 —  could boost his chances of making it to the majors, barring some kind of trade or injury. He is hitting .370 and is also leading all of Lehigh Valley in total at bats (but also in strikeouts).

Matt Verling, LF, Reading

Never heard of Verling? He's a fifth-round pick, 24 years old and is not on anyone's top 30 prospect list. But he has been on absolute fire to start the year in Reading, hitting .326 with three homers in less than a month. We'll see if he keeps it up and gets on the front office's radar.

Who's not

Mickey Moniak, CF, Lehigh Valley (No. 8)*

Moniak, the 2016 first overall pick, had his chance in the majors and didn't do much with it, hitting .154 during a brief stint in center. The thought was that he might be able to get regular at bats and get in a groove back in the minors but, well, it hasn't panned out that way. He has just three hits in 25 at bats with the Iron Pigs and continues to struggle.

Cornelius Randolph, LF, Lehigh Valley

Another former first-round pick outfielder is struggling in Allentown as well, with the 23-year-old Randolph hitting a measly .226 against minor-league pitching. Will the 2015 10th overall pick ever get his big-league shot? Will another high draft pick prove to be a bust? It's not looking good.

Mick Abel, SP, Clearwater (No. 2)*

Abel is the Phillies' first-round pick from last summer and he made his pro debut on May 5. It didn't go well, as he went just 2.1 innings and allowed three runs. The Phils are clearly bringing him along slowly, as he has pitched just 7.1 innings so far across three games. His 7.36 ERA to start the year isn't great, but it's a very small sample size.

Jhalyn Ortiz, SS, Jersey Shore (No. 26)*

Ortiz is one of the Phils top prospects and at 22, the hope was he would break through in Single-A and advance through the system in 2021. He is starting to cool off, hitting .227 with his average trending downward after a hot start. 

Francisco Morales, SP, Reading (No. 3)*

Morales is another one of the Phillies' top prospects — one of their best farm arms — who appears to have suffered greatly from no season in 2020. In his first taste of Double-A, the Venezuelan has a 16.43 ERA over his first three starts of the season. He's only 21 and will have ample time to find his footing, but the team is clearly high on him as he's on the 40-man roster.

Luis Garcia, SS, Clearwater (No. 9)*

Garcia's season will be one to track. The Dominican is 20 years old and the team is hoping this is the year he makes the leap from A-ball to higher levels of competition. He had a quick start with the bat but has cooled off, his average dropping from .321 on May 11 to just .240 today. It's a small sample size and we'll check in with him later this spring.

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