PBI Top 80 Prospects: 66-70

Philly Baseball Insider has increased our list of the top Phillies prospects from the usual 50 prospects that we’ve ranked in previous seasons to 80 players coming into the 2018 season.

Our list is compiled by comparing notes with scouts, coaches, broadcasters, reporters and other analysts both throughout the season and following the season.

To be eligible for the list, a player must have his MLB rookie status intact coming into the 2018 season, meaning that they do not have more than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors during a previous season or seasons. They also may not have accumulated more than 45 days on a major league roster during the 25-player limit period (April through August), excluding time on the DL.

The plan is to unveil five players per day through mid-January with short scouting reports on each player. We will also be starting to assemble a list of player pages that will include stats and information on players throughout the Phillies organization.

Our list of the Top 80 Phillies Prospects begins with players ranked 66 through 70.

66. Malquin Canelo, SS, 23

The big question about Canelo has always been will he hit enough to make it to the majors? Canelo hit as high as .281 in 2015, but much of that was amassed by a .311 average while with Lakewood (63 games). In the other 63 games that he played that season, he was with Clearwater and hit .250 with the Threshers. In 2016, he shrank to a .246 average while back at Clearwater and hit just .226 with Double-A Reading this past season. Obviously, he’s going to pick up at least 20 or 30 points to get to a point where he’s going to be valuable on a major league roster.

Defensively, Canelo’s glove hasn’t shown the progress that most scouts thought that it would, but he gets to a lot of balls that most shortstops just don’t get to. Then, he’s got a strong enough arm to make long or leaping, off-balance throws right on target to first base. As with a lot of young players, Canelo is apt to boot a ball or two that’s hit right at him and that’s where the problem comes in for him and how he made 23 errors last season and 75 over the last three seasons.

67. Miguel Nunez, RHP, 25

The story of Miguel Nunez is one of fits and starts. As a highly-touted international prospect, the Phillies gave Nunez a $220-thousand bonus to sign, but by the end of the 2010 season he was nursing a bad elbow and missed two full seasons, which set him way back. He worked his way into Lakewood’s rotation in 2013 and looked to be back on course, but was seemingly lost early in 2014 and wound up back in extended camp only to rebound late in the 2014 season. Since then, he’s put up some consistent numbers, but is now 25 and has only pitched as high at Double-A Reading where he made two starts and 22 relief appearances last season, posting a 3.57 ERA.

The 2018 season is going to be very telling for Nunez as he looks to climb closer to the majors and could potentially start the year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, since he’s pitched at Reading all of last season and also made 45 relief appearances with the Fightins in 2016.

68. Tyler Viza, RHP, 23

Baseball is full of young players who were on a fast track to the majors only to hit massive speed bumps when they reached the Double-A level. Most players – and scouts – will tell you that’s the level that really begins to show whether or not a player has the ability to move forward as a big blip on the radar. A little adjustment period is fine, so when Viza struggled to a 4.69 ERA in 16 starts with Reading after a promotion from Clearwater, it was no big deal. After all, he pitched at Low-A Lakewood in 2015, made just nine starts with Clearwater in 2016 and was suddenly up at Reading. Problem is that he made 26 Double-A starts last season and went 10-10, but had a 5.22 ERA. He also posted the highest walks-per-nine-innings (3.1) that he had in his career. Further, his strikeouts-to-walks ratio has fallen from 6.88 with Clearwater to just 2.08 last season.

Viza still boasts a low-90s fastball that goes along with a slider and change-up, but there isn’t always enough movement on his pitches to make them unhittable to hitters at higher levels.

69. Jhordany Mezquita, LHP, 20

Hazleton, Pennsylvania produced former Rays manager and current Cubs skipper Joe Maddon. It also produced Jhordany Mezquita by way of the Dominican Republic. The Phillies were prevented from signing Mezquita in 2016 as an international free agent because it was found out that he had attended high school in Hazleton, PA, which meant he wasn’t an international free agent. So, even though he never played high school ball in the states, he was eligible for the draft last June and the Phillies took him in the eighth round, listing him as “no school.” Had the Phillies not scouted him heavily in the Dominican and knew his story, he may have gone undrafted since U.S. scouts hadn’t seen him.

Mezquita pitched in the GCL last season and dominated hitters, allowing just 20 hits in 37 2/3 innings, while striking out 35. The end result was a 3-0 record and a 0.72 ERA with a 0.850 WHIP in his first professional season. Mezquita turns 20 in late January and it’s going to be interesting to see how quickly the Phillies move him through the system.

70. Brayan Gonzalez, 2B, 18

Baseball America ranked Gonzalez as the 19th best international prospect in 2016 and the Phillies didn’t wait to get him, signing him on the first day of the international signing period. Gonzalez brings all of the requisite tools, especially defensively. The switch-hitter was thought to be one of the more polished players on the 2016 international market and he has something that many young players don’t always have; instincts.

Most believed Gonzalez to be a shortstop prospect, but the Phillies flipped him over to second base in his first pro season and he didn’t lose a step defensively, making just five errors in 176 chances in the GCL. Offensively, he put up good enough numbers for a young hitter, slashing 2-24-.269/.331/.388 in 38 games. With his polish and smarts for the game of baseball, Gonzalez could conceivably move quickly.

In case you missed our previous rankings, you can find them here: Prospects 71-75, Prospects 76-80

You can also use our Prospect Rankings menu at the top of this page to see the full rankings for 2018 and previous years.

Chuck Hixson

Chuck has a wide and varied background in covering sports both locally and nationally. Living in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania, Chuck has the distinction of being the only person to have covered both the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and Lehigh Valley Phantoms in every season of their existence. Chuck began covering sports in 1998 when he was the first program director and morning host at WTKZ-AM in Allentown, Pennsylvania when the station switched to an all sports format. Chuck produced the stations coverage of the Allentown Ambassadors baseball team, which played in the independent Northeast League. From there, Chuck was the editor and writer of Pinstripes magazine, covering Phillies baseball. That led to Chuck founding Philly Baseball Insider in 2003. Chuck has done freelance work for national entities such as USA TODAY, CBS, FOX Sports, Washington Times and others.

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