Looking forward to spectating at another Arizona Fall League season, with the rosters recently announced. The team from Philadelphia is once again part of the Scottsdale Scorpions, and here’s a preview of the eight Phillies representatives:
Sixto Sanchez is by far the most intriguing Phils’ prospect we’ll be following in October/November. The first Sixto since Lezcano with a chance to succeed for the Phils at the major league level, Sanchez is rated #5 among pitchers on the mlb.com prospect watch list, and #17 overall. He’s the Phillies #1 prospect, but then again so was J.P. Crawford until Sanchez displaced him. Yet there’s reason for enthusiasm when you read the mlb.com write-up about him:
“Sanchez signed for just $35,000 in 2015 and if his first two seasons in the United States are any indication, he might turn out to be the greatest international signing bonus bargain in Phillies history. He won the ERA crown in the Gulf Coast League for his U.S. debut in 2016, then dominated in his first taste of full-season ball and earned a promotion up to the Florida State League just after his 19th birthday for an encore. His race to Philadelphia was slowed somewhat by elbow inflammation in 2018.
It’s hard not to get excited about Sanchez’s combination of pure stuff and feel for pitching. While he is just six feet tall, he’s strong and athletic with a repeatable delivery that points to a future in a rotation. He can hit triple digits with his four-seam fastball and also features a two-seamer with a ton of sinking action. His fastball is better than its pure velocity because of its movement as well as his ability to command it extremely well. His secondary stuff continues to improve, with a breaking ball he adds and subtracts from and a changeup he shows a good feel for at times. Both will flash above-average to plus, and given his overall feel for pitching, there is confidence both will get there consistently in time.”
Sanchez just turned 20 years old on July 29, so there’s no need to rush him. Before being shut down in Clearwater, he was 4-3 with a 2.51 ERA, a 45/11 K/BB ratio, only 1 HR allowed, and a .224 BA against over 46.2 innings. Aaron Fultz, his pitching coach for the Threshers this year, is the Scorpions’ pitching coach, so the Phillies will be able to keep a close eye on their crown jewel in Scottsdale.
No other Phils’ prospect in Scottsdale ranks on the mlb.com Top 100 list, but they do have one other prospect on the team’s top 30 list, and that is Sixto’s Threshers teammate Arquimedes Gamboa sitting at #11. Though named after a famous Greek mathematician his numbers haven’t added up yet, and the AFL will be a nice proving ground for the slick fielding, switch-hitting soon-to-be-21-year-old shortstop to see if his bat can continue to develop. From his mlb.com writeup:
“The Phillies shelled out $900,000 to sign Gamboa out of Venezuela in July 2014 when he was ranked No. 15 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 International Prospects list. There wasn’t much to show for the investment, at least not offensively, over his first two summers of pro ball, but particularly at the end of his first taste of full-season ball in 2017, things started to click.
The Phillies never doubted Gamboa’s ability and were more than willing to be patient for his considerable tools to start showing up. It didn’t help that the start of his 2017 season was delayed by a hamstring injury, but he did start swinging the bat well over the last month and change of the year. He’s starting to add strength, with more to come, and that combined with his bat speed should allow him to impact the baseball from both sides of the plate. He makes all the plays at shortstop, where he will be able to play long-term, with a plus arm.
In terms of raw tools, Gamboa rates higher than rookie shortstop J.P. Crawford and might end up with similar offensive tools to those of Scott Kingery. He’s a long way away from reaching that ceiling, but the Phillies are confident he’s starting to figure it out.”
In the image of Rhys Hoskins and Dylan Cozens the Phils have another Big Bopper who likes to hit dingers, the Fightins’ hulking first baseman Darick Hall. Hall will be playing close to home having been born and raised in Siera Vista, Arizona. Drafted in the 14th round (407th overall) by the Phillies in 2016, Hall signed for $95,000 and immediately started putting balls over the wall in Williamsport. He punished pitching in low A Lakewood for 27 homers and 96 RBIs in 114 games in 2017, and in 2018 belted a combined 25/86 for Clearwater and Reading.
Although he hit in the .270s in Lakewood and Clearwater, Hall dropped to .229 at Reading. No doubt the Phils would like to see him do better than his .720 OPS at the AA level, and he’ll start next season with The Fightins again. But if he has a good showing for the Scorpions, it will give both him and the club more confidence in his future.
Austin Listi may not have as much size as his Dallas Baptist University teammate Darick Hall, but he may prove to be the better all around ballplayer. He began 2018 in Clearwater but the Phils couldn’t justify leaving him at that level with his stellar .344 average and 1.013 OPS in 58 games. So up he went to Reading where he put up a very respectable .288/.835 in 62 games, with the same number of HRs (9) and 39 RBIs, a shade less than his 45 at Clearwater.
Luke Williams is the last of the three position players who’ll represent the Phils on the Scorpions, and the least likely to advance. A 3rd round draft choice in 2015, his numbers at all levels have been disappointing thus far. He spent all of 2018 with the Threshers at third base, putting up a .248/.682 line. His claim to fame is that he was born in Park Ridge, Illinois, birthplace of Hillary Clinton and home to Sara, Dan, Ethan, Ella, and Eva Press.
Luke Leftwich was selected by the Phillies in the 7th round of the 2015 draft, and has a baseball pedigree, with both his father and grandfather having pitched in the major leagues. Although no one is going to confuse him with Sixto Sanchez, he had an excellent 2017 in Clearwater with a .275 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and a K/BB ratio of 98/21. Reading in 2018 was more of a challenge, with Luke dropping to .375/1.30 and 67/24 respectively.
Seth McGarry was acquired by the Phillies in a trade straight up last July that sent Joaquin Benoit to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s a sinker baller who started out 2018 like a ball of fire in double A, garnering headlines in the Reading Eagle. But the accolades didn’t last, and he finished the year with an ERA of 4.11, a whopping WHIP of 1.48, and a pedestrian K/BB of 65/41. Although his sinker would be welcome in Citizens Bank Park, he’s a long shot to make it and will be turning 25 this January.
Tyler Viza is another Arizona native who’ll be at home pitching for the Scorpions. Talk about long shots, he was a 32nd round pick for the Phillies in 2013 who struggled mightily in 2014 at Lakewood with a record of 3-17, an ERA of 5.29, and a WHIP 1.56 (shades of John Buzhardt and Frank Sullivan of the early ’60s Phils). After an unimpressive 2017 year with the Fightin Phils, Viza may have turned a corner with his second stint in Reading this year posting an ERA of 2.94, a WHIP of 1.25, and a K/BB of 63/19. Having been rocked in his five appearances with the Iron Pigs, this will be Tyler’s chance to redeem himself.