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Prospect Nation 2016: #3 OF Nick Williams

Posted by Jay Floyd, Fri, February 05, 2016 09:05 AM Comments: 5

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Nick Williams, image- Jay Floyd

Part of the collection of prospects the Phillies obtained last season in the trade that sent Cole Hamels to Texas, slugging outfielder Nick Williams is as promising as any of the very talented young players the team has in their developmental ranks.

A second round pick of the Rangers out of Ball High School (TX) in 2012, Williams quickly signed and debuted as a pro.  In the rookie level Arizona League, he posted a .313 batting average with a pair of home runs and 27 RBI while swiping 15 bases in 48 games.

The following year Williams played with Class A Hickory in the Sally League.  In 95 games, he tallied a .293 average with 17 homers, 60 RBI and eight steals.

In 2014 Williams would open the season with Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach, where he notched a .292 average with 13 home runs and 68 RBI in 94 games.  That production earned him a promotion to the Double-A level to wrap up that season in August, where he posted a .226/.250/.290 slash line in 15 contests.

Last season, the lefty batting Williams returned to Double-A Frisco, batting .299 with 13 homers and 45 RBI through 97 games.  He also represented the Rangers in the MLB All-Star Futures Game.  By late July, the trade to the Phillies occurred and Williams transitioned to Double-A Reading, where he suffered a concussion as the result of a collision on defense in the field and missed some time.  Despite the stint on the shelf, Williams posted a .320/.340/.536 slash line in 22 regular season games, helping the Fightins reach the Eastern League playoffs. Continue reading Prospect Nation 2016: #3 OF Nick Williams

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The Long And Shortstop, And Galvis’ Future

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, February 04, 2016 12:00 PM Comments: 17

freddy-galvisIf we are to believe Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America and every other content farm that specializes in baseball prospect evaluation, and if we are to trust local sportswriters, statistics, our own intuitions and a divine entity, J.P. Crawford will shortly be starting at shortstop for the Phillies, and will remain there for years to come.

Crawford looks special. He feels special. He’s a universally understood top-five prospect, and probably a top-three prospect. And as a shortstop with a superb glove, terrific plate approach and level swing, he doesn’t look like a repeat of Domonic Brown. So far, so good.

The biggest question surrounding Crawford, at least in the short term, is exactly when he will be called up to start for the Phillies. Some have said in April or May. Some believe it’s more mid-season. Some say September. Some even say 2017.

This isn’t that important, except that if the Phillies call up Crawford in April, they will be able to pay him a lower salary for six years and not seven. And if the Phillies call him up before June, it potentially makes him a Super Two player, meaning he’ll be paid arbitration for four years, not three.

The former is what happened with Maikel Franco. Since the Phillies called him up in September 2014, he accrued 27 days of service time. So calling up Franco anytime before mid-May 2015 would’ve resulted in Franco accruing a full year of service time (172 days) between 2014 and ‘15. By waiting, the Phils pushed back Franco’s clock (he has only accrued 170 days); he’ll be a free agent after 2021, not 2020.

Factoring into the Crawford decision is the status of the Phils’ current middle infielders, Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis and Andres Blanco. For opening day, not much will likely change, especially if you’re to believe manager Pete Mackanin.

“I think Freddy – if you look back three, four, five years with Galvis, nobody really expected him to hit more than … we figured with his glove if he hit .240 it’d be a bonus,” Mackanin said at a recent press conference. “I don’t see any reason why he can’t hit .280 this year.”

Then he spoke about Hernandez: “(He) finally got an opportunity to make his mark, and he – to me, at this point – solidified that job for this year, the way I look at it.”

That seems to indicate that Hernandez is your second baseman this year, and while nothing is immediately certain for Galvis, Mackanin likes his bat. A Crawford callup in June or July, which moves Galvis to a utility role, isn’t hard to see. That causes repetition with Blanco, who played outstanding baseball in 2015 and earned a raise through arbitration.

So then what?

It seems the clock is ticking on the Phillies to make a long-term decision on Galvis. Last year was his first full season as a starter; he turned in 603 plate appearances and put together an uninspiring .263/.302/.343 triple-slash with 103 strikeouts and 30 walks, while playing ultimately average defense. Now 26, it’s unlikely Galvis becomes a first-division shortstop, and really he’s probably a stretch as a second-division shortstop. Longterm his fit looks more like a utility infielder, though a strong 2016 campaign could change that.

But the Phillies don’t really have the time to consider Galvis for another full season. Bluntly, Crawford has earned the opportunity to play in Philadelphia as soon as possible. He has outperformed his peers and previous scouting at every level. He has demonstrated the skill set of a franchise player. Moreover, he has assumed a leadership role around other Phillies prospects. Bringing him to Philly earlier than Nick Williams, Andrew Knapp, Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin, Roman Quinn and others would act almost as a symbolic gesture, a torch passing, in some respects.

And the moment Crawford begins playing, and Hernandez is staying at second base, is the moment Galvis’ value begins declining rapidly.

In short, the Phillies should be entertaining trading Galvis to a team needing a shortstop. Of course, here’s the hard reality: Not many teams need a Galvis. Non-contenders don’t need a statistically average-at-best $2 million middle infielder with two more arbitration years ahead, especially when those non-contenders have their own top prospect ready to take the reigns at shortstop.

So count out Milwaukee (Orlando Arcia) and Cincinnati (Alex Blandino). You can also count out Atlanta, as there’s no reason the Braves would want to take on any unnecessary salary.

You can also count out teams with better shortstops (Houston, Texas, Los Angeles Angels, Kansas City, Cleveland, Toronto, Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, Colorado, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets). You can also count out:

What remains are contending teams employing veteran, below-average shortstops. And there are two.

Baltimore employs J.J. Hardy, who’s 33 and is making $26.5 million over the next two seasons. That isn’t great news for O’s fans, as Hardy’s offense fell off a cliff (.219/.253/.311 with 8 HR and 37 RBI in 2015), though he apparently played the entire season injured. Of course, a chronically injured 33-year-old middle infielder could be real trouble (oh can we relate). Hardy still shines a superb glove, but if the O’s want to stay contenders in 2016, they may need a backup plan at shortstop.

Finally, Pittsburgh has Jordy Mercer, who’s 29 and making $2 million in 2016, his first year of arbitration. Mercer was also injured in 2015 (knee), and put up pretty bad numbers (.244/.293/.320, 3 HR, 34 RBI). Defensively he’s better than Galvis, like Hardy, so it’s not as if Galvis represents an upgrade from Mercer. Still, a backup plan is a good idea, though the Pirates have more of one than Baltimore. They could patch together shortstop with Pedro Florimon and Sean Rodriguez, or they could slide Jung Ho Kang over to short and let Josh Harrison stay at third. But none of these options are optimal for a team trying to compete with the Cubs and Cardinals.

Of course, teams could look at Galvis for second base, but he doesn’t rate particularly high at that position, either.

Here’s the point: J.P. Crawford is coming. The Phillies are likely to have an influx of average-at-best middle infielders by mid-summer. Galvis could prove a halfway decent trade chip to a team needing a quick fix. They should keep their eyes open.

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The Passing of the Torch at Catcher

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Thu, February 04, 2016 09:00 AM Comments: 8

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Ruiz celebrates the 2008 World Series title, AP photo

The Phillies are in an organizational transition. They’ve moved on from leaders that helped the organization see its best days in Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels.  The Phils will look toward new players to lead them to another stretch of glory days at shortstop, second base as well as in the starting rotation and are probably close to doing so at other positions also.  When all such changeover is done with, there’s one position that will have an almost tangible “passing of the torch” from old to new, and that is at catcher.

We all know how much Carlos Ruiz has quantitatively contributed to the Phillies. He’s played 1021 games in a Phillies uniform. He’s had 3691 plate appearances, of which 855 have resulted in a hit, and 65 that have resulted in a home run. He has the third most WAR among catchers in franchise history. But what’s unique about the man known as “Chooch” is that a good portion of his contribution isn’t even quantifiable like a common statistic.  Sure, he’s caught 8,102 innings for the Phillies, but that barely scratches the surface on what he’s meant to his team behind the plate.

Ruiz has been able to manage an entire game as an on-field chief.  I remember times when Ruiz would call a timeout to go talk to a pitcher that was on the verge of a meltdown. Sure, that’s common–but Ruiz always seemed to be good at it. It almost felt like he could channel his inner Dr. Phil in the middle of a stadium packed with over 40,000 people.

Another thing he’s been remarkable at is being a mentor for his pitchers. He’s been outstandingly helpful to younger pitchers–and even a few older ones. Roy Halladay gave a large portion of credit for his perfect game in May of 2010 to Ruiz.  Other pitchers have historically done the same.  And who is better for the Phils’ pitchers of the future to learn from before his days are through in City of Brotherly Love? Continue reading The Passing of the Torch at Catcher

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The Groundhog Effect: Ryan Howard Contract

Posted by Matthew Gephart, Wed, February 03, 2016 05:45 PM Comments: 3

20160203_165238After watching the 1993 cult classic Groundhog Day yesterday, over, and over again, I couldn’t help but thinking that the movie was a bit of foreshadowing on the life we Phillies fans live today.  Especially, when it comes to Ryan Howard.

Ryan Howard has officially played 1,460 regular season games in a Phillies uniform over 12 years.  After doing my share of research on the subject, that’s longer than Bill Murray spends in purgatory Groundhog hell.

That’s 6,169 plate appearances, 5,376 at bats, 1,729 strikeouts, 1,410 hits, 357 home runs, a sustained Achilles injury, and all while still not being able to learn to stay off pitches thrown outside the strike zone.

Now, I know we are all sick and tired of hearing about his unbearable contract deal, and how he hasn’t produced for the last couple of years.  Well we have bared the repetitiveness of the past Phillies for long enough.  Before you drive your car off a cliff, drop a toaster in your bath tub, jump in front of a car or off a building…I’m here to tell you that this will be our year.  We can finally get ourselves out of the Groundhog Day rut, and lift that Big Piece of weight off our shoulders.  With the final year in contract for Ryan Howard, the days are numbered to 162 with the Phillies.  And there’s always the chance it could be less.

Some people will look at the glass as half empty, if not you’ll look at the glass as half full, I bet you’re a glass empty kind of person.

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The fact of the matter is Ryan Howard has had those many days to get back to being an average baseball player just like Phil Connors in the movie.  On top of that, Ryan Howard still has some value.  He hit 23 home runs last year and 29 doubles on 107 hits.  Sure, his batting average was dismal, but that puts him tied for 5th in home runs among American League DH’s with 500 plate appearances.  He would be 4th in doubles which puts him one spot above Prince Fielder, and 8th in hits.

Perhaps we will see some news of Ryan digging himself a new hole in the AL come all-star break.  I would doubt that showing his shadow at spring training would interest enough teams to venture a whole year on him, but we can hope.  The Yankees, heck, even the Orioles, are hurting at first base which could even leave the possibility of him finding a platoon job somewhere else, but that doesn’t leave the Phillies with much to play with at first either.

No matter what the case turns out to be, Phillies fans are looking at the final year of the biggest contract mistake that left us in this day of repeat since.  And although the Phillies organization will not be able to fix everything in one day to keep us from waking up to the same thing tomorrow, at least we will be rid of the repeat that was Ryan Howard at the end of this season, and can look forward to the future at last.

I am always one for sentimental things.   I still enjoy watching the Big Piece smash a home run over the left-center wall in Citizens Bank like it was 2008 all over again.  I would live those days over, and over if I could.  Ryan Howard will always have a place in my heart, and on the wall of fame in Philadelphia.  Along with Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Brad Lidge, Carlos Ruiz, and the rest of the 2008 World Series Champions, the glory days will always be remembered with Ryan Howard as the Big Piece, and not the Big Contract.

Today is tomorrow, it happened.

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Phils deal former top prospect Biddle to Pirates

Posted by Jay Floyd, Wed, February 03, 2016 12:13 PM Comments: 4

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Jesse Biddle, image- Jay Floyd

Multiple reports confirm that the Phillies have traded left-handed pitcher Jesse Biddle to Pittsburgh in a deal with an undisclosed return at the time of this writing.

Biddle, 24, underwent off-season Tommy John surgery and will miss the entirety of the 2016 season.

The move seemed to be something that has been in the works from the Phillies side since they designated him for assignment, removing him from their 40-man roster last week.  With his extended injury time, placing him on the 60-day disabled list would have allowed the Phils to keep Biddle on their roster without having him take up valuable space there, as there are exceptions for ailing players.

The Philadelphia native has missed considerable time with injuries in recent years, including a concussion, elbow soreness as well as a knee issue and dealing with whooping cough for an extended stretch.

Pittsburgh could be an ideal place for Biddle to rebound, once healthy.  It’s become a popular destination for pitchers looking for a career resurgence under pitching coach Ray Searage.

In 2010, the Phillies made Biddle, a Germantown Friends School product, their top draft pick, taking him 27th overall on the 1st round.

Splitting his 2015 campaign between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Biddle tallied a 9-6 record with a 4.95 ERA and a .295 batting average against in 24 starts last season.  In 133 career games over eight seasons, the six-foot-five 235-pounder posted a 40-45 record with a 3.81 ERA and a .240 BAA.

Recently, the Phils have begun to acquire a collection of other left-handed talent, including Bobby LaFromboise who was selected off waivers from the Angels, signing minor league free agents Edgar Ibarra and Jeremy Bleich along with undrafted free agent Evan Crower, who played quarterback at Stanford.

*UPDATE*- The Phillies announced the deal this afternoon, confirming that they’ve received righty pitcher Yoervis Medina in the swap for Biddle.  Medina, a 27-year-old Venezuela native, sports a 10-9 record with a 3.08 ERA and a .222 batting average against in 146 big league relief appearances.  He pitched in 17 combined games with the Cubs and Mariners last season.

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Prospect Nation 2016: #4 RHP Mark Appel

Posted by Jay Floyd, Wed, February 03, 2016 09:05 AM Comments: 2

appel milbThe Astros’ decision to give up on the number one overall draft pick from 2013 could be a terrific blessing for the Phillies as righty hurler Mark Appel lands firmly among his new club’s top prospect rankings following this off-season’s trade that sent reliever Kenny Giles to Houston.

There is no question that there would be extremely high expectations of a guy selected number one in the MLB draft.  As such, some critics have already grown impatient with Appel’s progress.  Sporting a career 5.12 ERA in 2 1/2 professional seasons, the Stanford product will hope a change of scenery will assist with his efforts to show and prove that he is worthy of the high regard that made him the first player taken.

A tremendous college career in which he was honored as a multi-time All-American was topped off with a 4-0 record, three saves, a 0.90 ERA, a .203 batting average against and a 13.06 K/9 mark in nine games pitched in his senior season.

Following the 2013 draft, Appel made his minor league debut with Class A short-season Tri-City in the New York-Penn League.  In two starts there, he struck out six and walked none, allowing two earned runs in five innings pitched. Continue reading Prospect Nation 2016: #4 RHP Mark Appel

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Prospect Nation 2016: #5 Catcher Andrew Knapp

Posted by Jay Floyd, Tue, February 02, 2016 12:00 PM Comments: 3

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Andrew Knapp, image- Jay Floyd

Catcher Andrew Knapp really put himself on the map last year with a breakout season.  Notching an All-Star bid while posting terrific offensive numbers and obtaining organizational honors, the 24-year-old now looks primed to make an impact at the highest levels of the sport.

Knapp was the Phillies’ 2nd round draft choice out of the University of California and made his professional debut that year, tallying a .253 batting average with four home runs, 23 RBI and seven steals in 62 games for the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters.

That off-season, the righty throwing Knapp required Tommy John surgery to repair a damaged elbow.  He was back on the field by the following May, getting at bats, but sitting out on defense for some time to allow additional recovery for his elbow.  He joined the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers during the fifth week of the season.  It was mid-June by the time he would play on the defensive side of the game.

Upon joining the Threshers, Knapp struggled with the bat, posting a .157 average with a home run and seven RBI in 23 games. After a 5-for-48 (.104 avg) stretch that wrapped up on June 1st, Knapp was demoted to Class A Lakewood, where he would rebound offensively. In 75 games as a member of the BlueClaws, he posted a .290 batting average along with five homers and 25 RBI. Continue reading Prospect Nation 2016: #5 Catcher Andrew Knapp

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Phillies To Wear Red Jerseys In 2016

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, February 01, 2016 09:42 PM Comments: 1

The Phillies on Monday made an interesting announcement about the upcoming 2016 regular season:

Oh yeah. The Phillies have a new alternate jersey. It’s red. It’ll be worn six times – all home weekday games (Businessperson Specials) – and will pair with the home pinstripe pants. Here are the games where you can watch the boys don red shirts:

  • April 14 vs San Diego
  • May 18 vs Miami
  • June 8 vs Chicago Cubs
  • June 20 vs Arizona
  • July 6 vs Atlanta
  • Aug. 4 vs San Francisco

The jerseys are part of Majestic’s Flex Base uniform system, which feature “lighter weight twill technology and mesh panels on the sides of the jerseys, which reduce the overall weight of jerseys by 10-20 percent and enhance freedom of movement,” according to a press release. In fact, says the release, all of the Phillies jerseys will be Flex Base jerseys.

So apparently Aaron Altherr and Peter Bourjos can soar to catch fly balls at an even faster rate.

This will be the second time the Phillies will ever wear red jerseys. The first time was May 19, 1979. That night the Phils wore burgundy jerseys *and* pants, and called the ensemble the “Saturday Night Special” uniform, which was planned to be the alternate uniform starting in 1979. They were extremely special: public outcry was loud and strong, and the Phils dumped the jammies after one game.

As for these things? I’m not a fan of bright red (maybe the Reds can get away with it, but that’s it), but I can understand the urge to introduce a new look for an entirely new, youthful crop of ballplayers. I’d rather them try something totally different than the simple “Phillies” branding in a new color, or instead, just bring back the classic burgundy-era home pinstripe jerseys for special games.

The good news is the Phils will be retaining their sweet cream-colored alternates, which they introduced in 2008 and wear at home on weekend afternoons.

Although it is unlikely the Phillies will make the playoffs this season, the young team has talent and fans have a few things to get excited about.  If you think other teams have a good chance to win it all, consider placing a bet on the World Series winner.  The NL East was represented last year in the Fall Classic, will another team from the Phillies’ division make it back?

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Prospect Nation 2016: #6 OF Roman Quinn

Posted by Jay Floyd, Mon, February 01, 2016 03:35 PM Comments: 0

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Roman Quinn, image- Jay Floyd

Dating back to when he was selected by the Phillies as their second round draft choice out of Port St. Joe High School (FL)  in 2011, Roman Quinn has been a promising prospect that the team has high expectations for.  Now, as he reaches the upper levels of the pro ranks, the switch-hitting center fielder has become a buzz name to potentially take over a role in the big league outfield in the near future.

Quinn would make his pro debut as a 19-year-old with short-season Class A Williamsport in 2012, posting a .281 average with nine doubles, a league-leading 11 triples, one home run and 23 RBI while swiping 30 bases in 36 opportunities.

Those excellent offensive efforts came while learning to switch hit and adapting to a defensive switch to shortstop, after playing mostly outfield prior to signing his first pro deal.

Comfort was a big factor for Quinn in 2013, according to his Class A Lakewood coaches, who saw things get easier for the talented youngster at the plate as the season went on.  He got off to a rough start, batting .202 with a .556 OPS in 22 April games. In May, things began to look up, offensively, for Quinn, as he tallied a .304 average with an .874 OPS in 26 contests that month.  His season would not last much longer, as the Florida resident was hit by a pitch that resulted in a broken left wrist in June, ending his campaign with .238 average with seven doubles, three triples, five home runs and 32 stolen bases in 41 chances through 67 games.

Unable to compete in that autumn’s Florida Instructional League, due to the slow healing wrist, Quinn continued to work out and suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon while running sprints. Surgery came soon afterward and Quinn missed considerable time while recovering.

Originally expected to miss the majority of the 2014 season, Quinn, who is listed at five-foot-10, 170-pounds, was back on the field by mid-May and impressed many with the strides that he took.

Playing in 88 contests, the most he’s played in any of his three pro seasons to that point, for the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, Quinn returned to post a .257 batting average along with 10 doubles, three triples, seven home runs and 36 RBI. Continue reading Prospect Nation 2016: #6 OF Roman Quinn

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Prospect Nation 2016: #7 OF Cornelius Randolph

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sun, January 31, 2016 08:05 AM Comments: 6

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Randolph, image- Baseball Betsy

Selected with the 10th overall pick in last year’s draft as a shortstop out of Griffin High School in Georgia, Cornelius Randolph quickly placed among the Phillies’ top prospect rankings across many outlets.

In his senior season, Randolph drew loads of attention from pro clubs, posting great offensive numbers with a .533 average, seven home runs, 33 RBI and a 1.631 OPS in 26 games, leading his team into the state tournament.

Listed at five-foot-11, 205-pounds, the 18-year-old had a tremendous professional debut in 2015, posting a .302/.425/.442 slash line in 53 games for the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies.

Touted by scouting director Johnny Almaraz as the top high school bat in the country last year, the Phillies were very happy with their selection.  Armed with a quick bat, the lefty batting Randolph has the ability to hit for average as well as power.  A Clemson recruit out of high school, he is described as a patient hitter that has a good approach at the plate. Continue reading Prospect Nation 2016: #7 OF Cornelius Randolph

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