Opening Day is here which can only mean one thing… it’s time for us here at Crashburn Alley to make a bunch of predictions about the 2016 season that are absolutely, definitely, 100% guaranteed to be either right or wrong. In the comments section, be sure to share your predictions and let us know where we went right and where we went terribly wrong.
Corey Seager, Steven Matz, Julio Urias, Trea Turner, Tyler Goeddel. That’s how I see the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year race. There are some studs in this rookie class, but Goeddel is a multi-tooled offensive player, and is not likely to be a defensive liability. If he gets hot, he could put up counting stats that make some of the voters for the writers’ annual Post-Season-Make-Your-Own-News (POSMYON) Awards take notice. Yes, the Posmyons. The statues are lovely. It’s a likeness of William Randolph Hearst orchestrating a war. Ok…maybe that’s a bad comp.
We all got to pick our own topics for this week’s Bold Predictions series, which means I volunteered to do this. As soon as I did, I said to myself, I immediately regret this decision.
It’s not exactly easy to prove that our bullpen won’t stink. It’s kind of been our calling card in recent years.
Not only that, but for a team in the process of building a lineup and molding a rotation, the bullpen is not generally the first priority. A lot of the guys who will populate the cage beneath Ashburn Alley are there by default. Just ask aspiring starter Brett Oberholtzer.
But I made the commitment, and it wouldn’t be a bold prediction if it was obvious, or even likely for that matter.
This week, the Crashburn staff will be posting our bold predictions for the 2016 Phillies season.
I’m a person who is loathe to put my name next to baseball predictions of any sort – variation and randomness hold too much sway to be able to say much with confidence. Making a prediction that qualifies as “bold”, or, unlikely enough to be surprising? Even worse. However, I’ve attempted to find a sensational-sounding prediction that isn’t as unlikely as it initially appears (AKA, having my cake and eating it too).
The prediction? Phillies’ third baseman Maikel Franco will receive MVP votes in 2016. While predicting MVP votes for a player who has never received serious consideration for the award sounds like a bold move, there are a couple factors in Franco’s favor.
Back in the old days when I lived in New Jersey, I read The Philadelphia Inquirer every day like a very good boy. One of my favorite routines was reading the weekly Eagles game preview, in which the paper summarized the two teams and — with little football helmets — indicated which team had a better quarterback, better wideouts, better coaching, and so on. This came to mind in thinking about my bold, daring prediction that the Phillies are going to be bad, but not quite as bad as the formerly mighty Atlanta Braves.
The Conventional Wisdom says the Phillies will be the worst team in baseball (again) this year, but I don’t see it that way. The Reds, Brewers, and Braves also look like pretty terrible teams, and any one of them could finish last. In its 2016 MLB preview, ESPN has ranked the Phillies dead last and projected the team to finish with a 68-94 record. The Braves are projected to finish *just* ahead of the Phillies with a not very nice record of 69-93. So, from that standpoint, making a case for the Braves to be worse than the Phillies is seemingly a pointless exercise in nitpicking over, inarguably, some very exhausting and minuscule differences.
Yes, that’s exactly the kind of analysis that guy enjoys. Let’s break it down, without little football helmets, using projected rosters for both teams as of March 29. Continue reading…
This week the Crashburn staff will be posting our bold predictions for the 2016 Phillies season.
The St. Louis Cardinals organization has done a lot of things right over the last decade and a half. In 2003, they swapped one (admittedly great) season of J.D. Drew for a prospect you may have heard of named Adam Wainwright. They let franchise icon Albert Pujols walk when his free agent price tag became too unwieldy. Their player development staff has turned early-, mid-, and late-round draft picks into major league regulars at obscene rates. As a result, they’ve reached nine of the past 16 National League Championship Series and rapidly become America’s favorite team to hate. But contrary to what St. Louisans will tell you, the Cardinals are not perfect.
According to virtually every publicly available projection model, Aaron Nola is projected to be the best starting pitcher in the Phillies rotation. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA system projects Nola to have the lowest WHIP (1.21) and lowest ERA (4.04) as well as the highest WARP (1.4). It should be noted that if the WARP figure looks a bit low, it’s because they only project Nola to throw 138 innings and the only conceivable way Nola’s season ends with just 138 innings pitched is if he suffers an injury. FanGraphs’ depth charts also projects Nola to have the highest WAR (2.4) on the staff and lowest BB/9 (2.1) in addition to a K/9 (7.7) and ERA (4.01) which is second only to Vince Velasquez (10.3 K/9, 3.70 ERA). A player catapulting himself to the top of a rotation depth chart (even a rotation depth chart of questionable quality like the Phillies’) after just half a season at the major league level should be garnering tons of attention in Spring Training and, yet, Nola seems almost to be an afterthought at this point.
I have a totally new, just-thought-of-it, breaking ground phrase for you: you can never have too much pitching. I hope your head didn’t explode and you’re now able to begin showering me with accolades because, hoo boy, if that isn’t the truism you never knew you’ve been needing.
This phrase is relevant to the Phillies right now because they are atypically overflowing with worthy starting pitchers. Jeremy Hellickson, Aaron Nola, and Charlie Morton have had their rotation spots locked up since camp began. After battling a thumb fracture and a foot blister, Jerad Eickhoff made his Grapefruit League debut yesterday and put to doubt any doubts about whether he’d be healthy enough open the season in the rotation with a dazzling performance with a gorgeous curveball that was a true difference maker for him last September. This leaves one final rotation spot and multiple worthy candidates.
According to Jayson Stark, the Phillies are exploring options to bolster their outfield depth. While this is hardly a surprise considering the team was counting on a full season from Aaron Altherr only to see him sidelined by a wrist injury for four-to-six months. Do they truly need to make a move though? If so, should they be looking for a bench outfielder or someone who can play everyday?
To answer those questions, let’s first look at what the Phillies currently have.
For four seasons after Jayson Werth departed Philadelphia via free agency, the Phillies had a depth crisis at the center field position. Their top four backups by playing time were John Mayberry Jr, Michael Martinez, Tony Gwynn Jr, and Cesar Hernandez. Of those four, Gwynn was a true center fielder, but the others represented varying degrees of defensive disasters at the position. This frustrating trend mercifully came to an end in 2015 when through either astonishing luck or masterful scouting (or, more likely, a beautiful marriage of both) the Phillies transformed a second baseman from Double-A named Odubel Herrera into a legitimate major league center fielder while the team’s former primary center fielder, Ben Revere, moved to left field as insurance. In 2016, the defensive situation has only improved with the addition of elite defensive center fielder Peter Bourjos to the roster. The Phillies are now in the enviable position of deciding which of two qualified candidates will be their primary center fielder: Odubel Herrera or Peter Bourjos?