It has been a while since the Phillies had a prospect that you could argue was genuinely the best player in the minor leagues. And even longer since that guy panned out. You would probably have to go back to Domonic Brown. And outside of one amazing month of May, he never lived up to the immense hype around. They had other big names, like Sixto Sanchez, but even he was never in talks for the best prospect in baseball. But now in Andrew Painter, you could argue the Phillies have that guy. While we are still awaiting the official MLB Top 100, they did release the ranking of Right Handed Pitching prospects. And Andrew Painter came in as the top guy on that list.
Painter did not just break out last year, he burst onto the scene like the Kool-Aid man. Across 3 levels he pitched to a 1.56 ERA with 155 strikeouts in 103.2 innings. He started the year in Low A with the Clearwater Threshers. It was clear his stuff was a complete mismatch for any hitters at that level. They promoted him to High A. He pitched even better. In 8 starts he had an ERA of 0.98. So finally they sent him to AA to pitch for Reading. And he didn’t miss a beat. In 5 starts his ERA was 2.54.
And now there is real talk he could start the season in the MLB. He will be turning 20 in April, and he is already in talks to pitch in the Big Leagues. This is not just another case of Phillies fans hyping up a prospect they have. It is not Spencer Howard or Scott Kingery. People all around the MLB are in love with Painter’s stuff. And he will be near the top, if not the top guy when the actual top 100 list comes out.
Does that mean he will pan out? Of course not. We have seen prospects with insane hype fall flat before. But there is good reason to be excited about him. At 6 foot 7, he makes for an imposing figure on the mound. His fastball sits in the mid to high 90s and has even touched 100 at times. But it is not just a straight fastball. Despite the speed, it has measured in at 16 inches of break before. He throws it over 60% of the time, and yet opposing hitters hit under .200 against it, and they whiff nearly 30% of the time.
Painter also boasts a slider that is devasting to righties, a curveball that is his go-to out pitch against lefties, and a solid changeup to round out his repertoire. He has 3 great or above-average pitches, and the changeup has a chance to be great as well too.
Painter has a legit chance to dominate at the MLB level. We will see if he cracks the roster out of camp. Even if he doesn’t, there is enough smoke to expect he will be up at some point this season. Whether or not he will be able to contribute in the playoffs as a starter is another question. We saw last year that Spencer Strider was dominant for the Braves as a rookie during the season. But then he lost steam at the end and got blown up by the Phillies in the playoffs.
But the future for him looks bright. By 2024 he has the potential to be the guy at the top of the Phillies’ playoff rotation if he is as good as people think he is. While were are justifiably suspect of any prospect in this city, given the Phillies’ history in that regard, there is a good reason to be hopeful about Andrew Painter. Because he has the looks of a very special pitcher.