Phillies Clarify Catching Situation

For a team without many established players, the Phillies did not have many camp battles this season. Coming into the year there were two bench spots and one bullpen spot up for competition. One spot that was not considered up for debate was backup catcher. After a spring of that position not looking secure, the Phillies solidified on Monday that Andrew Knapp will be the backup to Cameron Rupp to open the 2017 season when they released veterans Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan.

From a roster standpoint, Andrew Knapp making the Phillies opening day roster made sense for both the player and the team. If you hadn’t noticed, the Phillies are facing a 40 man roster crunch and are running out of players they are willing to cut loose to make room. With Jorge Alfaro and Cameron Rupp as the only other catchers on the roster, any non-Knapp option would require freeing up a roster spot. Then there would have been what to do with Knapp in AAA, where Alfaro would be getting most of the at bats. Depending on who fills out the rest of the Phillies bench, Knapp might receive more playing time in the majors than the minors. Continue reading…

Cameron Rupp: A Large Man of Extremes

Heading into the 2017 season, we here at Crashburn Alley strive to update you on a specific storyline regarding many of the returning staples from last season’s roster. Today is catcher Cameron Rupp.

The Phillies have never been long without a franchise catcher. At least not for the last 30 years of their history. Carlos Ruiz has been in various stages of decline over the past few years and as the 2016 season opened he had already ceded his starting job. That starting job had been given to Cameron Rupp. Rupp was never highly regarded as a prospect despite the pedigree of being a 3rd round pick. But nonetheless, he finds himself the Phillies starting catcher with the chance to continue the unbroken line of franchise catchers.

Cameron Rupp has become somewhat of a Statcast darling due to his high exit velocity. By their leaderboards his 92.2 mph average exit velocity ranked 29th out 246 qualified batters (min 200 PA). It showed in his power numbers too. Last year, Rupp had 43 of his 98 hits go for extra bases including 16 home runs, which was 10th among MLB catchers (his Isolated Power was 7th). The problem has been Rupp’s ability to make contact more than his ability to hit the ball hard when he did make contact. In 2016 his strikeout rate was 22nd highest among all major league batters with at least 400 plate appearances. This was an increase from his 2015 rate, but not out of line with his previous rates. The reason for the high rate is Rupp’s swing where he “bars his arm” or extends it fully before his swing comes forward, this extension prevents him from adjusting to pitches mid swing. When combined with how hard Rupp swings, he can be left exposed to offspeed pitches. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 12: Gym Teachers and BlueClaws

This is my first attempt at a Crash Bag and I am already off to a great start with posting it a day later than intended. In the past I have done mailbags more focused on answering lots of questions and talking about many topics about the current team and minor league system. That is not the Crash Bag, the Crash Bag is something different, it is more tangential, it is more fun, and that is what I plan on having here. It may take some time for me to grow into my own voice, but that is really all part of the fun of it.

For now the best place to ask questions is on Twitter, either @ me (@Matt_Winkelman or @CrashburnAlley). But you can also reply in the comments here and I will will have some sort of better way for future mailbags.

@nurseintime: Which minor league team will be the best to watch after the draft?

Lakewood and it isn’t really close. The BlueClaws are going to be absolutely loaded with high upside talent. They aren’t going to roll through their league Lehigh Valley might, but that will be because they are going to be so young. Right now my best guess is that the starters are. Continue reading…

Indians Return Rule 5 Pick Hoby Milner

Due to the unfinished CBA and a deep farm system the Phillies were forced to protect 11 players on the 40 man roster from the Rule 5 draft. They did leave a couple of players unprotected, the most notable and major league ready was LHP Hoby Milner. The Indians took Milner in the Rule 5 draft and added him to their 40 man roster. At the time the only left handed reliever on their roster was Andrew Miller. For the Phillies it depleted their already low supply of left handed arms.

As much as Milner looked like a lock to stick when the Indians took him in the draft, that changed dramatically when the Indians signed LHP Boone Logan a little bit later. This week the Indians admitted that they wanted the roster spot and offered Milner back to the Phillies, who accepted. Milner did not have a good spring for the Indians (7.0 IP 9.00 ERA 3 BB 9 K), but he will report directly to major league camp for the Phillies. Continue reading…

The State of the Bullpen

The Phillies bullpen looks a lot different than it did entering last season. It’s clear that the front office made improving the bullpen in the short term a major priority for the offseason, as it made a series of deals for relievers without many years of control. Let’s run down the Phillies news look ‘pen, with the assumption that they’ll carry seven relievers.

The Sure Things

Jeanmar Gomez – The Phillies closer from last season proved that his tightrope walk from April to August was a mirage with an absolutely dreadful September. In the end, his paltry 15.8% K% has been overshadowed by the 37 saves which showed to some that he’s “got what it takes to man the 9th inning effectively.” According to Pete Mackanin, Gomez will enter the season as the Phillies closer, but if there was a pool on when he’d be replaced, my money would be before the end of May. Continue reading…

Hector Neris: Building the Next Bullpen

Heading into the 2017 season, we here at Crashburn Alley strive to update you on a specific storyline regarding many of the returning staples from last season’s roster. Today is relief pitcher Hector Neris.

The Phillies had a bad bullpen in 2016. The trade of Ken Giles left them with newly signed David Hernandez as the only competent looking reliever in the bullpen. After a disastrous first week of the season the Phillies found two relievers to cobble a bullpen around. One of those relievers is closer incumbent Jeanmar Gomez, but his upcoming free agency makes him less relevant to the Phillies’ future. What is more interesting was the emergence of Hector Neris and his splitter from middle relief obscurity.

During the 2015 season, Neris proved himself to be a competent pitcher, riding his splitter and solid command to a good strikeout rate and near league average ERA. In 2016, he increased his splitter usage and turned into a real weapon for the Phillies. Neris like much of the Phillies’ bullpen had a disastrous September, but for the first 5 months of the season he post a 2.11 ERA over 68.1 innings with 19 walks to 86 strikeouts. His full season workload was among the major league leaders (5th in innings pitched and 4th in games), but it was not a career high for Neris, who is unconcerned about his workload. Continue reading…

Aaron Nola: Worlds of Potential

Heading into the 2017 season, we here at Crashburn Alley strive to update you on a specific storyline regarding many of the returning staples from last season’s roster. Today is starting pitcher Aaron Nola.

A lot of what I said in my season preview for Jerad Eickhoff could be repeated for Aaron Nola. He’s got the stellar curveball, so-so fastball, and not good changeup. Nola both strikes out and walks slightly more hitters, which gives both players near identical career K/BB rates just below 4.00. However, Nola has allowed more home runs per fly ball, and he just came off a season with a near-5 ERA.

Based on that paragraph alone, you might conclude that Eickhoff is the better pitcher right now, and you might be right, but that misses three important pieces of information about Nola that set him apart from his rotation-mate:

  • Due to his sinking fastball, Nola had a 55% ground ball rate (GB%) in 2016, compared to Eickhoff’s 41%. The league average is about 45%.
  • Nola had a strand rate (LOB%) of just 60% last year, while Eickhoff’s 76% was just above the league average of 73%.
  • Nola has dealt with injuries that may have affected his effectiveness.

Continue reading…

Odubel Herrera: The First Piece of the Future

I am honored to be taking over for Eric here at Crashburn, this site has always been a place I looked up to. I am excited to work alongside the talented writers here and to keep the tradition of high quality analysis going into another Phillies season.

2017 will mark the Phillies’ first season without members of their 2008 core. The Phillies are not without veterans, and they are not without players who have been with the team for a number of seasons. What they lacked was any tangible direction for the future. This offseason the Phillies made their first long term commitment to their new core, signing Odubel Herrera to a long term contract. Continue reading…