Crash Bag #6: The Young Guys Might be Fine

Sorry for not writing much. I don’t have any excuses, so here is your questions answered.

@andrewrnnier: Can they continue to find at bats for everyone/does the early success of Cesar make him more appealing in a trade thereby freeing up regular at bats for kingery

@andrewrnnier: I guess the better question should have been, given the contract extension and number of at bats Kingery has gotten in the first two weeks, what are the long term ramifications? Is he truly going to be a super utility who plays 4-5 times a week until Cesar moves on?

@DoctorSchoppe: How’s your gut feeling on Caesar holding up in this young season? How about we let em play. JP has the glove to be an everyday regular and his floor is above Galvis. Next question. #philliestalk

I am just going to combine these all kind of together. I think they can continue to balance the playing time. We have already seen guys get hot, guys get cold, and we have yet to see anyone get injured. Odds are at some point that someone is going to get banged up, at which point having their current depth will make the loss much less painful.

As for Cesar, I am torn. I do think the league undervalues him, and if he can keep showing power output it really helps his overall game. The Phillies got offers this offseason, but nothing they felt matched Cesar’s value, maybe that changes. The two biggest problems around trading Cesar are the trade market itself. First is that Hernandez is a win now player, which means teams looking to trade for him aren’t going to be moving big league pieces off of their roster. You aren’t going to trade Cesar in a deal for an ace level starter, because why would a team trade their ace to get a good 27 year old second baseman, it is kind of counterproductive. That means any deal for Cesar is going to involve prospects or young players who have not established themselves in the majors. His current production and the risk of those young players means the Phillies’ ask is going to be large enough some teams won’t be able to reach it and others will immediately balk. Which brings me to the other part of all of this, which is the market just doesn’t exist. Theoretically the Mets need a 2B, the Dodgers could make room for a 2B, the Angels don’t really have a long term 2B answer unless Jahmai Jones is good there, and the Cardinals may finally decide that Kolten Wong is bad. That is not a lot of good farm systems looking to make a deal, and one good farm system with a history of not parting with good prospects. I just don’t see a trade emerging for Cesar during the season, because if he continues to hit a high rate like this he probably is the key to the Phillies’ success.

@DaleACooke: How much cold water do you need to throw on Kingery/Crawford/Franco from this series to get our (fans’) expectations back to where they should be?

The Marlins and Reds are bad baseball teams. I don’t think any of the three are doing anything at a level where people need cold water. Kingery had some dramatic moments, but he is batting .250/.300/.500 with a 25% strikeout rate. It is awesome to see the power, but he is not lighting the world on fire, just being fairly solid. I expect the average and onbase to actually rise, with a drop to the power output. His ability to switch positions effortlessly with only minor mistakes has been great. The amount of players that are stars in their rookie year is low. If Kingery does this for a full year, I think everyone should be happy. I am most encouraged by Franco forcing contact to the opposite field during the Reds series, but like Kingery his batting line is solid, but not world beating. I think we are seeing flashes of the guy he was in his rookie year, and really that is all you can really hope for him. Crawford mashed the ball in the last two games of the series, but he is also hitting .103 on the year. Be patient with Crawford, he has power, he has a great eye, and he is really athletic. I don’t think anyone has expectations that need cold water, rather I would say stop being so down on him, he is going to be fine.

@nmarmarou: I know it is still early and the last two games have been good, but what do you think Crawford’s floor and ceiling is as a hitter? Yes, he sees pitches and gets on base which is good, but I am wondering if he can ever be a top of the lineup hitter.

My opinions on Crawford’s ceiling have not changed based on his start. I have become more concerned about his ability to reach it. His floor is probably like 2017 Dansby Swanson, which isn’t really a major leaguer. The meh outcome is probably Jordy Mercer. In terms of ceiling I think he can be a guy who has on base in the .360+ range, hits 15-ish home runs, hits like .280-.290, with a great glove. If he gets to that on base level he is going to hit at the top of a lineup and be a very good player. We are starting to see the swing improvements over the last few games, but it is frustrating to see how lost he was to start the year. Remember this is a 23 year old, he has time.

@KingLandy1: Three starts in, how do you think the rest of pivetta’s season goes

I expect it to go up and down. Pivetta has made noticeable improvements. He is throwing his curveball more, he is throwing his fastball less, and he has junked his changeup entirely. He also has improved his command, and his curveball is much more consistent. The problem is that he still doesn’t have that changeup to really keep lefties off of his fastball, and he needs to be on with his curveball

@Lemmiwinks531: SSS caveats apply, any minor league surprises for you so far this season in terms of mechanics or results?

It is super early, only some of the starting pitchers have even had two starts, so surprises is not really a thing there is yet. That said, a couple of guys have had individual performances worth watching.

  • Ramon Rosso – Rosso was out of affiliated baseball a year ago, he signed with the Phillies in June and rocketed through the system. He is 21 and in Lakewood so the numbers (which included a 12 strikeout game) should be taken with a large grain of salt. He has a low 90s fastball and a decent slider, so he might be a reliever long term, but he is worth at least checking the box score after his starts.
  • Enyel De Los Santos – De Los Santos looked good in Spring Training, so no surprise he looked good in his AAA debut. His fastball sat 93-97 with good movement. He showed off his improved breaking ball and a good changeup in a 7 strikeout performance.
  • Franklyn Kilome – Kilome had an ok start in AA, only going 3 innings, but 2 walks and 8 strikeouts after having a horrible first two innings due to snow and illness was good to see.
  • Edgar Cabral/Deivi Grullon – Grullon and Cabral are both defense first catchers, and both have two home runs in the early going.
  • Cole Irvin – No reports on Irvin’s stuff in AAA this year, but the big lefty looked solid in Spring Training, and 1 walk to 10 strikeout performance will certainly pique some interest.
  • Seranthony Dominguez – Dominguez is sitting 94-98 out of the bullpen and flashing a hi-80s nasty slider. He had a rough first game, but has settled in.

@beetlebayley219: Is Seabold a top 3 guy In a major league rotation?

Probably not. Seabold is a strike throwing righty with an average fastball. His secondary stuff is ok, but not anything that profiles as impactful. It is a similar profile to guys like Jose Taveras, Cole Irvin (though Irvin is a lefty), Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Thomas Eshelman, and Drew Anderson. Those guys all have slightly different strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately they are all kind of back end starter types. Seabold could move as quickly as Irvin where he ends the 2018 season in AA, and starts 2019 in AAA. Nothing wrong with that.

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  1. Steve

    April 14, 2018 07:36 AM

    I’m not sure the league undervalues Cesar, I’ve seen him on quite a few top 10 positional rankings in the past year. I think there just isn’t any market for a 2b who doesn’t have at least one elite skill. Also, as you said, any acquiring Cesar will be in win now mode, and not willing to part with young MLB talent. The only fit I see is if a contending team suffers an injury, and has a strong enough farm system to satisfy Klentak.

  2. Iatrogenes

    April 14, 2018 01:23 PM

    My main concern with the Phillies is young players playing out of their natural positions. Part of this is Kapler, but most of it is management giving him 5 starting infielders (needing only 4) and 5 starting outfielders (needing only 3). What’s a manager to do without pissing off young and developing players, creating uncertainty, and causing this juggling act leading to young players being played out of position? I’ve seen several plays by Kingery at SS where he caused a misplay because he has the instincts of a 2B. And it’s difficult to not like Kingery playing. On one play while at SS he cut in front of the 2B bag on a steal attempt and missed a tag because he was not positioned properly to receive the throw at the bag, not in front of it; on another, with the infield shifted to the right side while he was playing 3B and being the only infielder on the left side because of a shift, he ran to cover 2B while Freddie Freeman was on 1B who then jogged to the uncovered 3B. Freeman then scored from 3B though this “error” never appeared in the box score. Kingery is a gifted and natural 2B but is willing to play anywhere if that’s what it takes to play at all. Yes, he made a brilliant throw from LF last night and nailed a runner at the plate. LF? Isn’t that where your best hitter plays (he used to be a 1B)? Oh, 10 games into the season and your 25-year-old best hitter NEEDS a day off, especially when the next day the team has a scheduled day off? And when Kingery plays 3B, what’s that going do to Franco in his make-or-break year? This hodge-podge led to benching Odubel Herrera on opening day and another game soon after.

    Dear Management,

    I don’t see how this ends well for the Phillies, and it’s not a Kapler-created problem but a management problem. It seems to me the Phillies best two leadoff hitters are both 2B (Hernandez and Kingery) who are above average fielders and get on base at an above-average rate …and both can’t play the same position at the same time. So here’s what management should do (but likely won’t): However possible, trade Hernandez (who I like) because he at least has some value and play Kingery at his natural position. Let Hoskins play his natural position, 1B, even though management made an investment in Carlos Santana (why, given this rebuilding scenario, I can’t fathom) and try to trade him too, since he was intended as just a stop-gap anyway. He’s a good player, but acquiring him caused the ripple effect of moving all the pieces in what I believe is an overall negative way toward the young players. As they are also committed to Crawford, a gifted SS with promise, just let him play there every day. In Bowa’s first years, he never hit over .250 (one year at .211) and hit a TOTAL of 1 HR in those first four seasons. Let the 21 year-old kid play and see what happens. Play an everyday outfield of Herrera, Altherr and Williams, all young players with an upside. Now everyone plays their best position and, hopefully all grow into becoming established MLB players. These are all young players that the Phillies have invested in so …play ‘em or move ‘em. All these young players may not fulfill the hoped-for promise, but the team will not know if they can make it if they don’t play regularly. I know, promise is just promise, but remember in Mike Schmidt’s first year he batted .196, had an OPS under.700 and struck out 31% of his plate appearances. The next year he hit .286 (an increase of 90 points) with 36 homers and 116 RBI and an OPS of .941. What I would want to find out if I’m the Phillies management is whether there might be another Schmidt or Bowa lurking among their young players. Doing what is happening now, it seems to me, is reduce your chances of finding out.

    • Steve

      April 15, 2018 12:26 PM

      So the team is over .500, they are exciting to watch, and you want to trade 2 of their more consistent hitters? You don’t trade quality players just to replace them with younger prospects to see if they develop into a quality player.
      I don’t disagree that Hoskins in LF doesn’t give them their optimal defensive alignment, but IMO Santana is a defensive upgrade at 1b, and his bat improves the lineup enough to offset the downgrade in LF. As long as the position change doesn’t affect Hoskins offense, I think we are better with Santana at 1b and a platoon of Williams and Altherr. The reality is, Altherr and/or Williams are probably only 4th OF anyway. If they both play well enough to force everyday AB’s then it shouldn’t be too hard to trade them.
      As for Hernandez/Kingery, I doubt many people expected Kingery to start the season on the MLB roster let alone playing well enough to force Kap to give him regular at bats. As has been talked about, there was, and still is, almost no market for a 2b who is good at a lot but not great at anything. Trading away a good player for next to nothing is not the way to build a winning team. I’m sure if a team shows serious interest in Hernandez the Phillies will be listening.
      As for Crawford, they have committed to him as the SS of the present and future. Playing Kingery at SS is not about Crawford’s slow start, it’s about finding Kingery AB’s. They have 9 or 10 good bats and only 8 spots. That’s not a problem, it’s a challenge for the manager, but not a problem.

    • Michael C Lorah

      April 16, 2018 07:15 AM

      Matt Gelb has a nice article on The Athletic (I subscribed for the first year and so far, so good), which basically boiled down to his: If they win, everyone is going to be okay with their playing time. Franco’s quoted saying as much, he’d like to play every day, but he’s good because they’re winning and that’s the bottom line.

      And ultimately, when you look around baseball, this roster construction really isn’t unusual. And it never particularly was. The ’93 Phillies had only three players with more than 600 plate appearances. The ’08 team had five reach that plateau.

      Despite all the line-up shifts, the ’18 Phillies are also on pace to have five players reach 600 PA.

      César Hernández 735
      Carlos Santana 722
      Rhys Hoskins 648
      Odúbel Herrera 610
      Scott Kingery 610
      J.P. Crawford 510
      Maikel Franco 486
      Aaron Altherr 461
      Jorge Alfaro 448
      Nick Williams 436
      Andrew Knapp 249
      (I cribbed these numbers from Gelb’s article.) Kapler’s said he’s going to get everyone 450 PA, and so far, he’s pretty close to right on target.

      Honestly, the playing time is fine. These guys who are sharing time, they’ve not established themselves as the next Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. If they do, they’ll force that level of playing time. Right now, Hoskins, Herrera and Hernandez are forcing their names into the line-up every day. Kingery’s probably a notch below them, with his bat playing at the level of Herrera’s but his defense being a work-in-progress (that, admittedly, would probably improve if he had positional consistency). The rest are good players and the Phillies are doing to the right thing by putting them in position to play to their strengths.

      • Romus

        April 16, 2018 09:03 AM

        Good breakdown.
        And of course, like most seasons, there will be injuries that will open up the opportunity for some for additional PAs.

      • Chris S

        April 16, 2018 09:52 AM

        Additional to this is by being able to spread around plate appearances it will also keep players fresher as the season continues. The baseball season isn’t a sprint it is a marathon. It is similar to what the Eagles did on the defensive line this year. They rotated a lot and got lots of players reps and this enabled them to be fresh during their super bowl run. Professional sports seasons are long and take a toll on every player no matter their age.

    • Michael C Lorah

      April 16, 2018 07:22 AM

      One more addendum on the 2008 time-sharing comparison – Carlos Ruiz had only 373 PA compared to 305 for Chris Coste. Jayson Werth had 482, compared to 322 for Geoff Jenkins. When Ruiz and Werth established themselves, they got more playing time. That’s how baseball works. Some of these guys will establish themselves as every day players. Some will remain solid part-time players.

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