Phillies rich in pitching prospects as prospect wave continues

Ranger Suarez is one of the Phillies top pitching prospects
Ranger Suarez was all smiles standing in the corner of the Phillies' clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday afternoon.

"This is special, it's where I want to be," the 22-year-old Venezuelan native said. "Just a little more time."

Suarez is in town this week as part of the Phillies' annual prospect education seminar. The five-day program includes meetings with club executives, a few workouts, a clinic for youth players, a Q&A with manager Gabe Kapler, and conversations with current and former Phillies players.

Suarez is one of nine prospects - all pitchers - participating in the seminar. He's the rawest talent-wise of the bunch, but his ceiling could be the highest. His fastball sits in the low-90s, but his pinpoint control coupled with a plus changeup make him one of the most intriguing prospects in the organization. The left-hander has a 2.09 ERA over 326 2/3 innings in the minors with an eye to double-A Reading this season.

Joining Suarez as a possibility at Reading this year is lanky right-hander Franklyn Kilome. The 22-year-old finished the 2017 campaign with five starts at double-A where he pieced together a 1.35 WHIP to go along with a 3.64 ERA over 29 2/3 innings. His fastball touches the mid-to-upper 90s and his secondary pitches are coming along, but his mechanics need a bit more refinement because of his tall build.

"I'm ready to show what I can do," Kilome said. "I learned a ton from last year and I'm getting better at hitting my spots."

Seranthony Dominguez will likely open the season with Suarez and Kilome in Reading but he'll be transitioning to the backend of the bullpen. His stuff is electric as referenced by an outstanding 11 strikeouts per nine innings last season.

"Ninety-eight, 99?" Dominguez said with a smile when asked about how hard he throws. "It's up there."

Of the nine prospects in town this week perhaps the closest to pitching at Citizens Bank Park is 23-year-old Tom Eshelman. Acquired by the Phillies in the deal that sent closer Ken Giles to Houston, the righthander splashed on the scene last year with a 2.23 ERA over 121 innings at triple-A Lehigh Valley. He started the triple-A All-Star Game and finished the year with an insane 0.94 WHIP thanks in part to surrendering just 13 walks on the season.

Eshelman is not a power pitcher, instead relying heavily on finesse and location to be successful. His command is the best in the organization.

"Just keep getting better, that's my goal moving forward," Eshelman said. "We have a room full of great guys here and it's going to be fun because this organization is headed in the right direction. I'm happy to be here and happy to be a part of something that's going to be special. We have it right here."

With so many questions currently surrounding the Phillies starting rotation it's not completely out of the question for Eshelman - assuming he's invited to spring training and strings together some strong performances - to be in Philadelphia sooner rather than later.

"Sure I think about it, but my focus right now is to control what I can and just keep getting better."
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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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