With just a few weeks remaining before rosters expand on Sept. 1, the Future Phillies Report takes on some added meaning. The Phillies have several top prospects producing at the upper levels of the minors who will likely be called up in September. It should usher in the next wave of excitement.
Let's take a look at what's gone down on the farm in recent days:
CF Roman Quinn (AA)
Whenever Quinn is on the field, he produces. Staying on the field has been a common issue, though, as injuries have limited Quinn to an average of 69 games and 307 plate appearances the last three years.
He's healthy now after missing six weeks with an oblique injury. And since returning, Quinn has gone 12 for 30 (.400) with a double, a triple, three walks and three steals.
Quinn, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound switch-hitter, has more power than you'd expect of someone with his frame and skill set. Over the last two seasons, he has 18 doubles, 11 triples and seven home runs in 538 plate appearances.
Quinn is naturally a right-handed hitter, so it's been promising to monitor his development from the left side. After hitting .227 as a lefty in 2014, he hit .290 last season and is at .298 with an .802 OPS this season.
Overall, Quinn has batted .308/.376/.432 in 281 plate appearances in 2016.
Quinn, 23, is already on the Phillies' 40-man roster. They had to add him to the 40 last November to keep him from being Rule 5 eligible. (To avoid Rule 5 draft eligibility, players must be added to their team's 40-man roster within four years of signing if they signed at 19 or older, or within five years if they signed at 18 or younger.)
Because he's already on the 40, Quinn figures to be a September call-up. The Phillies will likely use him as a pinch-runner and give him some starts in center.
The Phils suddenly have a crowded outfield picture, particularly in center field. Odubel Herrera is the regular starter, but Aaron Altherr is the more natural centerfielder who will get some more reps there over the season's final weeks. Quinn, too, is a solid defensive centerfielder.
Could Quinn be the Phillies' future leadoff man and long-term answer in CF? The coming weeks and months will provide the answer. The outfield depth could lead the Phils to shop Herrera this winter. He'll have a lot of trade value as a .290-hitting All-Star under team control through 2021.
OF Nick Williams (AAA)
From one likely September call-up to another, Williams must be added to the 40-man roster this winter. Knowing they'll have to do it anyway, the Phils could carve out that spot for him by Sept. 1.
Williams has gone cold over his last 10 games, going 6 for 38 (.158) with a walk and 10 strikeouts. As much as Williams downplays his low walk total, it's a major issue. It keeps him from being relevant offensively when the timing of his swing is off.
Williams has 19 walks and 101 strikeouts this season. He's walked in 4.3 percent of his plate appearances, which would be the fifth-lowest walk rate in the National League this season.
To hit his ceiling, Williams will need to be more selective at the plate and do a better job against left-handed pitchers. He's hit .298 with an .871 OPS this season against righties compared to .242 with a .582 OPS vs. lefties.
Williams said in a recent conversation that it bothers him when opposing managers go to a lefty against him thinking he'll be an automatic out. Considering he's made an out 74 percent of the time this season against southpaws, it's the right strategy to employ.
Still, Williams has the bat speed to hit big-league pitching and the upside to some day hit 40 doubles and 20 homers if things go right.
If/when Williams is called up by the Phillies, they should play him regularly and let him face lefties to gauge how overmatched he is or isn't against them at the highest level.
SS J.P. Crawford (AAA)
CSN Phillies insider Jim Salisbury wrote recently about why Crawford might not be a September call-up after all. The Phillies will have numerous players to add to the 40-man roster this winter — Williams, Dylan Cozens, Andrew Knapp, Mark Appel to name a few — but there's not as much urgency with Crawford. The top shortstop prospect would not be exposed to the Rule 5 draft for another year, so the Phillies could keep open a precious spot by waiting.
Plus, it's not as if Crawford has forced the issue by mastering Triple A pitching. He's hit .258/.348/.333 in 70 games with Lehigh Valley.
But, unlike Williams so far, Crawford provides offensive value even when his timing is off. He has 10 walks in his last nine games and a .370 on-base percentage over his last 18 despite hitting .220 over that span.
But you've got to keep in mind he's still just 21 years old. Crawford has had 472 plate appearances this season and 469 of them have come against pitchers older than him. There is only one position player in the majors this season who's 21 or younger and has even 10 plate appearances: recently promoted Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia.
C Jorge Alfaro (AA)
Alfaro is already on the 40-man roster. He's a better hitter and defender than fellow catching prospect Andrew Knapp. His presence might even lead the Phillies to make Knapp available in the right trade this winter because the Phils could be set behind the plate with Alfaro and Cameron Rupp.
Alfaro has hit .291 with power this season. He's thrown out 42 percent of would-be base stealers, by far the highest rate of his career.
Alfaro's bat has been the most consistent among all the Phillies' top prospects this season. He's played 81 games and there have been just three times all season he went back-to-back starts without a hit.
Alfaro has started 79 games and has a hit in 61 of them. He's reached base at least once in 66 of them.
To me, Alfaro is the most important prospect the Phillies have. Not Crawford, not Williams, not any of the pitchers, but Alfaro. He's an impact bat who will stay behind the plate. How many difference-making offensive catchers are there in baseball? Buster Posey, Jonathan Lucroy, Wilson Ramos, Salvador Perez ... anyone else stick out? This season, Rupp would be next on the list. It makes an enormous difference when a team can slot its catcher into the middle of its batting order. It lengthens the lineup so much.
With so few impact catchers across baseball, having one is almost like a cheat code.
OF Dylan Cozens (AA)
Since exploding for two triples, five homers and 12 RBIs in a two-game span Aug. 3-4, Cozens has remained hot. He's 7 for 16 with a pair of doubles over his last four games, and is hitting .289/.371/.609 this season with 33 doubles, 32 homers and 104 RBIs.
There's been a ton of talk this season about the role Reading's homer-friendly ballpark has played in Cozens' monster season. But it's not like he's been overmatched on the road lately. He's 13 for 31 with four doubles, two homers and nine RBIs in his last nine road games.
Can't look past the strikeouts, though. With 141 K's, Cozens has whiffed in 29 percent of his plate appearances. That's a Joey Gallo-like strikeout rate. Cozens is on pace to finish with 170 to 175 strikeouts, and that doesn't bode well as he moves up the chain.
But the combination of power and speed makes Cozens a legitimate prospect, one who will probably be on Top 100 lists in 2017.
1B Rhys Hoskins (AA)
It's been an interesting month of August for Hoskins, Reading's slugging first baseman. In the two games Cozens went crazy, Hoskins also hit three home runs. Two days later, he hit another. The next day, he walked five times. The next day, he went deep again.
I've watched a lot of Hoskins' plate appearances this season and it's made me a believer. He's hit .281/.365/.591 with 35 homers and 104 RBIs, but aside from the stats he's also shown an ability to adjust at the plate. Hoskins has become one of the most feared hitters in Double A, and as pitchers have shied away from his bat, he's learned to take what they give him.
For a while, when discussing Cozens' high strikeout rate, Hoskins would get lumped in. But Hoskins' plate selection has drastically improved as the season has progressed. In his last 20 games, he has 18 walks and 16 strikeouts while still hitting for power (nine homers). And his splits, while pronounced, aren't a big issue either — Hoskins has 32 extra-base hits at home and 27 on the road.
When it's all said and done this season, Hoskins might be the Phillies' Minor League Hitter of the Year, and it's not just about the numbers. It's about the development, the kind that will earn him an invite to big-league spring training next year and an opportunity to perhaps battle with Tommy Joseph.
SP Nick Pivetta (AA)
With Jake Thompson on the Phillies' 25-man roster and Zach Eflin on the DL, the next-most intriguing starting pitching prospect for the Phillies is Pivetta, the 23-year-old acquired from Washington in last summer's Jonathan Papelbon trade.
In 22 starts with Reading, Pivetta is 11-6 with a 3.41 ERA. On Twitter Thursday, a reader brought up a good point: Cozens' and Hoskins' power is often couched by Reading's home park, but that same caveat should apply to the pitchers as well. In other words, Pivetta's 3.41 ERA should be seen as even more impressive based on where he pitches.
Pivetta has actually been better at FirstEnergy Stadium than away from it. He has a 3.13 ERA, a .215 opponents' batting average and just three home runs allowed in 10 starts in Reading.
If Pivetta was pitching like he has this season, the Nationals probably wouldn't have traded him to a leverage-less Phillies team for Papelbon. But Pivetta has taken the next step this season, posting the best strikeout rate and walk rate of his career, with 8.1 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9.
In the same number of innings as he pitched last season, Pivetta has walked 16 fewer batters. That's significant. That's pretty much one fewer baserunner per game.
OF Mickey Moniak (GCL)
When you're drafted first overall, you're expected to be advanced. You're expected to hit the ground running. But Moniak is doing things in Rookie ball right now that some college first-rounders don't do the summer they're drafted. He's 18 years old and he's hit .300 through his first 132 plate appearances as a professional.
OK, maybe not .300. Moniak has hit .299 with a .364 on-base percentage for the Gulf Coast Phillies, and that's including his recent 0-for-10 skid.
You'll read and hear a lot more about Moniak next year when he makes it to Lakewood and possibly High A Clearwater, where more games are televised. But so far, he's hit as advertised.
LF Cornelius Randolph (A)
Things haven't gone as smoothly for Randolph, last year's first-round pick, also a high school outfielder.
The 19-year-old, left-handed hitter missed more than two months with a shoulder/upper back injury, and his power has been slow to develop. Randolph has just two home runs in 403 plate appearances with the GCL Phillies and Lakewood BlueClaws.
He's off to a good start in August, though, hitting .345 over his last eight games. A three-walk night was mixed in there and that's something Randolph has done consistently as a pro. He has a .382 on-base percentage in a year-plus in the Phillies' farm system.