Phillies Promote Two Top Pitching Prospects: Everything You Need To Know

Sixto Sanchez
Lakewood BlueClaws starting pitcher Sixto Sanchez (23) in action against the Kannapolis Intimidators at Kannapolis Intimidators Stadium on April 7, 2017 in Kannapolis, North Carolina. The BlueClaws defeated the Intimidators 6-4. (Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images via AP Images)

Aaron Nola has been fantastic over the last two months. The rest of the rotation? That’s been a bit of different story. Jared Eickhoff has been a shell of his 2016 self. Vince Velasquez has been spotty at best. He’s shown flashes of brilliance, but has also had some extremely rough outings. The moral of the story, the starting rotation has simply not been good.

The good news, though, is that the cavalry is one step closer to being in Philadelphia. This weekend, the Phillies promoted two top pitching prospect one level each in the right direction.

The number two ranked prospect overall in the Phillies’ system, behind just Mickey Moniak, and highest rated pitcher on the farm, Sixto Sanchez, has been sent from Low A Lakewood to Advanced A Clearwater. In 13 appearances this season, all starts for the Blueclaws, Sanchez was downright dominant. Sanchez compiled a 5-3 record, but controlled hitters over his 67.1 innings pitched. He posted a 2.41 ERA in Lakewood to start the 2017 season. To go along with his stellar ERA, Sanchez did a great job of limiting baserunners, allowing just 46 hits and, most importantly, walking just nine hitters. Those two combined gave Sanchez a WHIP of 0.82. Despite Sanchez not qualifying for the stats leaderboard due to lack of innings pitched, had he qualified, he would have ranked first in both ERA and WHIP in the South Atlantic League.

Sanchez made his first start in Clearwater on Saturday and was unable to carry his success from Lakewood into his Threshers debut. Sanchez was hit around, as he surrendered five runs on ten hits over six innings pitched to the Cardinals affiliate in Palm Beach.

While he struggled in his first start at the next level, I wouldn’t be overly concerned. Of course there will be a learning curve for any player making an adjustment to the next level in their careers. Remember, Sanchez only recently turned 19-years-old, and has flashed sustained brilliance in his time as a professional pitcher. He works fast and throws faster, consistently hitting triple digits with his fastball as of late. Sanchez appeals to many because of that fastball speed, but it’s his fastball control that will continue to get him promoted. Not many teenagers who are pumping it that hard have much control over where the ball is going. Sanchez, as I mentioned earlier, has pinpoint control, walking nine batters over the course of 73.1 innings. In his time with the Phillies’ organization, he’s only walked 23 in 153 innings.

Sanchez has gone from Rookie Ball to Clearwater in just a season and a half. Don’t expect that trajectory to last as he progress through the minor leagues, but even at a slower pace, Sanchez very likely could be a Major Leaguer by the time he’s 22-years-old. He’ll need to really hone in on picking up another pitch, as he relies heavily on his fastball and curveball to get the job done, but adding a simple changeup to his forte could make for a very productive three pitch pitcher. As I said in a previous article about the Phillies’ farm system, I would expect Sanchez to make his full-time appearance on the Phillies’ roster in 2020. He’ll likely remain with Clearwater for the rest of the season as well as start 2018 there. That gives him two full seasons to progress on through to Reading and eventually Lehigh Valley before joining the Phillies rotation in time for the team’s ascension.

The next man the Phillies promoted likely gave the franchise a roster spot in Clearwater for Sanchez. The Phillies’ ninth overall prospect, Franklyn Kolome, has made the jump from Clearwater to AA Reading, and is now one step closer to being a Phillie. In 19 starts for the Threshers, Kolome was able to fire 97.1 innings, holding opposing batters a .264 batting average. Kolome doesn’t have the pinpoint control that Sanchez has displayed, as he’s walked 37 this season, shooting his WHIP well above 1.00. But like Sanchez, Kolome uses his fastball to dominate hitters when he gets into trouble. Despite the high WHIP in Clearwater, Kolome finished his tenure there with a 6-4 record and 2.59 ERA. Departing the Florida State League, Kolome does qualify for the leaderboards among pitchers. He finishes his time in Single A with the third best ERA in the league, behind former Clearwater teammate Jose Taveras, who has ascended through the ranks up to Lehigh Valley in 2017.

Unlike Sanchez, Kolome is a massive man in terms of height, standing at 6’6″, but is as thin as a rail at just 175 pounds. But Kolome is just 22-years-old and still has time to pack some muscle on before he gets deeper into the Phillies’ system. Like Sanchez, Kolome primarily works fastball, curveball with an occasional changeup thrown in there. He’ll have to develope a serious third pitch in order to be a competent arm moving forward, but the makings are there for a very good to great pitcher in the Major Leagues.

I’ve said this on countless occasions, and I’ll say it one more time: Franklyn Kolome will have a much more successful Phillies’ career if he moves into the bullpen and becomes a closer. Kolome has electric stuff, but simply walks too many hitters to maintain a solid starting profile. While I know the Phillies are often hesitant to allow their big name arms to go deep into games at the lower levels, there is a certain cause for concern when you look at Kolome’s game logs and you notice that he pitched into the seventh inning just twice this season. In those two starts, he walked a combined zero hitters. That means in his remaining 17 starts, he’s walked 37 batters in 83.1 innings. As we’ve seen with Vince Velasquez, deep counts and walking hitters will run your pitch count up quickly at the Major League level. Kolome is the type of arm who has the ability to pitch deeper into games, but he’d be best suited as a reliever, allowing his to toss his hardest for one or two innings of works, instead of spacing himself over the course of six or seven innings.

As someone who has risen a level of ball every year of his professional career, there’s no reason to assume that Franklyn Kolome won’t continue his success and push to be a part of the Major League roster by 2019. Whether he fires out of the ‘pen or joins the starting rotation, Kolome is another piece that the Phillies will be relying on heavily to be as good as advertised when he finally makes it to the Show.

 

Mandatory Photo Credit: Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images via AP Images

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