Crashbag Vol. 35: The Rotation, Prospects, and Seasons
Lets jump right in.
@stee_jobs: what’s the 2018 starting rotation (include possible free agents)
As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, the rotation is not exactly an area of strength heading into 2018. We know (barring injury) that Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez will be back. There had been some thought that Velasquez, after another inconsistent and injury-riddled season, would enter 2018 in the bullpen, but based on the Phillies public comments, they plan to give him another shot to stick in the rotation. We’ll assume that happens. If I’m the Phillies, I hope to sign or trade for a young controllable mid-rotation starter and let the dregs of the 2017 rotation compete for the fifth starter role. Let’s take a look at free agents who fit or exceed the “mid-rotation starter” mold. I’m assuming the Phillies won’t want anyone on the downside of their career, so I took out anyone over 32 years old. I’m using the list of 2017-2018 free agents on MLBTradeRumors, so if I missed anyone, it’s all their fault.
The Really Good Pitchers
I’d just like to begin by saying that I don’t think the Phillies will go after a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. They have all the money in the world; they certainly could, but I think they’d like to wait until the 2018-2019 offseason, when they have a better idea of their competitive timetable and a better idea of what they’ve got in their organization. I’m not ruling it out, but I’d be surprised.
Arrieta and Darvish are both capable of leading the staff, as they bring top-of-the-rotation stuff, playoff experience, and a history of success. Darvish has only made two playoff starts, but that figures to change this season. He’s allowed quite a few home runs this year, but his velocity is still high, and he’s still the guy that wowed the world with this gif. Arrieta may never again reach the heights of his 2014-2015 where he produced 12.3 fWAR, a 2.31 FIP, and a Cy Young Award, but he’s still a damn good pitcher. His velocity is down sharply this year, which is a concern. I’d be slightly more hesitant to back up the proverbial Brinks truck for Arrieta, but either pitcher should be a stud for the next few years. The problem is that the Phillies might not be ready to compete in the next few years.
The Bounce-Back Candidates
All three of these guys have career FIPs around the 3.50 mark, but have produced FIPs north of 4.40 this year. Lynn has outperformed his FIP, but the rest have ERAs in the same range as their FIPs. All of these guys will still command significant salary, but the upside is worth the bet. Lynn and Cueto have slightly diminished velocities this year that may belie some of their struggles, but Tanaka’s velocity is actually up slightly on his career average.
Injured and struggling, Cueto figures to forego the opt-out and collect the remaining $84 million on his contract, but Tanaka, three years younger and due $17 million less, might opt out. He’s been much better in the second half. Tanaka is the best bet to perform like a number 1 starter, and accordingly, he’ll cost the signing team the most. Lynn fits the mid-rotation mold much better than both Cueto and Tanaka, who could be considered frontline starters. After three years of home run rates below 7.7%, Lynn has fallen victim to the juiced ball with his HR% nearly doubling this year.
Of this group I’d try to sign Tanaka, as he brings the upside of an Arrieta or Darvish, but is three years younger and will likely cost less. Free agents aren’t the only option, though.
@LONG_DRIVE: who would be your #1 young controllable pitcher you’d try to trade for this offseason
The default answer to this question over the past few years has been Gerrit Cole. He was amazing in 2015, and good every other year, but he’s only got 2 years of team control after this one. I don’t think we can really call him “controllable” anymore, unless he agreed to an extension as part of the deal. Carlos Martinez also fit that mold, but the Cardinals extended him before the season, and the Cardinals have Kolten Wong doing an adequate job at second base and signed through 2020 with a team option for 2021. Luis Severino is another appealing option, as he’s really broken out this year after a tough 2016. However, the Yankees don’t seem likely to trade him, and they have Starlin Castro at second base.
The most interesting name to me is the Tigers’ Michael Fulmer. He’s been great in his first two years, pitching 317.1 innings with a 3.68 FIP. While he doesn’t strike a ton of batters out, he throws hard and limits walks, home runs, and hard contact. He won’t be a free agent until after the 2022 season, and he’s 24 years old, same as Aaron Nola. Also, the Tigers are not good and may be looking to rebuild. They may want to rebuild around their young ace, so perhaps he’s not even available.
But if the Tigers were to make Fulmer available, they’d likely prefer a package around Kingery, as it would signal a rebuild that may have already begun in July. Ian Kinsler has a team option after this season that could be declined, and there are no second basemen on their FanGraphs top 19 prospects list or the midseason update, paving the way for them to acquire a second baseman of the future. Kingery himself certainly wouldn’t be enough though; the cost would be extremely high, and the Tigers would be right to demand a king’s ransom. Fulmer is one of the best young pitchers in the game.
So to answer that question from before, if I’m the Phillies GM, the rotation in 2018 is: Nola, Tanaka/Fulmer, Eickhoff, Velasquez, and, say, Mark Leiter Jr.
@RobertDalton52: September call ups, who get the call? Would they add Kingery to 40 man despite the fact they do not have to this offseason?
Kingery has been tearing up Triple-A pitching for 250 PAs this year after absolutely shredding double-A for the first half of the season. I have to imagine that, barring injury, Kingery will make his major league debut around the 2018 Super 2 deadline at the very latest. I guess there’s a chance they wait until the trade deadline as they look to offload Cesar Hernandez, but something tells me Cesar will get traded this offseason.
At any rate, the only downside to adding Kingery to the 40-man (and perhaps I’m missing something) is that Kingery could take a slot that might otherwise go to a Rule 5 draft-eligible player, of which the Phillies have several. This could all be resolved in the offseason when several 40-man roster players will vacate their spots via free agency (Kim, Nava, Blanco) or trade (Galvis, Hernandez, Joseph), but it’s definitely a consideration.
Because I’m not aware enough of the relative strengths of Phillies prospects as it relates to the 40-man roster crunch, I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but suffice it to say, adding Kingery carries a slight risk. There’s still a decent chance we see a bit of him down the stretch, but I’d say it’s less than 50/50.
J.P. Crawford, though, is likely going to be our 2018 Opening Day shortstop. I expect we’ll be seeing him sooner rather than later. We’ll probably also see some guys who already spent time with the Phillies, like Cam Perkins or Brock Stassi. And while Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr aren’t really September call-ups, I expect they’ll be off the DL early in the month as well. We’ll probably see a couple pitchers, but frankly none have made strong impressions.
@vgp100: With a healthy Herrera and Altherr is this actually a good offense?
Let’s check out the lineup, along with their 2017 wRC+ and their FanGraphs projection
C: Alfaro – 109 wRC+ in 2017/66 wRC+ projection
1B: Hoskins – 208/127
2B: Hernandez – 107/95
SS: Galvis – 81/76
3B: Franco – 70/96
OF: Williams – 118/85
OF: Herrera – 105/98
OF: Altherr – 130/95
So if these players can keep up their 2017 production, we have 3 well above average hitters, 3 slightly above average hitters, and two black holes. It’s not the Astros, but if you average the numbers (lazy, I know), you get 116, which would be second best in baseball. Maybe that’s the first indication that you shouldn’t expect them all to keep this up.
A much soberer projection (but hey, you’d be drunk too if you watched the Phillies all season) sees the Phillies average wRC+ between 92 and 93, which would put them around 20th in the Majors, still better than the 87 the Phillies have put up this season. I have a few thoughts on these projections though
- 66 for Alfaro, yeesh.
- 127 for HOFskins is a reasonable expectation, but my heart believes he’s the second coming of Barry Bonds
- Despite two and three full seasons respectively of above average hitting, Hernandez and Herrera are considered below average hitters by the projections. I’m skeptical of this.
- I’m even more skeptical of Franco’s 96 wRC+ projection.
- These projections don’t know that Altherr’s 2016 was marred by the wrist injury.
To answer the question, it will certainly be an improvement. I’d consider it good if JP Crawford replaced Galvis and a weather vane with a baseball bat taped to it replaced Franco. It gets pretty gusty down at Citizens Bank Park
@bxe1234 Dear Mike, what’s your favorite season?
Of the four seasons: Fall
Of The Four Seasons: “Who Loves You”
Of Game of Thrones: 3
Of The Simpsons: 8
Season Song: “Seasons” by Future Islands
Season to be over: hurricane (Sending positive thoughts to the areas affected by Harvey.)
Have a good weekend everybody!