Perhaps one of the most exciting parts about the upcoming Philadelphia Phillies' 2016 season is that while the team is expected to be one of the worst in terms of wins and losses, there seems to be a clear path for the future for the first time in about half a decade.
While president Andy MacPhail is probably the most powerful person in the Phillies' organization, him and part-owner John S. Middleton seem to have hired a young, sabermetrics based general manager in Matt Klentak that they have quite a bit of trust in. By most accounts, Klentak was the one making calls and signings this off-season, while also surrounding himself with executives that share his same vision.
MacPhail and Klentak were handed a rather desirable situation when the two joined the organization in 2015, as well. Despite the fact that the Phillies finished 2015 with the worst record, they will own the first pick in this year's draft, and the previous regime moved on from a majority of the expensive veterans that had caused the downward trajectory of the team, while acquiring a handful of talented prospects.
Tonight, many of the impressive prospects that the Phillies have obtained within the last year were put in the spotlight, as MLB Pipeline released their countdown of the top 100 prospects.
In total, the Phillies had seven prospects appear in the top 100, but only one who appeared in the top 50.
The first name that appeared on the list was center-fielder Roman Quinn at 99, who batted .306 and stole 29 bases in 58 games for Double-a Reading last season.
Catcher Jorge Alfaro, who was one of the pieces acquired in the Cole Hamels' trade, checked in at 96. Alfaro dealt with an ankle injury last season that caused him to only play three games for the Phillies' Gulf Coast League affiliate. He could very well never pan out because of how raw he is, but he is believed to possess a very good arm and an ability to hit for power.
The Phillies selected Cornelius Randolph with the 10th overall pick in last year's draft, and they are already seeing that move pay off. Randolph, who was drafted as a shortstop but immediately moved to the outfield, was ranked as the 84th best prospect after batting .302 and driving in 24 runs in 53 games in the Gulf Coast League. He's only 18, so out of all the Phillies on this list, he's probably the furthest from making his major league debut.
Mark Appel was the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, though has failed to put things together in the minor leagues. He was dealt to the Phillies as the number two piece (behind Vincent Velasquez) in the Ken Giles trade this off-season, so he has a chance to essentially hit the reset button. If he's able to click in his second organization, the Phillies' trade of their young closer will work out greatly in their favor.
The second player on the list (at number 64) that was acquired in the Hamels' deal was outfielder Nick Williams. Williams, between the Phillies' and Rangers' Double-a affiliates batted .303 with 17 homeruns and 55 RBI's in 119 games. He, along with Odubel Herrera, Quinn and Randolph are just part of a young core of talented outfielders the Phillies seem to be building.
The final name from the list than came from the Hamels' trade is right-handed starting pitcher Jake Thompson. Thompson was arguably the top piece acquired when the deal started, though his numbers in the Rangers' system weren't necessarily impressive. Numbers in the minors aren't a great way to evaluate prospects, but his numbers after joining the Phillies' organization were extremely impressive, as he went 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA at Double-a Reading.
While the Phillies only had one player in the top 50, shortstop J.P. Crawford, who is viewed as a potential core player for the next great Phillies team, checked in at number five on the countdown. He's believed to be a tremendous fielder, and while some scouts weren't initially sure how his bat would translate after high-school, he batted .288 between Single-a and Double-a in 2015. Phillies' bench coach and wall of fame shortstop Larry Bowa suggested this week that he believes that Crawford could join the big-league club at some point this summer.
Overall, the Phillies' farm system rise is pretty incredible. A year ago, five of the Phillies that appeared on this list weren't in the team's organization.
Smart trades and continued success drafting have given the Phillies a recent injection of young talent, and given that they own the number one pick this summer and have begun to have more success in signing Latin players, it appears that the future is bright for the club. That doesn't even mention they are likely to earn another top pick this year and have set themselves up to be major players in the 2018 free-agent class, which is on track to be the best in the history of the sport.
Tim Kelly (@TimKellySports) is the Managing Editor of Philliedelphia.com, focusing on news and features.