With the exception of a couple of pitchers like first-round pick Aaron Nola, ninth-round pick Matt Hockenberry and last year’s first pick, shortstop J.J. Crawford, the Philadelphia Phillies have had pretty much nothing but bad news down on the farm this season.
Two of them now play at Bright House Field (pictured) for the Clearwater high Single-A team; the other plays for low Single-A Lakewood (N.J.).
That more than anything illustrates the need to restock the system by the July 31 MLB trade deadline — the Phillies have fallen victim to a variety of trades over the last three years that depleted the system.
Nola, the first-round pick from LSU, pitched five great innings for high Single-A Clearwater and was tagged with a no-decision in a 1-0 loss against Dunedin in his second outing. Hockenberry, a steal from Temple, was sent to Rookie League for the Gulf Coast (Fla.) Phillies but was quickly promoted to low Single-A Lakewood (N.J.) where he pitched three scoreless innings and got five strikeouts in his first appearance. Crawford looks like a can’t-miss star and Jimmy Rollins’ heir apparent at shortstop in two years. At Lakewood this year, Crawford hit .295 before being promoted to Clearwater. Last year, while playing for the Gulf Coast team, he hit .345.
That’s the good news.
There is bad news all around the system. The team is in dire need of a talent injection and the fastest way to that booster shot is the trade deadline. If the Phillies get a couple of prospects for closer Jonathan Papelbon and a couple more for outfielder Marlon Byrd, and maybe unload another veteran for one or two more, they can begin the rebuild. Two recent first-round draft picks, outfielder Larry Greene and pitcher Jesse Biddle, appear to be the biggest busts.
There certainly have to be better prospects out there than the Phillies have now below their top three and the Phillies must find them soon.