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Phillies' top ten prospect lists starting to shift

Through trades and development, the Phillies have seen and will see new names among their top prospects.

It's so trendy to be down on the Phillies' farm system right now, but the truth is, it's on the up-and-up. It might be a while before the MLB top 100 are overrun with Phillies farmhands, but the development of recent draft picks and the addition of several names in even more recent trades have already started to improve matters.

That said, evaluating prospects is always tricky, as there are a million different ways a young player can not work out, and these projected rankings are reliable only in building hype for certain young players. Anyone who hears about J.P. Crawford and imagines Jimmy Rollins, only younger and not on the Dodgers, runs the chance of being sorely disappointed.

That said, Baseball America has revealed their top ten prospects in the Phillies farm system:

1. J.P. Crawford, SS

2. Aaron Nola, RHP

3. Maikel Franco, 3B/1B

4. Roman Quinn, OF/SS

5. Carlos Tocci, OF

6. Aaron Brown, OF

7. Matt Imhof, LHP

8. Jesmuel Valentin, 2B

9. Yoel Mecias, LHP

10. Franklyn Kilome, RHP

Going into last season, this list was considerably different:

1. Maikel Franco, 3B

2. Jesse Biddle, LHP

3. J.P. Crawford, SS

4. Miguel Gonzalez, RHP

5. Roman Quinn, SS

6. Carlos Tocci, OF

7. Ethan Martin, RHP

8. Cesar Hernandez, 2B/OF

9. Aaron Altherr, OF

10. Severino Gonzalez, RHP

Notably absent is 2010 top draft pick Jesse Biddle (who fell from the No. 2 spot all the way out of the top 10), having suffered through some mental issues after struggling with Reading this past June. Surrounding Biddle in the top three, Franco and Crawford have swapped spots. The promise of Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez sputtered out, Aaron Altherr made a very brief professional debut in 2010 during a disappointing season in Clearwater and Reading, Ethan Martin disappeared, and Cesar Hernandez - coming in at No. 8 heading into 2014 - has served as a space-filler in the majors, playing in exacly 100 games from 2013-14. The Phillies took the Rangers' IF/OF Obduel Herrera in this year's Rule 5 draft, a young propsect with some buzz who could potentially replace Hernandez as the jack-of-all-trades.

It's a changing scene, certainly, and with presumably further trades on the horizon, the Phillies will be restocking their system for the future. The Jimmy Rollins trade has yet to be official, but were it to have gone through before BA's list was published, pitchers Zach Eflin and Tom Windle may have been received positive enough evaluations to immediately become two of their new organization's top young arms.

Crawford and Nola are the closest to seeing major league time, with Franco already having done so in 2014. With Cody Asche still on the Phillies' roster, the team has experimented with a potential position change for Franco, who was rumored to be moving to first base in the past. Quinn's plus speed impressed at this year's Arizona Fall League, with one analyst saying he was "stealing bases at will."

Brown, Imhof, Mecias, Kilome, Nola and Valentin - over half of the top ten - are newcomers to the list. Brown, 22, has played all of 61 games for the Phillies farm system, spending this past season in Williamsport and Lakewood while hitting .268/.310/.383. 21-year-old lefty hurler Matt Imhof kept his ERA under 3.00 over 42.1 IP at three different levels. Mecias has been with the Phillies since he was 18, and has already received Tommy John surgery. He has rebounded since, not quite reaching the previous velocity of his heater (89-92 m.p.h., previously hitting 95 m.p.h.), but establishing a formidable contrast between it and his change-up to keep hitters off balance. Nineteen-year-old Kilome impressed with his fastball command and sinker with the Gulf Coast Phillies this past season, and infielder Jesmuel Valentin, formerly of the Dodgers, was hitting .325/.386/.400 through his first 18 games in winter league ball.

Prospects are always a gamble, but the shifting names in the Phillies' top ten - or at least, who Baseball America has deemed their top ten, as there is some debate on this front as well - are a sign that at the very least, the minors that were once considered a barren landscape are seeing a few new sprouts.