Do the Phillies Wait Too Long to Promote Prospects?
This morning, Philadelphia Daily News columnist Marcus Hayes penned a column that praised Phillies general manager Matt Klentak for ignoring fans calls to promote prospects. In the piece, Hayes argues that there is no reason to rush any player in the Phillies system. It was patience, Hayes said, that allowed the Phillies to develop the core players of their 2008 World Series run.
But is it really the case that the Phillies repeatedly wait too long to promote their players? I figured it would make sense to look at the numbers of some that were prospects for the Phillies at the time of their call. Some are certainly bigger prospects than others on this list, but this gives a pretty wide look at what age the Phillies have promoted their players over the last 20 years or so.
The ages are those when they made their Major League Debut:
Scott Rolen - 21 years, 119 days
Gavin Floyd - 21 years, 220 days
Jimmy Rollins - 21 years, 295 days
Brett Myers - 21 years, 341 days
Aaron Nola - 22 years, 47 days
Zach Eflin - 22 years, 60 days
Cole Hamels - 22 years, 136 days
Freddy Galvis - 22 years, 142 days
Randy Wolf - 22 years, 293 days
Domonic Brown - 22 years, 328 days
Cesar Hernandez - 23 years, 6 days
Ryan Madson - 23 years, 30 days
Cody Asche - 23 years, 30 days
Jorge Alfaro 23 years, 90 days
Aaron Altherr - 23 years, 153 days
Pat Burrell 23 years, 227 days
Nick Williams - 23 years, 323 days
Chase Utley - 24 years, 108 days
Nick Pivetta - 24 years, 164 days
Ryan Howard - 24 years, 287 days
Tommy Joseph - 24 years, 302 days
Marlon Byrd - 25 years, 9 days
Ben Lively - 25 years, 90 days
Andrew Knapp - 25 years, 148 days
Mark Leiter, Jr. - 26 years, 137 days
The above ages are not so cut and dry. Some players on the list, like Rollins, were drafted out of high school and started moving up the system before someone like Utley, who had three years of college under his belt before being drafted. Others, like Byrd and Howard, were not top prospects and worked their way into becoming one. Howard had hit .280 with 19 home runs at Class A Lakewood right before the Phillies signed Jim Thome. Who knew Howard would become an MVP?
Of course, a really good incumbent player makes it harder to break through, particularly when a player like Howard can only play one position. Utley's first regular play came when Thome was out with an injury and Utley played first base alongside Placido Polanco at second base. Polanco was traded for one year of Ugueth Urbina, who after finishing the season for the Phillies was convicted of attempted murder for an incident two weeks after the season ended. While Urbina was sitting in a jail cell, Polanco won an ALCS MVP award and made two All-Star teams. Let that be a cautionary tale for the Phillies dumping talent for the sake of clearing space.
The average age of the Phillies to start the 2016 season was 27.9 years. That made the 2017 Opening Day Phillies the fifth-youngest team in baseball. The number was made helped along by the presence of veterans like Joaquin Benoit (39 years old then, now 40), Pat Neshek (36 years old), Howie Kendrick (33 years old then, now 34), Daniel Nava (34 y ears old), Andres Blanco (33 years old), Clay Buchholz (32 years old) and 30 year-old Jeremy Hellickson. The average age in baseball to start 2017 was 28.6 years.
It looks like relief prospect Jesen Therrien could be the next prospect to join the Phillies. He turned 24 in March. Dylan Cozens turned 23 in May, Rhys Hoskins 24 in March, and Scott Kingery 23 in April. Jorge Alfaro turned 24 last month, but of course already has made his Major League debut. J.P. Crawford is still just 22 years old and could get a call this September if he continues his hot play.
According to Baseball Prospectus, the average age of a player's debut was 24.4 years after studying a window of play from 2005 through 2009. The numbers in that window shows that the Phillies tended to be on the back end in terms of number of plate appearances before a call-up. The pitchers tended to pitch fewer innings in the minor leagues compared to other organizations. Again, to be complete we would have to look at the age the player was drafted and level of experience. Mickey Moniak, drafted out of high school with the first overall pick in 2016, probably will need more minor league plate appearances than 2017 first round pick Adam Haseley, who had three years of play at Virginia.
If we go use the 24.4 average number for the Phillies, then the aforementioned prospects are mostly on track. Hoskins will be 24.6 years old if he gets a September call-up. The rest of the bunch fans would love to see are below that number and will still be if the Phillies wait until 2018 to call them up for the first time. Should space happen to clear on the roster, the Phillies would be able to call up a couple prospects. If they are unable to do so, then fans probably have to wait.