Abel, Phils' top prospects shine at Spring Breakout

March 16th, 2024

LAKELAND, Fla. -- dreamt on Saturday, like a lot of other people.

He pitched the first two innings in a Spring Breakout exhibition between top Phillies prospects and top Tigers prospects at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. It was Abel’s first time playing with other Phils prospects such as Aidan Miller.

Maybe one day they will play together again in the big leagues.

“It’s awesome,” Abel said. “That’s what this event is for. It’s looking ahead to the future. For us, it’s just as exciting as the fans getting to watch.”

Here were three notable prospect performances from the Phillies’ 5-1 loss:

RHP (No. 2 Phillies prospect, No. 49 prospect in MLB)
Abel, 22, is in a good place.

He struck out Yankees star Juan Soto in a Grapefruit League game on Monday. Afterward, Abel was reassigned to Minor League camp, but only because he needs to get ready for the Triple-A season. Then, on Saturday, he allowed a home run in the first inning to top Tigers prospect Jace Jung before settling in to strike out the side in the second.

Abel has struck out four in 2 2/3 perfect innings in two Grapefruit League appearances. Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, manager Rob Thomson and others were impressed.

If Abel continues to progress at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, he could push for an in-season promotion.

“It’s definitely a goal; it’s definitely within sight,” Abel said. “The biggest difference this year is that I know where my feet are at. In years past, I thought about promotions too much. I put too many of those types of expectations on myself. By certain dates, I need to make certain levels or whatever. But this year I’ve got a very clear understanding of what I need to do and who I need to be to get to that next level.”

It is mentioned that Abel is on the same track as many other high school players selected in the first round in 2020.

“I looked in the mirror one too many times and I didn’t see anything,” he said. “I think the last time I did it, I did see something. And I understand what I saw. It was a very easy picture to see.”

Abel said his improved mindset has helped him this spring.

“Even today, a home run is a home run -- it’s a solo shot,” Abel said. “It was a pretty bad pitch. After a low fastball, I threw him a low changeup. I thought I would change his speed. But everything is clicking right now. Everything feels really good mentally. I’m in a really good place. I have a lot of confidence.”

SS/3B Aidan Miller (No. 3, No. 61 overall)
The Phillies think they got a steal when Miller fell to them with the 27th overall pick in the 2023 Draft.

They believe he is going to be a star with legitimate big league power. Miller, 19, hit a ball past a drawn-in infield with one out in the first inning to plate the Phillies’ only run. He also reached on catcher’s interference in the fourth and struck out looking with the bases loaded in the sixth.

Miller fouled back a 96-mph fastball from Ty Madden to push the count to 3-2 in the sixth.

“I just missed that one,” he said. “I wanted that one back.”

He then took a 3-2 fastball for a called third strike. Miller thought the pitch was low -- and it appeared to be. But players only learned before the game that they could use the ABS challenge system and it slipped Miller’s mind until he left the batter’s box.

“Next time,” he said.

Miller played 10 games last season with the Gulf Coast League Phillies before getting promoted to Single-A Clearwater, where he is expected to open this season. He hit his first professional home run for the Threshers in the postseason.

“The biggest thing was learning how to slow the game down,” Miller said. “The first couple games, it felt fast. It sped up on me a little bit. Developing a good routine helped that out.”

Miller has embraced the information the Phillies have provided him since he joined the organization. He is learning his strengths and weaknesses at the plate, including hot and cold zones.

“I like heaters,” he said, smiling. “I think everybody would give you that answer. But I’m learning what pitches to lay off of. If they start middle and end up away, lay off those. Learn how to be professional; have a professional approach.”

CF (No. 4, No. 77 overall)
Crawford, 20, showcased his approach and ability to put the bat on the ball in his three plate appearances.

He reached on a swinging bunt single up the third-base line in the first, forcing Jung into an errant throw. Crawford stole second, then advanced to third on a slow ground ball to shortstop Trei Cruz. He scored on Miller’s single to left.

“We can get used to this,” Crawford and Miller told one another in the dugout.

Crawford, who is expected to open at High-A Jersey Shore, hit an opposite-field single with two outs in the third. He walked in the sixth.