Crash Bag Vol. 29: Looking to the Future, Because the Present Sucks
First of all, thanks everyone for helping us keep the lights on here. Writing for Crashburn Alley has been amazing, and thanks to you wonderful readers, I get to keep doing it. It really warms the cockles of my cold sabermetric heart to see such a robust and immediate response to our pleas. You guys and gals are awesome.
Most of the questions this week focused on the Phillies future. 2019 records and 2020 starters; trades and prospects. The present is bleak, but there’s nowhere to go but up.
@TylerSmithEtown: What will the Phillies win differential be from the 2017 season to the 2019 season?
This is really two separate questions with a simple math step at the end. I’ll start with the 2017 team.
So Aaron Altherr is out for a while. Seeing how he’s the Phillies best hitter (and probably best position player), this is going to hurt the Phillies’ win total this year. I said in my post last week that the Phils could finish 63-99, presuming they could play a little worse than .500 ball for the remainder of the season. Well since that post they’re 3-3, so I’m not saying I’m Nostradamus, but I’m not not saying I’m Nostradamus either. We’ve lost Aaron Altherr, but Cesar Hernandez should be back soon, and perhaps he can plug that hole. Let’s assume they finish 63-99.
As for the 2019 World [freakin’] Champion Phillies, well, in order to win the World Series, they’ll have to finish with at least 85-90 wins; probably closer to 95 so they can avoid the play-in game (which everyone knows is a crapshoot). So that’s a difference of 32 games. 32 games is the answer.
In all seriousness, the best method for figuring this out is probably to look at recent near-100-loss teams. For instance, the *searches Baseball-Reference* 2015 Philadelphia Phillies won just 63 games and as I said earlier, I expect them to win… nevermind. Here is a list of 100 loss teams from 2001 to 2014 and their record two years later. Note: If there wasn’t a 100-loss team in a particular year, I took the team with the worst record.
So the average is 14-15 wins, with a 13-14 win median. I feel comfortable calling it 14 wins, which would give the 2019 Phillies 77 wins. It should be noted that 19 of the 22 teams still had records below .500. Just two of the 22 teams (2008 Rays, duh, and 2015 Astros) made the playoffs two years after being absolutely terrible. That, uhh, doesn’t bode well for the 2019 Phillies.
On the bright side, three teams increased their win total by 32 or more. So there’s hope!
@GlennQSpoonerSt: @Phillies have Top 10 picks from each of the last 5 drafts in their org. If none of the become Stars who is to blame? Don’t say bad luck.
If a major league roster isn’t teeming with talent, it’s usually for one of several reasons: tight budget, lopsided trades, intentionally rebuilding, bad scouting, bad player development, or Mariners.
Tight budget and lopsided trades don’t really apply in this case. Intentionally rebuilding only really serves as an excuse for a couple years. The Phillies are not the Mariners, so it basically comes down to bad scouting or bad player development.
Disclaimer: I’ve never worked in a front office; I’ve never even been in an office in the front of a building. Any building. But from what I hear, the Phillies’ scouting team has always done a good job in Latin America. I don’t see a huge outcry in the industry after Phillies drafts. Our trades for high-minors players have worked out pretty well. It seems like the scouting unit is quite good. They have several of the better Rule 5 pick/minor league free agent success stories of the past 10 years between Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, and Odubel Herrera. They even took Ender Inciarte in the Rule 5 draft, though he didn’t stick with the team, and now he’s a top-5 centerfielder. That pretty much leaves player development.
And honestly, I’ve been thinking about this a lot as it pertains to JP Crawford’s precipitous drop in production. I can’t think of a player who has played significantly better in the Majors than was expected as he rose through the minors. Cesar Hernandez maybe? But you look at heralded prospects who have disappointed and the list is long: Dom Brown, Jesse Biddle, and Maikel Franco stick out. I know that the modal outcome for a prospect is failure, but if the Phillies player development was better, I think there would have been a few more hits over the years.
@nmarmarou: what do you think about the return Miami got for Phelps? Is it realistic to expect a similar return for Neshek?
Just as I made fun of the Mariners for their history of futility, we get a win-now move in the hopes of making a playoff push. Prior to last season, Phelps was primarily a starter with just 85 of his 411 innings coming in relief. However, over the past two seasons, he’s been used primarily as a reliever to great effect. His velocity increased, and, not to step on our editor’s scouting shoes, but I believe higher velocity is good.
Phelps is 6 years younger, but Neshek has the better track record and has been stellar this season. Neshek will be paid slightly more but over the course of less than half a season, the difference is minimal. If I’m a GM heading to the playoffs, I think I’d prefer Neshek by a not-insignificant margin, but Phelps has one more year of team control, can go multiple innings, and can start in a pinch. So I think it is realistic to think that Neshek’s trade value is lower but not by a ton.
As for the return, I am admittedly unfamiliar with the Mariner’s system. They gave up four prospects whose names I don’t know: a centerfielder named Brayan Hernandez, who was the centerpiece of the deal, and three pitching prospects. They’re all in the low minors. They’re all basically lottery tickets. Neshek will be gone after this season anyways, so I’d be happy if the Phillies got something similar. I’d imagine we’ll see similar lottery ticket-type players but probably not four of them. A young, high minors starting pitcher would be nice, but that may be asking too much.
@PaulSocolar: Who’s the Phils’ catcher of the future? Who else sticks in the majors at catcher?
“Catcher of the future” can be a misleading term. It implies a level of ability that I don’t think any of the current Phillies prospects can reach. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any interesting catchers on the farm. Jorge Alfaro is the big name, and he recently placed at 81 in Baseball America’s midseason top 100 prospects. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s strong, and he has monster power, but his approach at the plate leaves much to be desired, as there’s a lot of swing and miss in his game. His performance for the Iron Pigs this year hasn’t been especially encouraging. He has a 30.7% K% and a 5.1% BB%, which approximates the peripherals for the MLB’s current ERA leader, Felipe Rivero. But he’s still 24, and catchers tend to develop more slowly that other positions. If he can iron out those problems (which is a huge “if”), he’ll be a superstar, but at the very least, he appears to be a good Major League catcher. He’s our catcher of the future, but he’s more likely to be a good player than a great one.
The two catchers currently on the Phillies’ roster are Major League-caliber backup catchers. It’s not the sexiest position, but someone’s gotta play it. Andrew Knapp seems like a good hitter from both sides of the plate, but the less said about his defense the better. He could stick around as a bat-first catcher somewhere, but probably not here. Rupp, meanwhile, has mashed against lefties, and his defense, though rough initially, has improved as his career has continued. That sounds like an ideal backup; you can throw him in against lefties to give the starter a break, and he won’t kill you behind the plate. I wouldn’t mind having him on the team for a while.
@0nin2: @CrashburnAlley Who’s the Phillies opening day 3B in 2019? Is there anyone that can bridge a Franco trade that might be too good to pass up?
@0nin2: @CrashburnAlley Of Haselely, Moniak or Tocci who is playing CF for the 2020 @Phillies
I’ll take these two together because they’re similar questions from the same guy. This portion of the CrashBag is dedicated to Paul. Thanks for the questions, Paul!
First, let’s not overthink this question. I’m hardly willing to do even the minimal amount of thinking, so overthinking is not my style. If I were a betting man, I’d take Maikel Franco at third in 2019 and Odubel Herrera in center in 2020. Franco will still be going through arbitration, while Odubel will still be under contract for just $7 million. There’s no one in the high minors with the potential that either of them have shown. They’re the best bets to stay where they are.
Odubel Herrera has already put together two four-win seasons, and in his third, he’s on pace to be slightly above average. His defense has improved to legitimate Gold Glove caliber. He’s a good player under a reasonable contract. Let’s not run him out of town. But of course, Moniak is one of the Phillies’ top prospects. Haseley is the Phillies new toy. They’re both far from the Majors at this point. I’d be shocked if they usurped Odubel’s throne by 2020.
Tocci, on the other hand, has handled his first taste of Double-A with aplomb. He’s running a 117 wRC+, and he’s just 21 years old. That bodes well. On the other hand, Odubel Herrera ran a 110 wRC+ against MLB pitchers from 2015-2016, and he’s just 25. Again, let’s not overthink this. Odubel Herrera is good. He’s having a rough year, but he’s still a good player.
Franco, though, has been terrible this year, and his great rookie season is looking more and more like an aberration every time he flails helplessly at a breaking ball, but unfortunately, the Phillies have zero third basemen on their preseason top 33 prospects list from former Crashburn Alley contributor, Eric Longehagen of FanGraphs. So let’s get creative here.
Following the 2018 season, noted awesome third baseman Manny Machado will be a free agent. He’ll be entering his prime, playing the 2019 season at 27 years old. He’s your Opening Day 2019 third baseman. Back up the Brinks truck.
@bxe1234: Mike who’s your favorite bass player? Or whatever – talk about what kind of music you like. NERD IT UP FOR THE PEOPLE #CRASHBAG
I’m happy that Brad framed the question that way, because many times my favorite bassists are really just the bassists in my favorite bands. I’ve been playing music for about 13 years, and, though I’m still not any good, my tastes in music have changed as I’ve played more.
I should say that the first band I really and truly loved was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I had all their CDs, and they’re the reason I started playing music in the first place. Everyone knows Flea is great, so I won’t go too much into that, but suffice it to say he was my favorite bassist in my formative music years.
In terms of overall wow factor, you have to give some love to Les Claypool. I saw him live in Philly before, and it just boggles the mind how he can play some of the most difficult bass lines, while singing to boot. He makes it on the list because of the uniqueness and sheer difficulty of what he does. There is only one Les Claypool.
Another guy I love is Alex Bleeker of Real Estate. His work is not on the same level as the previous two, but he, and other bassists of his ilk, taught me that sometimes it’s better to play what fits the song. You don’t need to be front and center to be impressive. A lot of times it’s about unlocking your guitarist and really letting him or her shine. Also, he does solo work as Alex Bleeker and the Freaks, and his album Country Agenda is one of my favorites in the past few years.
I’m also a big fan of Sean Yeaton of Parquet Courts for a couple reasons. First of all, Parquet Courts is awesome, and he’s a big reason why. But mostly I like him because we play similar styles. I had already been playing for a long time before I stumbled upon his band, and I could feel the similarities immediately.
There are about a hundred more bassists I could shout out, but this thing is already pretty damn long, so I’ll leave it here. Go Phils!