Position Prospects: Middle Infielders

The Phillies have had some nice double play combinations over the years and they look to have another nice, young combo in the very near future. Chase Utley is among the better prospects in baseball and if Jimmy Rollins stays in Philadelphia long-term, the two could have the makings of one of the stronger mid-field teams in recent history. If Rollins continues to spurn a long-term deal, there are some other fresh faces just waiting to take his spot.

Second Base

Second base is home to one of the Phillies better prospects in Chase Utley. The 24 year old, who the Phillies took with their first round pick in the 2000 Draft, has gotten a few major league at bats this season. Utley has of course, also played third base, but the Phillies figure on keeping him at second base with the arrival of David Bell. Utley should be in Philadelphia full-time next season as part of one of what should be the better young middle-infield tandems.

At Reading, Brian Hitchcox has had a nice season, but isn't looked at as being a prime prospect. The Phillies believe that he'll likely become more of a utility type player. Uriel Casillas is another young prospect that projects primarily as a utility player at the major league level. Casillas age – he turns 28 this August – is the main setback for him. Casillas' main advantage is that he can play just about anywhere in the infield and plays all of the positions pretty well. He's had just a couple of short tastes of AAA ball and his career stalled somewhat when he hit the AA level in 2001.

With all of the focus on Utley, Jeremy Isenhower is somewhat under the radar. Isenhower made the South Atlantic League All-Star roster this season and is an impressive player. His offensive numbers aren't eye-popping, but he's solid defensively and is showing improvement at the plate, hitting .273 this season. Isenhower's teammate, Nick Tempesta, is more of a utility type player who the Phillies believe might blossom more than he's shown early in his minor league career.

Marc Tugwell came to the Phillies in this year's draft and the Phillies love his potential. They started him at Batavia and he has driven in four runs in the first couple weeks of the season. Jack Headley is also at Batavia and can play second base, but the Phillies like him more in the outfield, especially since they've got Tugwell at second base.

Mauber Lopez and Nicholas Italiano handle the second base responsibilities in the Gulf Coast League. Lopez is also a catcher and the Phillies are still a little undecided about where to play him long-term. Italiano is off to a good start, hitting .364 in the Coast League.

PhillyBaseballNews.com Top 10 Second Base Prospects

  1. Chase Utley
  2. Jeremy Isenhower
  3. Marc Tugwell
  4. Brian Hitchcox
  5. Nick Tempesta
  6. Uriel Casillas
  7. Scott Youngbauer
  8. Mauber Lopez
  9. Nicholas Italiano
  10. Kevin Nulton

Shortstop

The shortstop position is interesting for the Phillies. On first glance, the Phillies are set at short with Jimmy Rollins. Keep in mind though, that Rollins has spurned the Phillies advances to sign him long-term, so they have to at least keep the position in mind, even though Rollins is a few years away from free agency.

Juan Sosa is an impressive player. The Phillies signed him as a minor league free agent in May of 2002. Sosa turns 28 this August, so with Rollins in Philly, his future is likely elsewhere in the majors.

Andy Machado was supposed to be the big name at shortstop this season. In spring training, the Phillies were a little turned off by Machado's attitude and decided to have him repeat AA. His attitude hasn't improved and some nagging injuries have also contributed to keeping Machado's numbers pretty low. Machado is hitting just .214 at Reading and has driven in just 10 runs. The Phillies hope for a turn around in the second-half of the season. Machado is just 23, so his future is still looking pretty bright. Another, even bigger disappointment has been Carlos Rodriguez. The Phillies had high hopes for Rodriguez, but his constant problems with sticking to the off-the-field rules caused the Phillies to send C-Rod home until further notice. It's not clear when, or if, the Phillies will have Rodriguez return to action. His season and perhaps, his career with the Phillies, may be over.

If you're looking for a guy who has opened some eyes this season, it could be Danny Gonzalez. Gonzalez is hitting .279 for Clearwater and is definitely pushing Machado, who is just one step ahead of him. The Phillies like Gonzalez' range and his work ethic, especially compared to the problems that they've had this season with Machado and Rodriguez.

The Phillies have a couple of younger players that they're keeping a close eye on. Esteban De Los Santos is at Lakewood and is off to a good start, hitting .333 in the early going. Phillip Cuevas is in the Gulf Coast League and shuttles back and forth between shortstop and second base.

PhillyBaseballNews.com Top 10 Shortstop Prospects

  1. Juan Sosa
  2. Andy Machado
  3. Danny Gonzalez
  4. Phillip Cuevas
  5. Esteban De Los Santos
  6. Carlos Rodriguez
  7. Ryan Wardinsky
  8. Jack Santora
  9. Jason Knupfer
  10. Francisco Aybar

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