Swift footed outfielder Ender Inciarte was picked up by the Phillies this past December in the MLB Rule 5 draft. The lefty batting Venezuelan looked extremely promising in his days in the Diamondbacks system, which drew the interest of the Phils.
Signed as a amateur free agent in 2008, Inciarte began his professional career in the Dominican Summer League, batting .300 with minimal power (seven doubles were his only extra-base hits) while stealing 22 bases in 28 opportunities in 62 games.
The 5-foot-11-inch 160-pounder then moved on to the rookie level Pioneer League, where he batted .325 with 14 doubles, a triple and a homer in 66 contests for Missoula in 2009. He also stole 10 bases in 14 chances. The following year, Inciarte split time at low A and full season Class A, posting a .229 average with 13 doubles, seven triples and one home run while utilizing his speed even less, swiping seven in 12 chances.
In 2011, Inciarte spent the entire season with Class A South Bend of the Midwest League and continued to make progress. At the age of 20, he sported a .262/.333/.333 line with 26 steals, but was caught 15 times.
Last season, Inciarte looked like the offensive side of his game was really coming along, as he split time with South Bend and the Class A Advanced Visalia Rawhide. In 127 games, Inciarte posted a .307 batting average along with 28 doubles, 10 triples, two home runs and 46 steals in 58 chances. In addition to the improvements he made with his average and speed production, Inciarte also increased his walk rate and his OPS a considerable amount as well.
Compared, at times, to Gerardo Parra, who was held in considerable regard in his days as an Arizona prospect, Inciarte’s small frame does not project to develop very much power.
Inciarte’s bat will still need time to develop, as evidenced by his output in the Venezuelan League. He posted a .250/.315/.313 line in 48 games with Zulia, where he was teammates with Phils infielder Freddy Galvis.
Big league Rule 5 picks must stay on the team’s 25-man big league roster for the entire following season, or be offered back to their previous organization. With a surplus of potential outfielders, Inciarte will likely find himself as the odd man out, since the Phillies have six other players for what is likely five big league roster spots for their outfield. It is possible that, all along, the Phillies did not expect Inciarte to make their opening day roster and simply had hopes that when he is offered back to Arizona they would reject him, much like the way the Phils’ return offer of Rule 5 selection Shane Victorino was declined by the Dodgers in 2005.
On defense, Inciarte, who has spent considerable time at all three outfield positions as a pro, has great instincts and exceptional range with an ability to cover loads of land. If he did beat the odds and land on the Phillies roster this year, he could be a late inning defensive replacement and a reliable pinch runner.
The 22-year-old remains a player with a whole lot of upside and could make an impact in the organization, if the Phillies can hang onto him.