Phillies Spring Training Winners & Losers

We know spring training stats don’t mean a whole lot. In fact, they probably mean nothing in the practical sense, but still baseball front offices, the players themselves, the fans, and the media still regard them to various degrees. With that said, I took a cursory look at the Phillies spring training numbers and made some evaluations on who best helped and hurt themselves going into 2010 and beyond.

HELPED

Tyson Gillies, OF

Gillies was one of the two “other” players received with Phillippe Aumont when Cliff Lee was traded to the Seattle Mariners. He hasn’t been graded highly by most prospect evaluators, but the Phillies liked the cut of his jib. He proved them right in spring training in a small sample of plate appearances, showing power, speed, and athleticism. He also showed baseball “smarts” when he quickly circled the bases after a home run so as not to show up the opposing pitcher, David Purcey.

In my opinion, I’m just trying to show respect to the pitcher. He knows he gave up a home run. He doesn’t need you to take about five minutes to run around the bases.

He will start the season in AA Reading. Shane Victorino, 29 years old, is a free agent after the 2012 season. The Phillies hope Gillies will be ready to take over in center field at that time. He has shown great on-base skills, including the ability to draw walks, and has recently developed power, raising his SLG in Single-A from .410 in 2008 to .486 in ’09.

Domonic Brown

Brown was so impressive in spring training that it became reasonable to suggest that he start the season with the Phillies in Washington. It won’t happen, mind you, but it’s not an outright crazy suggestion anymore. He posted a Barry Bondsian .417/.464/.750 line in 24 spring training at-bats, including one of the longest home runs (hit off of Justin Verlander, who finished third in last year’s AL Cy Young balloting) in spring training. Here’s another video in which, as The Fightins says, Ryan Howard and Charlie Manuel are “practically salivating over the kid.”

Brown’s spring training performance has given the Phillies organization and especially Manuel confidence to bring him up at some point this season if they in need of a full-time outfielder whether due to injury or trade. Do not be surprised if he not only gets called up in September but is added to the post-season roster if the Phillies are fortunate enough to make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year.

Ben Francisco

Francisco, a part-time player, has racked up the seventh-most at-bats of anyone wearing a Phillies uniform during spring training. He has certainly made the most of them as his triple-slash line of .273/.373/.568 indicates. Francisco would be a starter on many teams in Major League Baseball; the Phillies are fortunate to have an above-average hitter — and he was “thrown in” with Cliff Lee last year in the trade with the Cleveland Indians.

He plays passable defense in left field and has gap power, compiling 62 doubles and 30 home runs in the past two seasons. Francisco can still get better, as he is just 28 years old. If he can cut his strikeout rate and increase his walk rate even by just a couple percentage points as well as pick his stolen base attempts more carefully, he may turn into a 2-3 WAR player.

As mentioned on Monday, the Phillies won’t want to start Dom Brown’s arbitration clock if they don’t have to, so if any of the outfielders miss an extended period of time, Francisco provides exceptional insurance and saves the Phillies money in two ways: he himself is not yet arb-eligible and he allows the Phillies to keep Brown in AAA. Add all this to an impressive spring and you have a bench player who has made the Phillies very happy.

HURT

Raul Ibanez

Raul’s just had a rough spring any way you slice it. He has had a terrible time at the plate, hitting .114/.264/.227. To add to the displeasure, he was hit in the right elbow by a pitch on Friday and just returned to the lineup yesterday against the Houston Astros. Ibanez turns 38 on June 2 and despite the great first half last year, he has GM Ruben Amaro grimacing when he remembers the three-year, $31.5 million contract he offered prior to last season.

Jonathan Atwood thinks the Phillies should trade Raul Ibanez and sign Jayson Werth (as opposed to my idea of trading Ryan Howard and signing Werth). The only problem is that he is old and injury-prone and expensive (owed $24+ million in 2010-11) and has historically been a streaky player. The market for a player of that nature is slim to none. His poor spring training performance limits that market even more. If the Phillies have any hope of trading Ibanez for any value, they will have to hope for another monster first half.

Jose Contreras

He has had an awful, awful spring training. In 12 innings, he has allowed 14 runs (12 earned) on 20 hits and 8 walks. The good news is that he has allowed only one home run and struck out 15 batters. Could be a case of bad BABIP. However, pitching coach Rich Dubee is concerned. Per Ryan Lawrence:

“His command hasn’t been good,” pitching coach Rich Dubee said. “His arm is still getting used to the workload. So does it concern me? Yeah, because I like to see better results. (But) I’m not ready to jump off any bridges.”

Contreras is expected to take over the role vacated by Chan Ho Park. Overall, the bullpen is a mess, so Contreras is not in jeopardy of receiving a demotion or being outright released. With Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero unlikely to be ready by Opening Day, everyone’s role in the bullpen gets bumped up two notches, including that of Contreras. The Phillies cannot afford to have him unable to command his pitches in high-leverage innings.

Of all of the poor spring training performances, this is by far the most concerning.

Antonio Bastardo

The Phillies went into spring training with three left-handers auditioning for the LOOGY role. It sounds reasonable that there would be a 33% chance of finding an effective lefty to use in the bullpen. And yet the Phillies found none they were really happy with in spring training. Sergio Escalona and Mike Zagurski pitched very poorly and were sent down two weeks before the end of spring training, intimating that Antonio Bastardo had earned the role by default.

Unfortunately, Bastardo has also had a poor spring. In eight and two-thirds innings, he has allowed seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits and two walks. The great news, however, is that he has struck out 15. Bastardo has won the role due to his higher upside, but the Phillies are still hoping that J.C. Romero is in top-form as soon as possible.

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10 comments

  1. ShooterB

    March 31, 2010 10:19 AM

    His “arm is still getting used to the workload”? Does he mean that 12 innings over a month’s time is a bit too much for Contreras to handle? That can’t be good.

    And you gotta give some spring training props to old man Moyer. So far hitters can’t touch Ephus Bocephus.

  2. Bill Baer

    March 31, 2010 10:23 AM

    I was thinking about adding Moyer to the “helped” category, but he was pretty much guaranteed the spot before anyone even showed up in Clearwater.

    Contreras is starting to worry me. Well, the whole bullpen is, to be honest. Starting to feel like Pittsburgh over here.

  3. Dan

    March 31, 2010 02:35 PM

    Bill, Moyer was only guarenteed a spot if he showed he could still pitch at the major league level, no matter what Kendrick did. He did, and it was an open question, so he’s a clear winner. So are the Phils, for that matter, as they are a better team if he’s a good pitcher than they are if he is not.

  4. Phylan

    March 31, 2010 02:57 PM

    If some American League team needs DH help, I would want the Phillies to consider trading Ibanez even for some non-prospects. Hell, even for cash considerations. The amount of flexibility it would give the Phillies is worth it.

  5. e

    March 31, 2010 05:43 PM

    Phillies overspent, and jumped the market with Ibanez. He’d be an average DH in the AL.Horrible signing.

    Bill, should we look forward to a fantasy draft recap Post from ya?

  6. Bill Baer

    March 31, 2010 10:24 PM

    I’m not sure how many people are interested in our fantasy league. I made some posts about it last year and the only people who cared were the people involved. So, probably not.

  7. b

    April 01, 2010 03:32 AM

    How can you say a guy who put up over a 4 WAR season in his lone year here was a horrible signing? There biggest mistake was backloading the deal rather frontloading it.

    Look at the other guys the Phils had to sort through and what they did last year.

    Pat Burrell -.5 WAR
    Adam Dunn 1.3 WAR
    Milton Bradley 1.1 WAR
    Rocco Baldelli .2 WAR
    Bobby Abreu 2.5 WAR (Who we all know had 0 chance of coming back here)

    Not only did they get the best of the bunch, but there combined WAR came out to 4.5, just .2 WAR higher than Ibanez’s 4.3.

    At what point will people stop labeling it as a poor deal? You may not have liked the deal, but at least give credit where credit is due. Just because it was a SABR unfriendly move, I think SABR centric posters are holding a grudge over the deal and refusing to accept that it has worked out so far.

    According to the DVORP he’s already earned half his total salary of the entire deal!

  8. b

    April 01, 2010 03:38 AM

    Oh btw I realize the total WAR compilation vs. Ibanez #’s are off. I’m half asleep as I’m typing this so please forgive me.

  9. Bill Baer

    April 01, 2010 05:36 AM

    The Ibanez signing was a bad deal, especially when using the information that was available at the time. As you point out, Ibanez’s 2009 was worth 4.3 WAR, which is about $17 million on the free agent market. That makes up for more than half of his $31.5 million contract.

    $31.5 million is about 8 wins, so Ibanez is being paid like an 8-win player, or 2.7 per season over the life of the contract.

    Prior to 2009, Ibanez had never crossed 3 WAR and was worth a total of 6 WAR from 2006-08. It was reasonable to assume, given that information along with his age, that it would be unlikely he would live up to his contract.

    Additionally, a lot of Ibanez’s value last year came from his great fielding performance. His fielding made up 19% of his value last year, or about .8 WAR ($3.2 million).

    It may be due to skill; it may not be. Personally, I’m skeptical given his other fielding data, and given that UZR can fluctuate from year to year.

    Finally, even despite his poor second-half, Ibanez set a career high in HR, SLG, and OPS. Yes, Ibanez moved from the spacious Safeco Field to Citizens Bank Park, but that’s not the reason for the increase as he actually hit better on the road. Over his career, he has hit exactly equal on the road and at home with an .826 OPS each.

    The odds of Ibanez having another career offensive season, or one even closely resembling it, are low. CHONE has Ibanez as a 2 WAR player in 2010 (and a .075 drop in OPS). I think that is very realistic.

  10. gm-carson

    April 03, 2010 07:01 AM

    Ibanez scares me. I hope to be proven wrong, but I foresee a drastic plummet this season in production. Yes, cheering “Raaauuulll” is fun, but it won’t be so much when he’s putting up paltry #’s from the 6-hole.

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