Phillies Prospect #5: Jason Donald

Jason Donald took a good shot at making the Phillies club out of spring training and would have been ready if Chase Utley or Pedro Feliz wasn't. Now though, he can continue to develop at Lehigh Valley as he awaits his turn on the Phillies infield.

Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the third round of the 2006 Draft.
Bats: R  Throws: R
Height: 6' 1"  Weight: 190 pounds
Birth Date: September 4, 1984
2008 Team: Reading (92 G)
Positions/Games: SS (91 G)
School: University of Arizona
2008 Ranking: 11

Why Donald jumped to #5: Jason Donald has been nothing but steady throughout his time in the Phillies organization. Donald has hit .300 or better at Lakewood, Clearwater and Reading over the past two seasons and if you take out his first season at Batavia, when he was adjusting to the rigors of pro ball and only hit .263, Donald's average over the past two years is .305 and he's averaged 13 home runs and 63 RBI over that period. This is the kind of young player that organizations love to get a hold of and far too often, wind up dealing away for the promise of that veteran player that will put the major league club "over the top." (See Ryne Sandberg) In fact, none other than Sandberg was impressed with Donald when he managed him in the Arizona Fall League last season. Perhaps it is the lingering memories of that fateful Ryne Sandberg trade that has kept the Phillies from dealing Donald even though there were plenty of teams asking about him over the winter.

Category Jason Donald Eastern League
AB/2B 19.05 18.90
AB/3B 90.5 150.00
AB/HR 25.86 41.36
AB/RBI 6.70 7.74
AB/R 6.35 7.23
AB/BB 7.70 9.54
AB/KO 4.21 4.92
AVG .307 .264
OBP .391 .338
SLG .497 .403
Categories with numbers in white show areas where Donald outperformed the average player in the Eastern League during the 2008 season. Categories with numbers in black show areas where he was below the league average.

Batting and Power: Most Phillies fans became aware of Jason Donald last spring when the Phillies brought him over to the major league camp for a one-day stint to play in a game being broadcast back to Philadelphia. All Donald did was launch two three-run home runs in the game. Everybody went scrambling for their Prospect Guide after that. The bad news is that some people came away with the impression that Donald was a power-hitter, but he's typically not. He'll hit a decent amount of home runs, but his game is more of the "make something happen" type and Donald is fine with sticking to that routine. 

Baserunning and Speed: Donald has average speed, but he has a knack for baserunning that most players don't have. Again, he's aggressive, but he's also smart about how he attacks the basepaths and doesn't get himself into much trouble because of his aggression. He has a slow first couple of steps, which can occasionally hurt him out of the box and defensively.

Defense: So, where is Donald going to play? The Phillies have had him playing at shortstop in the minors, but he's blocked both there and at second base, so they've been working with him on learning to play at third. The ability to play second, third and short will help his versatility if the Phillies need bench help and if he truly takes to playing at third, he could be the missing piece to the Phillies having an all home-grown infield next season. He's been solid no matter what position he's played and can likely handle playing at any of the three spots on a regular basis if he gets enough work. His reactions may be just a tick slow for third, but he's gritty enough to make up for it by being more than willing to dive and do what he has to do to make a play. He's a good enough player that if the Phillies can get him completely comfortable at third, they have to do it so they have the room to put him in the lineup.

Projection: Absolute worst-case scenario is that Jason Donald becomes a player like Frank Catalanotto, but it's unlikely that's going to happen. It's more likely that he'll go on to have a productive career and could find himself on an all-star team or two before his career is over. It really is going to be interesting to see where the Phillies play him this season and how Donald adapts to the situation.

ETA: Give him a season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley and Donald will be ready. He could play in the majors now if he was really needed, but even with all of his talents, a season with the IronPigs isn't going to hurt him. It's also conceivable that he could be a super-sub for a season or two at the major league level before taking over a position to call his own.

Comparison: Our comparison from last season still fits, so we'll just repeat it here: 

Charlie Manuel compared him to former Astros great Craig Biggio. "Same makeup, talks like him, plays like him, everything," Manuel said of the Donald-Biggio similarities.

Said Donald, "I didn't know what he was saying the first time he called me Biggio. I just thought he didn't know my name. I'll take that comparison. Craig Biggio is a great player. He'll probably be in the Hall of Fame some day. It's pretty surreal," Donald said. "This kind of stuff doesn't happen too often. If I hit home runs, I run into them. To get the opportunity to do this is pretty amazing. It's something I can take with me."

The Biggio comparison is likely a little bit of a manager looking to heap some praise on a young player as he heads into an important season, but especially in personality and effort, the comparison isn't way off base.

Of course, if you ask Ryne Sandberg, he sees a bit of himself in Jason Donald, so who knows?

Jason Donald's career stats

2006 Batavia 1 24 .263 63 213 33 56 14 2 12 23 42 .347 .362
2007 Lakewood 4 30 .310 51 197 41 61 9 3 2 29 39 .409 .447
2007 Clearwater 8 41 .300 83 293 48 88 22 5 3 35 70 .386 .491
2008 Reading 14 54 .307 92 362 57 111 19 4 11 47 86 .391 .497
TOTALS 27 149 .297 289 1065 179 316 64 14 28 134 237 .384 .459

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