2017 GCL Phillies Season Preview

The future of the Phillies rests in their minor leagues. Not every prospect will come up to help the major league team, some will be traded, and some will stumble along the way. Today we continue Crashburn’s preview of the minor league system with the GCL Phillies. The goal is to give a quick overview of the team and the top prospects, but also a deeper dive into the full roster.

The Gulf Coast League season started almost 3 weeks ago, but with the draft signing deadline passed the roster has finally settled. The league serves as the first stop for domestically drafted players as well as the first organized stateside league for the organization’s international signees. The level of baseball is often very low, but it is also a league of teenagers just trying to figure out what it takes to make it professional baseball.

Quick Pitch

The Gulf Coast League is an important league. It is our first look at high school draftees and big international signings. We have been spoiled the last few years, as the GCL Phillies have played host to Mickey Moniak, Jhailyn Ortiz, Sixto Sanchez, Daniel Brito, Arquimedes Gamboa, Jonathan Arauz, Adonis Medina, Cornelius Randolph, Elniery Garcia, and Franklyn Kilome. This year’s version lacks the star power from the draft, but a quartet of Latin American players make this year’s version just as intriguing, even if it lacks in domination. Continue reading…

2017 Lakewood BlueClaws Season Preview

Even though their major league team is much improved, the future of the Phillies rests in their minor leagues. Not every prospect will come up to help the major league team, some will be traded, and some will stumble along the way. Today we continue Crashburn’s preview of the minor league system with the Lakewood BlueClaws. The goal is to give a quick overview of the team and the top prospects, but also a deeper dive into all 25 player on the roster.

Outside of Lehigh Valley, the most interesting team in the Phillies system will be in Lakewood, New Jersey. The team has impact talent at the top, complemented by a group of young high upside players that could join the Phillies upper echelon prospects by the end of the year. The BlueClaws may not be as dominating as the IronPigs, but they should be plenty of fun.

Quick Pitch:

Any discussion of the BlueClaws starts with their pair of 18 year old top prospects. Mickey Moniak was the #1 pick in the draft and has the chance to be a 5 tool center fielder. Sixto Sanchez is only 18 and is already touching 98 this spring. He needs to improve his offspeed pitches, but he is already electric on the mound. Those two will be surrounded by a young rotation that includes fellow top 10 prospect Adonis Medina and a group of hitters highlighted by the Venezuelan double play combination of Arquimedez Gamboa and Daniel Brito. With much of Lehigh Valley slated to graduate this year, Lakewood represents the future core of the Phillies farm system. Continue reading…

2017 Clearwater Threshers Season Preview

Even though their major league team is much improved. The future of the Phillies rests in their minor leagues. Not every prospect will come up to help the major league team, some will be traded, and some will stumble along the way. Today we continue Crashburn’s preview of the minor league system with the Clearwater Threshers. The goal is to give a quick overview of the team and the top prospects, but also a deeper dive into all 25 player on the roster.

The Clearwater Threshers have always been the team out of sight. The other three full season affiliates are within an easy drive of Philadelphia and many public evaluators. This year’s Clearwater team does not feature a lineup that is full of recognizable names, but their rotation should provide plenty of excitement.

Quick Pitch:

The 2017 Clearwater Threshers look a lot like the 2016 Lakewood BlueClaws, a team that rode a couple good hitters and lights out pitching to the South Atlantic League Championship Series. The hitters are highlighted by outfielders Cornelius Randolph and Jose Pujols, both flawed players with big time upside. The real excitement comes from a starting rotation that is topped with 3 young, hard throwing Dominican righties. Franklyn Kilome, Alberto Tirado, and Seranthony Dominguez are all impact arms for the Phillies. Continue reading…

2017 Reading Fightins Season Preview

Even though their major league team is much improved. The future of the Phillies rests in their minor leagues. Not every prospect will come up to help the major league team, some will be traded, and some will stumble along the way. Today we continue Crashburn’s preview of the minor league system with the Reading Fightin Phils. The goal is to give a quick overview of the team and the top prospects, but also a deeper dive into all 25 player on the roster.

It is premature to call Reading the worst roster in the Phillies’ system, but it is definitely the one lacking the most in star prospects. What it does have is a young group of players with breakout potential, especially up the middle defensively and starting on the mound. So while you may not recognize all of the names immediately, you should pay attention, because there are some players here worth knowing.

Quick Pitch

With many of its top prospects moving up to AAA this year, Reading will field its weakest team in a while. The roster lacks star power, but it makes up for it with intrigue. The lineup is full of a mix of very young prospects and older prospects trying to recapture some shine lost in recent years. Reading’s rotation features 2016 breakout prospects Drew Anderson, Tyler Viza, Shane Watson, and Elniery Garcia, once he returns from injury. It is hard to know who will break out in Reading this year, but the raw talent indicates that someone may be due. Continue reading…

2017 Lehigh Valley IronPigs Season Preview

Even though their major league team is much improved. The future of the Phillies rests in their minor leagues. Not every prospect will come up to help the major league team, some will be traded, and some will stumble along the way. Today we kick off Crashburn’s preview of the minor league system with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The goal is to give a quick overview of the team and the top prospects, but also a deeper dive into all 25 player on the roster.

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs might be the best team in the minor leagues. They probably won’t have the most top 100 prospects or the highest ranked prospects, but what they do have is more prospects than positions to play them. There are 11 players that made my top 35 prospects in the Phillies system, and they will be joined by a former Top 100 prospect in Jake Thompson, and eventually another young starter in Zach Eflin. It should make for an exciting year in Allentown.

The Quick Pitch:

The IronPigs are loaded with prospects. The only positions without a legitimate major league prospect will be third base and designated hitter. The rotation is full of young arms that will likely be up with the big league club this season. It isn’t just quantity, as the team has J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro who stand out even on a star studded team. On top of the future potential of the players involved, these prospects bring plenty of excitement, whether it is Quinn’s speed, Crawford’s glove, or the power of Hoskins, Alfaro, and Cozens in the middle of the lineup. Continue reading…

Crashburn Alley’s 2017 Predictions

The baseball season kicked off yesterday, but with the Phillies season getting underway today, it is time for predictions. The staff here (and formerly here) put together our best guess for what will happen during the 2017 season. Given that we all guess different things, I can assume we have already gotten everything right and everything wrong already.

In the comments section, be sure to share your predictions and let us know where we went right and where we went terribly wrong.

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…

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…