Top Prospect #16: Juan Richardson

Juan Richardson was well on his way to putting up monster numbers at AA Reading in 2003 when he severely sprained his left ankle. He would miss the last half of the Eastern League season and the injury would hamper him throughout the '04 campaign as well. Now, word is that Richardson should be completely recovered and back on his fast track.

Juan Richardson has had one of the same problems that Jorge Padilla has faced; injuries. Actually, early in his minor league career, Richardson was the anti-Padilla and was consistently near the top of his league in games played. In fact, he led the South Atlantic League in games played in 2001. Then, in 2003, that all changed.

Richardson landed on the DL with a severely sprained ankle - at least that was the diagnosis at the time - and missed the last half of the season, playing in just 65 games. The injury was seen as a setback, especially considering that Richardson had come off back-to-back impressive seasons, where he had clubbed a total of 40 homeruns. Even with the injury, Richardson finished 2003 with 15 homeruns at Reading. Coming into last season, all was supposed to be well with Richardson's ankle, but that wasn't the case. Again, the ankle problems flared up and Richardson found himself unable to play and played in just 64 games between Clearwater and Reading.

Having just turned 25, all is not lost for the young third base prospect. Richardson should be healthy this spring and should be able to pick up right where he left off. Granted, the Phillies are likely to be cautious with him and he could start the season in the warm environment of Clearwater, but advancing all the way to AAA isn't out of the question if things truly are back to normal for Richardson.

1999 Gulf Coast 5 23 .226 46 164 27 37 14 0 7 11 46 .295
1999 Batavia 1 2 .125 7 24 1 3 0 0 0 2 8 .192
1999 Piedmont 0 2 .167 4 12 0 2 1 0 0 1 5 .231
2000 Piedmont 2 15 .242 43 149 19 36 11 0 0 17 43 .333
2000 Batavia 0 2 .154 10 39 0 6 2 0 0 3 15 .222
2001 Lakewood 22 83 .240 137 505 68 121 31 2 7 15 51 .269
2002 Clearwater 18 83 .257 122 456 52 117 21 2 0 44 122 .339
2003 Reading 15 34 .270 65 248 37 67 9 0 2 17 69 .327
2004 Clearwater 4 12 .220 46 159 9 35 7 0 0 5 44 .244
2004 Reading 5 13 .282 18 71 10 20 1 0 0 1 16 .297
Career 72 269 .243 498 1827 223 444 97 4 16 116 419 .296

Acquired: Signed as an amateur free agent on July 1, 1998.

Batting and Power: Richardson was one of the more prolific power hitters in the organization's minor league system in 2001 and 2002, hitting a total of 40 homeruns over those two seasons. The Phillies weren't surprised because they believed all along that Richardson had that sort of power potential and he still does. As for his average, he hasn't hit quite as well as the Phillies had hoped, although it seemed he was putting it all together in 2004. On occasion, Richardson gets impatient and swings at bad pitches, putting himself in bad spots.

Baserunning and Speed: When it comes to speed, Richardson is one of those guys who has just enough speed to get things done. He doesn't steal many bases, but is a pretty aggressive runner when he's on base. His ankle injury has slowed him and cut some of his aggressiveness though.

Defense: In Richardson, the Phillies have a solid defensive prospect. He generally ranks near the league leaders in fielding percentage and isn't afraid to throw his body around to make a play. He has a solid, accurate arm, although he does rush himself now and then and makes a bad throw. Again, the ankle injury has hurt him a little bit and he played just nine games defensively in 2004, so there's no telling how strong his defense will be when he returns to third base on a full-time basis.

Projection: The Phillies want to be absolutely sure that Richardson is fully healed before they push him. He may start the year at Clearwater to stay in the warm weather and close to the watchful eyes of the Phillies minor league gurus in Florida. He could conceivably advance all the way to AAA Scranton though before the season is over. As for his major league potential, don't be surprised to see Richardson anchor a third base spot with the Phillies or some other organization for a good, long time.

ETA: It may be a bit of a push to hope to see Richardson get an audition this September. By next spring though, he should be getting more consideration for a spot with the major league club.

Comparison: There was talk that Richardson would become the kind of power and defense combination that they haven't had at third base since Mike Schmidt, although nobody ever expected Richardson to put up Schmidty's sort of homerun numbers. Offensively, Richardson doesn't really compare to any current Phillies. He'll have more power than Mike Lieberthal, but shouldn't hit for as high of an average as Pat Burrell. He'll simply be a solid, run producing player if he can put his severe ankle injury behind him.

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