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Phillies long on organizational depth

Phillies long on organizational depth

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Some of the credit for the Phillies' back-to-back National League titles has to go to a variety of folks whose names you won't see on those championship rosters.

People like scouting director Marti Wolever and his staff, as well as the player development chain, from assistant GMs Chuck LaMar and Benny Looper on down. And of course, the man they all answer to, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr.

They're the ones who have filled the organization with the Minor League talent that has allowed the club to deal from depth at the Trading Deadlines for aces Cliff Lee in 2009 and Joe Blanton in '08, while still keeping an overflow stockpile of talent remaining.

The Phillies are especially deep a little further down the ranks of the Minors. With a solid corps of veterans and a consistent winning record of late in the big leagues, it has allowed the scouting department to go after upside rather than immediate returns.


NL East
ATL | FLA | NYM | PHI | WAS

AL East
BAL | BOS | NYY | TB | TOR

NL Central
CHC | CIN | HOU | MIL | PIT | STL

AL Central
CHW | CLE | DET | KC | MIN

NL West
ARI | COL | LAD | SD | SF

AL West
LAA | OAK | SEA | TEX

They continued their recent trend of taking a chance on upside this year when, having lost their first-round pick with the signing of free-agent outfielder Raul Ibanez, they didn't make their first selection until No. 75 overall and used their first two picks on Kelly Dugan and Kyrell Hudson, a pair of intriguing high school outfielders, and their fifth and sixth picks on high-ceiling high school right-handers Steven Inch and Brody Colvin.

"It was another outstanding job by Marti Wolever and his entire staff," said LaMar. "We can roll the dice and look for young 'high risk, high reward' players and know that we will never be an organization that worries about numbers more than quality."

Dugan, Hudson, Inch and Colvin, fit the prototype of what the Phillies have been focusing on of late. In '08, they used their first three picks on a trio of raw high school kids in infielder/outfielder Anthony Hewitt, outfielder Zach Collier and outfielder Anthony Gose, the latter of whom led the Minors with 76 steals this past summer.

"Power arms in the lower Minors, and talented, skilled outfielders -- those would be our two biggest strengths," said LaMar. "And the key is that our staff has done a good job challenging each individual, getting them their at-bats and getting them to play. As they move up, it gives our organization a chance to deal from strength, and that's what you're looking for."

But that doesn't mean the upper levels are bare.

While the big league team has been using some of its players for trade bait, it's also been reaping what its sown at the Major League level.

Most recently, left-hander J.A. Happ, a third-round pick out of Northwestern in 2004, finished a close second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, posting a 12-4 record and 2.93 ERA and moving from the bullpen to the rotation in late May.

And there are more potential impact players on the way, notably in the trio of left fielder Michael Taylor (MLB.com's Phillies Hitter of the Year for 2009); right fielder Domonic Brown; and right-hander Kyle Drabek (MLB.com's Phillies Pitcher of the Year for '09), all of whom could see significant time in the big leagues as early as 2010.

On the field in the Minors, the organization finished at 422-410 (.507), eighth overall among the 30 clubs, with two of its four full-season clubs making it to the playoffs and Class A Lakewood (78-58) winning the South Atlantic League championship.

ORGANIZATIONAL PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

MLB.com's Preseason Picks

Michael Taylor, OF: Though the organization had a wealth of talented outfielders to choose from in this department, we decided to play it safe and give the nod to Taylor, 2008's Hitter of the Year. The fifth-rounder from 2007 out of Stanford impressed with solid tools across the board, combined with smarts and great makeup, hitting .346 with 19 homers, 88 RBIs and 15 steals between two Class A stops in his first full season. Did he live up to our expectations? See below for the answer!

Kyle Drabek, RHP: There has never been any question about the 2006 first-rounder's stuff. The son of former Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek boasts a lively fastball in the low 90s and promising secondary pitches in his curveball and changeup, but was plagued early on by concerns about his maturity. After undergoing Tommy John surgery which cost him most of 2008, though, the Phillies front office felt that the setback had actually gotten him very much back on track "above the neck," so to speak, so we trusted that assessment to predict that he'd have a big comeback season in '09.

MLB.com's Postseason Selections

Michael Taylor, OF: The 6-foot-6 Taylor continued to climb the ladder and make mince meat of opposing pitching, combining for a .320 average, 20 home runs, 84 RBIs and 21 steals, along with 21 doubles, in 116 games between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He missed several games with a mild oblique strain but still earned Eastern League Rookie of the Year honors, as well as finishing second in the MVP voting. He hit for the cycle early in his Triple-A debut. He has a plus arm that makes him a good fit in right field and hits to all fields for authority, with raw power that could provide even bigger numbers in that category down the road.

Kyle Drabek, RHP: Phillies fans finally saw the top prospect they'd been looking for since 2006, as Drabek combined to go 12-3 with a 3.19 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 158 innings between Clearwater and Reading this season. Considered one of the few "untouchables" in trade talks, his 12-6 curveball the best in the system. He represented the organization in this summer's Futures Game and his conditioning is better than ever.

Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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