A Too Early Look at the 25-Man Roster: Pitching Locks

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Clearwater on February 13th–three short weeks from now–it is certainly early to look forward to which 25 players will emerge from Spring Training as members of the Phillies Opening Day roster. This week, we’ll look at the locks to break camp with the Major League club before turning to potential roster battles in the final two weeks before pitchers and catchers report.

Starting Rotation

With the return of Jeremy Hellickson and the addition of Clay Buchholz through trade, the composition of the Phillies starting rotation is more or less set.

Aaron NolaThe only question with Aaron Nola is his health. After prematurely ending his 2016 season with an elbow injury, he elected a rest and rehab approach rather than undergo surgery. He recently claimed that he feels 100%, but manager Pete Mackanin expressed some tempered skepticism on that front. At 100% health, Nola is among the best pitchers in baseball, as we saw for his first 12 starts of 2016 in which he had a 2.65 ERA with a 27.2 percent strikeout rate. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 3: Gazing into the Abyss

The Phillies did some things since our last installment of the Crash Bag–sign Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez, say Aaron Nola is healthy–but, if the questions submitted for present consideration carry a larger message it is that no one give a hoot about any of that. What follows is complete frivolity. Yes, even more so than usual.

In that spirit:

@KeithWinder: Who wins in a staring contest: Papelbon or Giles?

I like this question because both players, as “proven closers” have a reputation for being intense, focused dudes. However, the way they arrive at that reputation couldn’t be more different. Papelbon is intense in the way the ‘roided up football star with the high school locker next to yours is. Every time you are near him, you feel as if you are in extreme danger. Giles’ is more of a quiet focus than violent intensity. The bottom line is that both as professional athletes–already a mark of competitiveness in itself–have reputations of being competitive and focused even within that elite pool of competitive humans. Both would certainly not lose this contest easily. As Nietzsche put it in anticipation of this question, “when you stare for a long time into an abyss, the abyss stares back at you.” Continue reading…

Who Are You: Howie Kendrick

This is the first post in a weekly series which will run each Thursday. Over the next several weeks, I’ll take a deep dive look at new members of the Phillies roster. We’re just a couple months away from settling down to watch these guys day-in and day-out for half a year, so let’s try to find out who they are and what to expect from them in 2017.

Howie Kendrick (OF/2B) – RHB

Born: 7/12/1983, entering age-33 season

Height: 5’11”, Weight: 220 lb.

Contract Status: Will make $10 million in 2017, the final year of his contract.

2016 Stats: 543 PA, 9.2 BB%, 17.7 K%, .301 BABIP, .255/.326/.366, 91 wRC+, 0.9 fWAR, 0.5 rWAR

Career: 5457 PA, 5.3 BB%, 17.2 K%, .337 BABIP, .289/.332/.417, 106 wRC+, 26.9 fWAR, 29.1 rWAR Continue reading…

Checking in on the Remaining 2008 Phillies

With the long-awaited expiration of Ryan Howard‘s notorious contract extension this offseason, the last remaining member of the 2008 World Series Champions departed the organization. Though none are still Phillies, some of the heroes of that age are still out there attempting to trade their baseball-playing abilities for money in the upcoming season. Let’s take a quick look at where they all stand in those efforts.

Will Play in the Majors

Cole Hamels

Hamels is the only player here who is still within the confines of the prime of his career. He has two more guarantees seasons under contract with the Rangers and, once again, figures to be one of the top pitchers in their rotation and in baseball as a whole. Steamer projects him to throw over 200 innings with a 3.91 ERA in 2017, which won’t garner him many Cy Young votes, but should inch him closer to borderline Hall of Fame candidacy. Continue reading…

Phillies Upgrade Right Field, Sign Michael Saunders

In what will likely be the final piece added to the offensive puzzle heading into 2017, the Phillies signed Michael Saunders Monday to a one-year deal worth $9 million with an incentivized option for 2018 worth between $11-14 million. The 30-year-old Saunders, an All Star last season in his second of two with the Toronto Blue Jays, will help plug the Phillies’ right field leak that last season put up the second-fewest wins above replacement (according to Baseball-Reference) in the majors, and finished last in weighted on-base average and wRC+. The position, which was manned in 2016 by Peter Bourjos, Aaron Altherr, Jimmy Paredes, Tyler Goeddel, David Lough, Roman Quinn and Cedric Hunter also ranked in the bottom three in the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

That cadre of right fielders hit just eight home runs last year, tied for fewest in the majors. Saunders, whose main draw is his power from the left side, has matched or topped eight homers in every season that he’s played at least 78 games.

Pete Mackanin made it known at the end of 2016 that he wanted to add a professional hitter or two to the lineup. With Howie Kendrick and now Saunders strengthening their deficient corner outfield spots, Matt Klentak granted him that wish. Continue reading…

Phillies Avoid Arbitration with Jeanmar Gomez, Will Exchange Figures with Hernandez

After reaching a $4.35 million agreement with Freddy Galvis on Thursday to avoid arbitration hearings, the Phillies gained varying levels of closure with their two remaining arbitration candidates on Friday afternoon.

Matt Gelb was the first to report that the Phillies have settled with 2016 closer Jeanmar Gomez for a $4.2 million salary for 2017. He made $1.4 million in 2016 and was projected to receive $4.6 million in arbitration according to MLB Trade Rumors. Prior to a late-season meltdown, Gomez was a surprisingly reliable ninth-inning option for the team, notching 37 saves after recording only one for his career entering the season. His 4.85 ERA is the result of a disastrous final month. Through the end of August, he had a 2.97 ERA and 3.64 FIP.

With the additions of Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit plus last year’s breakout performance from Hector Neris, Gomez figures to return to the sixth or seventh inning option for which he is better suited. His low-strikeout (career 14 percent K-rate), high groundball (career 50.2 percent) style isn’t typical of the modern high-strikeout closer. But, since 2013, he’s used that repertoire to prevent runs well. He’s a valuable bullpen piece and, at $4.2 million, he should be a positive asset for a much deeper Phillies bullpen in 2017. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 2: Santa and Non-Functional Weight

Welcome back to another week of the Crash Bag, an important ploy to fill offseason content quotas but an even more necessary creation for enduring a long baseball season. Thank you to all who submitted questions. If you find yourself with a burning question you would like answered in a future iteration of this series, I encourage you to submit it via Twitter (@cf_larue) or the comment section of this edition.

@Margerine2000:  should the Phillies explore signing “Mr Punch,” Jose Bautista?

If you’re terminally ill and have fewer than 15 months to live or are otherwise disposed to not consider the consequences of actions beyond their likelihood of providing immediate enjoyment–i.e., you’re under the age of 16–yeah, go ahead. Between Bautista and Odubel Herrera, it would be difficult to find a better bat flipping 1-2 punch in the game. Add Yasiel Puig, and you’d have the most GIF-able outfield in the game by a large margin.

However, if your starting assumption is that, as a team unlikely to make the playoffs with or without Jose Bautista, the Phillies should take actions that further, or at least don’t get in the way of, the goal of winning in years beyond 2017, the answer here is a firm no. Continue reading…

Phillies Avoid Arbitration with Freddy Galvis

The Phillies announced Thursday afternoon that they have reached a one-year deal with shortstop Freddy Galvis to avoid arbitration. The one-year deal is reportedly worth $4.35 million. This was Galvis’ second year of arbitration after making $2 million in 2016; MLB Trade Rumors had projected him to make $4.4 million had he actually gone to arbitration, so the Phillies don’t appear to have gotten big savings by coming to a pre-hearing agreement.

In recent years, arbitration hearings have become incredibly rare as teams either buy out players with extensions before becoming eligible for arbitration or reaching one-year deals like this one before hearings. In the latter case, teams don’t appear to gain much financially, but the idea is that they gain some goodwill by not putting the player through the ordeal of a hearing. In such a hearing, representatives from the team sit across a table from a player and his agent and detail the reasons he’s worth less than he thinks he is. That, obviously, isn’t a great way to build long-term trust with a player.

If all goes according to plan, Galvis will shift into a utility role before the season is over when J.P. Crawford is promoted to the majors. Baseball-Reference has him as worth 1.3 WAR while FanGraphs, who loved his defense, had him at 2.4 WAR last season. His 20 home runs doubled his career total though his .241/.274/.399 batting line was 26 percent below league average according to wRC+. Continue reading…

Reminiscing with Graphical Representation: The 2008 Phillies

On Tuesday, I unveiled my full-season infographic detailing the season that was for the Philadelphia Phillies using Wins Above Average (WAA) by position. The season was, for all intents and purposes, pretty ugly. But what makes a (hopefully) successful rebuild so rewarding, what makes the special seasons (like 2008) so truly special are the years like these that often proceed them.

As a quick reminder, here’s what the 2016 season looked like for the Phillies. The full story and graphics can be READ AND SEEN HERE.

In 2016, the Phillies tied for last in the league with -16 wins above average. They played at or above league-average in just three positions: catcher, second base and center field. Of the remaining positions, their starting rotation ranked 18th in the league while every other position ranked no better than 24th. Spelling the rotation, the bullpen’s WAA was second-worst in the league and the position players as a whole posted the lowest wins above average in the majors with -11.2.

Terrible position players, terrible relievers, okay starting pitching. Thus was the story of 2016.

So were this rebuilding process to bare similar fruits to the most recently constructed Phillies powerhouse, what would that look like? Here’s what the Phillies 2008 roster looked like when it took home the team’s first World Series trophy in 28 years.

*Reminder: positions marked in red are the top half in the league, those in blue are in the bottom half. The darker the red, the closer to the position was to leading the league, the darker the blue, the closer it was to league-worst.*

Continue reading…

Phillies Announce 16 Non-Roster Invites

Without many established major league players on the Phillies 40-man roster, this year’s Spring Training figures to offer a greater level of intrigue than recent years as many of the top prospects and young players in the organization will be hoping to lock up a spot with the team on Opening Day. With that level of open competition, there is also the possibility that a player or prospect not currently on the 40-man roster could earn such a spot with a strong spring performance.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Phillies announced 16 non-40-man players who have received invitations to major league camp this spring:

Those 16 join the likes of LHP Sean Burnett, infielders Pedro Florimon and Hector Gomez, and outfielder Daniel Nava who were announced as non-roster invites earlier this offseason. Continue reading…