If you wanted to know what two-thirds of the Phillies' outfield might look like come 2020, you needed to head to the Gulf Coast League this summer. If you missed out, the dynamic duo of Mickey Moniak and Jhailyn Ortiz are continuing to get work together during instructional league play.
Moniak, the Phillies' No. 2 prospect and No. 25 on the overall Top 100 list, came to Phils as the No. 1 pick in the 2016 Draft. Ortiz is ranked at No. 20 on Philadelphia's Top 30 and was also a highly-sought after prospect on the international market, getting a $4 million bonus to sign in July 2015. That means the Phillies invested $10.1 million in Moniak and Ortiz combined. The very early returns do point to it being money well spent.
Phillies Top 30 prospects at instructs
Moniak hit .284/.340/.409 witih 10 steals in 176 at-bats during his pro debut in the GCL. He showed the various tools that made him the top pick in the Draft, most notably his feel for the game and baseball IQ.
"He was everything Johnny Almaraz and his staff said he'd be," Phillies farm director Joe Jordan said, referring to the scouting director and scouts who evaluated Moniak as an amateur. "He's a really good baseball player first. He has a plan. What separates him is that he has a much better plan and approach, he's advanced for his age."
Ortiz, just 17 years old, had a somewhat inconsistent United States debut. But he showed glimpses of the kind of dynamic offensive player he can develop into. Ortiz finished with a .231/.325/.434 line, with eight homers and 27 RBIs in 173 at-bats. He also showed more agility in the outfield than some anticipated.
"He had a couple of stretches this summer where we really saw some glimpses of what he has the chance to do," Jordan said. "It's going to be bat and power. He's very athletic for his size. He has really good feet. He's going to have an above-average arm. he's going to be able to play the corner outfield."
Both showed fatigue at the end of the GCL season, and Moniak had a minor hip flexor that kept him from finishing the season on the field. He's expected to be fine, but he will be limited a bit during instructs.
"He's participating, he'll play in some games," Jordan said. "It's not affecting what we're doing here with him and won't affect him in the offseason."
The offseason will be key for both of these young players. With the GCL under their belt, they'll get more instruction and workout plans to help them prepare for the 2017 season.
"Both guys were gassed two weeks before the summer was done," Jordan said. "They tried to give everything they had, but they were out of fuel. They need the offseason to recuperate, get stronger and ready for next year."
Romero keeps impressing on mound
The Phillies selected lefty JoJo Romero out of Yavapai College in the fourth round of the Draft this past June. While they scouted him in the spring, his 15-strikeout complete-game masterpiece to give Yavapai the Junior College World Series title certainly didn't hurt. The only question mark may have been the 132 pitches Romero threw to get the job done.
Somewhat surprisingly, Romero had more in the tank for his pro debut. The southpaw tossed 45 2/3 innings for Williamsport in the New York-Penn League and didn't show any real signs of tiring.
"I really really like this pick," Jordan said. "He's very athletic on the mound. I thought he was stronger at the end of the summer than at the beginning. You don't see that a lot with college guys, especially who had a lot of work. He took to our throwing program."
As strong as Romero was, the Phillies aren't going to push their No. 24 prospect much at instructs. He'll focus on little things, like holding runners while also gaining a deeper understanding of the Phils' philosophy about pitching. That will help Romero add to the ingredients he already has that point to him moving fairly quickly through the system.
"He's here not to throw a lot of innings," Jordan said. "There's stuff we're working on and I think he'll be a good piece next summer and we'll be able to get him going."
Morales leads international crop
The Phillies were very aggressive on the international market this summer, spending $5.5 million on some of the best talent available. Leading that list are shortstop Brayan Gonzalez, who received a $700,000 bonus, and right-hander Francisco Morales, ranked No. 22 on MLB Pipeline.com's International Top 30 list, who got $900,000 to sign. They were two of the 13 six-figure bonuses the Phils handed out. Now many of them are in Clearwater to get their bearings in the United States.
"For me, that is the biggest benefit, just getting to the U.S for the first time, being at our complex for four weeks," Jordan said. "We put them through a lot of the orientation part of the organization, like we do with the high school kids out of the Draft. The most important thing is they get here, figure out where everything is at, get comfortable to some degree. Then, when they come to Spring Training, it's not going 9,000 miles an hour. Maybe only 7,000. It has to be overwhelming."
They'll get their share of innings and at-bats, while the Phillies' staff gets to start putting a development plan together for each player. Not much weight will be put into performance, at least in the early stages of instructs as everyone understands there is a huge transition to be made.
"About the third or fourth week, we get to see what they can do because they calm down a little," Jordan said. "It's beneficial to both of them. You have to watch them for a while. The group as you'd expect, needs a lot of strength. We can't do it all in four weeks. Give them a little bit here and there, see how they make adjustments.
"It's just a real, real small look. We'll go to the Dominican Academy after this is over and get another week to 10 days with this group. We get a picture in our mind, then we really get them going in Spring Training."