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!

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  1. Jersey Jim

    July 21, 2017 11:31 AM

    This team will contend again after Klentak is fired and some of the young players mature /high draft picks start to matriculate in the early 2020s.

  2. maude

    July 21, 2017 12:22 PM

    man, I really don’t want to wait another season for some good players to come here.

  3. Major Malfunction

    July 21, 2017 12:58 PM

    Please oh please, not another year of filling the roster with 1 year contract free agents in hopes of dealing them at the trade deadline. We’ve had to endure like 5 or 6 years of that now. 57 loser contracts to get 4 or 5 half decent trade values. Probably the best they had in the lot was Hellickson and they couldn’t get anybody to take him.

    The only other answer is to sign the stud free agents like Machado and/or trade for some serious blue chip players like Stanton. There’s a boatload of prospects that are literally clogging up positions in the mintors at this point. They aren’t MLB ready and neither is the current team out on the field. Something needs to happen here fast!

    • Romus

      July 21, 2017 02:57 PM

      Seriously do not think Machado will reach free agency…Duquette will trade him before then for prospects. Phillies should put a bid in for him in December at the winter meetings, if he is still unsigned by the Os.
      Stanton , among other things has a no trade clause in his contract….Philadelphia may not be where he wants to be.

      • Steve

        July 22, 2017 10:03 AM

        Even if he gets traded, what makes you think he will sign an extension with his new team. The guy probably wants to cash in as a FA, and id be more than happy to see the Phils pay up. Machado, Kingry, Hoskins, Herrera, Williams, Altherr in 2019. If you add a legit SP and squint real hard, theres somthing good there.

      • Romus

        July 22, 2017 12:27 PM

        Lozano and him would have to agree to the ‘sign and trade’ with the new club already having a deal in place, just change the date when a trade is finalized by the league office…..that is the only way it would work.
        It isn’t if that would be something new..

      • Romus

        July 22, 2017 12:29 PM

        Plus……MacPhail drafted and signed him back in 2010. So they have a built-in trust relationship already.

      • Steve

        July 22, 2017 01:15 PM

        I meant let him get traded elsewhere and then sign him anyway, but i see what you are saying. I just have a problem paying top dollar (in terms of prospects) to trade for a guy, and then a year later having to literally pay top dollar to resign the same guy.
        Hes great no doubt, but youre paying twice. Just wait until this mega FA class hits the market and get ready to pull out the checkbook. Either that, or trade prospects for a guy that you can at least control for a few years.

    • Steve

      July 23, 2017 09:52 AM

      What is a “loser contract” in your opinion? None the the 57 contracts you mentioned have hurt the organization. Even though many of the players have not performed well, those contracts didnt prevent the organzation from doing anything. The bad extensions from 09-12 were much more “loser contracts” than anything the Phillies have done in the last 3 years.
      One or two players are not going to make this a playoff team, but signing the wrong two guys to 5 year deals could seriously hurt this team on the future. You cant commit to long term FA contracts until:
      A) you have enough of a core in place that the FA additions will put the team close to contention.
      B) a young, slam dunk FA becomes available (Machado, Harper, etc)
      When one of those two situations occurs, just be happy that the team is in position to break the bank on the right guy because they didnt sign long term FA’s in previous years just because they could.

      • Major Malfunction

        July 24, 2017 07:50 PM

        By loser I mean lottery ticket mentality. They have to field a team, I get it. But it’s been sub par has beens where it’s hoped they have one more flash in the pan so they can be traded at the deadline. They clog the lineup and we have to watch a less then mediocre has been bat .190 or throw 90 pitches by the 4th inning well into June. Saunders being the most recent example, but I’m sure I could spend an hour going through Phillies FA signings the last few years and find better examples. Delmon Young immediately comes to mind!

        Running out a sub .500 team for the last few years has eroded fans expectations and desire to watch the team. Another year while we wait for “the youth movement” is tough to swallow. I’d rather watch the youth movement play than a $10m FA signing off a guy where you say “That guy is even still playing?” 🙂

  4. Jim Shorts

    July 21, 2017 01:11 PM

    for cf, no mention of “fragile” roman quinn, or yellich?

    nick Williams and aaron altherr can also both play center. depending on how things shake out in rf/lf (cozens/perkins can be added to the rf/lf talk), one of them “could” end up in cf, if odubel is traded .

  5. Todd B

    July 22, 2017 12:04 AM

    I tend to think that Herrera won’t be in Philly long term. He’ll be like Adam Eaton was for the White Sox… good player, friendly contract, and traded for something of value. As Jim Shorts said, we’ve got Williams and Altherr who can play CF as well, so maybe Herrera in 2019, but I’ll stake my reputation as a baseball nobody on the fact that Herrera won’t be in CF for the Phillies in 2020. You heard it here first.

    And I’ll have a good laugh if he’s in RF! LOL

    • Edwin

      July 23, 2017 04:26 PM

      Actually a few people have been saying this for some time.

  6. Steve

    July 22, 2017 11:31 AM

    I have to think the Phillies would be willing to pay the remainder of Neshek’s (or anyone elses) 2017 contract if it meant a better return package. Money is still their biggest asset

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