The Kids Won’t Help the Phillies’ Weaknesses

On Monday, I tweeted that the Phillies minor league system had the best winning percentage in baseball. Predictably, there were responses for the Phillies to give the kids a chance. This combined with nearly every beat writer having a mailbag yesterday where they were asked about calling up prospect relievers, had me wanting to look at where the team actually needs help and if there is any help that could come. Why not break this team down by units (lineup, bench, rotation, and bullpen) and see where they are right now?

Lineup:

The most MLB ready prospect is Rhys Hoskins, and on the surface it feels like he should be able to get close to that Joseph stat line. The only problem is that Joseph would be the best hitter in baseball in May if it weren’t for Altherr, and is currently hitting .400/.512/.886 through 43 PAs this month. Cameron Rupp is having an unsustainably good stretch, so no point in not continuing to ride that and buy Alfaro more time. Franco and Herrera aren’t going anywhere. Galvis has been fine, and Crawford has been bad. That leaves just Saunders in RF. The Phillies aren’t going to move Altherr for Howie Kendrick, so the platoon partner for Saunders is on the way The only problem is that Saunders doesn’t have platoon splits. This gives us one spot where we plausibly have room to upgrade.

Bench:

Blanco is the primary 2B, SS, and 3B backup, and while his offense has slipped, he is fine as a backup infielder. Knapp is hitting well, but at only 43 PAs and a .375 BABIP, he is going to regress. That said, he is the backup catcher. Nava has turned into Daniel Nava and is a negative on defense. As a rookie, Stassi has been fine. As a major league asset he has been poor. Ty Kelly is a warm body and 5th infielder. Howie Kendrick is going to take one of the last 3 spots, which means we are talking about the 4th and 5th bench bat roles where there won’t be much playing time. Maybe Cameron Perkins is better than Nava, but that is not a huge change. In general, there is a corner outfield spot that could be seized, but there aren’t any outfield prospects proving they are a better option than Michael Saunders.

Rotation:

The rotation has been rough so far. Eickhoff and Hellickson have struggled of late, maybe Hellickson is traded soon, but that might still be 2 months off. The Phillies aren’t going to give up on Velasquez in the rotation yet. Zach Eflin has looked good so far. Nick Pivetta is overmatched and needs AAA time. Luckily for the Phillies, Aaron Nola is ready to rejoin the rotation. Yes the Phillies have Ben Lively, Jake Thompson, and others in AAA, but none of them have the upside of the Phillies starting 5 with Nola back.

Bullpen:

A Mess – 4.61 ERA

Everyone wants to help the bullpen, but here is the AAA bullpen right now and their MLB stats (2016 and career):

Player Age 2016 IP 2016 ERA Career IP Career ERA
Pedro Beato 30 0 0 93.1 4.34
Casey Fien 33 39.1 5.49 283 4.29
Michael Mariot 28 21.2 5.82 49.2 5.98
Hoby Milner 26 0 0 0 0
Adam Morgan 27 113.1 6.04 203.2 5.52
Colton Murray 27 31.2 6.25 39.1 6.18
Cesar Ramos 32 47.2 6.04 346.2 4.02
Pat Venditte 31 22 5.73 50.2 4.97

I don’t blame you if you just threw up a bit in your mouth just now. It is rough. The guy who was supposed to be ready was Victor Arano, but he got injured in Spring Training. Reading now has Austin Davis, Jesen Therrien, and Yacksel Rios all off to good starts, but none of them are major league ready. Therrien and Rios have good, but not knockout, stuff and could use time in AAA, meanwhile Davis arrived in Reading today.

There isn’t anyone coming. Three weeks ago there were a lot of think pieces about calling up Hoskins or Alfaro, now there aren’t spots, even if the team wanted to promote either of them. The farm system is doing better and continues to be deep with talent, but for now the Phillies are going to need to ride with what they have in the major leagues.

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25 comments

  1. Charlie

    May 16, 2017 04:23 PM

    Ignoring the bullpen… Anyone else excited about this? The team, for the most part, is hitting fairly well. The Phillies are losing close games to great teams. Maybe we all need to sit back and enjoy the game, rest assured that the future of the organization is getting better in the minors. I can’t speak for the rest of the season (and the inevitable team regression) but for now maybe we all enjoy a little baseball with the mild confidence that better baseball is on its way.

    • Dino Bravo

      May 16, 2017 05:54 PM

      I agree Charlie. This team has played about a third of its games against the Nationals and have gone toe to toe with them. The offense is taking shape and there is still help on the way. The pen is awful but I’m not concerned because it’s a commodity that a team that isn’t ready to win right now needs. I’m just a little concerned about the starting pitching and how awful Franco has been offensively and defensively.

    • boomerbubba

      May 16, 2017 11:29 PM

      Losing close games to good teams is a good thing because it is a step in the right direction.

    • Orion

      May 17, 2017 04:02 PM

      Although there is some talent in the minors most if not all of it is not significantly better then MLB average.
      MLB average is okay, but if you want to go deep into the playoffs, you need significantly better then MLB average.
      If getting excited is a .500 team in a couple of years, then yes because they were/are so bad.
      But if you looking for a contenting team (not just marginally contending for the 2nd wild card spot), then no this team has a long way to go.

  2. Bill

    May 16, 2017 07:37 PM

    Time to give up on Appel as a starter and try him in long relief in the majors? Maybe he works out better in shorter stints? Wouldn’t cost a 40 man roster spot either.

    • Mike Fassano

      May 16, 2017 09:14 PM

      Bill … The reason that Houston traded Appel and Velasquez to us is that they couldn’t figure out what to do with them. With Nola returning, and Eshelman pitching great for the Pigs, now would be a good time to work Appel into the bullpen at Lehigh Valley. I’ve already figured out what to do with Velasquez, but nobody in the world agrees with me. With every 5 inning- hundred pitch start, a few less people think I’m nuts.

      • TommyDigital

        May 17, 2017 08:12 AM

        I’m with you on Velasquez…just wonder how long it will take.

      • Romus

        May 17, 2017 10:21 AM

        Mike…..I agree with you on Appel.
        He did have issues working from the stretch, but as a reliever he can concentrate on two pitches and variations off the FB, ie cutter/4smr or 2smr.
        The guy turns 26 soon and the fastest way to the majors for him may be in the bullpen.
        As for, Vince Velasquez, I would wait until mid-season next year, and if there are no improvements, then perhaps the Phillies would entertain that move.

      • Richard

        May 17, 2017 11:14 AM

        “I’ve already figured out what to do with Velasquez, but nobody in the world agrees with me.”

        In reality, there are constant calls from many people for him to be moved to the bullpen.

  3. John Salmon

    May 16, 2017 07:52 PM

    I have never understood the preference for playing known mediocrities (or worse) over unknown potential stars. This kind of “thinking” has been routine in baseball since the game began. This team is 14-21. Virtually no one on this current team is guaranteed to be on the next contending squad, including Franco, who is now working on two poor years in a row. Cesar, Jared, Aaron if he sustains his current play-that’s three keepers. Three. Time to begin building that team, and deconstructing this abysmal bunch. The idea that a 14-21 team has no “spots available” is beyond absurd. It’s self-refuting. The Phillies’ FO decided to punt this season for financial reasons. They could’ve tried to find 15 wins and a shot at contention, especially given their profitability in 2016. Don’t endorse their callous disrespect for the fan base.

    • boomerbubba

      May 16, 2017 11:27 PM

      This organization isn’t quite ready yet to roll out any new campaigns of “You gotta believe” or “Yes we can.” They should be ready by next year if they don’t squander their opportunities now.

    • Andrew R.

      May 17, 2017 04:07 PM

      John, I agree with you for some parts. Right now I feel like ownership is coming out, saying the right things, trying to keep the customers involved and paying. We have all been patient. So far, our patience has yielded Cesar and Odubel. I’m willing to ride out this season, but I expect to see a bold move. Either in July or this offseason, there better be trades or signings for quality, controllable Major League Baseball players.

      Look at the Yankees. They knew they weren’t going to be in contention. But they went bold. They ducked out money for Andrew Miller,me end though they didn’t need him. They went “bold” and traded (literally almost nothing) for Aroldis Chapman, even when they especially didn’t need him. And look at how those moves have panned out. Looks like some big pieces ready to contribute.

      The Yanks are an example of big pockets using their money wisely to acquire talent, one way or another. Phillies could’ve been more aggressive in that respect. So while I have been patient for 5 years, my patience will run out by opening day, 2018 if things don’t start to turn.

  4. Tim Duncan

    May 16, 2017 10:27 PM

    Terrible team. No plus pitchers – all mediocre at best. There is not one position player who is even the equal of a National’s player at that position except maybe Herera now that and only because Eaton is out for the year. And Herera is a huge waste of money. He’ll never be anything other than mediocre if he doesn’t get rid of the high leg kick and even that might not matter. Franco the same if he continues to always step in the bucket. Longshot that he’ll ever be anything above mediocre. Laughable that this team can’t be improved.

    The Nets didn’t wait until they were good before signing Werth to a $126 million dollar contract. Why do the Phillies wait year after year before adding some legitimate talent?

    • boomerbubba

      May 16, 2017 11:23 PM

      They figured Herrera would be one of the keystones for the future. That’s why they paid him the bucks. But I agree that at some point the decision should be reviewed, and if he is not a building block then trade him while he still has value.

    • boomerbubba

      May 16, 2017 11:24 PM

      Werth makes this team pay every time he plays them.

  5. boomerbubba

    May 16, 2017 11:21 PM

    -
    -10

    What’s the point of not bringing the kids up, one by one, unless you think this current team is going to contend this year. Of the lineup posted here, who would you build this team around? And who in the rotation would you keep?
    This year is a great year to experiment with every possible combination of lineups, including bringing up the minor leaguers starting now.
    Waiting till September to bring up any talent while this current team continues to battle for last place would be a total waste of this season.
    By the way, either this team should start making contact at the plate, or consider a new hitting instructor.

    • TommyDigital

      May 17, 2017 08:14 AM

      It’s not that I want them to rush anyone…but it is tiring to hear the same old “they need more time” argument. I’m about to print up t-shirts for the flyers and phillies that say “one more year”.

      • Orion

        May 17, 2017 04:10 PM

        Most kids are not MLB ready.
        But also, and this is important, you start the clock on them.
        The team is going nowhere, so why rush the kids, most will struggle at first, so there is little improvement on the MLB team.
        If you rush them, they will off to Free agency sooner (and to be bigger earning years in Arb).
        Now, if the team was contending, then you bring them up to replace struggling MLB players.
        Sure, I rather see Quinn over Saunders, but that really doesn’t do any help to the ultimate goal of getting a perennial playoff team.

    • TommyDigital

      May 18, 2017 07:52 AM

      Could you explain the clock situation? Is it the same for all players or contract specific. I knew there was some sort of rule but i’m not sure what it is. That would totally make sense then to hold them back, reap the benefits when we actually compete.

      • Romus

        May 18, 2017 11:04 AM

        You want to delay bringing them up to get that extra year of pre-arb time.
        There is a cut off date every year that is computed to establish a Super Two date..
        Players must have accrued at least three years of MLB service time …usually seen in days on BR before they can be eligible for salary arbitration. While players with 3.000+ years of service are eligible for arbitration, players with between two and three years of service may be eligible if they rank in the top 22% of service time among players with between two and three years of service. Now here is the part that erks MLBPA….the rule is designed to limit teams’ ability to restrict a player’s earning potential by keeping him in the minor leagues for a couple of extra weeks during his first couple of seasons. Teams willl hold players back to avoid letting their players reach Super Two status, but holding them back that far typically means they sacrifice two months of playing time rather than just a couple of weeks

      • TommyDigital

        May 19, 2017 08:21 AM

        Awesome explanation.

  6. Mike Fassano

    May 17, 2017 02:36 PM

    The Phillies brass all admit that Roman Quinn is ready for the Major Leagues. BUT, and this is the dumbest but ever, they want to see if he can stay healthy for a whole year. If he’s major league ready, they can see if he can stay healthy while he’s in the majors. Duh.
    Let’s talk Ben lively for a minute. He pitches deep into the game, AND he wins. I don’t give a rats ass if his ERA is 9.50. When he pitches, he wins. On the other hand there is Eickhoff, who must lead the world in “Quality Starts”, but never wins. Must he pitch a perfect game to have a chance at a win.
    Go ahead and dump all over me (I’m used to it), but doesn’t anybody else see these same things?

  7. B

    May 23, 2017 09:06 AM

    Anyone else think JP Crawford will be a bust? I’m calling straight up bust for this guy (see Dom Brown)!

  8. Simple fact

    May 27, 2017 11:50 AM

    Matt, I posted this on Philly.com but would like your writers thoughts on the below:
    A Question for discussion?
    If Franco continues to struggle at 3B and TJ continues to carry his weight, would it be worth exploring a positional switch from 1B to 3B for TJ and sending Franco to AAA to sort things out?
    Bill James created a metric on the “Defensive Spectrum,” in which he rated the difficulty of baseball’s eight defensive positions. It went like this:
    P – C – SS – 2B – CF – 3B – RF – LF – 1B
    A good article concerning players being asked to change positions:
    www.detroitathletic.com/blog/2012/02/28/many-baseball-greats-have-been-asked-to-switch-to-third-base/
    TJ was switched from C to 1B not for a lack of ability to play 3B but due to necessity, Franco was blocking him at 3B and we were looking for a possible replacement at 1B with nothing in the minors. It was a shot in the dark but TJ has the athletic ability to play 3B, a strong, accurate arm, quick reflexes and I believe he is considered fleeter of foot than Franco.
    I believe in letting Rhys play in LHV for another month or longer and giving Franco some more time until Rhys makes it impossible to ignore his bat any longer (he is still raking at LHV, unlike Alfaro) and 1/1 BB/K is impressive:
    PA HR BB SO BA OBP SLG
    Lehigh Valley 187 13 28 28 .329 .433 .677

    TJ Career Age 25
    G PA AB R H 2b 3b HR RBI BB K
    149 503 456 66 116 23 0 28 69 2 1 33 112 .254 .308 .489 .797

    Franco Age G PA AB R H 2b 3b HR RBi BB K
    2016 23 152 630 581 67 148 23 1 25 88 1 1 40 106 .255 .306 .427 .733
    2017 24 43 180 163 17 35 6 0 6 28 0 0 13 27 .215 .272 .362 .634
    This is not an earth shattering fix and asking TJ to learn a 3rd position might have him regress but unless Franco starts to make some positive strides in the next 30-40 games, he’s becoming a black hole and may need a trip to AAA to clear his head. We all want Rhys in Philly so if TJ continues to carry his weight at the plate (BA up to 260-270 would be nice after his start)
    TJ – MAY AVG
    AB R H 2b 3b HR RBI BB K OBP SLG OPS AVG
    74 12 23 6 0 6 15 7 17 .381 .635 1.016 .311
    Of course, I’m cherry picking stats, last 7 days of May were not so good but I’d take the above from, or even 2/3 of the above, 3B output, wouldn’t you, if it meant have Rhys in at 1B.
    I believe TJ could handle a move to 3B and it’s not like the Phils are going to win the division but if Franco isn’t the 3B of the future, could TJ be?

    • Matt Winkelman

      May 30, 2017 10:11 AM

      The Phillies attempted to have Joseph play 3B in the GCL in 2015, it took 3 games for them to abandon the scenario because he was that bad at it. He has the arm for it, but his glove cannot handle the position.

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