Future Phillies Report: Will Jake Thompson be next prospect called up?


Zach Eflin graduated this week from the Future Phillies Report to the majors and his new peers gave him a rude welcoming. Eflin, who had a 2.90 ERA and 0.88 WHIP at Triple A, allowed nine runs in 2⅔ innings to the Blue Jays Tuesday. He'll have a chance to rebound on Sunday against the Diamondbacks.

What it also means, though, is that Eflin's former Lehigh Valley rotation mate Jake Thompson is one step closer to the bigs. Let's start there.

RHP Jake Thompson (AAA)
Thompson, who pitches Thursday night, has tossed 13 straight scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 3.42. He had his worst start of the season on May 31, allowing eight runs (six earned) in 3⅔ innings, but he's back on track.

Thompson has allowed no earned runs in four of his last seven starts. Going back to May 3, he's 4-2 with a 2.37 ERA and .222 opponents' batting average. 

The most promising sign in his last start was his season-high groundball total of 14. Thompson had a 40 percent groundball rate headed into that start after posting a 51 percent mark in seven starts at Reading last summer.

(Update: Thompson allowed one run over eight innings Thursday night to lower his ERA to 3.18.)

Could Thompson be the next Phillies prospect called up? It's looking that way because the major-league rotation has thinned. Charlie Morton is out for the season, Vince Velasquez is on the 15-day DL, Adam Morgan has a 6.33 ERA and Jeremy Hellickson remains a trade candidate. What happens the next time the Phillies need a starting pitcher?

Thompson is not yet on the Phils' 40-man roster but will have to be by this winter or he'll be eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Even if he doesn't earn a promotion this summer, he figures to be called up in September when rosters expand.

But if he continues to pitch well, Thompson could go the same route as Eflin, turning a half-season of Triple A experience into the realization of a dream. 

The only other starting pitcher candidates the Phils would have in the event of another injury are David Buchanan (4.91 ERA at AAA), Anthony Vasquez (career minor-leaguer; 29 years old) Alec Asher (DL), Mark Appel (DL), Severino Gonzalez (one start all season) and James Russell (not on the 40). 

In 19 starts at Double A and Triple A since joining the Phillies' system following last July's Cole Hamels trade, Thompson is 10-6 with a 2.78 ERA. He's struck out 6.9 batters per nine innings and walked 2.7.

SS J.P. Crawford (AAA)
Crawford isn't off to a strong start at Triple A, but he had his best game with the IronPigs Wednesday night, going 3 for 3 with two doubles and a walk. He's still hitting just .198 (17 for 86) but has a .307 on-base percentage because of his 14 walks.

Crawford's most impressive trait so far, as you've heard countless times already, is his plate discipline. He is unafraid of hitting with two strikes and so he works many deep counts. That makes him an ideal top-of-the-order bat once he gets to the majors, probably more a two-hole hitter because he doesn't have elite speed.

You'd think that with all the pitches he's seeing, Crawford will soon lock in. Perhaps Wednesday night was the start of it. In consecutive at-bats in the third and fourth innings, he ripped a double down the first-base line and crushed a line drive over the rightfielder's head. 

As always, it's important to remember that despite how far he's advanced so quickly, Crawford is still just 21 years and five months old. He's 5.6 years younger than the average age at Triple A.

OF Dylan Cozens, 1B Rhys Hoskins (AA)
Cozens and Hoskins have been the most productive power duo in all of the minor leagues through 2½ months. They've combined for 70 extra-base hits already in 551 plate appearances — that's one XBH every 7.8 times up.

On Wednesday night, even when neither had an extra-base hit, both players drove in a run, Cozens' 54th RBI and Hoskins' 53rd. The middle of Reading's order is the main reason it has the best record of any team at any minor-league level at 47-19.

"I think it’s the most fun I’ve ever had playing baseball," the 23-year-old Hoskins said this week on Comcast SportsNet's Phillies Clubhouse.

Hoskins was a fifth-round pick in 2014 out of Cal State Sacramento. He had a great year in 2015 in his first full professional season, hitting .319 with 36 doubles, six triples, 17 home runs, 90 RBIs and a .913 OPS at Class A Lakewood and High A Clearwater. 

All the sudden, the Phillies have a few intriguing young first basemen in Tommy Joseph and Hoskins. Hoskins, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-handed hitter, is batting .282/.346/.556 this season with 15 doubles, 17 homers and 53 RBIs. 

Cozens is hitting .293/.369/.598 with 19 doubles, 19 homers and 54 RBIs. He's also 13 for 14 in stolen bases. In exactly 75 games at Double A over the last two seasons, Cozens is a .301 hitter with 22 homers.

It seems like he gets hotter and hotter every week. In the last seven days, Cozens is 11 for 25 with a double, three homers, eight RBIs, eight runs and three walks.

Phillies fans keep asking why Cozens and Hoskins haven't yet been promoted to Triple A and there are a few reasons. In Hoskins' case, first base at Lehigh Valley is already crowded with Darin Ruf (who's hitting well) and Brock Stassi. There would be more playing time readily available in the outfield for Cozens, but it seems the Phillies want to keep this core of those two and catcher Jorge Alfaro together for a bit longer to give them an extended taste of winning.

OF Nick Williams (AAA)
It's been a relatively quiet week for Williams, but he did walk three times on Tuesday, equaling his total from his previous 54 plate appearances.

Williams has been locked in of late, hitting .338/.409/.610 with seven doubles, a triple, four homers and 20 runs scored over his last 20 games. He's also walked eight times over that span, which is notable because before that he had just 10 walks in 249 plate appearances in the Phillies' farm system.

Williams is hitting .284/.331/.460 this season, his first at Triple A.

C Jorge Alfaro (AA)
Alfaro is hitting a lot and hacking a lot at Double A. The powerful catcher is batting .308 with a .483 slugging percentage but has just three walks and 39 strikeouts. He punched out three times on Wednesday and has 15 K's since his last walk.

But Alfaro, who turned 23 last Saturday, continues to be a potent bat ahead of Cozens and Hoskins in Reading's lineup. He's driven in 34 runs in 40 games and has 17 extra-base hits. He's also thrown out 40 percent (14 for 35) of would-be base stealers.

CF Roman Quinn (AA)
Another soft-tissue injury for Quinn, who missed eight straight games with hamstring tightness, returned on Tuesday and exited after three innings with an oblique strain.

Injuries just continue to derail Quinn's momentum. Who knows how far along he'd be if not for all the missed time. Quinn missed 80-plus games last season with a torn hip flexor.

In 50 games this season, the 23-year-old speedster has hit .288 with a .361 on-base percentage, 17 extra-base hits and 25 steals in 31 attempts. He's been the catalyst atop Reading's order, specifically over the last calendar month. From May 14 to June 14, Quinn hit .350/.398/.500, scoring 23 runs in 19 games.

On Thursday, Quinn was placed on the seven-day DL retroactive to June 15. He'll likely remain out longer than that with the oblique strain, but the minor leagues use a seven-day DL rather than the majors' 15.

RHP Mark Appel, RHP Alec Asher (AAA)
Both starting pitchers remain on the DL — Appel with a shoulder injury, Asher with a stress fracture in his lower right leg.

The timing of the DL stints couldn't have differed more. For Appel, the timing was almost necessary for him to clear his head after allowing 18 runs and 32 baserunners in 16⅓ innings over his last four starts. 

For Asher, it came after a six-start stretch in which he went 4-0 with a 1.47 ERA and .163 opponents' batting average. Asher learned from last year's failure at the big-league level and added a two-seam fastball to his repertoire that increased his groundball rate and allowed him to go deeper into starts.

(Update: Asher on Thursday was suspended 80 games for using PEDs. So it looks like there were two reasons for the improvements.)

RHP Jimmy Cordero (AA)
Remember Cordero, the reliever with the 100-mph arm acquired from Toronto in last summer's Ben Revere trade? He's been out since spring training with a shoulder injury, not what any player wants in his first full year with a new team.

Cordero is still rehabbing in Clearwater.

RHP Nick Pivetta (AA)
First appearance of the year in the Future Phillies Report for Pivetta, the 23-year-old right-hander acquired from Washington last summer for Jonathan Papelbon.

Pivetta has been solid for Reading in 13 starts, going 6-4 with a 3.67 ERA. He's struck out 69 and walked 27 in 73⅔ innings.

The ERA doesn't tell an accurate story of Pivetta's season, though. He's been either really good or really bad for the Fightin Phils, allowing two runs or fewer nine times and five runs or more three times.

Pivetta's main pitch is his sinker, which can be a devastating pitch because of his arm angle and how much the pitch drops vertically. Pivetta throws from a three-quarters slot but at times it looks even lower than that. That could make him harder to hit than most sinkerballers, who tend to come over the top to get that plummeting action.

RHP Ben Lively (AAA)
Proof of how deep the Phillies' farm system has gotten is that even with Eflin promoted and Appel and Asher on the DL, they have several intriguing right-handers remaining at the upper levels of the minors.

Lively's lights-out year continued on Saturday when he allowed just one run and one hit over seven innings in his fourth start at Triple A. He's 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA since the promotion and 10-0 with a 1.94 ERA and 0.89 WHIP overall this season.

Lively is a command-based right-hander who is believed to have a lower ceiling than the Phillies' other top pitching prospects. But you can't argue with the results even if the fastball is 90 mph. If he keeps pitching like this, he'll be another player worth adding to the 40-man roster and looking at in the majors in September. 

Given that he's 24 years old, you'd think the Phils would want to know sooner rather than later what they have in Lively, who would be eligible for the Rule 5 draft if not on the 40-man roster this winter.

C Andrew Knapp (AAA)
Knapp is heating up, hitting .340 with an .839 OPS over his last 12 games. The switch-hitter's season batting line is up to .264/.335/.440, numbers you'll take from a catcher.

Knapp has hit just about equally from both sides of the plate. One promising development from Knapp is that he's produced much more at Triple A against pitchers older than he is — i.e. guys with major-league experience — hitting .280/.354/.462 with 15 of his 17 extra-base hits.

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