It was a rough week for two of the Phillies' Triple A right-handers, with Zach Eflin and Mark Appel both giving up a handful of runs as their ERAs rose above 3.00. But the numbers don't paint a full picture - Eflin was better than them, while Appel was even worse.
The good news was that some of the Phils' offensive prospects are starting to lock in. Let's take a look in this week's Future Phillies Report:
RHPs Zach Eflin & Mark Appel (AAA)
We documented Appel's struggles Thursday. He's been hit hard his last two times out, missing over the middle with too many straight fastballs and flat breaking balls. Against International League-leading Columbus (Indians' affiliate) on Wednesday, even the outs Appel recorded early were on hard-hit line drives.
Appel has got to really focus heading into his next start on commanding the fastball on the inside and outside corners. He doesn't have the stuff to miss over the plate because there isn't much deception in his delivery or late life on his fastball. He still has the velocity and the ability to be successful, but not if his command is as shaky as it's been in his last three starts, when he's put 27 men on base in just 15⅓ innings.
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Eflin last pitched on Saturday and allowed five runs on seven hits over 5⅓ innings in a no-decision against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees' affiliate).
It wasn't a terrible outing, though, for the 22-year-old Eflin, who has been the best pitcher in the Phillies' minor-league system so far this season. He worked quickly, got ahead of hitters, and had his two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball and curveball all working.
Eflin retired the first five hitters he faced, three on strikeouts. He finished with six, striking out Yankees top power-hitting prospect Aaron Judge three times. That continues to be a promising development, all the swings-and-misses Eflin is generating. He struck out 4.6 batters per nine innings last season but is up to 8.0 this season. He's walked fewer batters, too, going from an already stellar mark of 1.6 per nine in 2015 to 1.4.
It was a tough-luck game for Eflin. He ran into two-out trouble in the third inning and allowed two runs. The big blows were catcher Gary Sanchez's third-inning double and fifth-inning homer. In the sixth, Eflin put two men on base after getting an out and was lifted for Luis Garcia, who allowed both inherited runners to score.
Eflin pitched better than the line indicates. Through five starts, he's 3-0 with a 3.13 ERA and 0.92 WHIP.
C Jorge Alfaro (AA)
Alfaro has returned from the oblique strain that cost him three weeks and has gone right back to driving the ball. In his first four games back from the injury, Alfaro went 5 for 15 with two doubles and four RBIs.
For the season, the 22-year-old catcher is hitting .418 (23 for 55) with eight extra-base hits and 14 RBIs in 13 games. He's also utilized that strong arm everyone raves about, throwing out five of 11 potential base-stealers.
It looks like Alfaro is ahead of Double A pitching. It's not just this 13-game sample size - he's played 83 games in Double A between the Rangers' and Phillies' systems and hit .282 with an .806 OPS despite being two years younger than the league average.
You'd think another strong week or two would earn Alfaro a call-up to Triple A, but that doesn't appear to be the case because Andrew Knapp is catching every day at Lehigh Valley. The Phillies want both of their top catching prospects to play as much as possible and the best way to do that is by separating them. At some point, Knapp will likely have to move out from behind the plate if he is to have a future with the Phillies, because Alfaro is a natural catcher who provides better defense and has no interest in switching positions.
But right now, the Phils will just let Alfaro continue to hit and build confidence with Reading, while they hope he stays healthy.
C Andrew Knapp (AAA)
The Phils' other top catching prospect has scuffled the last two weeks, going just 7 for 42 (.167) with 10 strikeouts and grounding into four double plays in his last 12 games.
Knapp is down to .236/.317/.416 on the season, but he does appear to be breaking out of the slump. In this week's series at Columbus, he hit in all three games and homered in the second.
Where Alfaro has thrived throwing out would-be base stealers, Knapp has been victimized at Triple A, throwing out just three of 15.
OF Nick Williams (AAA)
Williams has settled in at the plate. After hitting .184 in his first 11 games, he's gone 23 for 69 (.333) with six extra-base hits and 13 RBIs in his last 17. He's hitting, just not for much power.
The left-handed hitting Williams has seen right-handed pitching well this season, batting .296 with an .802 OPS in 87 plate appearances against them with seven of his eight extra-base hits. Lefties have given Williams some trouble, holding him to 6 for 26 (.231) with no walks and eight strikeouts.
The Phillies are not going to rush Williams just because they need some corner outfield offense. There is a plan in place for him just like there's a plan in place for all of the top prospects. Williams is not yet dominating his Triple A competition so the Phillies aren't going to rush him and promote him to the majors too soon. They want to be sure that when he's ready for a call-up, he's ready to stick and to work out any issues he's having while in the majors. Remember how Domonic Brown once upon a time was up, down, up, down between the majors and minors? That's the last thing a team wants to do with a top offensive prospect.
CF Roman Quinn (AA)
Quinn's early-season slump lasted a bit longer than Williams', but the speedy centerfielder has broken out. He's reached base safely in 13 straight games, hitting .347 with a .484 on-base percentage, six extra-base hits, seven steals and 13 runs scored over that span.
After walking just twice in his first 76 plate appearances, Quinn has 11 walks in his last 62. That ability to get on base however you can is what a team wants from a player as fast as Quinn. He has a .348 OBP despite struggling for much of April, and is 13 for 16 in stolen base attempts.
Quinn, who was at big-league camp this spring at 22, is farther behind the Phillies' other top prospects. He's dealt with injuries the last few seasons and still has another level to climb, but he could make an impact in the majors in mid-to-late 2017 or early 2018.
SS J.P. Crawford (AA)
Crawford continues to walk a ton, but he hasn't hit much the last few weeks and is down to .254 on the season. But hey, the .385 on-base percentage makes up for it.
Over his last 15 games, Crawford hasn't had multiple hits once and has batted just .196, but the 12 walks kept his OBP at a respectable .338 during that stretch. That's the good news: At every level, even when Crawford has slumped, his eye and ability to work deep counts has kept him productive at the plate.
Typically, a player who walks (185 career) more than he strikes out (184) in the minors tends to bring those skills to The Show. Would the Phillies like to see more gap power from Crawford? Sure. But he did just turn 21. He's 3½ years younger than the Eastern League average.
Defensively, Crawford is having a season similar to last year. He has seven errors in 31 games after committing 27 in 106 games last season.
When will Crawford be promoted to Triple A? You'd think as soon as he gets hot and puts a week's worth of hits together. It's not like the Phillies have much going at shortstop in Triple A. Veteran Ryan Jackson has played there the bulk of the time and is hitting just .214. Jackson has just two errors in 95 defensive chances, but one of them was on a routine groundball Wednesday that proved costly in Appel's six-run inning.
RHP Jake Thompson (AAA)
The 22-year-old who entered 2015 ahead of Eflin and Appel on the Phillies' minor-league pitching depth chart had a couple poor outings early in the year but has pitched well his last two times out, lowering his ERA from 6.16 to 4.06.
On Tuesday, Thompson allowed four runs on a grand slam in the fourth inning but they were all unearned. The bases never would have been loaded if not for Tommy Joseph's error at first base on a routine groundball.
Thompson retired eight of the first nine Columbus Clippers hitters he faced in that start and rebounded to pitch a scoreless fifth after the frustrating fourth.
Thompson has commanded the baseball better and lower in the zone his last two times out, generating 10 groundballs each time. He was averaging five groundballs per start prior to that.
RF Dylan Cozens (AA)
Cozens may be the hottest hitter in the Phillies' entire system right now. He leads the Eastern League with 10 home runs, ranks second with a .581 slugging percentage and third with 25 RBIs. On the season, he's hitting .274/.359/.581 and also has eight doubles. He's striking out a lot (37) but also walking (17).
Cozens has been on a tear, getting at least one hit in 14 of his last 15 games. Over that span he's gone 18 for 54 (.333) with three doubles, six homers, 12 RBIs, 10 walks and five stolen bases. It could soon be time for Triple A for the 21-year-old. Williams and Cam Perkins occupy two of the outfield spots for the IronPigs, but the other has gone to Cedric Hunter, who obviously is not in the Phils' future plans.
LF Cornelius Randolph (A)
The Phillies' first-round pick (10th overall) in 2015 has missed the last three weeks with a sore shoulder. It came at an inopportune time, as he was just starting to rake for Lakewood. Randolph was 8 for 13 with a homer and three RBIs in the three games before his injury, and had reached base 14 times in his last 27 plate appearances.
1B Tommy Joseph (AAA)
He's no longer a minor-leaguer. Joseph was promoted to the majors on Friday after leading the International League with a .347 batting average and .981 OPS. The Phillies could certainly use his right-handed thump at first base against lefties because it was missing from Darin Ruf's bat.