Phillies farm director Joe Jordan: Jhailyn Ortiz has highest ceiling in system


Phillies farm director Joe Jordan: Jhailyn Ortiz has highest ceiling in system

Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan, who admitted to feeling like a "proud papa" watching so many prospects graduate to the majors and succeed this season, joined Jim Salisbury's At The Yard podcast this week for the second time.

Back in April, Jordan offered thoughts on a host of Phillies prospects, many of whom made it up to the big leagues in 2017. 

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams exceeded expectations.

Jorge Alfaro has held his own offensively, hitting .304 in over 100 plate appearances.

J.P. Crawford has looked brilliant on defense and maintained a .350-ish on-base percentage.

Ben Lively has nine quality starts in 14 tries.

But there's one young Phillies prospect who Jordan thinks has a chance to be better than all of them: outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz.

"If you put every player in our system on a board and say every one of them gets to their potential, this guy would arguably be the best player," Jordan said. "He has that kind of ability."

Ortiz, 18, just wrapped up his second season in the Phillies' farm system. In 187 plate appearances with Short Season Class A Williamsport, Ortiz hit .302/.401/.560 with 15 doubles, eight homers and 30 RBIs.

It was an extremely impressive year from the rightfielder the Phillies signed out of the Dominican Republic for $4.2 million in 2015.

"This was a really big year from him," Jordan said. "His pitch recognition got better, he grew as a hitter. He's a hitter with power."

Notice Jordan used the phrase "hitter with power" rather than "power hitter." The same could be said of Hoskins, who has clearly shown he's got a ton of pop but doesn't approach each at-bat by looking to hit a home run. Hoskins recognizes pitches, works counts and makes adjustments. Ortiz is building that skill set as well.

"We have to keep him humble, keep him hungry," Jordan said. "He's a wonderful young man, smiling all the time, happy. The English language is coming pretty easy to him, he's working hard at that. We have a long way to go, but he's just been terrific."

Checking in on Moniak
Last year's first overall pick, Mickey Moniak, did not finish strong in his first full season in the minors. He hit just .236/.284/.341 in 509 plate appearances with 22 doubles, six triples, five homers and 44 RBIs.

Keep in mind, however, that Moniak played nearly 100 more games this season than ever before. That's a major reason the Phillies are preaching patience with his development.

"I think it's a big, big mistake to put too much emphasis on the final numbers that he posted," Jordan said. "I think if you look at his numbers through July 1, July 15, they were very respectable for a 19-year-old hitter out of last year's draft. The Sally League was a very challenging league for pitching this year, a lot of good pitching in the league."

Through July 1, Moniak was hitting .271 through exactly 300 plate appearances with 24 of the 33 extra-base hits he finished with. His final two months weren't pretty. But in describing the fatigue a first-year player can feel, Jordan brought up Scott Kingery, who was the Phillies' very-best minor-leaguer this season.

"I think that [Moniak] went through more adversity than he'd ever had and he wore down. His numbers at the end of the year are what they are, but Mickey's going to be a good player. ... He had his hands full this year.

"Go ask Scott Kingery how he felt last year at the end of the year (in 2016) and he'd say he felt pretty much how [Moniak] feels now. It's just something they have to go through."

For more from Jordan on many, many Phillies prospects, listen to the podcast above.

Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

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Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies signed free-agent right-hander Jake Arrieta earlier this week.

That's probably going to be the extent of their pitching additions for now.

Jerad Eickhoff is out until at least May with a strained right lat muscle and that creates a sizable hole in the Phillies rotation.

The hole is likely to be filled internally, according to general manager Matt Klentak. The team is not likely to make a run at Alex Cobb, who remains on the free-agent market.

"I doubt it," Klentak said when asked if he would look outside the organization to fill Eickhoff's spot. "I don't think we have to. I think a lot of our guys have shown very well in camp. They have gotten their pitch counts up, they're getting to the point of being fully stretched out.

"More than anything, I think we're going to have some tough decisions on figuring out who is in the rotation, who is in the bullpen, who goes into the Triple-A rotation, who goes into the Double-A rotation. We've got a lot of tough decisions to make on that front, but I don't think we're in a position where we have to go outside. We have a lot of candidates to take the ball at the big league level so we'll be fine."

Aaron Nola will start on opening day. Arrieta will be in the rotation, though he might need an extra week or so to get ready. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are likely to hold down spots. That leaves Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr., Jake Thompson, Drew Hutchison and Tom Eshelman in the running for the final spot in the five-man rotation. Eshelman, strike-thrower extraordinaire, was the Phillies' minor-league pitcher of the year last year and projects to be in Philadelphia before long. However, it might not be at the outset of the season because he is not on the 40-man roster. Neither is Hutchison.

The Phillies do not need a fifth starter until April 11 so they could employ some creative roster construction until then. They could go with four starters and an extra reliever or bench man. Or they could bring an extra starter and "piggyback" him with Arrieta, a move that would allow Arrieta to make an abbreviated start during the first week of the season.

"There's a decent chance we open the season with somewhat of a non-traditional 25-man roster, not because we're trying to be cute but because we don't need the fifth starter until the 11th," Klentak said. "We're going to do whatever puts us in the best position to win those first 10 days of the season."

The Phillies made one transaction on Friday. They added utility man Pedro Florimon to the 40-man roster. He had a provision in his minor-league contract that allowed him to become a free agent if he wasn't on the 40-man roster by March 15. Florimon is a candidate for a spot on the Phillies' bench. The move doesn't guarantee that Florimon will win a spot, but it gives the team more time to evaluate him. To make room for Florimon, the Phillies designated infielder Eliezer Alvarez for assignment.

Florimon homered in the Phillies' 6-4 loss to Toronto in Clearwater Friday. Cam Rupp and Cesar Hernandez also homered. Velasquez gave up five hits and a run in 2⅔ innings. He struck out five.

In Lakeland, Pivetta allowed two runs over five innings as the Phils and Tigers played to a 6-6 tie. J.P. Crawford and Ryan Flaherty both homered.

Phillies lose Jerad Eickhoff for 6-8 weeks

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Phillies lose Jerad Eickhoff for 6-8 weeks

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies' pitching staff has suffered a setback.

Jerad Eickhoff, projected as a member of the season-opening starting rotation, has been shut down with a strained right lat muscle, the area behind his shoulder. He will open the season on the disabled list and be sidelined into May, based on the team's six- to eight-week timetable for treatment and recovery.

Eickhoff, 27, spent time on the disabled list with a similar injury last season. That injury was technically called an upper back strain.

Manager Gabe Kapler said Eickhoff injured himself on one of the final pitches he threw during his last start.

Eickhoff led the Phillies' staff in ERA (3.65) while making 33 starts in 2016. He was limited to 24 starts and had a 4.71 ERA last year while making two trips to the DL. His second trip to the DL, which ended his season, was for a nerve irritation in his right hand. Eickhoff is in Philadelphia being checked by doctors.

"We want to ensure, and we're pretty confident, that it's not related in any way to the (nerve) stuff he was dealing with last year," manager Gabe Kapler said.

Kapler added, "It's a mild lat strain. There might be a blessing in disguise here. We're always thinking about keeping guys healthy and strong and limiting their total innings count. Those are things that are always on our mind so it's possible the innings are limited on the front end and then in September, October, he's strong and healthy and prepared to go through a full season."

With Eickhoff down, the Phillies suddenly have some openings in their rotation. Jake Arrieta, who signed with the Phillies on Monday, believes he can be ready for the first week of the season, but nothing is official. Aaron Nola will be the opening day starter and Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez are good bets to be in the rotation. The final spot could go to Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr. or Tom Eshelman.

It is not known whether the Phillies would pursue free agent Alex Cobb. On Monday, general manager Matt Klentak said his offseason moves were likely complete.