Top Prospect #43: Charles Cresswell

There are a numer of good catching prospects in the Phillies organization. Charles Cresswell got just 49 at bats last season and is behind the other young catchers, but he's got the potential to move quickly once he is given the opportunity.

The fact that Charles Cresswell may not have been as highly touted as Jason Jaramillo and Lou Marson, the other top catching prospects drafted by the Phillies in 2004, he had already had his share of touting. In fact, he's the subject of legend in his hometown of Perryton, Texas. Part of the legend developed from his superstitious ways and how he would keep his bat and helmet separated from the other bats and helmets in the dugout if he didn't get a hit. In Cresswell's mind, they don't deserve to sit with their other bat and helmet friends if they don't do their job. Actually, that part of the legend came after Cresswell gave everybody in the town something to talk about with a high school homerun that traveled an estimated 550 feet. Sure, it was with an aluminum bat, but come on, 550 feet is a shot.

Cresswell also has the fact that he's a left-handed hitter going for him. Jaramillo and Marson are right-handed hitters, setting Cresswell apart a little from the others. Also setting Cresswell apart is the fact that the Phillies have been very cautious with him and are likely to continue that approach. Cresswell hit .245 in 16 games in the Gulf Coast League in 2004 and was back in the GCL for 2005. His second season didn't go as well as he managed to hit just .176 in 23 games, bringing his two season total to a disappointing .205, meaning that he could be back in the GCL this season as well.

Don't let the slow start fool you though. Cresswell has the talent to improve and while 2006 will be an important season for him, it's likely that he'll handle things better in his third season than he has in his first two.

'04 Gulf Coast League 0 9 .245 16 49 4 12 1 0 0 4 23 .309
'05 Gulf Coast League 1 1 .176 23 68 5 12 3 0 2 4 25 .222
Career 1 10 .205 39 117 9 24 4 0 2 8 48 .260

Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the 10th round of the 2004 Draft out of Perryton High School (Texas). Turned down a scholarship to Seward County Community College to sign with the Phillies.

Batting and Power: It took Cresswell 63 at bats to get his first pro homerun, which is a little longer than most scouts predicted. He's got natural power and didn't need the added advantage of an aluminum bat to hit most of his high school homeruns. Cresswell hit 20 homeruns in 38 games in his senior season, driving in 86 runs and finishing with a .552 average. There's natural talent there, but Cresswell has had trouble adjusting to better pitching and to using a wood bat. Coming out of high school it stands to reason that Cresswell would need extra time to get his offense going and the Phillies are willing to be patient.

Baserunning and Speed: Cresswell claims to have a personal best time of 4.7 seconds in the 40 yard dash, which is awesome for a catcher. He's a pretty big kid, but he gets out of the box quickly and can grab an occasional extra base on the basepaths, but he hasn't mastered the art of stealing bases. While the speed is a plus, it's not enough for the Phillies to think that they need to move him to a different position to take advantage of his speed and it's not going to be a great asset to him. The bottom line though is that he doesn't hurt the club on the bases and he has enough speed to allow him to be aggressive on the bases. Somewhat ironically, Cresswell didn't struggle against left-handed pitching as you might expect from a young left-handed hitter. He hit lefties at a .308 pace while he sank to a .145 average against right-handed pitchers.

Defense: This is a guy who isn't afraid to throw himself in front of pitches in the dirt to keep them in front of him. He's a big (6' 3", 205 pounds) tough kid who needs little help on his defense. The bad part is that at times, it looked like his struggles at the plate were getting to him and he lost concentration on defense. His mechanics are good and he has an above average arm, making things tough for base runners.

Projection: Don't look for Cresswell to start the season on a full-season team like Lakewood. Instead, he'll stay at the minor league camp in Clearwater and continue to work on things there until the short-season leagues get under way. Putting him back in the Gulf Coast League for a third season likely wouldn't do him much good. Cresswell may be better served if the Phillies were to put him at Batavia and challenge him a little. In all honesty, Cresswell may have turned out to be a little more of a project than the Phillies anticipated, but with his talent, he's worth the effort and patience.

ETA: Keep in mind that Cresswell is young - he turns 21 on July 5th - and has time to develop. It's going to take him a few years to work through the minor league maze, but it's likely that once he adjusts, he'll move at a decent pace. Ideally, he would have been ready for Lakewood, or at least have been a definite promotion to Batavia in 2006, but again, patience. Last year, we thought that Cresswell could be pushing for a major league job in 2010 and that estimate could still work out, although it appears a bit of a long shot unless he gets pretty hot in 2006.

Comparison: The build, the leadership and the poise all point to comparisons to Darren Daulton even though Cresswell has struggled. Keep in mind that Daulton hit just .222 through his first two professional seasons and developed pretty well after that. In fact, Daulton made it to AA in his fourth pro season and made his major league debut that September before spending another season and a half at AAA.


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