PBI Top 80 Prospects: 51-55

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 51 through 55.

51. Mario Sanchez, RHP, 23

Sanchez has worked as both a starter and a reliever in the minors, but profiles long-term as a reliever, and most likely, as a middle-reliever. Initially signed by the Nationals and acquired in exchange for Jimmy Cordero, Sanchez has a low-90s fastball and spent last season at Double-A Reading where he went 4-2, 2.88 in 19 games, including seven starts.

As a reliever last season, Sanchez posted a 2.05 ERA, working 22 innings. He walked six batters and struck out 16 out of the bullpen and held opponents to a .182 average. In eight of his 12 relief appearances, Sanchez worked more than one inning and went as long as three innings in three of the appearances.

52. Kyle Young, LHP, 20

The young left-hander has been listed as tall as seven-feet and as “short” as 6′ 10″. We can split the difference and say 6′ 11″; any way that you look at it, he’s a big guy and an imposing figure out on the mound. Young lasted until the 22nd round of the 2016 Draft when the Phillies grabbed him and sent him to the Gulf Coast League to start his professional career. He moved up to Williamsport last season and in his two short-season stints, he’s 10-2 with a 2.74 ERA, a 1.065 WHIP and opponents have hit .237 against him.

Young wasn’t highly scouted since he had control issues in high school, but the Phillies took a chance and have gotten his issues somewhat under control (pun intended). Young’s fastball was also in the 80s at draft time, but he’s pumped that up to 90 and sometimes, just above. He’s also got a mid-70s change-up that he has good command of and uses to put hitters away. Most pitchers as tall as Young have trouble with command and generally struggle to find a second, let alone a third pitch; they rely on power – think Randy Johnson. Young seems to be turning the corner on control, has a second good pitch and could develop a third, which would make him somewhat of a wonder.

53. Austin Davis, LHP, 25

Davis was a starter in college, but he hasn’t really been able to develop a third pitch that he can use effectively enough to work in that role in the professional ranks. Instead, the Phillies have been content to have him pitch in relief as he’s worked his way up the minor league ladder with satisfying results. Davis was one of Roy Halladay‘s projects last spring when Halladay helped young pitchers mainly with the mental part of the game. Of all those that Halladay helped, Davis may have benefited the most.

The Phillies decided not to push Davis too quickly last season, but there was some discussion about bringing him up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley late in the season. The lefty is a hard-thrower with a quality fastball that he compliments with a slider and change-up, but his secondary pitches are average to slightly above. It’s likely that Davis will open 2018 with his first trip to Triple-A and should see his major league debut sometime in 2018.

54. Mauricio Llovera, RHP, 21

Take the size of Kyle Young and chop off a foot and you have Llovera. A little on the short-side of where most pitchers want to be in height, Llovera still has good velocity and can hit 95 on a pretty regular basis with his fastball and has gone a couple of ticks higher on occasion. Nobody really pursued Llovera as an international free agent when he hit 16, mainly because of his size. The Phillies worked him out a couple years later and invested in him, but knew he might be a bit of a project.

Llovera still has one foot in the bullpen and one in the rotation, making 10 starts and 20 relief appearances last season after working primarily as a starter in both the VSL and the GCL. The move back to the rotation last season was partly out of necessity when the BlueClaws needed another starter and partly because the Phillies aren’t quite sure where Llovera will land long-term. His secondary pitches are still developing, which may be the determining factor as to how he will eventually be used.

55. Felix Paulino, RHP, 23

Slow but steady is the route that Paulino is taking to reach the majors. Going a level at a time, one year at a time, Paulino may have hit a bit of a speed bump last season with Lakewood. Pitching in his first full-season league, Paulino needed a while to adjust, but eventually was pitching well late in the season. The Phillies might consider having him spend a little time at the start of the season back with the ‘Claws.

Paulino has a mid-90s fastball, but struggles with his secondary pitches and struggled in his 15 starts with the BlueClaws in 2017 with a 4.69 ERA. As a reliever – 13 appearances – he worked to a 4.10 ERA with Lakewood. Paulino posted a 21-percent strikeout rate last season, just under the South Atlantic League average of 22-percent.

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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