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2014 Top Moments: #5 Utley Starts in Minnesota

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Mon, October 20, 2014 02:30 PM Comments: 2

Photo: CBS Philly

Chase Utley bolted out of the gate in 2014, arguably peaking on May 26, ending the day with a .337/.394/.556 triple-slash line, in contention for the batting title. Utley’s tremendous start had him in the forefront of not just all MLB second baseman but also among the game’s best overall players. Fans across baseball were sending their message loud and clear through: Utley was the best second baseman in the National League.

Utley would be the Phillies’ lone All-Star representative in 2014, marking the first time the Phillies sent just one representative to the Mid-Summer Classic since 2003 when Randy Wolf was the only Phillie selected. His 2014 selection would make the sixth selection and sixth start for Utley. Utley would hit an RBI double off of Jon Lester, coming around to score on a double by the very next batter, the Brewers’ Jonathan Lucroy.

After May 26, Utley hit just .241/.315/.343 with seven homers and nine steals but his explosive run through May 26 had Phillies fans flocking to the voting booth, stuffing the ballot box for a 35-year old having a turn-back-the-clock year. Seeing Utley in the All-Star Game felt just like old times and for that, it was the #5 Phillies Top Moment of 2014.

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Arizona Fall League Interviews: Ray Burris

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Sat, October 18, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 0

On Monday October 13, I had some time to kill after arriving in Scottsdale for business and wandered over to Scottsdale Stadium, just a block from my hotel, where the Arizona Fall League was taking place. As luck had it, the Scottsdale Scorpions were playing and I was able to get press credentials. I conducted a number of interviews with some of the Phillies’ players and coaches who were in attendance. Come back each day to see the latest interview!

Ray Burris spent 15 years in the Major Leagues, spending time with the Cubs, Yankees, Mets, Expos, A’s, Brewers, and Cardinals. Still as lively as ever at age 64, Burris is now the pitching coach for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and the pitching coach for the Arizona Fall League’s Scottsdale Scorpions.

Ian Riccaboni, Phillies Nation: Ethan Stewart is a guy who got off to a real good start with six strikeouts in three-plus innings. What’s Ethan doing right now that is making him so effective?

Ray Burris: Well, the one thing that he’s doing is that he’s learned his delivery and how to repeat it. He’s a young man that has a lot of upside, he’s a big guy, left-handed on top of that. But understanding his delivery, what he has to do day in and day out, to make that work for him is key. He’s gotten off to a good start, hopefully he can maintain that and have a good season in the Fall League.

IR: There are a lot more Phillies than there have been in previous years, the last few years. Colton Murray is a guy who has been in the lower levels, Ryan O’Sullivan is a guy who is climbing up the ranks as well. What are guys like Murray and O’Sullivan looking to work on in the Fall League?

RB: Well, for a guy like Colton Murray it is learning how to control the strike zone and learning how to repeat his delivery. Most of these guys are learning how to repeat their delivery. What we’re doing with them is teaching them what it takes to know your delivery. If they don’t know their delivery, they can’t repeat it. That’s the first the step of their learning process down here. Continue reading Arizona Fall League Interviews: Ray Burris

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Arizona Fall League Interviews: Ethan Stewart

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Fri, October 17, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 0

On Monday October 13, I had some time to kill after arriving in Scottsdale for business and wandered over to Scottsdale Stadium, just a block from my hotel, where the Arizona Fall League was taking place. As luck had it, the Scottsdale Scorpions were playing and I was able to get press credentials. I conducted a number of interviews with some of the Phillies’ players and coaches who were in attendance. Come back each day to see the latest interview!

Ethan Stewart was the Phillies 47th round draft choice in 2010 out of New Mexico Junior College. The 6’7″ lefty native of British Columbia, Stewart and I talked about the importance of a good start, working with Ray Burris, and the difference in climates between British Columbia, Florida, and Arizona.

Ian Riccaboni, Phillies Nation: So, how does it feel to be in the Arizona Fall League with some of the top prospects in baseball?

Ethan Stewart: It’s pretty special. You get to pitch against and play with players who will be in the Major Leagues soon. It’s really special to be out here and it’s really fun.

IR: You’ve had six strikeouts through your first three-plus innings. How important was it for you to get off to a great start here in your first Arizona Fall League?

ES: I like to set a good impression. It’s nice to have that. I mean, I wouldn’t have wanted to start out struggling, you’d have to catch up and have to show yourself from there. Six strikeouts in three-plus innings is nice but I’m just trying to throw up zeroes.

IR: How cool is it to have Ray Burris here, the pitching coach at Lehigh Valley? (Burris is) someone in your system that you can almost pitch for and get advice from and work with. Continue reading Arizona Fall League Interviews: Ethan Stewart

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Re-Sign or Release: Cesar Jimenez

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Thu, October 16, 2014 02:15 PM Comments: 14

Photo: Philly.com

The Phillies currently have 12 players on their 40-man roster “in flux”. There are four outright free agents, six arbitration eligible players, and a pair of players with options. We will review each of the 12 players starting today, reviewing the case to either re-sign the player, the case to release the player, and the final verdict of what the Phillies should do for the 2015 season.

29-year old Cesar Jimenez became a mainstay of the Phillies bullpen in August. Jimenez started his 2014 with the IronPigs where he posted a 1.45 ERA in 38 appearances before rattling off 14 scoreless innings in the Majors with the Phils. The Venezuelan lefty seemingly jumped over the hump once and for all, improving his control, evident in his steep drop in his BB/9 IP and WHIP with the ‘Pigs.

Jimenez reached the Major Leagues for the first time as a 21-year old in 2006 with the Seattle Mariners and has been more successful specifically against lefties than righties (.310 OPB against lefties, .361 OBP against righties) in his stays in the Majors. Jimenez sits in the high 80s with his fastball but has about a 10 MPH difference between his fastballs and his change-up, his most successful pitch.

Despite making his debut in 2006, Jimenez is finally arbitration eligible after accumulating three years of Major League service time and Matt Swartz projects his arbitration salary at $600 K. At just a few hundred thousand above the MLB minimum, is Jimenez a guy you would bring back for 2015? Continue reading Re-Sign or Release: Cesar Jimenez

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Arizona Fall League Interviews: Roman Quinn

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Thu, October 16, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 0

RomanQuinn

Photo: Jay Floyd, Phillies Nation/Phoul Ballz

On Monday October 13, I had some time to kill after arriving in Scottsdale for business and wandered over to Scottsdale Stadium, just a block from my hotel, where the Arizona Fall League was taking place. As luck had it, the Scottsdale Scorpions were playing and I was able to get press credentials. I conducted a number of interviews with some of the Phillies’ players and coaches who were in attendance. Come back each day to see the latest interview!

The speedy Roman Quinn was the Phillies’ second round pick in 2011. The speedster stole 32 bases in 44 attempts in 2014, less than a year after rupturing his Achilles and is looking to continue to improve as he climbs the Phillies’ organizational ladder.

Ian Riccaboni, Phillies Nation: How is the Arizona Fall League treating you?

Roman Quinn: It’s been real good! I’ve been really looking forward to it. There’s good competition out here, especially pitching-wise. You get to face the highest level of pitching. It’s the highest level of pitching I’ve faced yet and I’m feeling pretty good.

IR: Any added expectations or pressure playing in the Arizona Fall League where you’re facing the top prospects?

RQ: There’s no added pressure to me. I’m just trying to get better to make up for lost time and get some at-bats.

IR: How is your Achilles doing? Your speed seemed to return (32 steals in 44 attempts in 2014) and you had good stolen base numbers. How’s that feeling for ya?

RQ: It’s feeling great, man! It’s back; it’s back to 100%! When I first started, when I first got back in May, it was kind of tight at first and my jumps were horrible. As the season progressed, it started loosening up a bit so I’m feeling pretty good.

IR: How comfortable are you in center field? You’ve been playing quite a bit of outfield and you’ve been playing outfield here in the AFL.

RQ: I’m very comfortable in the outfield right now. I feel like I’ve been getting good jumps and my arm really shows out there, too. Continue reading Arizona Fall League Interviews: Roman Quinn

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Re-Sign or Release: Kyle Kendrick

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Wed, October 15, 2014 01:30 PM Comments: 20

Photo: Philly.com

The Phillies currently have 12 players on their 40-man roster “in flux”. There are four outright free agents, six arbitration eligible players, and a pair of players with options. We will review each of the 12 players starting today, reviewing the case to either re-sign the player, the case to release the player, and the final verdict of what the Phillies should do for the 2015 season.

The champagne sprayed from the Phillies’ World Series win in 2008 dried just under six years ago. The 2014 Phillies, somewhat surprisingly, share a number of players from that club, including seven-year pitching veteran Kyle Kendrick. The Mount Vernon, WA-native won 10 games as a 22-year old during the Phillies’ improbable run to the playoffs in 2007 and won 11 for the 2008 World Champs but only appeared in just one game, a 10-5 shellacking at the hands of the Colorado Rockies in Game 2 of the 2007 NLDS.

Kendrick is often the forgotten or overlooked member of a core of the six Phillies that remain from the 2008 championship club and has been solid for the Phillies in a number of roles than spanned from accidental number two starter to Quad-A long man to pretty good swing man to middle-of-the-road starter. In his time with the Phillies, Kendrick’s 74 wins are, somewhat deceptively, more than R.A. Dickey, Matt Garza, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Scott Kazmir over the same period and his 1138.2 IP, despite missing a chunk of 2009 due to being demoted, are more than Annibal Sanchez, Hughes, and Homer Bailey.

Continue reading Re-Sign or Release: Kyle Kendrick

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Arizona Fall League Interviews: Logan Moore

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Wed, October 15, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 0

On Monday October 13, I had some time to kill after arriving in Scottsdale for business and wandered over to Scottsdale Stadium, just a block from my hotel, where the Arizona Fall League was taking place. As luck had it, the Scottsdale Scorpions were playing and I was able to get press credentials. I conducted a number of interviews with some of the Phillies’ players and coaches who were in attendance. Come back each day to see the latest interview!

Logan Moore is a 24-year old catcher who spent time in Clearwater before being promoted to Reading. A ninth-round selection out of Northeastern Junior College in Colorado,  Moore is known for his defensive work behind the plate but has been steadily improving with his bat, reaching career highs in homers, RBI, and SLG% in 2014.

Ian Riccaboni, Phillies Nation: What’s it like being selected to play in the Arizona Fall League with some of the top prospects in baseball?

Logan Moore: It’s a dream come true to be getting to the next level, the next step career-wise. It’s pretty awesome being with everyone here. Everyone’s really good competition and it’s been a lot of fun so far and I’m real happy to be here.

IR, PN: Hitting-wise, you took a big step forward in 2014 (four homers in Reading after being promoted, career-high .358 slugging). What do you attribute that to? Does it change from level to level?

LM: I think, as you keep playing in the system, you learn things, what you need to do. You come to the field, compete, and work. Basically, knowing and having a routine is a big thing for me. I mean, you can always be better. I just stick to a plan and work through it, try to get better.

IR, PN: The Phillies have drafted a few catchers in recent years with high draft picks including yourself. Is there any pressure knowing that there are other talented players, like yourself, Cameron Rupp being someone in the Triple-A level down through Andrew Knapp and Gabriel Lino?

 

Continue reading Arizona Fall League Interviews: Logan Moore

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Re-Sign or Release: Wil Nieves

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Tue, October 14, 2014 12:00 PM Comments: 18

Photo: USA Today

The Phillies currently have 12 players on their 40-man roster “in flux”. There are four outright free agents, six arbitration eligible players, and a pair of players with options. We will review each of the 12 players starting today, reviewing the case to either re-sign the player, the case to release the player, and the final verdict of what the Phillies should do for the 2015 season.

On December 5, 2013, the Phillies signed then-36-year old career back-up catcher Wil Nieves to a $1.125 million deal, two days after trading Erik Kratz to Toronto with Rob Rasmussen for reliever Brad Lincoln. Kratz has played well in a very small sample after Kansas City acquired him in July. Nieves didn’t do so bad, either. In 36 games, Nieves hit .254/.270/.344 with a homer but missed a substantial chunk of the season with a quad injury.

The Case For

Nieves, now 37, posted positive value (0.2 fWAR) for the Phillies in 2014, based mostly on their interpretation of his defensive skills. While other outlets, like Stat Corner, view Nieves’ defense, specifically, pitch framing ability as more neutral in 2014 in a small sample, Nieves carries with him a reputation as a strong defensive catcher.

Additionally, Nieves will likely again be able to be had for $1 million or so which isn’t an exorbitant price price for a back-up catcher, particularly one that is familiar with the pitching staff.

The Case Against

First, the obvious: Nieves is 37 and is coming off a series of quad injuries that slowed him down throughout 2014. Second, the other elephant in the room: Nieves isn’t much of a hitter and the Phillies have a slightly better hitter in Cameron Rupp, now 26, in sort of a Quad-A role with a decision needed whether or not he is their back-up catcher of the future after an injury-filled season in Triple-A. Finally, there are a number of intriguing buy-low options that are available: Geovany Soto, Ryan Doumit, John Buck, and J.P. Arencibia.

The Verdict

This one is actually kind of tough. Depending on how the back-up catcher market shakes down, you could do worse than Nieves as your back-up backstop for a cool million. Rupp struggled pretty mightily in 2014 but was playing through injuries. I would view Nieves as a late offseason insurance policy if he is still available in February.

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Arizona Fall League Interviews: Ryan O’Sullivan

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Tue, October 14, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 0

Ryan O'SullivanOn Monday October 13, I had some time to kill after arriving in Scottsdale for business and wandered over to Scottsdale Stadium, just a block from my hotel, where the Arizona Fall League was taking place. As luck had it, the Scottsdale Scorpions were playing and I was able to get press credentials. I conducted a number of interviews with some of the Phillies’ players and coaches who were in attendance. Come back each day to see the latest interview!

Ryan O’Sullivan is a 24 year old pitcher who the Phillies received from the Dodgers in exchange for Joe Blanton in 2012. O’Sullivan was the Dodgers’ fourth-round pick in 2011 and spent all of last season with the Reading Fightins where he went 7-8 with a 3.91 ERA with improved BB/9 IP and K/BB ratios.

Ian Riccaboni, Phillies Nation: What’s it like playing in the Arizona Fall League with some of the top prospects in baseball?

Ryan O’Sullivan: It’s fun. It’s funny, you know, I was talking to some of the guys, when you’re going through the season as a starter, you worry about the one through four or one through five hitters and you see the seven, eight, nine guys and you think “Ok, I might be able to cruise through this part of the line-up” but here, (seven, eight, nine) is a one, two, three, four hitter somewhere else so you really have to concentrate on every pitch. It’s been a lot of fun so far.

IR: Now, for baseball fans and folks who write about baseball, the opposing hitters’ names are really familiar. As a pitcher, do you have any concept of the other hitters as top prospects?

ROS: I mean, you kind of know who people are. The players that are here, you’ve played against at some point, some of them you’ve played with on different teams and things like that. Everybody’s here because their organization likes what what they are doing and everybody here is a prospect in a way so you know who they are. Some people you don’t know but those are the guys you know as this league goes along. I think everybody here has the ability to play in the Big Leagues and that’s what this league is for.

IR: Ray Burris is here of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (pitching coach). How nice is that to be able to work with someone in the organization while you’re getting work in in the fall?

ROS: Oh, it’s great. He’s a great guy; he’s awesome. He knows a lot about pitching but it’s not all about pitching with him. He pitched for I don’t know how many years; he pitched for a long time! Not only that but he’s a good guy off the field, too. He’ll take time to talk with you, very approachable and it’s huge that he’s with the Phillies so that while we’re out here we can showcase to him, especially because he’s the Triple-A guy and he’s been in the Big Leagues we can showcase our talent a bit. Hopefully, we can get to know him so that when the team needs to make a decision, he’s knows who we are.

IR: Logan Moore is here, your catcher. Do you have any special connection with Logan because he’s in the system or is the same as maybe working with a catcher from another system where you have to walk through your repertoire and your out pitch?

ROS: No, him and I definitely have a very close relationship. We were together this past season and the season before so there’s definitely a connection there. The other catchers here definitely have to learn what kind of stuff you have and what your tendencies on the mound are and stuff like that but when he’s catching me, it’s kind of like we’re back in season so we just get in the groove and go with it. He knows what I pitch and what I like to throw so it clicks a little faster.

The other catchers here are great, too. It doesn’t take long for a catcher to get to know his pitchers and we’re lucky to have the catchers we have.

IR: What’s the one thing you’re really focused on working on here in Arizona?

ROS: Here? Pound the strike zone. I’m a sinker ball pitcher and it’s not going deep into counts, just trying to get balls put in play early, throwing a lot of strikes, pounding the strike zone, being aggressive. I mean, stats count here a little bit but it’s not all based on that. It’s based on trying to get better with what you’re doing, get better at your craft, and get seen by some people.

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Quinn’s Speed Propels Scottsdale to AFL Win

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Tue, October 14, 2014 12:53 AM Comments: 0

Center Fielder Roman Quinn

In front of a crowd with as many scouts as fans, speedster Roman Quinn led off, played center field, and went 1 for 4 with a stolen base en route to a 2-1 win for the Scottsdale Scorpions at Scottsdale Stadium.

Before the game, I talked to Quinn, who stated that his Achilles is “100%” and that he was looking forward to facing the best competition he has ever faced. Quinn had two at-bats from each side of the plate, helping him address his main goal of the AFL: becoming a switch hitter.

Quinn’s lone hit came in his second at-bat from the right side, a dribbler about five feet up the third base line, the first hit for the Scorpions. Quinn would get an amazing break on two straight pitches, one a foul ball, the second a walk for the Scorpions. Quinn would misread a flyball to center from second base but was able to tag anyways and easily beat out a throw from center. Quinn scored easily on passed ball to put Scottsdale up 1-0.

Quinn looked solid in the field, taking a great route to a sixth inning ball hit to the left center field gap, cutting what should have been a sure triple and keeping it to a double. Quinn took a solid route to a fly ball and fielded another can of corn. Quinn’s speed was on full display in the bottom of the seventh with Quinn stealing second easily with a good jump and a bad throw.

Quinn wasn’t the only Phillie to get in on the action. Colton Murray, a 2011 13th rounder out of the University of Kansas, got out of a jam created by Tyler Mizenko in the bottom of the eighth inning, retiring the only hitter he faced, earning a hold and preserving the Scorpions 2-1 lead.

Phillies pitcher Adam Morgan is scheduled to pitch Wednesday night for Scottsdale. Please check back tomorrow for the first of our five exclusive Arizona Fall League interviews.

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