Rollins, Utley and Howard are arguably the best players at their positions in franchise history, and Hamels almost single-handedly carried the Phillies to the 2008 World Series championship. It is not easy to find players like that. The Phils waited more than 100 years to find those four, and they all happened to arrive at nearly the same time.
But Philadelphia's front office must continue to search for that next core of talent. The club believes it has players coming through the farm system who can help.
"I like a lot of the players we have," assistant general manager of player personnel Benny Looper said. "I think we've got some depth. We've got more prospects at the upper levels than we've had since I've been here. We've got pitching. We've got some position guys. We've got some catching now. We've got some middle infielders. I think [international scouting director] Sal [Agostinelli] and [assistant general manager of amateur scouting] Marti [Wolever] and [pro scouting director] Mike Ondo and the pro scouting staff have done a good job adding prospects to the system."
And with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Double-A Reading and Class A Lakewood within driving distance of Philadelphia, Phillies fans can get an early glimpse of that future whenever they wish.
Minor League Baseball is under way, and you can keep track of the Phillies' top prospects throughout the season on MLBPipeline.com and Prospect Watch. Get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of the Phils' Minor League teams on MLBPipeline.com/phillies.
Looper is right. The Phillies have more prospects in the higher levels than they have had in the recent past. MLB.com ranked the Phils' top 20 prospects before Spring Training. Seven are with Lehigh Valley: right-handers Ethan Martin, Jonathan Pettibone and Justin De Fratus; left-hander Adam Morgan; catcher Tommy Joseph; third baseman Cody Asche and outfielder/first baseman Darin Ruf.
Four are with Reading: left-handers Jesse Biddle and Austin Wright; right-hander Brody Colvin and catcher Sebastian Valle.
"Last year we added to the system," Looper said, referring to trades that involved Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton and Jim Thome. "We added Martin and Joseph. We added [Seth] Rosin. We added. Regardless of those guys, we have guys that are moving forward pretty quickly, like Cody Asche. A year ago he was in Clearwater. He's in Triple-A right now. The same with Morgan. Last year he was in Clearwater. He's in Triple-A right now.
"I think we've had some guys move quicker. Maybe we pushed them more. But even the younger guys like [Class A Lakewood shortstop] Roman Quinn. He's one of our better-looking guys. Jesse Biddle continues to move up a level every year."
Debuts and Draftees
The Phillies selected Larry Greene with the 39th overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, but for the second consecutive year he has come into camp out of shape.
"He's working hard," Looper said. "But he wasn't able to start in Lakewood, which is where he would have been."
Asked how much of a concern Greene's lack of conditioning is, Looper said, "I thought over the course of the summer last year in instructional league that he had matured a lot. He had grown up a lot. Obviously, he still has a ways to go as far as taking care of himself, being in the business he's in now. But he has improved. He has matured. But that is a concern, and we'll still continue to work with him on that."
Right-hander Shane Watson (40th overall pick in 2012) is starting the season with Lakewood. Right-hander Mitch Gueller (54th overall pick in 2012) pitched last season with the Rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies. He could start with Class A Williamsport.
Teams on TV
Lehigh Valley is among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2013 MiLB.TV package will include more than 3,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.