Prospect Aaron Altherr Interview

Posted by Jay Floyd, Fri, April 15, 2011 09:01 AM Comments: 0

After splitting his second season of professional baseball with the Gulf Coast League Phillies and the Williamsport Crosscutters, outfielder Aaron Altherr is already turning heads and moving up the Phillies prospect rankings at a fast pace. A 9th round selection in the 2009 draft, the 20-year-old Altherr is known to be a contact hitter and an outfielder with terrific range.

The right-handed hitting Altherr debuted with the Gulf Coast League Phillies after signing his first professional contract in 2009 and batted .214 with 1 HR, 11 RBI and 6 steals in 28 games. In 1 less game played in the GCL this past season, Altherr showed improvement and posted a .304 batting average with 1 HR, 15 RBI and 10 steals. He was promoted to Williamsport on July 22nd.

With the short-season Crosscutters of the New York-Penn League, Altherr continued a strong season with a .287 average, 7 doubles, 3 triples, 10 RBI and 2 steals in 28 games.

Now playing with the Class A level Lakewood BlueClaws in the South Atlantic League this season, Altherr has big aspirations to continue his progression and to help the club make a run for a third consecutive league title.

I spoke with Altherr this week about his goals for this year, his draft experience, his playing style and much more. Use the media player below to listen to the full interview.


Jay Floyd is PhilliesNation’s minor league insider. To check out more from Jay, visit his site, PhoulBallz.com.


2011 Staff Awards Predictions

Posted by Pat Gallen, Tue, March 29, 2011 11:47 AM Comments: 17

Many PN staff members are picking Roy Halladay to win the Cy Young again.

Here are the Phillies Nation staff awards predictions for the 2011 season. Please feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments section below. Obviously, there are no wrong answers.

The hot name for Cy Young is, of course, Roy Halladay. In the AL, Jon Lester is grabbing some attention. Adrian Gonzalez is a favorite for AL MVP now that he’s part of that ridiculous lineup in Boston. Ron Roenicke and Fredi Gonzalez are battling it out for Manager of the Year in the NL.

There are several different rookies garnering votes from the PN staff, as well as for Hitter to Watch in both leagues and Pitcher to Watch in each circuit.

Continue reading 2011 Staff Awards Predictions


2011 Phillies Offensive Preview, Part 1: Intro and First Base

Posted by Michael Baumann, Thu, March 24, 2011 02:18 PM Comments: 26

What can we expect from the Phillies offense? That’s really the big question going into 2011, isn’t it? After all, great things are expected from the starting rotation, and while the bullpen isn’t 1996 Yankees-good, it’s certainly expected to be good enough, and is a known quantity.

The offense, however? That juggernaut? The rock upon which, for so many years, Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro built their church? For the first time I can remember, Phillies fans seem to be sold on the team’s ability to prevent runs, scoring them might be an entirely different propostion.

The way I see it, there are only three sure things in the Phillies’ lineup: Carlos Ruiz, Shane Victorino, and Placido Polanco. Ruiz will play good defense, hit for a fairly high average and no power, but be on base a ton due to his tremendous plate discipline. Polanco will play good defense, hit for a very high average and no power, and never walk, so he won’t be on base much at all. Victorino will, in spite of being blessed with perhaps the best speed/throwing arm combination in the National League, play mediocre defense. He will also hit for a high average (though not as high as Polanco’s) walk (though not as much as Ruiz), hit for a little power and steal, conservatively, about 30 bases.

So that makes three positions where the Phillies can count on solid contributions from three good, but not great, players. There are, however, five other spots in the Phillies’ lineup, and anyone who says he knows for sure what the team will get, except in the most general terms, is lying. The answers to those questions will ultimately determine the course of the season.

What I want everyone to take away from this: whatever you think of what the Phillies offense was in 2010 and is in 2011, it’s at worst an above-average unit. And with this starting rotation, above-average is more than enough to win the World Series. So let’s step off the ledge and address each position case-by-case. Continue reading 2011 Phillies Offensive Preview, Part 1: Intro and First Base


ProspectNation 2011: #24 Leandro Castro- OF

Posted by Jay Floyd, Thu, January 06, 2011 12:00 PM Comments: 5

Leandro Castro was a key offensive cog for the South Atlantic League champion Lakewood BlueClaws during the 2010 season. A solid young talent, who played well throughout the entire season and led the ‘Claws with 81 RBI, Castro, an outfielder, impressed fans, media and scouts alike.

A right-handed hitter, standing 5’11″ with a 180 pound build, Castro will be 21-years-old until mid-June. Castro is an individual that plays ball the right way both on offense and defense, who rarely gives away at bats and seldom makes a mistake on the bases or on defense.

Castro, a native of the Dominican Republic, was signed by the Phillies as a 17-year-old free agent in 2007. He batted .257 in his longest season as a pro in 2010. Castro had previously never played more than 88 games in a single season and fatigue seemed to be a small factor, as his batting average dropped toward the end of the season (.219 avg. after July, .270 avg. until that point).

With plus speed, Castro could surely improve as a base stealer and should start with picking his spots a bit better. His success rate of 62.8% (22 steals in 35 attempts) in 2010 was a certainly not ideal. As he moves up the ranks and has more coaches at his disposal, Castro should learn to read pitchers better as well. Keep in mind, at A Level ball, the first base coach is often a bench player there to fill the void, not necessarily there to assist the runners.

A bit of a free swinger, Castro struck out 92 times in 502 plate appearances in 2010, which is 16.5% of the time. His pitch recognition and contact ability saw improvement last season, as his strike out frequency in 2009, in time split between Williamsport and Lakewood, was 18.2 % of his plate appearances.

Castro’s bat has some power potential. With 27 doubles, 9 triples and 10 HR in 124 regular season games as a member of the BlueClaws in 2010, his slugging percentage (.406) was the lowest in any of his professional seasons thus far.  But as his ability to recognize pitches continues to develop and his strength increases, the capacity to drive balls should come along also.

Known to be a well-liked guy within the clubhouse, Castro, who spent much of his time playing leftfield for Lakewood in 2010, is an apparent leader for other Spanish speaking teammates. Add to that his tendencies to display flash and flair, and Castro could very well be one of the more fun Phillies prospects to watch as he attempts to ascend toward the big leagues.


Jay Floyd is PhilliesNation’s minor league contributor. You can read more from Jay on his site, PhoulBallz.com.


Total WAR Project, Part X: Philadelphia Phillies

Posted by Michael Baumann, Sat, April 03, 2010 02:54 PM Comments: 17

The Total WAR Project is a series of posts that analyzes the closest competition facing the Phillies in 2010. The posts use Wins Above Replacement, a metric designed to use offensive and defensive production within a single stat. You can check out the rest of the teams in our series here.

All winter, we’ve been doing this Total WAR Project, and hearing a chorus of “We don’t care about the Cardinals, or Mariners, or Red Sox–what about the Phillies?”

Well, two days before the first pitch of the season, we can finally answer that question–what about the Phillies?–after the jump.

Continue reading Total WAR Project, Part X: Philadelphia Phillies


Florida Marlins Preview

Posted by Michael Baumann, Fri, April 02, 2010 02:10 PM Comments: 20

Florida Marlins: (87-75, second place in the N.L. East in 2009)

The Florida Marlins are truly an amazing team. They’ve got a cycle going: start out with a crap team, draft and scout well, make a few shrewd trades, win a World Series, sell everyone off, and repeat. So far, it’s worked about once every five to seven years.

In 2009, the Marlins won 87 games with a combined team salary of roughly $34.5 million, according to Cot’s Contracts. That means they paid about $397,000 per win. It’s about the cost of a house in the suburbs, but it’s far better than the Phillies’ ratio (93 wins, $127.9 million payroll, $1.375 million per win) or the World Champion Yankees (103 wins, $206.8 million payroll, $2.01 million per win). Now, I’m sure that while Marlins fans (if there are any) are proud that their team paid about 1/8 as much per win as the Yankees, they’d much rather overspend for a World Series title.

But there is something to be said for being able to scare the bejeezus out of the Phillies, Mets, and Braves every year with a bunch of homegrown prospects and reclamation projects. Their scouting department does an excellent job and Fredi Gonzalez, while I think he’s a self-important, tyrannical prick, is an excellent manager who now has won more games than any other manager in team history. While I don’t think anyone in his right mind would pick the Marlins to win the division outright, you’d have to be an idiot to underestimate them.

2010 Preview

We know that Hanley Ramirez is probably the best position player in the National League not named Pujols. We know that Dan Uggla and Jorge Cantu will hit some and play terrible defense. Apart from that, the Marlins just have a slew of young players, enough that if Andrew Miller or Cameron Maybin doesn’t work out, they don’t really care.

Look for the Marlins to pitch very well. Josh Johnson might turn out to be the third-best starting pitcher in the division, and is an intimidating presence on the mound at a massive 6-foot-7, 250 pounds. He rode a mid-90s fastball and a hammer slider to a 3.03 FIP and 15 wins last year, good enough results that when MLB ordered the Marlins to go spend some money, they spent it locking up Johnson to a contract extension. He and Hanley Ramirez are the only Marlins signed beyond this year.

Another Marlin pitcher to watch out for is Ricky Nolasco. Think of him as a right-handed Cliff Lee–he was quite good in 2008 but went to the minors in 2009. He straightened out his mechanics and came back up to the majors with his problems fixed. In September and October, he struck out more than 11 batters every 9 innings, a staggering total for a starting pitcher. Look for Nolasco’s 2008-09-10 to be a less-dramatic version of Lee’s 2006-07-08 seasons.

Beyond Johnson and Nolasco, they have the team’s highest-paid player, Nate Robertson, acquired from the Tigers this spring. Of course, the Tigers are paying $9.6 million of his $10 million salary. Beyond him stand a collection of young pitchers, ranging from former No. 6 overall pick Miller (6-foot-7) to Chris Volstad (6-foot-8) to Anibal Sanchez, who’s only 6-foot but threw a no-hitter once. If this season goes south, look for the Marlins to loan their starting rotation to the Heat next year.

If you don’t know the Marlins by now, you will never never never know them–they’re going to be a young, exciting team that finishes a few games over .500 and scares the crap out of the Phillies in September. With the ascendancy of the Braves, the Phillies have a bigger chaser in their rearview mirror, but don’t sleep on the Fish, or your playoff hopes might sleep with them.

Prediction: 86-76


St. Louis Cardinals Preview

Posted by Michael Baumann, Wed, March 31, 2010 10:40 AM Comments: 2

St. Louis Cardinals (91-71, first place in NL Central)

Back when when we were at The Phrontiersman, Paul and I did a playoff projection pool with our friends and families (his Yankee-fan girlfriend predicted the outcome of every single series and won). I got in trouble when my predicted NL champion, the Cardinals, got swept in the first round. Since then, not much has changed. They’ve ditched Joel Pineiro and Mark DeRosa’s medical history, but the core remains.

I don’t know how a team with so few quality players can be any better than the 2009-10 Cardinals. They manage it because they’ve got two of the five best starting pitchers in the National League, two quality outfielders (including one, Colby Rasmus, who’s getting a lot of love for a breakout 2010 on the heels of his 16-homer rookie season), the best defensive catcher in baseball, and that dude Pujols.

Albert Pujols is mind-bendingly good, as I’m sure you know. He just turned 30 in January, and has already hit 366 major league home runs. His WAR of 8.5 last year was as good as Ichiro and Shane Victorino combined. He’s literally two all-stars in one. He’s third all-time in career OPS, up with Babe Ruth and Ted Williams and Barry Bonds. At one point late last summer (I don’t know if this held up until October), he was twice as likely to hit a homer with the bases loaded than he was to swing and miss at a pitch. He’s a truly transcendent player, and I don’t know that we’ll ever see the like of him again.

But after Pujols, there’s a huge drop-off to Matt Holliday, and from him, a huge drop in quality to Brendan Ryan, Rasmus, and Yadier Molina, and after that, who knows?

Essentially, the Cardinals won 90 games last year on the strength of Pujols, their top two starting pitchers, and tremendous good fortune. Ryan Franklin held up as a dominant closer for most of the year. Pineiro developed a bowling ball sinker. Zombie John Smoltz turned into a solid No. 4 starter.

Perhaps most ridiculously, Skip Schumaker acquitted himself quite well after converting to second base from the outfield. While infielders move to the outfield quite often with great success (Mickey Mantle, for instance, was originally a shortstop), the opposite almost never happens. But Schumaker, while he didn’t light the world on fire, continued to hit .300 and walk some while not killing the Cards at the keystone. That’s the kind of break the Cardinals always seem to get, and it’s what put them into a position to mount a serious challenge for the pennant.

2010 Season

The good news for Cardinals fans is that the rest of the NL Central is in such a state that they don’t need all the same breaks to get back into the playoffs. I’m going to contradict my esteemed colleague Pat Gallen here, but the NL Central, apart from St. Louis is like a Dane Cook TV special–just one terrible joke after another.

I can’t name more than four Pittsburgh Pirates without using Google. The Reds don’t have any proven star-quality players and are toiling under the leadership of the only manager in baseball whom I’d describe as an albatross–Dusty Baker. In Houston, Ed Wade is trying to win by reassembling the 2003 Phillies. Lou Piniella’s Flying Circus is just getting older and more dysfunctional. That leaves the Brewers, a team that could steal the division, but needs even more lucky breaks than the Cardinals to do so.

St. Louis would be the third-best team (at best) in four of the other five divisions in baseball, but due to fortunate geographical circumstances, they’re in a division where having two good starters and one monster position player is good enough to win 90 games.

Of course, once they win the division, Wainwright and Carpenter go from pitching 40 percent of the time to 2/3 of the time. I’m not saying that’s enough for me to pick them to win the pennant again, but they scare me.

Prediction: 90-72


San Diego Padres Preview

Posted by Michael Baumann, Sat, March 27, 2010 10:19 AM Comments: 7

San Diego Padres: (75-87, 4th Place in the NL West in 2009)

Look back to about mid-September 2007. The Phillies, mired in a 13-year playoff drought, were still trailing the defending division champion Mets, and 3,000 miles away, the San Diego Padres, coming off two straight division titles of their own, had a comfortable division lead over the Colorado Rockies and, if that didn’t work out, over the Brewers in the Wild Card. The Padres had two top-line starting pitchers, one of whom, Jake Peavy, was one of the top two or three in baseball. Their bullpen, led by all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, featured a young Heath Bell and a host of young, effective relievers. Life was good. Then you know what happened next. The Phillies overtook the Mets and kept going all the way to the top of the National League. The Padres, on the other hand, went into a tailspin, famously losing in the last weekend of the season to the Brewers, then to the Rockies in a 13-inning one-game playoff that must be the single least entertaining extra-inning playoff game in history.

They’ve never been the same. Milton Bradley and Khalil Greene went crazy and are now gone. Greg Maddux and David Wells have retired, and Brian Giles might as well have. Peavy’s gone, as is Kevin Kouzmanoff. From that those 2005-07 Padres teams, the only real contributors who are still around are Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell.

The Padres have lived a truly bizarre and (I’d speculate) cursed existence. Only two World Series appearances in their 41-season history, neither of which were even competitive. Worst uniforms in baseball. Gimmick ballpark. They parlayed some of the best years of Tony Gwynn, Kevin Brown, Rickey Henderson, and others into a long series of disappointments. The 2005 edition of the Padres holds the dubious distinction of the worst playoff team ever. They’re the only team to never have had a player thrown a no-hitter or hit for the cycle.

In 2009, Adrian Gonzalez was the only above-average position player, leading the team in batting average, home runs, walks, hits, runs, OBP, slugging percentage, RBI, and total bases. No one else had an OPS+ above 105. Tim Stauffer, with only 73 IP, posted a 104 ERA+. No other Padres starting pitcher put up even a league-average ERA. The Padres, in 2009, were a team that couldn’t hit or pitch. Bad as they were, it’s a miracle they weren’t worse.

2010 Season

The Padres are really the only team in the division without any reason to be optimistic. The Dodgers and Rockies can expect to contend for the pennant this season, and the D-Backs and Giants have enough exciting young players to give the fans hope to contend soon. The Padres? Well, they’ve got a great closer, Heath Bell, who might get traded. They’ve got one of the best first basemen in the game, Adrian Gonzalez, who might get traded, though I’m not quite sure why everyone’s assuming he’s going to get traded to the Red Sox.

Everth Cabrera’s a solid player, putting up a near-league-average OPS at shortstop in 2009, and at only age 22. Another young player, Kyle Blanks, is expected to put up huge power numbers if the Padres can ever find somewhere to hide him defensively. Scott Hairston hit for some power and, like his brother, can play multiple positions. The Padres als0 have a slew of low-minors prospects who might be worth something down the road, including a personal favorite of mine, a fire hydrant-shaped 20-year-old outfielder named Jaff Decker.

But this is a team that, in all likelihood, is set to bottom out in 2010 and remain irrelevant for the foreseeable future. Until then, the good folks in San Diego will just have to keep the faith.

Prediction: 63-99

Phillies Nation’s Season Previews Will Resume with the Los Angeles Dodgers.


Total WAR Project VIII: New York Yankees

Posted by Michael Baumann, Thu, March 11, 2010 12:00 PM Comments: 15

The Total WAR Project is a series of posts that analyzes the closest competition facing the Phillies in 2010. The posts use Wins Above Replacement, a metric designed to use offensive and defensive production within a single stat.

So we’ve covered the six NL teams (Braves, the Mets, the Rockies, the Cardinals, the Dodgers, the Brewers), plus the Mariners. I honestly think that these Yankees are the team to be worried about. It goes against the pessimist in me, but short of Chase Utley and Roy Halladay engaging in and acting on a suicide pact over the All-Star break, I can’t see any way this team doesn’t get back to the Fall Classic.

They were the best team in baseball by a huge distance last year, and they got even better this offseason. They go legitimately 4-deep in the rotation, they have the best lineup in baseball, and they’re in the process of rotating older talent out of the lineup and inserting younger talent, but more on that later. In short, the best team in baseball continues to get better. More on this after the jump.

Continue reading Total WAR Project VIII: New York Yankees


The Total WAR Project, Part VII: Seattle Mariners

Posted by Michael Baumann, Wed, March 10, 2010 12:00 PM Comments: 7

The Total WAR Project is a series of posts that analyzes the closest competition facing the Phillies in 2010. The posts use Wins Above Replacement, a metric designed to use offensive and defensive production within a single stat.

In today’s Total WAR Project, we visit the famous story of the jilted ex-boyfriend. You know the feeling when, as Gloria Gaynor famously sang, “you see me with somebody new,” and your heart immediately falls into your colon? Well, it’s not exactly like that, but there will always be a sense of “what-could-have-been” for Phillies fans with Cliff Lee. Yes, the Phils dumped him for a stud, but the grass is always greener, etc. Sort of like when I broke off my torrid romance with Holly Hunter to be with Kate, my Long-Suffering Girlfriend. I’m happy now, but every time I watch Broadcast News, there’s that little twinge of regret. But I digress.

We have identified, studied, and otherwise examined the six teams that are most likely to deny the Phillies the pennant, either by preventing them from winning the division or Wild Card or by knocking them out in the NL playoffs: the Braves, the Mets, the Rockies, the Cardinals, the Dodgers, and the Brewers.

And so we journey to the mystic American League West to take a look at the first of three teams that could give the Fightins the most trouble in the World Series: The Seattle Mariners.

Continue reading The Total WAR Project, Part VII: Seattle Mariners

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