Keith Law on the Phillies' Future

Posted by Paul Boye, Fri, December 10, 2010 05:00 PM | Comments: 121
Odds And Ends, Posts, Prospecting

Earlier this week in Florida, I had the opportunity to speak with ESPN’s Scouts Inc.’s senior baseball analyst Keith Law on a few odds and ends about the Phillies.

While it may still be safe to say the Phillies are in their “golden age,” it’s always prudent to keep a diligent watch on the team’s future. How will the aging core of veterans hold up? Is there really anything wrong with Domonic Brown? Are Jarred Cosart and Jon Singleton for real? We can speculate all we like, but to get a professional opinion, I asked Mr. Law for his take on a few things.

Traveling back in time to June for a second, we remember the Phillies having the 27th overall pick in the Rule 4 Amateur Draft. At the time of their pick, a few high-profile picks had slipped and remained available. The Phillies bypassed those players, including LSU righty Anthony Ranudo, picking local high-school left-hander Jesse Biddle instead.

“[Ranaudo] cost twice what the Phillies were going to pay at their slot,” Law said. Ranaudo, being a Scott Boras client, came with the stigma (of sorts) of having his representation be one of the most powerful men in sports. “When you draft a Boras player, you don’t immediately get the player, you get Boras.”

For a team that deals mostly in young, projectable talent with raw tools, Biddle seemed to be the more natural fit. After signing for $1.16M, less than half of Ranaudo’s $2.55M bonus from Boston 12 picks later, and posting some solid appearances in rookie ball, Biddle looks to be a very early bargain.

That wasn’t always meant to be, though. The hometown kid has a chance to play for the local club, but he wasn’t the Phils’ first choice.

“I know for a fact the Phillies wanted [Westlake H.S. 1B/OF Christian] Yelich. If the Marlins didn’t take him a few picks before, the Phillies were going to,” Law said. Yelich, who went 23rd to Florida for $1.7M, hit .362/.400/.468 in 47 professional ABs in 2010.

As for the most popular Phillies prospect, things have been a bit rougher. Domonic Brown was recently shipped back stateside after batting an ugly .069/.182/.103 in winter ball, though in just 29 ABs. Coupled with similarly lackluster play in an equally small sample at the Big League level, this cold streak of Dom’s has caused some panic, in spite of its relative lack of meaning, but Dom’s early departure from the winter league is not all that uncommon or damning.

“It happens all the time,” Law said. “There’s nothing to worry about.

“You get these sorts of struggles with power hitters…The guy is still a top-five player. He has a swing that should produce 20-plus homers.”

At just 23, Brown is easily the youngest position player on the projected 25-man roster for 2011. His struggles, while not good, certainly don’t spell doom-and-gloom for what should be a very bright future.

“He’s so gifted, and if he were 25 or so, it may be different,” Law said. “But at 22-23, it’s far too early to think about writing him off.”

Speaking of youngsters, teenage sensation Jon Singleton turned heads this summer when he hit .423/.494/.704 for Lakewood in May, and wasn’t going to turn 19 until the middle of September.

“I like his swing,” Law said. “I think it will produce contact and power, and he has the potential to be a well-above-average Major League player.”

The big question surrounding Singleton, though, is where he’ll fit on the Big League club, should he still be around when the time comes for his promotion. Ryan Howard’s contract extension carries him through the 2016 – and possibly 2017 – season, so Singleton would need to learn a different position if he were to be ready for a call-up before age 26. Can he handle the outfield? Law thinks so.

“I like to think he can handle left field. He’s young and athletic enough.

“He could probably handle right field, too, but the Phillies probably won’t try him there because they’ll have Domonic Brown.”

So, for a couple of players, at least, the future still seems bright. As for one member of the core, things may need to change in order for him to stay on the field and stay effective.

Chase Utley has now endured two hand injuries – including one that needed surgery – and hip surgery since 2007, two vital components in a hitter’s swing and power stroke. Utley, when healthy, is likely to still be an elite player in 2011. Even when he’s been dinged up in the past, Chase has found a way to remain among the top position players in the league. As Utley turns 32 this month, his health becomes even more of a concern than it has in the past, and handling his workload becomes critical.

“Maybe he should only be playing 130-135 games in the field,” Law said. “They should take the approach that the club should decide when he gets time off, not his body, and consider giving him one game off per week, minimum.”

That strategy seems a little jolting, considering how accustomed Phillies fans have become to seeing Utley in the starting lineup every day he’s healthy, but seems prudent upon reflection. Perhaps Charlie Manuel has ridden Utley so hard because of the lack of a suitable backup in the past, but even if that remains the case in 2011, the preservation of Utley’s career should be a priority.

“I don’t know if we’re past the point of calling him a top-five player,” Law said. “But there are questions about being able to keep him on the field.

“I’d like to say he could bounce right back and have an MVP season, but I’m trying to be realistic.”

Things look a bit brighter for another star, 2010 N.L. Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay. Though Halladay will turn 34 next May, there seems to be little thought that he’ll be slowing down soon. For starters, his legendary work ethic and conditioning programs seem to have Doc set up for a continued run of success.

“He’s durable and he’s athletic, but his body control is even better than his athleticism,” Law said. “He knows and controls every muscle in his body.”

It’s not every day you hear talk of pitchers being in such advanced command not only of their stuff, but of their bodies. Halladay, in his 250.2 innings pitched this season, walked just 30 batters. He’s just the seventh pitcher since 1901 to pitch at least 250 innings in a season and walk 30 or fewer batters in the process, and it’s all a result of this sort of “total command” Doc seems to have.

Halladay and his shiny, new Cy Young Award are two of the bright spots for this coming Phillies season. In a season that’s sure to have its questions – surrounding Brown, Utley or others – and celebrations – another “H2O” year of Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt in the starting rotation – the Phillies will look to retain their hold on the N.L. East as the teams around them make moves to catch up.

You can read more from Keith Law on his Insider blog on ESPN, as well as his (mostly) weekly chat archive. You can also check out some non-baseball thoughts and musings on food, music and board games at his personal blog, The Dish. Our thanks to Keith for his time and answers.

Avatar of Paul Boye

About Paul Boye

Paul Boye has written 58 articles on Phillies Nation.

  • Posts: 0 betasigmashag

    I really think Ben Fran is our starting RF on opening day, and if then in May or June if it is not working out they look for a trade before the dead line. And I think that is the right way to go about it unless you find a long term solution to RF like on of the Uptons, or maybe Braun from the Brewers. If they can find someone younger and cheaper for at least the next 3/4 years than I do not think there are better options for stop gap solutions then Ben Fran.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    I agree. I think Ben Fran deserves his shot. The man DID produce for Cleveland before he came over here and it was with considerably more playing time. Unless you can make a huge move with either an Ordonez or a Beltre, Francisco is the way to go because who else out there is really better than him? I’d like to see more of Gload, too, and Ruben said that Gload could see more ABs.

  • Posts: 0 betasigmashag

    Really Mike another 35 plus year old I say now have to look younger

  • Posts: 0 betasigmashag

    Chuck did you see the few times I think it was two that he played RF, no thank you if he is an option for the outfield you better hope Doc is pitching a perfect game, can any ball to RF will be an adventure, you all give Raul a bunch of crap for his fielding, he is a gold glover compared to Gload, Maybe it means Ryan is going to have a few days off

  • Posts: 0 betasigmashag

    the post before is suppose to say No on Mike Cameron now it is time to look younger

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Ben Fran was pretty decent when Sizemore went down and he got to play everyday, but he played at the top of the line-up and produced as a gritty chippy player at the plate rather than as a guy who could handle the bat situationally and drive in runs. The Phils have two players like that named Rollins and Victorino and we are desperately in need of a guy who drive in some runs not just go up and hack with guys on base.

    We’re not signing Beltre, he didn’t want to come here last year and we have our hot corners set and there’s no way you move Utley from second and ask him to run around the outfield any time soon. Did Jeff Kent get moved to LF? Not once and he was a hell of a lot older than Utley

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Kent got moved to first base, NJ. Even better. Whats so “gritty” or “chippy” about Rollins and Vic? Because they’re short and fast? Mark Lemke, Wally Backman, Scott Podsednik, Brett Butler were “chippy players”. True grinders. Rollins and Vic don’t grind. To me, “chippy” (like the word), to me, means guys that walk, bunt, work the count, stick their hip out to get hit by a pitch, hit the ball the other way, give themselves up, etc. The Glimmer Twins don’t do none those things. Chase is “chippy”. We need chippy players, too. Chooch is “chippy”….kinda.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    I meant to say “any of those things”….not “none”. Sorry.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    I get your point Dipsy on Rollins and Vic. I think Vic is certianly gritty but I more meant their approach at the plate and swing, Ben Fran is very similar in his swing whereas we’re desperate for a guy who sees the pitch, lets it come to him and tries to put it where the situation dictates.

    Looking at Kent’s page he sporadically played at 1st but looks like he played less than 50 games there after turning 32 and retiring at 40. Utley is a 2nd basemen and he isn’t going all Chuck Knobbly on us so I really don’t understand the rush to move him.

  • Posts: 0 psujoe


    I didn’t say trade Lidge in a vacuum. It could’ve been one piece in a large puuzzle. For example,

    This is just an example of why I would like to know what Phils could get for Lidge.

    Phils could’ve signed Downs for 3/15 and he or Madson could close. That would only make sense if you could get a nice return for Lidge that you then package with prospects to get the RH OF bat. The 7.5 million you save then goes for a new #5 starter, another high end bull pen arm, next years salary or an offset to the new RH bat.

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Madson would be a great closer for us if he only got the chance… Oh wait

  • Posts: 0 Mike N

    Cameron’s only got one more year on his contract, he has good platoon splits, and because his salary is relatively high we probably wouldn’t have to pay a lot in prospects. He would just be a stop gap, not a long-term investment. I like him as a righty bat/platoon guy who won’t hurt us defensively. I’m also ok with Ben Fran, it’s just that there’s been a lot of buzz about adding another righty. If they do that, I’d like to look at Cameron.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    I thought “chippy” referred to a certain type of woman. Urban Dictionary says, “a female prostitute, especially a young and inexpensive one.” If I was an athlete I’m not sure I would want to be referred to as chippy…even if it is a different definition.

  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    NJ, I agree on Madson, but between him and Downs or Soriano I think the Phils would be fine. If the return on Lidge doesn’t help you get an upper level RH RF then pass, but the Phils desperatley need a 5 hole hitter from the right side, IMO.

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    When it comes to relievers it has to be a hold fast and keep your eye on the prize for next year when the landscape of relief pitching could completely change including Lidge and Madson.

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    Eh, I’d sign Bill Hall as a roving utility player. We need a guy like that to fill in, because the core guys get injured a ton now. Just might as well bring in willingham on a trade. Why not? Hed be more than serviceable.

    Still want Greinke, did you see some jackarse made up that we got Grienke by posing as Jon Heyman and tweeting it the other day? Aggravating.

    And PLEASE no more Chad Durbin. I’d rather go and call Jose Mesa out of retirement and suffer through that again.

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    Some of these ideas are absurd. Might as well sign Cliff Lee and then release him the next day while we are it it. Then follow it up by releasing Ryan Howard and signing Jim Thome to a 25 year, 500 million dollar deal, and then releasing him the day day, and playing the season with Andy Tracy at 1B

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    NJ – Respectfully, I don’t think that either is particularly “gritty” in his plate approach either. Neither is selective. Neither hits the ball where its pitched. Vic has a horrible swing I can’t believe he ever hits anything. Its just so hard to be an offensive catalyst where your OBP is so low. Offensively, to me, they’re just competent, short guys that can really run.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    No Durbin, in fact no more righty relievers. The next righty should come from the farm. Have to start using some younger players and Schwimmer, Mathiason or Defratus one has should make it.

  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    LOL on my English. Sorry, doing some legacy coding on a job and got side tracked.

  • Posts: 0 brooks

    beta,, Chuck – what has Ben done in the past that would warrant a chance as an everyday starter?

    I’m sorry, I don’t see anything appealing about his power or average that would tell me he is an upgrade from what we currently have but then again, if Raul starts to tank again, I sure would not mind an influx of Ben or whomever to pick up. Even Ben’s .250 – .260 average with mid teen home run potential is better than what Raul gave us for the first part of the season last year.

    Hey, we’re all guilty of this to some degree – seeing more into the player than what he has given us. But really guys, there is not much going on with Ben nor will there be while he is playing for the Phils (I hope).

  • Posts: 0 George

    Psujoe, you asked what we could get for Lidge, and I offered my opinion. When I replied, you hadn’t said anything about “one piece in a puzzle.” My feeling is that Lidge wouldn’t bring back much of anything right now because of his soon-to-end contract, and the fact that Soriano is still out there. If Lidge could be traded, it also would create a puzzle I don’t think could be solved. The prospects you’d get would have to be added to other higher end prospects to get that coveted bat, and you’d still have the closer vacancy. Moving Madson doesn’t fix that, because he’s never shown he can do it, and if he could, then you’d have to find a set-up man. Moving Contreras to Madson’s spot would require finding a seventh inning guy…you get what I’m driving at?

    There are those minor league guys, I suppose, but guys like Mathieson or DeFratus probably should be eased into the job with some middle relief.

    I’ll agree with Dipsy that Soriano can be excellent, but he’s had too many injuries for my liking. Let someone else sign him. And Downs has very little closing experience and only about a 50% save rate. Even in Lidge’s bad years, he did better than that.

    That’s why I said trading Lidge doesn’t qualify as an option.

  • Posts: 0 George

    Is everyone afraid the Phils’ lineup won’t produce ever again? It’s not like Ben Fran is going to stall out the entire team.

  • Posts: 0 brooks

    George, considering Ben to replace Raul or even play RF would mean there is a break somewhere in the lineup.

  • Posts: 0 Paul Boye

    It doesn’t matter if Chase would be a better LF than Ibanez. A) We don’t know if he would be for certain and B) he’s the best 2B in baseball both ways. LF is no less taxing on the body than 2B. You’d just be robbing the defense of stellar D at a premium position.

  • Posts: 0 brooks

    So Paul, when do you just want to scream?

  • Posts: 0 George

    Big deal, a “break somewhere in the lineup.” Loads of other teams have more than one, including the World Champion Giants. Everybody is panicking because they’re used to Werth being here. It’s time to just get over it; Ben Fran isn’t like having Danys Baez up there swinging the bat.

    Look back a few years to when Werth wasn’t yet in a Phils uniform. I think you’ll find the team still scored a ton of runs.

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Paul…, respected contributor, I will say it again. Placido Polanco is a gold glove second baseman! So you don’t lose any D. Thats one of the reasons this might make sense if our only RH bat comes in the form of a third baseman. If you don’t like it for another reason, I’m all ears. LF IS less taxing on the body. And less taxing on the mind. I suspect that you don’t like it because it just “sounds weird” or something. I asked you a question, sir: Do you think that if Chase Utley picked up the position today, that he would be a better LFer than Ibanez come opening day?

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Brooks

    Easy big guy.. I just hope there will be better options for us than Ben and I dont really suppose we minded getting spoiled with the most potent lineup in baseball today.

    Last year I was actually in shock that the Phils did not do better offensively. No, more a broken man when they failed to score time and time again. Maybe I saw the Phils and what they have become, older, slower – or perhaps the underlying sentiment on this blog is totally incorrect and the Phils just had a bad go offensively and they’ll be back.
    That’s when I start to see Red.

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Brooks, if Adam Zimmerman were available would you consider such a move?

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Or would you just trade Polanco?

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Lefty

    Dipsy, -Who is Adam Zimmerman? Ryan Zimmerman?

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Hahashsahaha. Ryan. My bad. Yeah – him. I went to school with Adam.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Is Chase Utley REALLY the best 2B in baseball? According to several top 10 lists, which rank based on both offense and defense, Utley is #1.


    If you just look at defense alone, he’s actually near the bottom with fielding pct among those that are listed.

    Just fielding pct. alone here you go:

    1) Placido Polanco — 13 seasons/.993
    2) Dustin Pedroia — 5 seasons/.990
    3) Brian Roberts — 10 seasons/.987
    4) Brandon Phillips — 9 seasons/.987
    5) Aaron Hill — 6 seasons/.987
    6) Orlando Hudson — 9 seasons/.986
    7) Robinson Cano — 6 seasons/.985
    8) Chase Utley — 8 seasons/.982
    9) Clint Barmes — 6 seasons/.982
    10) Jose Lopez — 5 seasons/.981
    11) Dan Uggla — 5 seasons/.980
    12) Ian Kinsler — 5 seasons/.978

    Yes, our golden boy, Chase Utley, has the same fielding pct as Clint Barmes and is only 2 points above someone who we have destroyed at times on here, none other than Dan Uggla.

    Why is it that whenever Chase Utley is mentioned in a negative light that people discount that….as if the man can do no wrong? Everyone puts him up on some sort of pedestal and it becomes sickening at times. He’s our very own Teflon pan, I suppose.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love Chase Utley. His work ethic. His approach to the game. He’s a nice guy. The ladies love him, I guess, because of his butt (that’s what I’ve heard anyway).

    The point is and the question is………Is Chase Utley REALLY the best DEFENSIVE 2B in baseball?

  • Posts: 0 Lefty

    Brooks, The underlying sentiment is on this blog is totally incorrect. What happened was 2008, and particularly 2009 were spectacular years.

    In 2010 the Phillies scored the second most runs in the NL. And everyone thinks the offense stunk.

    IMO -In reality we are in the midst of a pitchers era, and for the most part what you saw is what you’ll get. I think that’s why we hear rumors of RAJ attempting to further bolster our pitching staff. I see the big boys doing a little better this year, but guys like Ruiz may fall off, and Vic and JRoll about the same. That’s why I believe it is important to replace Werth’s RH bat.

    But if the club says it can’t afford a big $ replacement, and makes no moves in that direction, then as George said we have to just get over it and move on with what we have. -the second highest scoring team in the NL.

  • Posts: 0 Lefty

    I believe Utley is one of the top three defensive 2b in the league. He obviously had some weird jitters thing throwing to first in the playoffs this year, either that or Arnold Rothstein got to him.

    But overall, I would throw out anyone with less chances (i.e. years) when looking at fielding %- If you do that on your list he is fifth.

    Then add in the spectacular plays made, range, put outs, assists etc. etc. I would not move Utley from second until he requests it, or he really starts looking bad on a consistent basis. Just my take.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff of Nova

    Chuck the answer is no he is not, but when he is healthy he is the best all-around 2B. That includes his ability to make the dynamic play like in the WS throw home that saved the game. He is one of the smartest players in the game!

    Chase will be at 2B dor sometime. they have no plans to move him.

    I am going to bet Charlie and RAJ are going to go into spring training with Ben and possibly Dom Brown as the platoon set up. Ross Gload is PH that is all he is not good out of that enviroment.

    We all take about Ben not being able to replace Werth, well my question is why does he have to? Werth had a great year last year and was one of the only consistent guys in our lineup and healthy ones at that. He was making up for the absence of JRoll, Utley, Howard. Pretty sure the management is not planning on having them out most of the year.

    We have never given Ben a chance as a regular player and when he was traded here he was on path to being a regular player in Cleveland, decent numbers in a crappy lineup.

    After reading everything on here, a lot of people seemed more enamored but what they have done in the past. Ordonez, Cameron, Beltre etc.

    We hear we need to get younger, well Ben is 29 not 30 till Oct. I can see our OF Ben, Vic, Brown in 2012.

    I would love Ordonez for what he was, but we won a WS because we had young unproven players step up in 08 Werth, Vic, Hamels, Ruiz

    moral of the story for me is that there is no reason to move staples of our lineup to add someone who was good a couple of years during contract years(Beltre)

    My prediction opening day lineup

    I would be shocked if it looked any different than that.

    No its not the sexy lineup we all want with the big RH bat from FA, but its time for Utley, Howard to earn their contracts

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Lefty – Respected poster. Chase is a good fielding second baseman and that is it. Do I advocate moving everybody around to fit in Adrian Beltre? Unless Beltre wants to come here and will be reasonable (3y30-33m), then “no”. But I believe that the people who say that it can’t be done and that it shouldn’t be done are wrong. In short, I say it can but before the team decides to go through all the machinations of moving everyone around the field, there should be a damn good reason.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Jeff of Nova

    Well said Dipsy,

    I think alot of peeps here play too much MLB 2k, playing a video game and switching positions is easy but there are so many more dynamics in real life

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Jeff of Nova, I agree with your point about the big plays. But you could make an argument that a lot of 2B in baseball can make similiar plays. (although the throw home play in the WS was in a class all by itself)

    Lefty, using your logic of years served, you have left Pedroia and Cano off the list. Those are two of the best in the game today.

    My list clearly shows that Chase Utley is a very good second baseman, but not the best in baseball as some of you on here are suggesting.

  • Posts: 0 Lefty

    Dipsy- It would be an enormous understatement to say that you are the best on PN for thinking outside the box, and I appreciate that. Naysayers are always going to be there, especially when a concept is new or uncomfortable. Your articles/ comments make people think and cause the most hits on the site. That’s both good for lively debate and for business.

    You asked Brooks, but I’ll butt in and answer anyway. If you could magically make it Ryan Zimmerman and instead of Beltre. I’d do it in a flash, Utley to left. Under no other circumstance would I consider it right now.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff of Nova

    Yeah if we had Zimmerman I would make that move too, but that is a dream amoung dreams

  • Posts: 0 Lefty

    Chuck, I’m only leaving them off under the likelyhood of the “Law of averages” which implies they will go down in % as their number of fielding chances go up. They are both very good.

    Utley is indeed a teflon man here for sure, but I’ll stand by what I said before- given all aspects of his fielding, he is one of the top three second basemen in Majors right now.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff of Nova


    I will support you on that… Utley is definitely one of the top 3 2b in Baseball!

    Now if he has another year like last, that may change, but I don’t see that happening

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Guys…Lefty and Jeff of Nova….No he’s not. Not based on defense alone. Factor in offense and some of the special plays (which they all make) and I’ll say he’s in the top 5. Bust based on defense by itself, which I believe started this whole debate, he in the middle of the pack among the Top 10 or 12.

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Hey, thanks Lefty. What a nice thing to say. Can you me an address where I can send the check :)

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Lefty

    Chuck, I guess we’re not going to break this stalemate, but as always I appreciate your baseball IQ. My opinion is based solely on what I see and perceive, but if you believe in stats like UZR, Chase was the top second baseman in regular season 2010. I wouldn’t go that far but they do.

    I know UZR is not perfect, I’ll admit I’m not even sharp enough to say I totally understand it! But surely the folks at fangraphs know something.


  • Posts: 0 Lefty

    Haha Dipsy, I accept paypal.

  • Posts: 0 Bart Shart

    Bill Hall may be the best all-round utility player available. He can play all infield and outfield positions. He bats right handed and has some power. I think he would fit in well if we cannot get a legitimate right handed bat for the outfield, which at this point does not look that good.

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    Thank you, Utley isnt even the best 2B on his own team! And all around, Phillips and Pedroia are better at this point. Utley is no longer the best in the game, but he once was absolutely the best. Now, top 10 is about fair if he can stay healthy.

    Meanwhile. They really need a better plan in RF than Brown/Francisco/Gload. That is just dreadful. I’d even settle for a one year deal with Magglio at this point, even though it would make us older.

Leave a Comment

>> Create a new Phillies Nation account.
>> Already registered with Phillies Nation? Log in here.
>> Comment without logging in:

Please ensure your comments comply with our Comment Policy.