What's on tap for Phillies' farm system?

October 19th, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- It is a time of great and necessary change in the Phillies’ farm system.

The organization hired Preston Mattingly last month as its new player development director. It followed the news in August that the Phils removed assistant general manager Bryan Minniti and player development director Josh Bonifay from their positions. Philadelphia later dismissed field coordinator Chris Truby. Other changes are expected.

But there are reasons to be optimistic about the future. Here are a few:

3 players who emerged in 2021

Phillies fans who paid close attention in Spring Training might remember the impression Rojas made on manager Joe Girardi. Rojas appeared in 23 Grapefruit League games, mostly as a late-inning replacement. But Rojas, who draws comparisons to Reggie Sanders, played well.

“He has a chance to be a special player,” Girardi said one afternoon in Clearwater, Fla. “He’s a plus-plus defender, he’s a plus runner. I believe there’s Gold Glove [Award] potential there. He has bat speed. He has a ton of tools. He’s very coachable and picks up on things quickly.”

Rojas, ranked as the organization’s No. 6 prospect by MLB Pipeline, slashed a combined .262/.329/.417 with 11 home runs and 34 stolen bases in 429 plate appearances, mostly with Low-A Clearwater and High-A Jersey Shore.

If the Phillies non-tender Andrew Knapp or trade Rafael Marchan this offseason, it is partly because the club feels good about its organizational catching depth. O’Hoppe is a big part of that. The No. 11 prospect slashed a combined .270/.331/.458 with 17 home runs in 438 plate appearances with Jersey Shore, Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The Phils love his makeup.

“He wants to be a good catcher,” assistant general manager Jorge Velandia said. “He understands what it is to go 0-for-4, but still block the ball in the eighth inning so the runner doesn’t advance. He was born with natural leadership.”

MLB Pipeline named Hernandez the Phillies’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The No. 15 prospect had some of the best numbers in the system -- a 3.57 ERA to go with 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings and an opponents batting average of .225, mostly with Clearwater. He throws a fastball, slider and changeup, with an occasional curveball.

2 potential breakout players for 2022

Everybody knows Stott because he was the Phillies’ first-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. The No. 2 prospect is mentioned here because the front office will be paying very close attention to him in 2022. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Didi Gregorius will have to earn his spot in the lineup next season, despite entering the second year of a two-year, $28 million contract. It is not impossible to imagine a scenario in which Gregorius starts the season with the Phillies, struggles early and Stott pushes for a promotion. Of course, a lot of this is up to Stott, who slashed .299/.390/.486 with 16 home runs in 487 plate appearances with Jersey Shore, Reading and Lehigh Valley.

The Phillies’ first-round pick (No. 15 overall) in the 2020 Draft and No. 1 prospect went 1-3 with a 4.43 ERA in 14 starts in his first pro season with Clearwater. Abel, 20, was shut down at one point because of a right shoulder issue, but he is throwing again in the instructional league. His fastball is in the high 90s.

“This is a kid who’s well ahead of his age mentally, understanding his pitching arsenal and how his pitches work for him,” Velandia said.

1 big question for next season

How much do things change with Mattingly in charge?

Mattingly is in Clearwater, trying to assess the situation. How he moves forward will have major implications on the future health of the franchise.

“I think there will be a true balance,” Dombrowski said about the way players will be taught moving forward. “I think one thing we need to do is make sure everybody is on the same page and understands what that page is. And he will do that. It’s extremely important that we make sure everybody is on the same page.

"But, yes, I do think that will be different. I think we will blend it very well. Now, you have to be aware that all those other things exist in today’s world, but you can’t forget about what’s important, which is on the field and learning how to play the game. And he knows it.”