Crash Bag Vol. 27: Equal Opportunity Uselessness

Let’s peer into the depths of a bleak future.

@Wzeiders: After the trade deadline, what does a failure for the Phillies look like?

Pat Neshek is still their best reliever come August.

But this is a failure on par with not claiming the free ticket you won on a lottery scratch-off. The real failure is not that you missed out on another one in a million chance to win big. It’s that you weren’t paying attention to the ticket expiration date. Or that you thought framing the winning ticket and hanging it next to the motivational cat poster in your room would be good for morale.

That’s unlikely to happen. The front office has made smart and easy and mostly boring moves over the past year. They will continue that tradition admirably.

But at some point in the next six months, the Phillies are going to make some impactful decisions. They will move mediocre players like Cesar Hernandez or Freddy Galvis or Tommy Joseph. They will make room for prospects or trade them for young and talented major league players. They are going to stop pushing the competitive timeline back yet another year.

The most interesting scenario would be a bold trade for a player like Christian Yelich. To acquire a cheap, young, and good major leaguer would cost the Phillies real prospect talent most would be uncomfortable parting with.

That’s the type of move with potential for real failure. Like, Cliff Lee to Seattle level failure.

@sumfatkid: Why are the Phillies bats useless when someone is already on base?

The same reason the Phillies’ bats are useless when the bases are empty. They are not very good.

The idea of situational hitting failures is pushed because it makes an interesting narrative and adds depth to the otherwise boring story of this season. If only they were clutch! They’re so close to winning a few more games!

In reality, there’s no marked difference between their performance in these scenarios. The Phillies are slashing .247/.305/.395 with men on base and .239/.304/.388 when they are empty. The more painful truth? The Phillies can’t hit in any situation.

Brian: How do we have a solid amount of young talent in the majors, maybe like 6-8 top 100 prospects spread out over the diamond well (plus more prospect depth on top of that), yet I see no path to the Phillies ever being competitive?

You’re a Philly sports fan. Unrelenting pessimism is a part of your biological makeup.

The less scientific answer is the Phillies don’t have an offensive stud to build a lineup around.

Look at the rebuilds of the Cubs and Astros. Both teams turned the corner in 2015. But they ended their 2014 seasons with loaded farm systems, money to spend, and an impact bat or two. The Cubs had Anthony Rizzo and the inevitability of Kris Bryant. The Astros had Jose Altuve and George Springer with Carlos Correa on the horizon. They spent their offseasons filling in the holes around these players.

The Phillies have the farm system and the money. Do they have the player to build the lineup around? Maikel Franco didn’t become the 130 wRC+ middle of the order bat we all hoped. Tommy Joseph didn’t take a step forward. Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery are hitting in AAA, but they aren’t close to the no-doubt level of pedigree that Bryant and Correa claimed.

This could all change by the end of the year. Aaron Altherr might keep doing his best George Springer impression. Rhys Hoskins could spend the last two months of the season tearing into major league pitching like Anthony Rizzo.

But at this point, it’s difficult to envision anything but a lineup full of mediocre hitters. It’s a lineup that can be competitive. But it doesn’t inspire much optimism.

@CavalierJP: How about your thoughts on Randolph’s production at Clearwater? Is he fine considering age? Underperforming expectations?

Cornelius Randolph was drafted for his ability to hit. He was promptly moved to the near bottom of the defensive spectrum. Expectations for his bat should be high.

In that regard, the 27% strikeout rate and the lack of significant power is concerning. But he’s barely 20 years old and in high A ball and still maintaining a better than average offensive line. He’s also hitting more balls in the air this year, a positive development in the quest for more power.

I don’t think he’s meeting the statistical expectations of a bat-only first rounder. And he’ll need either a big reduction in strikeout rate or big increase in power to fit as a corner outfielder in the major leagues. But this could just be a lull before the breakout. He should be in AA next year, and Reading can make a power hitter out of anybody.

That’s my expert opinion based entirely on scouting the stat line. And any prospect expert worth his salt knows you should always scout the stat line.

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of Matt Winkelman’s head exploding.

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7 comments

  1. shred

    July 07, 2017 05:28 PM

    Rizzo, Altuve, Bryant, etc. were all well established major league players by their age 23 season. Making the bigs at an early age strongly correlates to future success. Are any of the Phillies position prospects going to be able to establish all star level play by age 23? It really doesn’t seem likely.

  2. Mike Fassano

    July 07, 2017 06:06 PM

    Everything is multiplied when you’re a losing team. We have mental lapses by base runners, by the third base coach, by the inability to get a clutch hit, or key strike out. Good teams overcome these things, and the Phillies don’t.

  3. Oran Kelley

    July 08, 2017 10:10 AM

    There are two things that everyone keeps repeating that they need to think about more closely:

    1. There are no stud hitters amongst the Phillies young players. No Anthony Rizzo, say.

    I’d say we don’t really know yet, on the one hand, and so what on the other.

    It’s not implausible that the Phillies get several strong hitting seasons out of this group. And stud hitters are something that can be obtained if that’s the thing the team needs to go over the top.

    2. But we need a first-class hitter to “build around.” The building metaphor is a false metaphor. Batting orders are a sequence, not a structure. And there’s no reason the stud hitter has to be the first piece. In fact, KC has shown you can have a lot of success with a lot of good but no great hitters. Could the Phillies have five players with 120-ish OPS+? I’d say that’s not implausible.

    All of this is just the usual thought fan demand for Steinbrenner-esque “big moves” disguised as something to do with future-minded team building. You don’t want Yellich to “build around.” You want him for the novelty. And when we get him and you realize we’re the Angels, then you’ll complain about that.

    Rebuilds take time. During that time your team sucks, and a lot of players who have a lot of hope invested in them struggle. That’s what this is.

    • Romus

      July 08, 2017 12:42 PM

      Maybe no stud hitters among the Phillies current 25…..but Hoskins, Kingery, Haseley and
      for power it appears, Cozens, seem to be able to have some hitting abilities in the minors that could translate into the majors..

    • Mike Fassano

      July 08, 2017 01:36 PM

      To win it all you need great pitching or great hitting, or both. The Dodgers of the 60’s had no real power hitters (they manufactured runs), but they had great pitching. The Phillies staff has a ceiling of 3 good starters, but no Ace. They need to at least get another that’s as good as Nola (possibly Eshelman). The bullpen will need to be rebuilt after the trading deadline. Neris is a good set up man, but cannot be a closer. Jesen Therrien, a Righty, and Hoby Milner, a Lefty, should fill the void for the remainder of the season. I’m convinced that Galvis and Herrera will never become the disciplined hitters that the Phillies need them to be. Bye, Bye. Knapp and Alfaro will split time behind the plate until one of the emerges as the starter. Hoskins 1B, Kingery 2B, Franco 3B, Hernandez SS, Cozens, Quinn, and Williams in the outfield. We’re closer than you think.

      • Shane

        July 10, 2017 11:05 AM

        One small point. You can’t compare the ball they played in the 60’s to today’s game. Smaller parks. More bullpen use. An all around more offense driven game. The 2011 Phillies disproved the Great Pitching Alone argument in this era. Yes, the 4-Aces got them the best record, but when you get to the play-offs you need an offense too. 😉

  4. Shane

    July 10, 2017 11:44 AM

    “But at some point in the next six months, the Phillies are going to make some impactful decisions. …….They are going to stop pushing the competitive timeline back yet another year.”

    Start being “buyers” in the next 6 months? That seems a bit premature. Who’s the core? Altherr, Nola, and who? If our prospects “aren’t close to the no-doubt level of pedigree” then are we buying just to not be in last place anymore?

    I would rather see a young team that can climb out of the basement on their own and then fill in the missing pieces.

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