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Offseason

Franco wraps up Dominican League in torrid fashion

Posted by Jay Floyd, Mon, January 26, 2015 03:35 PM Comments: 10

franco

Maikel Franco, image- Jay Floyd

Phillies prospect Maikel Franco wrapped up an excellent off-season campaign in the Dominican Republic on Sunday, helping his team, the Gigantes, lock down the Dominican Winter League championship with a 3-for-4 effort that included a grand slam, a solo homer and seven total RBI.

Through 38 regular season games, the six-foot-one 180-pounder posted a .272 average with eight doubles, seven home runs and 29 RBI. His homer total was tied for second in the league.

Franco wrapped up the postseason with four home runs and 16 RBI to go along with his .337 average in 22 games.

The 22-year-old split his time evenly between first base and third base for the Gigantes through much of his time there. Continue reading Franco wraps up Dominican League in torrid fashion

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Prospect Nation 2015: #18 IF/OF Odubel Herrera

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sat, January 24, 2015 08:30 AM Comments: 20

Odubel MILBcom

Odubel Herrera, image- MiLB.com

Selected by the Phillies last month in the big league portion of the annual MLB Rule 5 draft, muti-positional prospect Odubel Herrera is primed to make the team’s opening day big league roster.

The 23-year-old Venezuelan spent this off-season proving the Phils were right when they plucked him from the Rangers’ system.  With a league-leading .372 average, six homers, 27 RBI and eight stolen bases in 58 games for La Guaira, Herrera was named the Venezuelan Winter League Most Valuable Player as well as the league’s Rookie of the Year.

In the summer of 2008, Herrera signed for a reported bonus of $160,00 at the age of 16.  He would begin his pro career the follow year in the Dominican Summer League.  Herrera moved at a steady pace in the Texas developmental ranks, but was behind some of the Rangers’ other top young infielders (Hanser Alberto, Rougned Odor and Jurickson Profar) on their depth chart, making him expendable to that club. Continue reading Prospect Nation 2015: #18 IF/OF Odubel Herrera

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Report: Brewers interested in Papelbon

Posted by Jay Floyd, Fri, January 23, 2015 02:21 AM Comments: 31

According to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan, the Brewers are in serious discussions with the Phillies to acquire right-handed relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon.

The 34-year-old is owed $13 million for the coming season with a vesting option for the same amount in the following year, if he finishes 48 games in 2015.  Papelbon, who was acquired by the Phillies as a free agent following the 2011 season, has a limited no-trade clause.

Last season, Papelbon tallied a 2-3 record with 39 saves and a 2.04 ERA in 66 appearances.

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What Will the Phillies’ Opening Day Lineup Look Like?

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Wed, January 21, 2015 02:28 PM Comments: 22

The Phillies will go into the 2015 season without Jimmy Rollins for the first time in 14 years, so how will this affect the starting lineup on opening day against the Red Sox? Here’s what I think the Phillies’ opening day lineup will look like.

050113_ben-revere_6001. Let’s start at the top, where there’s no question that Ben Revere will again be the everyday leadoff hitter in 2015. Since joining the Phillies in 2013, Revere has played 165 games in the leadoff position, and has a career .288 batting average with a .321 on-base percentage batting leadoff. Last season, Revere finished with a .306 batting average, and was in contention for the NL batting title in September, but eventually fell to fifth. What makes Revere such a valuable leadoff hitter is his ability to hit both left-handed and right-handed pitching. Revere finished with a .291 batting average against righties, and an even better .341 against lefties. His speed is also a valuable asset to have at the top of the lineup, but if Revere can work on anything it’s his plate discipline. Revere finished the 2014 season with only 13 walks, putting him towards the bottom amongst leadoff hitters. To put that number into perspective, Jimmy Rollins worked 11 walks in 74 at-bats, while Revere only worked 13 in 547.

041312-freddy-galvis-4002. This is one of the biggest question marks going into the 2015 season; who will bat second? Ryne Sandberg will likely experiment with several different players in this spot in the lineup, but for opening day, I believe Freddy Galvis will get the nod. With Jimmy Rollins now a Dodger, Galvis will likely be the major beneficiary, and get most of the starts at shortstop this season. In his career batting second, Galvis has a .216 batting average in 51 at bats. What makes him an attractive option in the two-hole, however, is the fact that he is a pull hitter from the left side of the plate. In his career, Galvis has a .342 batting average when pulling the ball as a LHB. If Revere is able to make it to first in front of him, there will be a huge gap open on the right side for Galvis, and if that’s the case, the Phillies could see plenty of first and third, no out situations.

092812_utley-throwing_4003. As still the best overall hitter on the Phillies, I expect Chase Utley to return to his usual spot in the lineup on opening day. Utley has played 980 total games batting third, and has a career .283 batting average, a .372 on-base percentage, and has 602 total RBIs. Last season, Utley played 146 games from the three-hole, and finished with a .274 batting average while driving in 77 RBIs. This is a no brainer for Sandberg since the three spot in the lineup is reserved for a team’s best hitter. Utley is still the team’s best overall hitter, so he belongs there, no questions asked. Continue reading What Will the Phillies’ Opening Day Lineup Look Like?

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Amaro: It Would “Probably be Better” for Phillies to Cut Ties With Slugger

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Mon, January 19, 2015 02:11 PM Comments: 32

There has been plenty of speculation in regards to Phillies’ first baseman Ryan Howard’s future with the Phillies. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. himself spoke about Howard’s future with the club on 97.5 The Fanatic.

Ryan-Howard“We talked to Ryan, and I told him that in our situation, it would probably be better for the organization not with him, but without him. With that said, if he’s with us, then we’ll work around him. We’ll hope he puts up the kind of numbers that we hope he can, and we’ll see where it goes from there,” said Amaro.

Howard struggled last season with a batting average of .223, and on-base percentage of .310, and a career-low slugging percentage of .380. It has been no secret that Howard’s production has declined dramatically since the 2011 season, as the once feared slugger has averaged just 16 home runs, about 65 RBIs, and a batting average of .236 over the last three seasons.

To Howard’s credit, he missed a lot of time due to injuries, playing only 304 games over the last three seasons combined. However, at 35 years old, Howard is no-longer the player he once was, and with the injuries combined with his deteriorating skill set, Howard’s production has taken a major hit.

Ryan Howard after tearing his Achilles in the 2011 NLDS AP Photo/Alex Brandon

As much as the Phillies and their fans would love to move on from Howard, the slugger is owed $25 million the next two seasons, and finding a team that wants him has been difficult for the organization.

At this point, the Phillies are better off going into the season with Howard as their first baseman, and hope that he can produce enough to find a suitor by the trade deadline.

Before the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association’s annual banquet last Friday, Amaro spoke to the Philadelphia Daily News about the upcoming season for Howard. ”He’s a more productive player than anybody else we have there right now,” Amaro said. “But that could change. But he’s going to get every opportunity to play and be our first baseman, and I think that he’s going to be productive. Will he be productive enough to be part of what we want to do moving forward? We’ll see.”

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Number of Walks Key for Phillies’ Bullpen in 2015

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Wed, January 14, 2015 05:52 PM Comments: 1

The Phillies had very few bright spots during the 2014 season. However, the biggest bright spot was the bullpen, which finished ninth in MLB with a 4.3 WAR among bullpens.

The Phillies’ bullpen was pretty average in terms of ERA, ranking 18th in MLB with an overall ERA of 3.64, but ranked 9th in opponent batting average at .233, and 10th in strikeouts with 480.

The biggest issue for the Phillies’ bullpen in 2014 was the number of walks they allowed. They ranked 12th in MLB with 189 walks in 2014, and the biggest contributors were Jake Diekman, who walked 35 batters in 71 innings-pitched, Mario Hollands, who walked 21 batters in 47 innings-pitched, and ex-Phillie Antonio Bastardo, who walked 34 batters in 64 innings-pitched.

Getting strikeouts from the bullpen is something that every team wants, and the Philies have the arms to get the job done.

Diekman, who was the biggest contributor to the number of walks for the Phillies’ bullpen, was also the run-away leader in strikeouts with 100.

This trend is what defined the Phillies’ bullpen in 2014; they were able to pile up the strikeouts, but they also gave up a lot of free-passes. While strikeouts can make a bullpen great, walks can become an achilles heal.

Here’s a statistic that tells the whole story: In 2014, the bullpen ranked third in MLB with a 24.8 strikeout percentage, but they also ranked fifth with a 9.8 walk percentage. Continue reading Number of Walks Key for Phillies’ Bullpen in 2015

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So Far, Phillies Making Right Moves

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Wed, January 07, 2015 10:41 PM Comments: 48

Pat Gillick stated that the Phillies will not become contenders again until the 2017 or 2018 season. While that may be true, the rebuilding process could be sped up if the Phillies make the right moves, and acquire the right talent. So far this offseason, they have been making the right moves.

The first step to the Phillies’ rebuilding process was to part with some of their seasoned veterans. Jimmy Rollins was

Tom Windle

Tom Windle

the first to go, as the best shortstop, and one of the best players in Phillies’ history was dealt to the Dodgers in exchange for two young pitchers, right-hander Zach Efflin (10-7 3.80 ERA in 24 starts in single A) and left-hander Tom Windle (12-8 4.26 ERA in 25 starts in single A). Both of these pitchers are young; Efflin is 20 years old, and Windle is 22 years old.

Another veteran the Phillies parted with was Marlon Byrd. Byrd, who is coming off back-to-back solid offensive seasons, was traded to the Reds in exchange for 22-year-old right-hander Ben Lively. Lively went 13-7 with a 3.04 ERA in 26 starts in the minors last season.

In addition, Antonio Bastardo was dealt to the Pirates in exchange for left-handed pitcher Joely Rodriguez. Rodriguez has been Jeckyll and Hyde while in the Pirates’ minor league system. He was great in 2013, posting a 2.72 ERA in 26 starts. However, he struggled last season, posting a 4.84 ERA in 30 games (21 starts).

Starting to see a trend?

The Phillies have put an emphasis on acquiring young pitching talent so far this offseason. While it’s way too early to judge these players, none of them project to be top-of-the-line starters in the Majors. However, the Phillies need all the young talent they can get. Aaron Nola is currently the Phillies’ top pitching prospect. Nola was solid in 12 games in

Aaron Nola

Aaron Nola

the minors last season, posting a 2.93 ERA. He, along with Jesse Biddle and these newly acquired arms could very well shape the Phillies’ starting rotation in a couple of years.

In the mean time, the Phillies have some young position players that will hopefully develop into reliable every-day starters. Fans hope that prospects such as Maikel Franco and J.P. Crawford will develop into stars, but players currently on the MLB roster such as Cody Asche, Dominic Brown, and and Cesar Hernandez will need to step up and produce consistently in order to prove that they will play into the Phillies’ future plans.

As for this season, the Phillies have made moves for starting pitchers Aaron Harang and Wandy Rodriguez. Obviously, these guys aren’t playing into the Phillies future plans and are just placeholders, but they could help the club’s rebuilding process if they pitch well. Rodriguez was signed to a minor league deal, but he will compete for a spot at the bottom of the Phillies’ rotation come spring training. If he earns a spot, and both him and Harang pitch well, they could be dealt to a contender for even more young talent in return.

The biggest key for the Phillies is obviously Cole Hamels. He is without a doubt the best player on the Phillies, and one of the best left-handed pitchers in MLB. He will absolutely have teams begging him to come pitch for them if he is pitching well by the trade deadline. If anything can speed up the Phillies’ rebuilding process, it’s getting the right players for Hamels. If the Phillies don’t get the right pieces back, the rebuilding process could be pushed back even further. Along with Hamels, Cliff Lee could prove to be very desirable for a contending team in need of a solid veteran pitcher with playoff experience. If Lee is pitching well, expect the Phillies to be looking to move the crafty lefty for the right return.

What are the chances that Ryan Howard returns to his 2006-2011 form? Not very great. However, baseball is a funny rhowardgame. Perhaps Howard’s body and mind are healing at just the right time. Perhaps he can recapture just a fraction of what he used to be. If that happens to be the case, the Phillies would be in a great spot to trade him to a contending team in desperate need of a power bat in exchange for, you guessed it, even more young pieces.

Of course, we would all love the Phillies to be a contending team in 2015, but that is just not the case. If 2017 is the next time we can be optimistic about the Phillies’ playoff chances, then moves like these will have to be made in order to make that prediction a reality. So far, the Phillies are making the right moves to give the fans some hope for the future.

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Off-season check in: 3B prospect Zach Green

Posted by Jay Floyd, Wed, December 31, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 0

Zach Green

Zach Green, image- Jay Floyd

Zach Green entered the 2014 season as one of the Phillies’ fastest rising prospects.  The swift ascension was halted though, as the 20-year-old third baseman had a difficult go of things early last year and was sidelined with a hip injury, playing hurt for much of the season.

After being drafted in the 3rd round in 2012, the six-foot-three 210-pounder notched a .284 average with three homers and 21 RBI in 47 games for the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies.  He followed up that season with an All-Star campaign in the Class A short-season New York-Penn League, posting a .252 average with a league-leading 13 home runs and 41 RBI in 74 games for Williamsport.

This year the righty batting Green missed roughly seven weeks with the ailment that limited his range for the entire season.  When the hip issue became too painful to play with in April, the California native was sporting a .219/.293/.260 slash line.  After he returned to action in June, Green tallied a .282/.322/.443 line, proving how productive he could be for the Class A BlueClaws.  While trying to recover, the youngster crossed the diamond to man first base in order to continue competing and remain on the field.

Recently, I spoke with Zach, who is now pain-free and working to improve this off-season. Read ahead for details on his routine, who he’s working out with, his feelings on last year’s health concerns and more.

-What is your off-season routine like right now?  What are you doing to begin knocking the rust off after some down time?

It’s just like agility stuff and whatever weights I have scheduled.  I work with a couple other pro ball guys that are from the Sacramento area.  I’m starting to get back into throwing now a little bit and swinging a little bit.

-Who are the guys that you’ve been working out with?

Max Stassi, who is with the Astros, Ryan Mattheus, who’s with the Nationals.  He’s a pitcher.  Danny Hayes, he’s with the White Sox, and then Brock Stassi too.  He’s with us.  We go to this place, we got a guy who does some training, it’s all for (physical therapy), so if anybody gets banged up in the process, he’s there to help us. Continue reading Off-season check in: 3B prospect Zach Green

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Off-season check in: RHP Aaron Nola

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sat, December 27, 2014 08:30 AM Comments: 1

Aaron Nola, image- Tug Haines

Last June, Aaron Nola was selected 7th overall in the MLB amateur draft by the Phillies.  Just months later, he is widley considered one of the organization’s most promising prospects.

After sporting an 11-1 record and a 1.47 ERA and being named a collegiate First Team All-American at Louisiana State University this year, the righty went on to post a 4-3 record as well as a 2.93 ERA along with 45 strike outs and 10 walks in 55 1/3 innings over 12 professional appearances.

Nola, 21, is working hard this winter to improve what already is an exceptional arm.  Recently, I spoke with the six-foot-one 195-pounder about his efforts this off-season, working with his brother and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview.

-How have you been keeping busy this off-season?

I’ve just been hanging out and doing little hunting and fishing trips.  Kind of just keeping my mind off of baseball for some time, but now that I’ve started throwing again a couple weeks ago, I’m back into baseball, back into the swing of it.  And ever since I started throwing, I just want that season to come sooner.

-What is the work out routine for you at this stage and is it mandated by the Phillies?

Yeah, they have a workout program on their website and I kind of go off of that and kind of plan my workouts around that and do a lot of the stuff that they’ve got me and a lot of the guys through the off-season.  They’ve got the throwing program lined up and I go off of that.  It’s been pretty helpful. Continue reading Off-season check in: RHP Aaron Nola

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Galvis Must Find Offensive Consistency

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Mon, December 22, 2014 04:56 PM Comments: 11

With Jimmy Rollins officially being traded to the Dodgers, the Phillies will have to find a new shortstop. The early favorite to land the job? Freddy Galvis.

By now, Phillies fans are quite familiar with the 25-year-old utility man. Most fans would agree that while Galvis has shown that he is great with the glove, his inconsistent bat is what has kept him out of the Phillies’ starting lineup on a consistent basis.

Since making his major league debut in 2012, Galvis has seen playing time at third base, shortstop, second base, and even the outfield. His career fielding percentage in 163 game appearances sits at .992, and he has committed a total of five errors while recording 216 PO.

His skills with the glove are what make Galvis such a valuable utility man, but for him to be a successful starter in MLB, he’ll need to find consistency with the bat.freddy-galvis

Since 2012, Galvis is batting .218 with a .259 on-base percentage, and has hit 13 home runs with 55 RBIs.

Last season was a dreadful one offensively for Galvis, as he finished with .176 batting average, and a .227 on-base percentage. His struggles led to a demotion to the minors in early May, and he didn’t re join the club until late August. He showed improvements in his return by raising his batting average from .45 to .176 by season’s end.

If Galvis wants to be the Phillies’ long-term option at shortstop, then he will need to do more with the bat. He can certainly play defense with the best shortstops in the league, but he’ll need to be a more of an offensive force to stay in the lineup on an every-day basis.

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