Crash Bag, Vol. 3 & 4: Double or Nothin’

It’s been a long, long way down for Phillies fans. Though the annual declines in performance have let us down slowly, gently into the abyss of terrible baseball, it’s still been difficult to watch the team over the last few years. Maybe your turning point was Cole’s subpar performance in the 2009 World Series, or Howard’s strikeout parade against the Giants in 2010, or Howard’s achilles injury in 2011 … or paying Howard and not Jayson Werth … or trading for Hunter Pence … or trading Pence. You get the idea. There have been plenty of times when the bottom fell out of what we thought was the bottom. So it’s only natural, and completely understandable, that the minor leaguers get more attention these days, especially when the big club runs out a lineup with Cesar Hernandez or Freddy Galvis batting 2nd. I feel your pain.

The short answer is no. That’s because, one, playing in the majors is really, really hard; two, the AAA team is not that talented; and three, it’s way too early to look at data and say a performance has been good, bad, or otherwise. Having said that, I want Maikel Franco up as soon as possible. That’s probably not rational, and maybe he could use some more plate appearances in AAA, but it’s quite difficult to enjoy watching most of the players the Phillies are putting on the field. Bring up Franco, stick him at third every day, and leave him there. Let him prove he can or can’t do it. I think he can. Asche can back him up and play first with Ruf. There’s nobody else at Lehigh Valley worth recalling besides Domonic Brown and Chad Billingsley, both of whom are currently on rehab assignments. Russ Canzler is just an org guy, and besides, there’s already a Russ Canzler on the team (his name is Darin Ruf). Roman Quinn is tearing it up in AA, but he needs more time.

I like Matt for a lot of reasons, including this question, his awesome hair, and his smart and reasoned analysis of the Phillies, in particular the minor leaguers. Check out Matt’s website Phillies Minor Thoughts when you’re done with ye olde crashbag. Anyway, I’m going to VERY freely interpret the word “enjoyment.” My definition includes schadenfreude, as you’ll notice.

C – Ben Revere. My goodness, can you think of anything more adorable than Ben Revere in catcher’s gear? Backup: Dustin McGowan. Did you know he played catcher in high school?

1B – Aaron Harang. You know why.

2B – Cole Hamels. Only another very handsome man is allowed to (facetiously, temporarily) take Chase Utley‘s spot. Backup: none. There’s no amount of handsome left on this team even close to Chase and Cole. OK, maybe Grady Sizemore.

3B – Carlos Ruiz. I feel like Chooch can actually do it. For about an inning.

SS – Sean O’Sullivan. I know I’ve picked on him a little bit in the past but, man. This would be a sight. Backup: Ryan Howard.

LF, CF, RF – Darin Ruf in center because only then will his “prospect” hype die. David Buchanan in right to cover for Ruf’s mistakes. Jonathan Papelbon in left because that’s where you put the antsy kid who can’t be trusted to catch the ball or throw to the correct base. Backups: Jake Diekman and Justin de Fratus. They’re tall and they have cannons.

SPs – Jeff Francoeur, Chase Utley, Cody Asche, Freddy Galvis, Jerome Williams. Frenchy’s got a gun. Chase Utley can do anything. Cody Asche, well, he’s not really a third baseman, so maybe he can pitch? Galvis just because. This is supposed to be fun right? I couldn’t bear the thought of putting Jerome Williams in the field.

Bullpen – Cesar Hernandez, Andres BlancoJeanmar GomezLuis GarciaOdubel Herrera, Cameron Rupp. Hey, there’s actually some major league pitchers in there!

Closer – Ken Giles. Someone should be in his actual right place on this ridiculous farce of a team.

I think there’s a nonzero chance the 2017 team will compete for 80ish wins. Using that year as a reference point, I’ll take the over. While I don’t expect Hamels, Utley, Ruiz, Revere, or Brown to be on the team at that point, it seems likely that Diekman, de Fratus, Giles, and Asche will still be around. If Domonic Brown actually hits this year, maybe he’ll be on the team then, too. More on him later.

That’s a gigantic assumption, isn’t it? The last time Chad Billingsley was healthy, President Obama was running for re-election. The last time Billingsley was both healthy and REALLY good, President Obama was running for his first term. But yeah, for the sake of the question, the Buzzsaw’s got to be better than Sean O’Sullivan. Reasonably, I think he can be a legitimate 4th/5th starter type. Let’s say a 4ish FIP? Optimistically, he makes 12-15 decent starts and attracts enough attention around the league that he can be dealt to a contender for a lottery ticket or two (a la Roberto Hernandez). Then his rotation spot can be filled by Aaron Nola.

Honestly? Never. That’s how big of a deal Jimmy Rollins is in Phillies history. I used the amazing Play Index at baseball-reference to search for Phillies players who played at least 50% of the time at shortstop and had at least 500 career plate appearances with the club. In the entire history of the franchise, the only guy who might even be considered a possibility is Dick Bartell. He was the Phillies’ shortstop from 1931 to 1934, and was an All-Star in 1933. He hit two homers in four years playing his home games in the Baker Bowl, then in 1935 went to the New York Giants and hit 14 homers playing in the Polo Grounds. This should really make you appreciate James Calvin Rollins, if you didn’t already. He was by far the best shortstop this franchise has ever had, and it’s going to be hard for J.P. Crawford to even come close to Jimmy. If Crawford can be 75% of the player Jimmy Rollins was, we will be very fortunate.

The first name that comes to mind is J.D. Drew. With the second pick in the 1997 draft, the Phillies drafted Drew despite agent Scott Boras warning the team that Drew wouldn’t sign for less than $10 million on a major league deal. The Phillies (typically, right?) plunged their heads directly into the sand, offered Drew 20% of what he was asking for, and lost their top pick. Ryne Sandberg represents a similar missed opportunity. The Phillies drafted him in the 20th round of the 1978 draft. Sandberg played in 13 whole games for the Phillies in 1981, logging six (yes, six) plate appearances. He singled once and struck out once. On January 27, 1982, Sandberg was traded with Larry Bowa to the Cubs for Ivan de Jesus.

OK, so to be fair both of those are really organizational mistakes and not players who failed. Drew had a fine career, including some historic postseason moments, and Sandberg, you know, kinda ended up in the Hall of Fame as one of the best to ever man the keystone. Yes, the 1980s were a long time ago. Thanks for reminding me how old I am.

To bring this back to the future, the poster boy for failed prospects has to be Domonic Brown. And that’s really not fair, especially coming from me as I’ve been in his corner to bounce back this year. But for a guy who was once the top prospect in baseball, Brown’s career has been underwhelming at best. This year is his last chance to hit before the bust label is affixed with krazy glue. Since putting him on this list would undermine my ability to ever be taken seriously as a Brown supporter, allow me to introduce his substitute: Eric Valent. Valent was the 1998 draft supplemental pick the Phillies received for not signing J.D. Drew.

Others: Larry Greene, Sebastian Valle, Tommy Joseph, Greg Golson, Tyson Gillies, Wayne Gomes, Adam Eaton, Phillippe Aumont, Joe Savery, Kyle Drabek, Tyler Green, Carlton Loewer, Jeff Jackson.

I need to fold in some Ghostbusters II to make this work. Pat Gillick is Mayor Lenny. Sandberg is Jack Hardemeyer. Cliff Lee (who’s not technically dead, by the way!) is Venkman. Hamels is Stantz. Utley is Spengler, but with less humor. Howard can be Winston, if only because the look on Winston’s face when the ghost train comes down the track is what Howard looks like when he sees a fastball. Ben Revere is Louis Tully.

I’m really not happy with Ryne Sandberg as manager, which is why I made him the most unlikable character in the second installment of the franchise. I don’t like his lineups. I don’t like the way he ran the pitching staff into the ground last year. I don’t like how many righties he had Jake Diekman face last year. I don’t like how he’s batting Cesar Hernandez or Freddy Galvis second on a nightly basis. I don’t like that he gave Ben Revere’s job to Odubel Herrera. I like Herrera a lot, and so far he’s been one of the only bright spots on the team. I hope he continues to hit. But if you want to give a Rule 5 pick the everyday CF/leadoff job, do you also have to straight up bench the guy he’s replacing? Revere didn’t play Thursday or Friday and had a pinch-hit appearance Saturday (he did start Sunday, hitting 8th). He is easily the best outfielder on the team. That’s not saying much, because the Phillies have one of the two or three worst outfields in baseball. But as far as an established skill set, major league track record, and remaining ability, Revere is the best of a bad bunch. Sizemore looks like he should be DFAd. Jeff Francoeur, OK, sometimes he runs into a pitch and hits it out, and he has a cannon, but he hasn’t been any good since 2011. Ben Revere hit .306 last year and stole 49 bases. From an entirely cynical perspective, at the very least, play him every day so you can trade him.

Well, I don’t know that you waive the minimum. It’s extraordinarily difficult to make the Hall of Fame (usually – cough cough, Jim Rice). Mike Trout seems like a lock now, but he still needs at least seven more years of production to accumulate stats. I think he’ll get in easily, but he’s only played three seasons. Right now (as of Sunday), he’s at 101 homers and 104 steals over three plus seasons, so an average of 32 homers and 33 steals per 162 games played (which is amazing). Using the baseball-reference Play Index again, I looked for players with at least 300 homers and 300 steals. It’s a fascinating list with only eight names: Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Andre Dawson, Carlos Beltran, Bobby Bonds, Reggie Sanders, and Steve Finley. Will Mike Trout be Willie Mays, or will he be Reggie Sanders? There’s a Grand Canyon-sized gap between those two players. Let’s see how good Mike Trout is in 2022. If he can get to 400/400, he’s in, because nobody has ever done that. Except Barry Bonds.

Most likely is the key here. Of course everyone wants the team to trade Ryan Howard, and the team wants to trade him, but that is very unlikely to happen. Not only is he owed $60 million through the end of next year (including a $10 million buyout for 2017), but he’s a liability in the field and really can’t hit anymore. He’s having trouble getting around on low-90s fastballs. He’s already, after only two weeks, at -1.1 WAR. It hurts to watch.

The Phillies will be very active in shopping Jonathan Papelbon, Carlos Ruiz, and Cole Hamels. They should probably shop Ben Revere, too. They should trade anyone they can to acquire talented young hitters. The trades of the past year have brought back some good young arms, and while there aren’t any locks among the group, the trio of Ben Lively, Tom Windle, and Zach Eflin has really helped raise the profile of the pitching prospects in the system. Beyond Maikel Franco, J.P. Crawford, and Roman Quinn, the Phillies just don’t have that many young hitters with upside. If you want to throw Kelly Dugan in there, OK, but he’s more likely a fourth outfielder than anything else. Without trading Cole Hamels, it’s going to be impossible to get a good, young hitter with realistically projectable upside.

Thanks for all of your questions. Feel free to send them in anytime on twitter dot com, and use the #crashbag hashtag. Until next time.

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7 comments

  1. Romus

    April 20, 2015 09:03 AM

    My hope is Dom Brown shows again some of the same brilliance he displayed in May/beginning of June 2013.
    What I fret, is that they finally decide to move him and he becomes the 2nd Jose Bautista, post-Pirates of 8/9 years ago.

    • Adam Dembowitz

      April 21, 2015 01:02 PM

      Yeah, that would suck. Though many people, including me, have been saying this is Dom’s last chance, he is still under team control (with arbitration) for 2016 and 2017. If he has another awful season, he’d have very little trade value; and, considering the state of the outfield corps in the minors, maybe the team would keep him around for another year.

  2. Tim

    April 20, 2015 10:05 AM

    I would love to know who was next on the Phillies’ draft board the year they wasted the pick on Drew. Troy Glaus went in the next pick, and you gotta figure having him on the team in the mid-2000s would have been a big improvement on their procession of terrible third-basemen (like in 2005 when they finished two games out with David Bell playing most of their games at third). However, in 97 they had a young Scott Rolen, so a 3B as their top pick seems unlikely. Some decent players got drafted that year, but of the first-round level of prospects, Lance Berkman (16th) has had by far the best career. Werth went first-round that year too, though his trip has obviously been much more roundabout.

    Also, according to wikipedia, Freddie Mitchell was drafted that year by the Devil Rays. He did not sign, thereby depriving the world of what surely would have been a Bo-Jackson-level of two-sport superstardom.

  3. Eddie

    April 20, 2015 05:24 PM

    Think the Trout estimate is conservative; much of it depends on how and why he leaves the game. If he starts sucking now and just fades out, yeah, he needs to reach 300 HRs.

    But his career progresses as we expect, and then is cut short in some tragic way (e.g. injury) he’ll get in based on peak value and pathos. Sandy Koufax really only had 4-6 seasons being *Sandy Koufax,* and walked into the HOF on the first ballot with only 165 wins. If Trout puts up three more seasons like his first three, he’d already be top-200 alltime in WAR, ahead of several HOFs. I think that would be enough. Five seasons, and his career value is about same as Dave Winfield and Craig Biggio.

    • Adam Dembowitz

      April 21, 2015 12:59 PM

      You may be right. However, I don’t think WAR has as much pull with HOF voters as you might think. Maybe by the time Trout is on the ballot, that will have changed.

  4. larry

    April 21, 2015 02:13 PM

    not sure how to define “elite production”
    but who was elite before utley?
    A phils all time team if done around 1990
    c-clements
    1b-luderus
    2b/ss Hammer and doolan or taylor
    3b schmidt
    maybe make taylor the utility guy
    and dick allen ,
    and then 14 OFs better than everyone not named schmidt/allen

  5. cal

    August 04, 2015 12:31 AM

    You said Cole had a poor 09 world series. To be expected. This man used flash in pan, 14 win season in 08 to luck into a nice on job retirement package paid by Phils as this man disappointed relative to his potential for 7 long years. The Phils waited 2 yrs too long before they moved him to AL to a dumb suitor who probably did not review Cole’s stats in interleague play over some 31 starts.

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