Baseball America's Jim Callis Talks Phillies

<i>Baseball America</i> has long been known as the standard for coverage of young players. Jim Callis, the Executive Editor of <i>Baseball America</i> was kind enough to answer some questions about the state of the Phillies minor league system and how certain prospects are progressing.

PBN: Should Phillies fans be concerned about the injuries to Cole Hamels? Have the injuries changed your thoughts on Hamels at all?

Jim Callis: Not gravely concerned, but at best it has been a setback. He debuted late this year, made four starts, then got shut down with a sore elbow. I wouldn't rank Hamels quite as high as I did a year ago (20th on my overall Top 50 Prospects list) because of the injury factor, but he's still one of the top lefties in the game.

PBN: Who are some of the "dark horse" prospects in the organization that may be pleasant surprises?

Jim Callis: Three guys who didn't get much attention coming into the year are outfielders Jake Blalock and Chris Roberson, plus lefthander Joe Wilson. Blalock is starting to hit like the Phillies always thought and hoped he would, while Roberson has made a huge leap forward translating his athleticism into baseball production. Wilson had a bad junior year in 2003 and lasted until the Phillies took him in the 13th round. He has a very lively fastball, and if he improves his command and secondary stuff, he could be pretty interesting.

PBN: The Phillies drafted a number of catchers in this year's draft and have also had others who were already in the organization start to show some promise. How do you view the catching prospects in the organization?

Jim Callis: I still think it's the weakest position in the organization. The best prospect of the bunch is June's second-round draft pick Jason Jaramillo, who's a solid all-around catcher. That was a nice pick, especially considering the scarcity of catching in the draft, and he's the only guy in the system that I'd say has a good chance of becoming a big league regular.

PBN: Do you believe that Ryan Howard could learn a new position in order for the Phillies to find a way to keep him in the organization and not be blocked by Jim Thome? If so, where do you think he would be most suited to play?

Jim Callis: I like Howard's bat, but I don't think he can play another position. He's just an average defender at first base, and he's 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds. I think trying to put him in left field would be a stretch, and that's the only other spot you could really try him at. With Thome in Philadelphia, I think Howard becomes a prime piece of trade bait.

PBN: James Adkins has turned down the Phillies advances to sign a contract with the team. Do you believe that he will eventually sign with the Phillies or will he wind up going into the draft again down the road?

Jim Callis: To be honest, I haven't asked anyone about this recently. He apparently was a tougher sign than we thought, which is why he fell to the 13th round. Tennessee must be starting school very soon, so we should find out very quickly. He's a lefty with a promising fastball and curve.

PBN: Where would you rank the Phillies minor league department in terms of how they evaluate talent to draft and how they develop young players, as compared to other organizations?

Jim Callis: The Phillies do a good job. Assistant GM for scouting and player development Mike Arbuckle really helped turn things around when he came over from the Braves in 1992. The system had really grown fallow before he came in, and that changed quickly. He grabbed Scott Rolen in the second round of his first draft (1993), and the Phillies have drafted well for a while. He really should be a GM somewhere because he's a terrific judge of talent. Farm director Steve Noworyta and scouting director Marti Wolever have assumed a lot of Arbuckle's old responsibilities, and they do a good job. I know the Phillies weren't thrilled when Baseball America rated their 2003 draft as the worst in baseball, but a big part of that was that they didn't have picks in the first two rounds.

PBN: Did you see anything in Ryan Madson as a minor league player to make you believe he would have the kind of success that he has had in the majors? Do you believe he will eventually return to working out of the rotation for the Phillies?

Jim Callis: Madson had consistent success in the minors, and I think we've ranked him on our Phillies Top 10 list for several years, but no one thought he'd break in like this. He's good, but quite honestly, he has pitched over his head somewhat. He has the stuff to start and will probably get that opportunity down the road.

PBN: What do you think is currently the biggest weakness in the Phillies minor league system?

Jim Callis: Catcher, definitely. If something happened to Mike Lieberthal, the Phillies would be hurting. As I mentioned, I like Jaramillo, but he's 2-3 years away.

Our thanks to Jim Callis from Baseball America for taking the time to give his opinions on the Phillies minor league system.

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