Somewhere out there on the Internets, someone is calling referring to the Phillies general manager as “Ruin Tomorrow Jr.” – and he or she isn’t entirely wrong. A lot of short-term thinking and bad player/market evaluation led us to where we are today, with a sometimes unwatchable 2015 Phillies squad whose management is hoping to get back into contention by 2017 or 2018.
But even this often behind-the-times front office group gets some things right, as evidenced by the uber-promising five-man starting rotation at double-A Reading. Between the drafting of Aaron Nola, the ongoing development of Jesse Biddle and smart trades for Ben Lively, Zack Eflin and Tom Windle, Reading will run a legitimate major league prospect out to the mound every night (unless and until some of those guys get promoted to Lehigh Valley.)
If you factor in Lehigh Valley’s Severino Gonzalez, Adam Morgan and Joely Rodriquez, the Phillies have legitimate prospects in 8 of the 10 starting pitching slots at the highest two levels of the minors. Other teams have individual prospects with higher upside than any of those eight – Washington’s Lucas Giolito and the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard come to mind – but I doubt any organization has more starting pitching depth at AAA and AA right now.
Another area where the Phillies have been smart is in not giving up on reliever Luis Garcia, who has been lights-out this season. The 28-year-old dominated at AAA last season but couldn’t find the strike zone at the major league level, after an up-and-down “cup of coffee” with the Phillies (3.73 era) in 2013. At one point last season, in a Sunday Night Baseball blowout, the Phillies needed an inning from Garcia no matter what. It took him about 50 pitches – yes, 50 – but he got through the inning and then was sent back to Lehigh Valley.
I assumed that was the last we’d see of Garcia. I’m glad I was wrong. He went back to AAA and capped off a great season at that level, and then finally pitched well for the Phillies during a September call-up. After a tremendous spring, Garcia is a key member of the Phillies bullpen, contributing an important shutout 7th inning to last night’s 7-3 win over Miami.
Honestly, given his mid-90s fastball, often unhittable slider and much improved command, I now regard Garcia more highly than either Jake Diekman or Justin DeFratus. I put Garcia, who was working an office job in North Jersey two years ago, second only to Ken Giles among the Phillies young relievers.
The Phillies did not make a snap decision with Garcia, even though they didn’t have big money or a high-round draft selection invested in him. They saw his raw ability and spent about two years of minor league development crafting him into a quality major league reliever (albeit the sample size is still small.)
So give the Phillies credit for getting a few things right. It won’t hurt you – and it’s good for the team.