Offseason 2015 Deep Dive: 3B, 1B

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, November 25, 2015 02:25 PM Comments: 7

Until the beginning of the Winter Meetings (Dec. 7-10 in Nashville, Tenn.), I’ll be doing a deep dive on the Phillies with particular focus on their offseason plans. What may happen? What’s the future hold? Seriously, how excited should you be?

We’ll try to answer all the questions here.

Today: Third base and first base.

Third Base


Past – Since the Phillies traded Scott Rolen, the Phillies have been unsuccessful finding the right combination of power and glove, a profile epitomized by the greatest Phillie of them all: Mike Schmidt.

MLB PresentMaikel Franco, 23; Cody Asche, 25

Maybe that will change. Very few spots on the Phillies’ roster are as secure as Franco’s, as the 23-year-old Dominican will begin the 2016 season as the team’s starting third baseman, barring injury. He was called up to Philadelphia in May 2015 and immediately made an impact, hitting 14 home runs and driving in 50 in 335 plate appearances. His .280/.343/.497 line was among the best of all Phillies in 2015.

Since Franco endured a wrist injury for a spell in 2015, the Phillies asked the slugger to spend some time in the Dominican Winter League. He just arrived, but in eight plate appearances for the GIgantes del Cibao, Franco has already homered once. He’ll probably play out the string in the Dominican before preparing for spring training.

And once he arrives in Clearwater, Franco will be tabbed as the Phillies’ opening-day third baseman. He’ll also likely hit anywhere from the 3-5 hole. With a full season without injury, one could expect Franco to hit around .265 with a .330 on-base percentage and .500 slugging mark. Somewhere between 18 and 25 home runs is a decent bet.

Asche, meanwhile, will likely be asked to fill in for Franco while getting outfield time and pinch hitting. He lost the starting third base job to Franco in 2015; needless to say, with Asche’s often toothless offensive game, he won’t be getting that job back any time soon.

MiLB PresentHarold Martinez, 25

Martinez, meanwhile, hit a solid .292/.335/.400 in 86 games in Reading in 2015, though with very little pop to stick at third base. He’ll likely reach Lehigh Valley in 2016 with an outside chance at seeing the majors, but bet on the Phillies to grab veteran depth to sub Franco in a pinch, or simply slot Asche at third base.

Further on Down the LineMitch Walding, 23; Damek Tomscha, 22; Jan Hernandez, 21; Lucas Williams, 19

Walding hit a pedestrian .233/.318/.315 in Clearwater in 2015, but he might head to Reading in 2016 just because there’s little positional depth in the system. He doesn’t look like a major leaguer.

There seems to be slightly more promise for Tomscha, the third-sacker who hit .282/.368/.417 with eight homers and 59 RBI in Lakewood. The 81/39 K/BB ratio doesn’t help, though, for the 2014 17th rounder. Still, he deserves a promotion to Clearwater.

Most interesting is Hernandez, who will be 21 in 2016 and can probably flash the leather better than any third baseman in the system. His .211 average and .258 on-base percentage are bad, but his .413 slugging percentage is good, with 10 homers and 21 extra-base hits (in 213 at bats) to show for it. The Phillies hope he continues to improve the bat as he likely heads to Lakewood in 2016.

Finally, 2015 third-round pick Williams was off and running in the Gulf Coast League, hitting .288/.400/.331 with a sterling 23/21 K/BB ratio in 118 at bats. He also stole nine bases, thus the “off and running” part.

Present Need – So the Phillies may want to sign to a minor league contract a veteran with major league experience, in case Franco goes down with an injury. Of the free agents available, Conor Gillaspie (.228/.269/.359) has some pop, and Joaquin Arias (.207/.207/.276) may accept a minor league deal.

Otherwise the Phillies may test at third base some of their homegrown middle infielders with better arms, just to see if something sticks.

Future – I’m sure the Phillies organization, and the Delaware Valley at large, would love to see Franco play third base in red pinstripes for the next 10-15 years. Whether or not it happens, Franco is the man in 2016. Nobody is even close. Be excited.


First Base


Past – Since 2005, first base has been the home of Ryan Howard, who has been both a one-man wrecking crew and the one man wrecking the patience of fans everywhere. And when all’s said and done, he’s probably the greatest first baseman in franchise history.

MLB PresentRyan Howard, 36; Darin Ruf, 29

Howard has hit 357 home runs in 12 seasons, an absolutely prodigious display. He’s also flamed out as a subpar ballplayer, striking out far too much while walking far too little, and fielding his position like a drunk getting out of his stool after a long night at the bar. Most every metric says Howard is one of the worst everyday players in baseball; his 2015 wins above replacement was actually below replacement, at -1.4.

And the days of -1.4 are nearly over in Philadelphia. Howard’s contract expires after the 2016 season, though the Phillies could pay his team option of $23 million to keep him on board (they won’t, electing instead to pay a $10 million buyout). It’s also possible the Phillies trade Howard to an American League team seeking a designated hitter, any time before the season or during the season.

Chances are, however, that it won’t happen, and Howard will remain the starting first baseman for the Phillies as he goes on an award tour with Darin, his man. What could you expect from Howard? Maybe a line of .235/.290/.450 with 20-25 home runs, if we’re being charitable.

Darin, his man, is Darin Ruf, who pulled a .235/.300/.414 line in 2015 with 12 homers and 39 ribbies. Ruf did most of his damage against left-handed pitching (.371/.447/.660, 8 HR), so popular opinion would be to platoon Ruf and Howard (who hit righties to .256/.304/.499, 20 HR) on the strict lefty-righty tip.

And really, that should be what happens. A Howard-Ruf platoon could generate a semi-productive first base bat. It won’t do any good with the glove, though.

MiLB PresentBrock Stassi, 26; Art Charles, 25; Andrew Knapp, 24

The 6’2”, 190 pound, left-handed hitting Stassi broke out with Reading in 2015. He slugged 15 home runs and dove in 90, walking 77 times while striking out only 63 times. His .300/.394/.470 mark was highly impressive, winning him the Eastern League’s Most Valuable Player award.

And because of this, Stassi is the surefire starter at first base for the 2016 Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. If the Phillies move either Howard or Ruf, you’ll probably see Stassi get a shot in the majors. At most, he’s another version of Ruf – not an everyday player, but maybe worth a thrill or two off the bench.

Charles, meanwhile, towers over Stassi at 6’6” and 220 pounds. After a solid 2014 pounding the ball in Clearwater (though with plenty strikeouts), Charles had a little more difficulty in Reading, hitting .215/.304/.367. The strikeouts continued – an atrocious 100 strikeouts in 289 at bats. He did collect 26 extra-base hits, though. Still, Charles will probably move to Lehigh Valley as a pinch hitter and little else; if he doesn’t improve his plate discipline, he’ll forever be minor league filler.

Then there’s Knapp, who is a catcher first and foremost, but spent some time playing first base in the Arizona Fall League. Knapp hit very well in Reading in 2015, putting together an astonishing .360/.419/.631 line with 36 extra-base hits in 241 plate appearances. His bat may play at first, but his glove needs to get there. It’ll be some time before the Phillies make any rash decisions regarding Knapp, who will probably play some first, while catching, in Lehigh Valley in 2016.

Further on Down the LineRhys Hoskins, 23; Zach Green, 22; Kyle Martin, 23; Brandon Hayden, 23; Luis Encarnacion, 18; Jhailyn Ortiz, 17

Another rather large man, the 6’4”, 225-pound Hoskins was superb in 2015 for Lakewood and Clearwater, not missing a beat between levels. He finished with an outstanding .319/.395/.518 mark with 17 home runs and 90 RBI. His 99/55 K/BB ratio is slightly troubling, but he’s still young, and he actually improved the discipline in Clearwater. He’s also a good defender. Hoskins should start 2016 in Reading, his biggest test yet.

Green, a 2012 third-round pick, has methodically moved up the system but stalled in 2015 with a DL stint in Clearwater (.173/.216/.221 in 104 AB). Because of solid movement behind him, Green could be the odd man out.

At 23, 2015 fourth-round pick Martin is ready to move to Clearwater, and the lefty’s bat confirms as much. He hit .279 with a .446 slugging march in Lakewood, socking 28 extra-base hits in 251 at bats.

Hayden will also move up. The 16th round pick from 2015 had a nice 27/23 K/BB ratio in 50 games in Williamsport, to go along with a .291 average.

And then there’s Encarnacion, the Dominican teen who started to come into his own with the Gulf Coast Phillies. In 2015 he hit four home runs with a 38/12 K/BB ratio. He’s a work in progress, but he has promising power. He’ll likely head to Williamsport in 2016, but there’s a chance he goes right to Lakewood.

Finally, the Phillies signed Dominican Ortiz to a $4 million bonus in July. At 6’2” and 260 pounds, the No. 18 international prospect (Baseball America) is a hefty kid with big power, but he’s a long way to the show. He’ll be in the development pipeline in 2016, but don’t expect full-season play for Ortiz until probably 2018 or 2019.

Present Need – Unless the Phillies add some depth to the middle levels of the minor league system, first base is basically set in stone for 2016. No need to change anything now – just let Howard and Ruf play out the string and see what develops in the pipeline.

Future – This is where it gets fun. Hoskins has suddenly become a genuine possibility to start at first base in 2017. If not, maybe Stassi or Ruf fill the hole until real upgrades are possible. Or Knapp turns out to work out at first, and he gets the gig. And if not, maybe Matt Klentak and Co. trade for a stud like Paul Goldschmidt (toward the end of a five-year deal next year), or pick up a 2016 free agent like Edwin Encarnacion (don’t bet on it).

Point is, it’s wide open. For now, though, enjoy what highlights Howard can give us in what is likely to be his final days as a Philadelphia Phillie.


Next: Saturday I review starting pitching, and Sunday I look at relief pitching.


Phillies add 4 to 40-man roster; Giles trade next?

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Fri, November 20, 2015 03:51 PM Comments: 37

PHOTO: (AP/Chris Szagola)

PHOTO: (AP/Chris Szagola)

The Phillies just made a move, opting to add the following players to the 40-man roster:

  • Jimmy Cordero – RHP, 24; 45 G, 2.55 ERA, 64 K, 24 BB in 2015 (A+/AA)
  • Edubray Ramos – RHP, 22; 47 G, 2.07 ERA, 65 K, 16 BB in 2015 (A+/AA)
  • Roman Quinn – OF, 22; 58 G, .306/.356/.435, 16 XBH, 42 K, 18 BB, 29 SB in 2015 (AA)

They also claimed right-handed relief pitcher A.J. Achter off waivers. Achter (it’s pronounced OCK-ter, so that would be an easy thing for Phillies fans to say), who is 27, recorded a 6.75 ERA in 13 relief innings for the Twins in 2015. He struck out 14 and walked six. For AAA Rochester he had a 2.62 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 13 walks.

Since they’re on the 40-man roster, these four are protected for the Rule 5 Draft, meaning teams cannot select them (like we did with Odubel Herrera last year from Texas). Quinn is a top prospect and may get to Philadelphia during the 2016 season. Left unprotected, however, are prospects Carlos Tocci and Miguel Tirado (pitcher acquired with Cordero in the Ben Revere trade). Todd Zolecki, however, says it’s unlikely those two will be selected.

We’re counting on you, Todd.

And that’s a different conversation, anyway.

This one is about the bullpen. The following relievers are now on the 40-man roster:

So we’re saying there’s depth there. Of course, fringe starters like Alec Asher, David Buchanan and Severino Gonzalez also could qualify for bullpen innings, so there’s no shortage of relief arms prepared to pitch for the Phils in 2016.

That’s a good thing, considering the Phillies don’t need to acquire any relief pitcher through free agency. In fact if they do, it’s a pretty worthless endeavor. The Phils are supposed to be bad next year, and bringing in a reliever for more than, say $2 million for more than, say, one year, is an illogical move.

A betting person might say next year’s bullpen starts with Giles, Gomez, Neris and Garcia. You’d carry at least one lefty and maybe two (Araujo, Hollands the favorites here). The seventh spot would more than likely go to a long man candidate (Gonzalez, Asher).

But anything can happen still, including – and I’d put odds at 35/65 not happening – trading Giles.

Considering the Padres received a substantial return for Craig Kimbrel, and considering there’s a hubbub over free agent closers like Darren O’Day, the Phillies should hold Giles for at least one top prospect, or two high-ceiling prospects, at least. Giles doesn’t have Kimbrel or O’Day’s track records yet, but he is young, cheap and shows no signs of struggling too badly.

I’m definitively in the perspective that if the right offer is there, the Phillies need to deal Giles. It’s great having a young and very possibly elite closer for many years, but there are numerous ways to build an effective bullpen. Ask Kansas City. Ask San Francisco. Ask St. Louis. Heck, ask the 2009 Phillies with a lackluster Brad Lidge. You don’t need a clear-cut closer to be successful.

Giles has high value right now, and it may never be higher. If the Phils can score a future everyday player for him, it’s no contest.

The 2016 Phillies bullpen, with or without Giles, should manage, long as there’s quality depth. And today there is quality depth up there.


Phillies Off-season League Updates: Cordero, MAG, Araujo, Knapp, more

Posted by Jay Floyd, Mon, November 16, 2015 06:40 PM Comments: 3

Throughout the off-season, Phillies Nation is bringing you details on Phils players participating in fall and winter leagues from around the globe. Read ahead for a rundown of how various players have performed to date.  Statistics are current through action on Sunday.

Venezuelan Winter League-

Carlos Tocci

Carlos Tocci, image- Jay Floyd

With the Tigres, outfielder Carlos Tocci is currently sidelined with a broken hand after being hit by a pitch.  Prior to the injury, Tocci posted a .333 average with a triple, four RBI and two stolen bases in 11 games.  The 20-year-old posted a .287/.339/.363 slash line in 127 combined games with Lakewood and Clearwater this year.

Outfielder Herlis Rodriguez is batting .196 with five RBI in 25 games for the Tigres. The 21-year-old lefty batter posted a .284 average with 10 home runs and 61 RBI in 120 games for Lakewood this year.

In six starts Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez as a 0-4 record with a 4.88 ERA for the Aguilas.  In his most recent appearance, MAG allowed seven runs (six earned) in 1 2/3 innings. The 29-year-old right-hander appeared in six minor league games this year after dealing with shoulder issues.

Elvis Araujo has a 3-1 record along with a 2.84 ERA and a .205 batting average against in 11 outings for the Aguilas. The 24-year-old left-hander posted a 2-1 record with a 3.38 ERA and an 8.8 K/9 mark in 40 games at the big league level this year. Continue reading Phillies Off-season League Updates: Cordero, MAG, Araujo, Knapp, more


Phillies acquire SP Hellickson for pitching prospect

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sat, November 14, 2015 06:00 PM Comments: 10

phils logoThe Phillies’ new general manager has completed his first trade.  A deal announced on Saturday saw Matt Klentak send pitching prospect Sam McWilliams to Arizona for right-hander Jeremy Hellickson.

Hellickson will join a Phils pitching staff that included three rookies by season’s end and is in need of some established durability.  In the last five years, the Iowa native has averaged 150 innings per season.

The 28-year-old sports a 49-48 record along with a 3.94 ERA in 142 career MLB outings.  Hellickson was a 4th round pick by Tampa Bay in 2005 and was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2011 when he posted a 2.95 ERA in 29 starts in his first big league season.  He also won a Gold Glove Award for his defense in 2012.

McWilliams, 20, was an 8th round draft selection by the Phillies last year.  In his time as a pro, the righty sported a 2-5 record with a 4.19 ERA and a 4.8 K/9 mark in 16 games (12 starts).

Klentak took over as the team’s GM last month.  During his tenure, the Phils have acquired two other hurlers, claiming Dan Otero off waivers from Oakland and signing James Russell to a minor league deal.

Analysis: McWilliams would not have ranked in Phillies Nation’s top 25 prospects this off-season and would not have been close.  With considerable pitching depth at the upper levels of the organization’s developmental ranks, McWilliams, who has not pitched above the rookie level Gulf Coast League (two levels below Class A Lakewood), is very expendable.  Acquiring a proven big league arm for this youngster is a steal for the Phils.


Let’s make a deal? Few trade options remain

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, November 12, 2015 12:35 PM Comments: 6

PHOTO: (AP/Chris Szagola)

PHOTO: (AP/Chris Szagola)

Baseball’s general managers are in Orlando this week, hanging at their annual meetings, sort of a prelude to the larger Winter Meetings, which will take place in December. The GMs are talking deals, with most recently Atlanta dangling shortstop Andrelton Simmons. As for the Phillies? There are rumors of an available Ken Giles.

Is trading Giles a good idea? Who else should the Phillies put on the block? Let’s talk trade.

Ken Giles

It’s not often you stumble upon an elite relief pitcher in your own farm system, but the Phillies did with Giles. He’s 9-4 with a 1.56 ERA, 151 strikeouts and 36 walks in 115.2 innings. That’s great – really, really great. He’s also young (age 25) and doesn’t reach arbitration until after 2017. That makes him attractive to plenty of teams, and since the Phillies won’t be contending this year (or probably in 2017), an elite closer like Giles isn’t a necessity.

That said, because they pitch so little, and because their performance can vary wildly from year to year, relievers are a little harder to peg in trades. Giles is more of a sure thing than other relievers, but teams may play cautious when talking with the Phillies about him.

If a team, however, really wants Giles and would surrender a top hitting or starting pitching prospect for him, the Phillies should listen. Otherwise it may be wise to hold onto Giles, at least until the trade deadline, when a contending team may want to raise the ante for the closer.

In short, the Phillies have young and proven value in Giles. They shouldn’t trade him unless the return gives them a workable, everyday future piece.

Freddy Galvis

The reason Atlanta is dangling Simmons is because the shortstop market is paltry this offseason (Ian Desmond represents the cream). Galvis could be an intriguing option for teams seeking a more affordable option without having to resort to an older player like Alexei Ramirez.

Now, Galvis will be 26 and, while he’s facing arbitration this year, should be a very affordable option for anyone. But he’s not Giles, in that he’s not an elite shortstop, and behind him is a possible franchise-altering player in J.P. Crawford. Galvis is, however, a passable starter on a team with higher quality players in other places. Teams potentially seeking shortstops include the Brewers, Angels, Mariners, Rockies, Nationals and Mets. The Dodgers and Padres have been rumored to be interested in Simmons, so it’s possible they’d entertain offers for Galvis.

If the Phillies traded Galvis, they could expect an MLB-ready reliever, back-end starter or utility player. A team-top-10 prospect could be a stretch. That doesn’t seem like much, but frankly, you can’t expect to get much for Galvis, who has pretty much shown himself to be an average-at-best player. A Galvis trade would also mean starting the 2016 season with Andres Blanco at shortstop. Or the Phils could experiment with Darnell Sweeney or Cesar Hernandez. There are options.

Cody Asche

There’s a possibility Asche turns into a solid bench player, and yes, there’s still a chance he can turn into a good starter. That doesn’t seem so likely now, which means his value today could be his highest value.

Who would want Asche? Admittedly teams wouldn’t see him as a starter, so you’re looking at teams wanting low-risk bench bat options. You could expect a mid-level prospect, at best, for Asche.

Truth be told, it may be wiser for the Phils to hold Asche and hope he accumulates some value in 2016. With value, a team seeking a bench bat for the stretch run might give the Phils something juicier.

Ryan Howard

We’ve previously been on the go-round with Howard, who would only be an option for American League teams seeking a platoon partner at designated hitter. That’s not a big group – maybe Detroit and the Yankees. Cleveland seeks a designated hitter, too. The Phillies would have to eat most of the remaining $25 million on Howard’s contract.

Would the Phillies get anything for Howard? Maybe a mid-level prospect. It’s not much. Maybe it’s not necessary to deal Howard and just let the final year play out.

Darin Ruf

American League teams seeking a platoon for a designated hitter may, however, be interested in Ruf, who mashes left-handed pitching (.371/.447/.660 in 114 PA).

The one team that could use a right-handed bat to pair with an existing DH is the White Sox, who currently employ Adam LaRoche from the left side. Ruf would likely be a productive hitter at U.S. Cellular Field.

Like Giles, Galvis and Asche, Ruf has a low salary, making him attractive to potential suitors. But his market is limited. A return for Ruf would – forgive the pun – be roughly the same as the return for Howard or Asche. At this point it may be wise to just stick with Howard and Ruf at first in 2016, giving them a true platoon (which could actually work), while looking to dangle Ruf at the trade deadline.

Other options

There aren’t many clear options for trade bait in the roster. Of course GM Matt Klentak could deal anyone. Hell, nobody can rule out even trading a young player like Maikel Franco or Aaron Nola, however unlikely that would be.

It’s more likely Klentak makes trades involving players in the minor leagues. These are the kinds of depth-building moves that can pay off in the long run.

As for the majors, what is most likely is Klentak entertains a number of deals and sits on what he has, since he’s still very early in his evaluation process. Still, dealing a player like Galvis or Giles shouldn’t be out of the question. There could be some value to be had there.


Announcing ‘Phillies Generations’: Share your story

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, November 09, 2015 01:03 PM Comments: 3

Milwaukee Brewers v Philadelphia Phillies, Game 2In my eight years writing about the Phillies, one thing I’ve seen clearly is that Phillies fans are arguably the best baseball fans on the planet. In lean years we watch, complain, celebrate and congregate. And in great years, well, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.

To this day, the most incredible live sports moment of my life was Game 2 of the 2008 National League Division Series. The fans helped knock C.C. Sabathia off his game, pushing hard through Brett Myers’ unbelievable walk, leading to the singular roar of Shane Victorino’s grand slam. Standing with the thousands inside Citizens Bank Park, under a pinkish red sky, I felt like I could soar.

A few weeks later I cheered the Phillies’ second world championship with my father, three hours away by phone. As I screamed and cried, he played it calm and reminded me to never forget the special moment.

He would know. He was just about the same age when the Phillies won the 1980 world championship.

I would party with hundreds of thousands of Phillies fans two days later at a Halloween afternoon parade. And all of us had something in common: Our parents were about the same age as us when the Phillies won in 1980.

Today I’m launching a project on Phillies Nation, tentatively titled “Phillies Generations.” Nearly 30 years passed between Phillies championships, the perfect length of time to mark generational change. Basically, our parents likely celebrated the 1980 title at the same point in life as we celebrated 2008.

I want to chronicle that relationship between generations. I want your stories – where were you in October 2008, and where were your parents in October 1980? How are your stories similar? How are they different? And what did your parents say to you in 2008? How did they celebrate?

Of course, we can add another element to this: 30 years passed from 1950 – the year the Phillies previously won the National League pennant – to 1980. If your story includes a grandparent, please include.

I’m looking for all stories that fit that line: maybe you’re a 30-year-old who was 23 in 2008. Your dad was 23 in 1980, and his dad was 23 in 1950. Maybe you were 35 in 1980, and your mom was 32 in 1950. Whatever the gap, if the story is there, I want to hear from you. Send an email to me at tsmalcolm@gmail.com with your full name, hometown, year of birth, and a line or two describing your story. I may contact you further from there.

Being a Phillies fan is an intense experience, one that usually spans generations in the family. I want to know how that story evolved. Please get in touch and become a part of “Phillies Generations.”


Knapp & Ramos slated to rep Phils in AFL Fall Stars Game

Posted by Jay Floyd, Fri, November 06, 2015 05:43 PM Comments: 0

Knapp 1

Knapp, image- Jay Floyd

One of the biggest events of the off-season league schedule takes place this Saturday when the Arizona Fall League’s Rising Stars Game happens at Scottsdale’s Salt River Fields.

The “Fall Stars” exhibition marks the 10th annual event and will be nationally televised at 8PM Eastern on MLB Network and will stream live online at MLB.com.

Representing the Phillies will be righty hurler Edubray Ramos and catcher Andrew Knapp, who were part of the Double-A Reading team that went to the Eastern League Championship Series this year.

Ramos, a 22-year-old Venezuelan, was a stand out performer this year, when he tallied a 4-6 record with eight saves, a 2.07 ERA and a .196 batting average against in 47 games in relief for Class A Advanced Clearwater and Reading.  As a member of the Glendale Desert Dogs in the AFL, Ramos has allowed seven earned runs in 6 2/3 innings (9.45 ERA) while striking out eight and walking none.

The switch-hitting Knapp, who turns 24-year-old next week, entered AFL action on Friday with a .214/.361/.321 slash line in nine games with Glendale.  He was honored as the Phillies’ top minor league player this season with the Paul Owens Award.  Also having split time with Clearwater and Reading, the man known as “The California Kid” sported a .308 average with 13 homers and 84 RBI in 118 combined games.

Knapp was named to the club as a first baseman, where he’s been getting playing time in the field to enhance his versatility, when Houston’s A.J. Reed was shut down with soreness by the Astros.

Salt River Fields serve as the spring training home to the Rockies and the Diamondbacks.


Though Cliff Lee is no longer a Phillie, he symbolized a time of hope

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, November 03, 2015 01:39 PM Comments: 12



I bagged a quick sandwich on the night of December 13, 2010, bemoaning a cold, long night at the office. But the phone was stuck to my ear, and on the other end was my dad.

“Cliff just told the Yankees he wasn’t going there,” I said.

“Oh my God,” replied Dad.

For the following five hours I sat like a stone in front of the television. I was dazed. ESPN put it on the ticker: “Lee to sign with Phils.” I grabbed a beer, maybe two. It felt weird.

A year earlier I stood inside Nationals Park with a brood of unruly fans, whooping it up to the sad visitors as Roy Halladay slung a quality start past the unsuspecting Nats. And then Roy Oswalt joined the club. We had Shane Victorino and Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. We nearly won a third-consecutive National League pennant. And before that was Pedro Martinez, charmed all-star games, and the original Cliff Lee trade that signaled an entirely new era of Philadelphia baseball, an era of limitless potential, of an undying thirst to be the very best in sports.

When we shuttered Lee to Seattle to acquire Halladay, we sighed and tried to understand the realities facing Ruben Amaro Jr. It never really felt right. But on December, 13, 2010, it was right. For the 2011 season, there was Lee and Halladay, together, with Oswalt, with emerging ace Cole Hamels, with a powerful offense and a stout bullpen. A summer of incredible opportunity faced us then.

Tuesday the Phillies announced they were buying out Cliff Lee’s contract, which was inevitable but nonetheless sad. The move effectively ends Lee’s Phillies tenure, and possibly could lead the left-hander to retirement.

Lee symbolized everything hopeful in us during those glory days. The evening of December 13, 2010, when Lee decided to sign a friendlier deal with the Phillies – instead of following more money with the Rangers or Yankees – stands as one of the most surreal moments in recent Phillies history. We immediately printed shirts and created hashtags promoting a rotation of Lee, Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels, which subsequently fared very well in 2011. Helped by the addition of rookie Vance Worley, the rotation turned in one of baseball’s greatest seasons. Lee was the linchpin, the missing piece that always felt so perfect in Philadelphia.

The legend of Cliff Lee soared to life during Game 1 of the 2009 World Series, when the lefty quietly and, almost unwittingly, mowed down the Yankees en route to a complete-game, 10-strikeout victory. Of all moments in Lee’s career, none may be as definitive as his nonchalant catch of a Johnny Damon pop in the sixth inning.

But before that, Lee quickly endeared himself to fans by effortlessly subduing lineups, hurling fastballs in every direction past watching hitters, sometimes tossing in a looping curve for fun. Upon his return to Philadelphia he did more of the same, and watching he and Halladay in the same rotation offered some incredible comparisons. Where Halladay seemed to control every pitch with tight movement and impossible accuracy, like a machine, Lee simply shot bullets through the strike zone, peppering the canvas like a man on the job.

And sometimes Lee would swing the bat successfully, hitting two home runs in 2011, because even a broken clock is right twice a day. And then, when he didn’t swing successfully, Lee simply stopped running to first base. He had no time for failure. He just wanted to work.

And yes, Lee failed. He surrendered 26 home runs in 2012, including one to Scott Hairston that made Scott Franzke particularly upset on a live broadcast. Lee had a funny habit of pitching terribly, just randomly, before firing off three or four impressive starts. Sometimes men had bad days. And that was it. Whatever.

“Whatever” was how Lee defined himself throughout his Phillies tenure. Good or bad, win or loss, the sun was rising tomorrow, and baseball was still to be played, and family was still to be loved, and life was still to be lived. Lee always seemed to stand for more than simply playing the game. He chose Philadelphia partly because he just loved Philadelphia, enjoyed Rittenhouse Square and appreciated when fans chatted him for a quick moment. In fact, somebody you know has met Lee.

If anything, Lee allowed us to swallow a period of decline a little easier. He still pitched well in 2012 and ‘13, and was pitching a little above league average in 2014 when, in July, he suffered an elbow injury that ended his season.

Cliff Lee was outstanding. In three-and-a-half seasons after signing his free-agent contract in 2010, he went 41-30 with a 2.89 ERA, striking out 739 while walking 114. He allowed less than one hit per inning, too. He did his job and did it well.

Maybe we didn’t win a championship with Lee. We really should have, but we didn’t. Those days are gone, and so are the days that Lee gave us, all those afternoons at the Bank, those crisp, two-hour evenings of pitching supremacy. But boy was it special. For just a little while, Cliff Lee was the very hope coming to life – that the Phillies could be the very best, that baseball looked awestruck at us, and that Philadelphia was the place to be – to raise a family, to have a career, to watch a ballgame. Hell, it still is.


Morandini added to Phillies coaching staff

Posted by Jay Floyd, Mon, November 02, 2015 12:48 PM Comments: 1

M Morandini

Mickey Morandini, image- Jay Floyd

The Phillies announced on Monday that former infielder Mickey Morandini would be added to their staff next year as the team’s first base coach.

Morandini spent the last five seasons coaching in the minor leagues in the organization that drafted him in the 5th round in 1988. He began his coaching career as the manager of the Class A short season Williamsport Crosscutters in 2011. He would go on to manage Class A Lakewood the following season, spending two seasons there. He coached at the Triple-A level in 2014 and at Double-A this year. In those roles with Lehigh Valley and Reading, Morandini spent time overseeing base running and assisted with hitting as well.

Previously, the 49-year-old was a guest instructor for the big league team in spring training in 2009 and 2010. As a coach in the higher levels, he was utilized in recent seasons during big league spring training as well.

During his playing career, Morandini, a second baseman, represented the Phillies as an All-Star in 1996 and was a member of the beloved 1993 National League Championship club.  He was best known for turning the ninth unassisted triple play in MLB history in 1992.  Morandini was a .268 hitter in 1,298 big league games, also playing with Toronto and the Cubs.

Replying via text message, the Indiana native offered his thoughts on the promotion.

“At this stage of my life, I’m just as excited (for a promotion to the major leagues) as I was as a player,” Morandini stated. “I consider myself very fortunate to get this opportunity again.”

With the addition of Morandini at first base, Juan Samuel is slated to move across the diamond to coach third base.

Other recent additions to the coaching staff for next year include John McLaren as catching coach and Rick Kranitz as the bullpen coach.


Off-season League Notebook: Sandberg, Arano, Knapp stay hot

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sat, October 31, 2015 12:10 PM Comments: 1

Throughout the off-season, we’ll be bringing you details on Phillies players participating in fall and winter leagues from around the globe.  Read ahead for a rundown of how many players have performed to date.  Stats are current through games played on Friday except ABL notes, which include stats for Saturday’s games.

Australian Baseball League-


Cord Sandberg, image Jay Floyd

Outfielder Cord Sandberg is hitting a lofty .444 with a double, four walks and a steal in six games for Canberra.  The 20-year-old was one of nine minor league Gold Glove Award winner as a member of the Lakewood BlueClaws this year.  Sandberg was a 3rd round draft selection in 2013.

Through seven games for the Sydney Blue Sox, first baseman Rhys Hoskins is batting .240 with five doubles, a homer and five RBI.  In a double header on Saturday, Hoskins went 3-for-6 with two doubles and a home run.  The 22-year-old was a 5th round draft pick by the Phils last year.  He batted .319 with 17 home runs and 90 RBI in 135 combined games for Class A Lakewood and Class A Advanced Clearwater this year.

Mexican Winter League-

For the Yaquis, right-handed pitcher Victor Arano has a 2-0 record with a 1.00 ERA in eight relief outings.  He has struck out nine and walked none in nine innings of work.  The 20-year-old had a 4-12 record with a 4.72 ERA in 24 games with Clearwater this year.

Arizona Fall League-

Catcher Andrew Knapp is batting .296 with eight RBI in six games.  “The California Kid” has played catcher, first base and designated hitter for the Desert Dogs thus far.  The 23-year-old was the Phils’ second round draft selection in 2013.  With Double-A Reading this year, Knapp sported a .360 average with 11 homers and 56 RBI in 55 games. Continue reading Off-season League Notebook: Sandberg, Arano, Knapp stay hot

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