A Dose of Optimism

With the Cole Hamels scare yesterday, I figure we Phillies fans need something to lift our spirits. You’re up, Jayson Stark:

Jason Donald, Phillies (.350, 9 runs scored): With Jimmy Rollins off on WBC duty and both Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz recovering from surgery, Donald has gotten 40 at-bats already at second, third and short. And he’s done nothing to dissuade the Phillies from thinking he might be ready to help them right now. “He really grows on you,” said an NL scout. “I don’t think I’ve seen him strike out yet. He reads pitches well. He squares up the ball consistently. I like him a lot. He’s got some baseball player in him.”

There’s a bit of hyperbole in there: Jason Donald has struck out — 7 times in 44 at-bats, in fact, this spring training. But he has just as many walks and a slash line of .318/.423/.409. The SLG is a bit concerning as only three of his 14 hits have gone for extra bases, but the Phillies will take a similar line over Pedro Feliz (.249/.302/.402).

If the Phillies intend to use Donald at third base, the question simply becomes “How good is his defense?” Feliz last season contributed 7.8 fielding runs which nearly offset his -9.8 batting runs. If Donald can be noticeably better than -2 runs, the Phillies should at least put him in to spell Feliz, if not have them both split time.

John Mayberry is another prospect making an impact in spring training. He has struck out way too much (14 of ‘em) and hasn’t walked nearly enough (only two) in 43 spring training at-bats. That’s a BB/K of only .14, and it hasn’t been higher than .5 in his Minor League career. However, if Mayberry can slug anywhere close to the .558 slugging percentage he has now, he would be an excellent addition to the Phillies’ bench and would be extremely useful if the Phillies brass could find the stones to platoon a player on whom they spent $31.5 million.

Miguel Cairo, anyone? Dude is slugging .630 in 27 spring training at-bats. He’s always been good with the glove, though he’s been regressing since 2006. Anything above his .672 career OPS would be nice and he could find a spot on the Opening Day roster if the Phillies find a way to dump Geoff Jenkins and/or Matt Stairs (please, let it be Jenkins) and if Chris Coste doesn’t heal in time.

Assuming a five-man bench, the Phillies could go with Greg Dobbs, John Mayberry, Eric Bruntlett, Jason Donald, and Ronny Paulino. That’s a balanced, above-average bench.

Further down in Stark’s article, we do have a dose of pessimism regarding Kyle Kendrick.

Kyle Kendrick, Phillies (1-1, 14.29 ERA, 5 2/3 IP, 14 H, 3 HR): Kendrick has fallen so far behind J.A. Happ and Chan Ho Park in the Phillies’ fifth-starter derby, there is speculation the Phillies could even trade him before Opening Day. “He’s got options left, so they don’t have to move him. But they’d have to think about it,” said one NL scout. “I don’t see where he fits, quite honestly. You want to root for this kid, but the more you see him, the more obvious it gets that he doesn’t have enough stuff. He needs to come up with another pitch to get the hitters off that sinker.”

I’m normally not one to brag but I told you so. And I told you so. I should be a scout.

What’s that? I predicted a Rockies-Indians World Series in 2008? Mike Hampton for the 2008 NL Comeback Player of the Year award? Aaron Harang for the 2008 NL Cy Young?

Maybe I should leave the scout stuff to the professionals.

Want to go back to the optimism? I think the Phillies can win the NL East without Cole Hamels for an entire season. How, you ask? As I stated on FanGraphs:

According to FanGraphs, Hamels was worth 4.6 wins last season. I believe that is adjusted for replacement level but correct me if I’m wrong. And most projections have Happ and Park being above replacement level. The drop from Hamels to whoever gets bumped into the rotation (i.e. the loser of the Happ/Park duel) is large, but not quite as large if, say, it was Hamels to Adam Eaton. In other words, losing Hamels might result in a loss of three wins or so.

[…]

…as long as Happ and Park are as good as most of the projections have them being, which is in the low 4’s in ERA. If the Phillies are projected to be, say, a 91-win team, then Hamels’ ~4.5 wins and Happ/Park’s ~1.0 or so would put them at around 87-88.

That assumes that the Phillies are a 91-win team at present with a healthy Cole Hamels. That, certainly, is debatable.

Leave a Reply

*

7 comments

  1. ShooterB

    March 17, 2009 11:49 AM

    Just to add my own pessimism…

    Why does a baseball storyline of “elbow problems” never end with a conclusion of “but I’m feeling much better now”?

    Hopefully it is nothing major, but I always expect the worst when it comes to pitcher’s arm problems. I must have learned that by putting Kerry Wood on my fantasy team one too many times.

    I think the loss of Hamels for an entire year would cost them a lot more than 3 or 4 wins. For one thing, if Chan Ho Park is a replacement option…that can’t be a good sign. It’s worth noting that Chan Ho Park is…well, Chan Ho Park. Maybe if I say Chan Ho Park one more time, his dreadful production will disappear.

    J.A. Happ appears to have all kinds of potential…but until a guy puts in a full 200-inning year at the MLB level, you never know. Projections are fine, but they don’t necessarily account for the durability question mark of an unproven player.

    But if it’s optimism you need, I believe if you just pray to the great alien overlord of Darren Daulton…everything will be just fine for the Phils. Problem solved.

  2. Bill Baer

    March 17, 2009 12:01 PM

    if you just pray to the great alien overlord of Darren Daulton […] Problem solved

    That was his ploy to get me to join his religion. Luckily I’m a Scientologist otherwise they would have had me.

  3. ShooterB

    March 17, 2009 12:35 PM

    Well, I’m sure Tom Cruise can call his people too. Tell him to have fun being crazy, and say hi to Katie for me.

  4. PhillyFriar

    March 17, 2009 01:03 PM

    “…he could find a spot on the Opening Day roster if the Phillies find a way to dump Geoff Jenkins and/or Matt Stairs (please, let it be Jenkins)…”

    Agree with just about everything you’ve said above, but with regard to this one bit, I don’t see any way the Phils go this route. Only Victorino and Werth are capable of playing CF, and if you go with an additional OF contingent of Ibanez/Stairs/Mayberry, you’re a Werth pulled hamstring away from a major defensive headache in the OF.

    Jenkins is simply a better fielder, capable of playing both outfield spots, and there’s simply no way he’s as bad with the bat this year as he was in 2008. I’d bank on his .292 BABIP improving a bit, and PECOTA

  5. PhillyFriar

    March 17, 2009 01:04 PM

    Whoops, meant to say, “PECOTA has him forecasted for a .268/.336/.456 line. As your second LH bench bat (behind Dobbs) and backup OF likely to see 350 or so plate appearances, that should play just fine.”

  6. Bill Baer

    March 17, 2009 01:25 PM

    PF, yeah, I really don’t see the Phillies finding any suitors for Jenkins, if only because of his salary. They’re not going to eat his salary and release him, so I’m afraid Jenkins will be on the bench.

    As for his BABIP, I think his “natural” BABIP may be a bit lower than his career average. It’s been in decline since 2005, so his “natural” BABIP may be around, say, .305-.310, as opposed to his .326 career average. So the mean-regression won’t be quite as favorable.

    I do think Mayberry would probably benefit from another year in the Minors. I’d like to see someone work with him on his strike zone judgment but I’m afraid that an increase in walks and a decrease in strikeouts would also result in a decrease in isolated power.

  7. Jay Ballz

    March 17, 2009 11:24 PM

    Donald, Marson, Carrasco, etc…

    It’s nice to have some hot prospects just about ready in the minors.

Next ArticleStating the Obvious