Hottness In July

A whole mess of Phils minor leaguers had a very strong statistical July, highlighted by six guys who were often ranked in the Top 15 last offseason and will be again, and two more who should easily join them this year.

Maikel Franco and Aaron Nola are the two guys you’d have to guess are either #2 or #3 in the system in pretty much every professional evaluators’ eyes right now, behind only J.P. Crawford. Franco came off a hellish June, where he OPSed a dismal .435. In July, he stroked 15 XBH, including four home runs, and struck out a reasonable 15 times in over 100PAs. He’s been pulling the ball with authority, as the spray chart below shows. His 2013 statistical red flag, BB rate, came back this month, as he drew just five. But as I’ve wondered in the past, who’s trying to draw a walk when they’re slugging .596 for the month. Not I.

franco spray chart july 14

RHP Aaron Nola was drafted this year with the seventh overall pick and signed quickly. Continue reading…

Deadline “Success” and Racing to Resolution

As of this post, the Phillies are no closer to making a trade of any substance than they were a week or two. They’re concrete in their stead, apparently, holding out for the moon and stars in return for Cole Hamels, all while having to weather the opposing forces rebuffing their attempts to dump the likes of Ryan Howard, A.J. Burnett and Marlon Byrd.

Pick an aspect of this deadline for the Phillies, any aspect, and you’re likely to find a different root cause and hindrance for every potential deal. The necessity of giving every player imaginable an option or three, the unluckiness of a four-team no-trade backfiring, the most valuable trade chips being the most unlikely to move, and on and on. In truth, there seems little assured about this deadline other than Antonio Bastardo‘s seemingly imminent departure. But is that enough?

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The Strangest Ryan Howard Development Yet

11 years into Ryan Howard‘s tenure as a major league ballplayer in Philadelphia, we sometimes think we’ve heard it all with him — the highs and the lows. Home run streaks, home run droughts; dominance and struggles against certain pitchers; success and failure against teams or in specific ballparks.

But with nearly 1,300 career games played and nearly 5,500 plate appearances taken, we have stumbled onto something new with the Phillies first baseman: he has a very noticeable reverse platoon split.

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All Quiet on the Trade Front for the Phillies

Just like last year, the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is fast approaching and the Phillies are standing motionless, arms akimbo, a plethora of marketable assets to either side. GM Ruben Amaro could have gotten value out of soon-to-be free agent Carlos Ruiz, third baseman Michael Young, outfielder Delmon Young, reliever Mike Adams, and bench players John Mayberry and Kevin Frandsen. It wasn’t until the final day of August, the waiver trade deadline that Amaro finally sprung into action, swapping Young for Dodgers minor league pitcher Rob Rasmussen and utility infielder John McDonald for Red Sox minor league pitcher Nefi Ogando.

Would the Phillies likely have received any franchise-defining players if Amaro had traded all of the aforementioned players? Probably not, but you always take a lottery ticket if it’s free. Instead, the Phillies released Delmon Young on August 14 and Frandsen at the end of spring training this year, getting nothing instead of something. Ruiz was signed to a questionable three-year deal and Adams stayed around only to suffer a predictable injury. The Phillies were actually hurt by Amaro’s statuesque performance at the deadline last summer.

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The End of Things

With any luck, you weren’t paying attention.

Mid-Thursday afternoon, following the Phillies’ 2-1, sweep-avoiding victory over the Giants on the back – and left arm – of Cole Hamels, the Ryan Howard era came to an end. A few years down the road, the line of demarcation for the end of the era of reverence for one of the most prolific sluggers of his time will likely point to the end of Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS, but in the wake of that loss, there was still hope. There was hope that, with time and treatment, Howard would rebound to usefulness and manage a passable latter-stage career.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 109: The Utley/Halladay Buddy Film

@Dweebowitz: “How *do* they get out of the mess their stripped farm system and grotesquely overpaid geriatric lineup have become?”

I can’t emphasize this enough: there is no easy fix. There is no quick fix. There is no way the Phillies can overhaul the roster and contend next year, and barring some unforeseen run of luck, probably not the year after that.

The answer is time. You can’t build a contender overnight anymore by buying established players, and the Phillies’ greatest resource, money, makes buying established players the course the Phillies are most able to take. But that’s not how things work anymore. Look at any team that’s currently in good playoff position–either they’ve developed their own talent, or used homegrown talent to acquire established talent, or they’ve been particularly good at picking up pieces off the scrap heap, like the A’s.

The good news is that the Phillies aren’t trying to buy their way back into the playoff race anymore. Signings like Byrd and A.J. Burnett might look like that, but they’re not. They’re damage control. Meanwhile, the farm system isn’t stripped anymore–two years ago, the Phillies were sneaking one guy into the back end of top 100 prospect lists, but after two pretty good drafts, they’ve got three no-doubt top 100 prospects in J.P. Crawford, Aaron Nola and Maikel Franco, and several other interesting prospects besides, and whereas two years ago, all the talent in the Phillies’ system was buried in low-A and rookie ball, those kids–Crawford and Franco among them–are slowly climbing the minor league rungs. Of course, the Phillies haven’t had much success converting minor league talent into major league production in the past five years or so, but that’s a different problem. Continue reading…