We are just over two weeks into the young 2017 season, and things are going quite familiarly. Sitting at a perfectly mediocre 4-8, the Phillies are the bottom-feeders of the National League East (with the third-worst record in the majors), sport a horribly inconsistent offense, and recently announced that their recently-acquired, former all-star, veteran pitcher Clay Buchholz will miss 4-6 months after having surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his forearm. This season has become yet another cesspool of depression, but there is something to be very, very excited about as the year progresses.

The source of happiness for many Phillies fans who have suffered for the past three years has been the rebuilding of the minor league system throughout the organization. Be honest with yourselves: as Philadelphia sports fans, there is nothing that we love more than exciting prospects who are capable of bringing a team back to title contention. However, in baseball, instead of hoping that the team is defeated 50-plus times in a season so that the first overall pick will head to Philly, we pay attention to the players who have proven that they have dominated the lower levels of baseball enough to the point that they will soon become major league ball-players.

Did you see how many hits [insert name here] had today? I think he might be able to replace [insert replacement-quality player here] in/at [insert just about any position here] pretty soon.

The idea of young superstars is exciting, and we all hope that one of the players making their way to Citizens Bank Park in the near future becomes the next great under-25-year-old superstar. To keep some tabs on who that player may be that takes the Phillies to awaiting golden age, it may be worth a look at how the minor leaguers are performing since their season began. Graphics like this one from the Phillies page sure do not calm any excitement that fans have about the youth movement.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs

The Pigs are one of minor league baseball’s most beloved teams, having led their league in attendance for nine straight years. They also set a team record for wins in 2016 with 85. It has been a rough start to the season for the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate, but the 5-6 record does not tell the entire story of the club.

Lehigh Valley has a remarkable 11 of the organization’s top-30 prospects according to MLB.com. To have so many highly-ranked prospects so close to advancing to the highest level of American professional baseball speaks volumes of the depth of the system that Ruben Amaro Jr. and Matt Klentak have restocked.

For those who would like to view the stats of the entire team, click this link. (Disclaimer: JP Crawford is batting .086 in 40 plate appearances to this point in the year. That was not a typo.) Here are some of the club’s best performers not mentioned in the graphic above (Alfaro, the club’s 3rd-ranked prospect, Pivetta, the club’s 12th-ranked prospect, and Hoskins, the club’s 13th-ranked prospect, are members of the Pigs):

17. Ricardo Pinto: .73 ERA, 12.1 innings, 1.14 WHIP

30. Jesmuel Valentin: .355/.412/.387, 0 HR, 5 RBI

Reading Fightin’ Phils

After an 89-win 2016 campaign, the Fightin’ Phils and new manager Greg Legg have not gotten out to the start that they would have hoped for, only winning 4 of the team’s first 10 games of 2017. However, after losing so many players to the stacked IronPigs, Reading is in the middle of a rebuilding year with only 4 of the teams top-30 prospects on the roster. Of the aforementioned four players, none are considered one of the franchise’s top-10 prospects.

As the season continues, Legg and fans alike hope that some younger players will play into promotion to Reading, so that the team will improve while the athletes become one step closer to major league debuts. It is unfair to expect the same success from the Double-A club in 2017 as they had in 2016, but there are some interesting, under-the-radar guys on the team to keep a close eye on.

For statistics on the entire Fightin’ roster, click the link here. As there is only one member of the Phils on the above graphic (Scott Kingery, the 11th ranked prospect), here are how each of the remaining top-30 prospects are performing in Reading:

22. Drew Anderson: 10.80 ERA, 8.1 innings

24. Carlos Tocci: .270/.325/.270, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 40 PA

28. Malquin Canelo: .269/.387/.385, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 31 PA

Clearwater Threshers

The Phillies High-A affiliate has gotten off to an impressive start to the season. The Threshers are 8-4 and sport 4 of the Phillies top-30 prospects on their roster. After the club finished 28 games over .500 in 2016 and still missed the playoffs, the young players that fill the roster will understand how successful they have to be to advance to the postseason.

Clearwater is the Phillies only minor league affiliate besides Lehigh Valley and Lakewood to have more than one of the organization’s top-10 prospects on their roster. If 2016 first-overall pick Mickey Moniak is able to play himself into promotion at some point this Summer, which he is expected to do, the Threshers could be the most successful team in the entire organization for the season.

As is the drill, click the link for complete stats for the entire Thresher team. There are no Clearwater players represented on the graphic, but because only four top-30 prospects are on the team, here are their stats through the team’s first 12 games:

5. Franklyn Kilome: 3.38 ERA, 10.2 innings, 12 strikeouts

10. Cornelius Randolph: .209/.320/.442, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 50 PA

27. Edgar Garcia: 4.91 ERA, 3.2 innings, 3 appearances

29. Jose Pujols: .174/.174/.196, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 46 PA

Lakewood BlueClaws

The Single-A club has played to a manageable 7-5 record to start the season, but they are just another team stacked with high-profile prospects despite the fact that they play at such a low level of minor league baseball. After some of the Williamsport and GCL players are promoted to Lakewood, it may be worth buying an MLB.TV subscription to the BlueClaws and watching a minor league team as opposed to the Phillies.

Although Lakewood has 5 of the top-30 prospects in the organization, their players are all extremely young, and will experience growing pains as a part of their development. Manager Shawn Williams has his work cut out for him to assure that these players go through their inevitable ups and downs smoothly so that they can become the next faces of the franchise.

For the final time, this will take you to the page with the statistics for the entire Lakewood team. There is a BlueClaw in the graphic, and that is 2016 first-overall pick Mickey Moniak, the Phillies’ second overall prospect who is off to a hot start in his first full season as a professional baseball player. Here are the numbers for the four remaining top-30 prospects of the organization:

7. Sixto Sanchez: 4.66 ERA, 9.2 innings, 13 strikeouts

16. Adonis Medina: 1.80 ERA, 10.0 innings, 1.10 WHIP

19. Daniel Brito: .392/.456/.588, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 59 PA

26. JoJo Romero: 5.00 ERA, 9.0 innings

The future sure is something to be enthusiastic about as the ups and downs of the 2017 season make you question your baseball fandom. It is important to remember that the Phillies are the Phillies, and that means that none of these players will be playing baseball at Citizens Bank Park until they are completely prepared for the struggles of a major league baseball player.

However, for those who do not have the patience to wait years for the completion of the youth movement in Philadelphia, the injury to Clay Buchholz may have sped up the process a bit.

Photo by Bryan Green (via Flickr)

Jack Pontin

High School Senior from New Orleans, LA. Contributing Phillies and Sixers articles, as well as game coverages.

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