PHILADELPHIA -- Make no mistake: player development is a numbers game.
For every Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels, there are countless prospects that never reach the big leagues or fulfill their potential. Top picks like Greg Golson, Mike Costanzo, Tim Moss, Reggie Taylor, Chad McConnell and Jeff Jackson never lived up to their lofty Draft status, either with the Phillies or elsewhere, which is why it is so important to have as many prospects in the organization as possible.
"The greater number of prospects you have, your odds increase," assistant general manager of player personnel Benny Looper said.
The Phils believe they improved their odds this year.
"It hasn't been a perfect year, but it's been a good year," director of player development Joe Jordan said. "We've had a lot of kids that have taken a step forward."
Fans have known about players like left-hander Jesse Biddle, right-hander Trevor May, outfielder Larry Greene and shortstop Roman Quinn since the Phillies drafted them. But midseason acquisitions such as catcher Tommy Joseph (via San Francisco for Hunter Pence), right-handers Ethan Martin (via Los Angeles for Shane Victorino) and Kyle Simon (via Baltimore for Jim Thome), as well as big seasons from players such as Double-A Reading first baseman Darin Ruf -- who nearly won the Eastern League Triple Crown -- and third baseman Cody Asche have added considerable depth to the organization.
"Some of these guys are upper-end prospects," Looper said.
"Those Deadline deals were really good," Jordan added. "I've seen all these players, and they really have a chance to contribute. They have ability. They will have a good impact on our system going forward."
Asche and Ruf had monster years, opening plenty of eyes. Asche hit a combined .324 with 33 doubles, six triples, 12 home runs, 72 RBIs and an .849 OPS between Reading and Class A Clearwater. The Phils believe Asche has a chance to be at least an average big league third baseman.
Ruf hit .317 with 32 doubles, one triple, a team-record 38 home runs, 104 RBIs and a 1.028 OPS. He will play outfield in winter ball, which the Phillies hope will get him on the field sooner rather than later, considering that Ryan Howard begins just the second year of a five-year, $125 million contract next season.
Biddle, May and right-hander Brody Colvin opened the season as the organization's top three pitching prospects. Biddle started slowly in Clearwater, but finished 10-6 with a 3.22 ERA. The Phils could not be more pleased with his progress. May started strong before hitting a lengthy rough patch, finishing 10-13 with a 4.87 ERA in 28 starts with Reading.
There is no way to sugarcoat Colvin's season, which was a big disappointment. He went a combined 6-10 with a 5.87 ERA with Reading and Clearwater, moving into the bullpen at one point to get back on track.
"We cover the entire spectrum with those three guys," Jordan said. "I don't think you could have drawn up a more ideal season than the one Biddle had. He did a great job.
"Trevor came into the season as the No. 1 prospect in the organization. The Eastern League got him. The quality of competition got him. He was a little slow to make adjustments. That's OK. He learned a very good lesson. He's a better pitcher today than when the season started, even though the numbers might not reflect that.
"Colvin, it is what it is. He's had a tough time with it. I don't know how to dress it up, other than it's been a disappointment to him as much as anyone. It's all about 'pitchability' and execution. We'll try to get him back on track."
"Brody is a prospect," Looper insisted. "The pitches are still there. It's just the command of it, and I think confidence more than anything."
In recent years, the Phillies had pitching depth in the system, but very little depth elsewhere. But the last two Drafts, plus some good international signings -- such as 17-year-old outfielder Carlos Tocci -- have improved the position player depth at the lower levels. These include Greene (Class A Williamsport), Quinn (Williamsport), third baseman Mitch Walding (Williamsport), outfielder Dylan Cozens (rookie-level Gulf Coast League Phillies), third baseman Zach Green (Gulf Coast League), second baseman Andrew Pullin (Gulf Coast League) and infielder Cameron Perkins (Williamsport).
phillies' top prospects
But that is not to say there is no depth at the higher levels, either. For the first time in a long time, Triple-A Lehigh Valley will have legitimate prospects next season, rather than a plethora of sixth-year free agents.
Tyson Gillies projects as the starting center fielder. Ruf, Asche and second baseman Cesar Hernandez should join him. Catcher Sebastian Valle finished the season in Triple-A, but it will interesting to see how the organization handles Valle and Joseph next year.
(The best prospect in Triple-A this season might have been IronPigs manager Ryne Sandberg, who figures to be on a Major League coaching staff next season.)
"I was told the strength of the organization is arms, which is true," said Jordan, who joined the organization before the season. "We have a good nucleus of starting pitching prospects that for the most part had good years. We have a really good number of bullpen arms. Big arms. Good arms. That's all true.
"But the emergence of Ruf and Asche and [Clearwater catcher] Cameron Rupp helped tremendously. We have a lot of catchers in the organization, but Rupp put himself in the conversation. [Outfielder] Kelly Dugan and [third baseman] Maikel Franco had good years. We feel so much better today about our position player prospects than even before the season started."
"I think we had a good year," Looper said. "Did the players get better? Did some stay the same? Did some go backward? You always have a 'yes' to each of those, but I think we had some players that improved. I think some really stepped forward. And then the acquisitions we had this summer really helped our depth."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.