Alec Asher Returns Armed With Two-Seam Focus And Deception

The day before Alec Asher‘s first Major League start of the 2016 season, Matt Breen of Philly.com noted that the right-handed pitcher was returning to the Majors with a new two-seam grip on his fastball. Developed at the request of the Phillies, the pitch propelled Asher to success in the early part of the Minor League season. He still didn’t strike out many batters, but he did produce encouraging 51 percent groundball and 4 percent walk rates over 12 starts.

The pitch is largely necessary because his previous fastball – a four-seam grip – was not only below-average in terms of speed, but also in terms of movement. Without life or velocity, it was crushed by opposing Major League hitters during his seven start debut in 2015. In Breen’s article, Pete Mackanin said the new pitch provides batters a second look, but at least in Asher’s two starts so far, it’s more of the primary look.

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Crashburn Prospect Q&A: Matt Winkelman of Phillies Minor Thoughts

With the Minor League season all but concluded, I had a conversion with Matt Winkelman, the founder of Phillies’ Minor Thoughts, one of the most comprehensive public sources of information on Phillies’ prospects. He spends the rest of his time continuing that work at The Good Phight, where he also provides great prospect coverage. He can (and should) be found on Twitter @Matt_Winkelman, and today I asked him about a variety of topics, from Rule 5 Eligible pitchers to first overall pick Mickey Moniak, and even discussed the player who might be the biggest under-the-radar pitcher in the Phillies’ farm system.

With the 2016 season wrapping up, talk is sure to turn to the 40-man roster crunch ahead of the Rule 5 draft. In Matt Gelb’s interview with Joe Jordan, Elniery Garcia, Nick Pivetta, and Ben Lively were confirmed to be added in advance of the deadline. Knowing that, what other pitching prospects do you expect the team to add before the Rule 5 Draft?
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Three Arguments for Alberto Tirado to be Rule 5 Protected

The Philadelphia Phillies’ impending Rule 5 roster crunch is going to receive a lot of attention in the coming weeks and months. With a large number of young prospects to fit on the 40-man roster, the Phillies have several difficult decisions to make and even still may lose a player of value this December. We will certainly provide more comprehensive coverage in the future, but for now, I’d like to present three separate arguments for the protection of one young pitcher in particular – Alberto Tirado.

These three separate arguments can be seen in the fuzzy frames of the below video, from the 17 second mark to the 21 second mark.

The 21 year old righty from the Dominican Republic was originally signed by the Blue Jays in 2011 and has always been known as a live-armed prospect without much in the way of command (he has a 14.5 percent career Minor League walk rate). That lack of command is why a pitcher capable of the above wipeout slider and fastball combination (two potential plus-plus pitches) was one of two pieces included in the Ben Revere trade of 2015. A completely reasonable person could argue that the walk rate, combined with zero experience above the high-A level, makes him an unappealing Rule 5 candidate.

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Team’s Trust in Roman Quinn Points to Overlooked Status

Roman Quinn was drafted by the Phillies in the second round of the first-year player draft, on June 2, 2011. The team drafted the speedy high school shortstop with the 66th overall pick, the one gained as compensation for the Nationals’ signing of Jayson Werth the previous offseason. On June 2, 2011, the Phillies were 34-22, with the best record in the National League. They held a two game lead for that title over the Florida Marlins.

The night before the draft the Phillies had lost 2-1 to the Nationals, leaving Roy Oswalt saddled with the tough luck loss. The night after the draft, Jimmy Rollins stole two bases and Chase Utley knocked him in as the go-ahead run in support of Cole Hamels‘ eight inning gem. Danys Baez would lose the game in the twelfth. Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes relieved in both games. Mickey Moniak had turned 13 years old just two weeks earlier.

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The Final Piece: A Farewell To Ryan Howard

We knew it was coming. We’ve expected for at least a year that Ryan Howard would be the last man standing and now the time has arrived to say goodbye. There are less than twenty games remaining for the Phillies this year which means there are less than twenty games remaining in Howard’s Phillies career. It’s been a tortuously long and painful farewell as Howard’s performance on the field never rebounded from the Achilles’ injury he suffered in the final seconds of the 2011 NLDS. But instead of dwelling on the bad, we’re finally at a point where we can look at Ryan Howard and focus on the joy he brought to the city of Philadelphia.

It’s not easy to isolate a single favorite memory of Howard’s Phillies career. For me, my absolutely favorite thing about watching him play was more of a feeling than a single moment. For half a decade, every time Howard stepped to the plate you felt as though greatness was possible. When Howard took a swing and connected with a baseball, he hit the ball harder and further more consistently than anyone I’d ever watched in a Phillies uniform. He was among the most feared hitters in baseball and for good reason. He’s always been a one-dimensional player, but during the glory years that one-dimension was more than enough. He was a power threat that made it impossible to ever give up on a Phillies game. Howard could — and did — deliver heroic game-tying or go-ahead home runs at any time. He made the game fun, he made the Phillies fun, and he made the impossible possible.

Ryan Howard has hit 378 home runs for the Phillies — 386 including the postseason — which means great moments are easy to come by in reflecting on his career and the Phillies audiovisual team will never struggle to find enough material to build highlight reels for the copious tributes to Howard and the 2008 Phillies that surely await us in the coming years. I have found, however, that there is one moment that stands out for me as most representative of the greatness Ryan Howard was capable of creating.

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Welcome to the Show, Alfaro and Quinn

So this is fun.

And as if that weren’t enough, Quinn will be in the starting lineup against the Nationals this afternoon batting second and playing center field. To date, the Phillies September call-ups have primarily been unexciting bullpen arms and increasingly veteran role players like Darin Ruf and Cody Asche. But with Reading’s elimination from the postseason last night, two of the Phillies top prospects have finally gotten the call.

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More Roster Reinforcements for the Phillies

Last night, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs were eliminated from the postseason and the newest batch of September roster reinforcements are headed to join the Phillies as a result.

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Vince Velasquez and Secondaries

Vince Velasquez‘s 2016 season is officially in the books and it’s hard to find much to complain about. Despite a brief trip to the disabled list in June and an early September shutdown, he set a career high innings total at 136 and crossed the 100 innings mark for the first time since 2013. He struck out 27.6% of batters faced which ranks 9th in the majors among pitchers with 130+ innings and demonstrated an ability to maintain elite fastball velocity deep into outings. Although his run prevention leaves room for improvement (4.12 ERA), the overall performance was solid and more than a little encouraging for the 24-year-old in his first full season as a major league starter.

However, that’s not to say Velasquez is a finished product. His biggest weakness is the cause of his high rate of pitches per plate appearances — his 4.01 P/PA ranks 21st of 126 qualified pitchers — which, by extension, limited him to less than seven innings in 21 of his 24 starts this season. That weakness? You can either call it fastball over-reliance or ineffective secondaries depending on how you want to slant it.

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Crash Landing: The Enigma of Freddy Galvis

Favorite baseball players don’t come along very often, for me at least. A true favorite player is an emotional commitment and it takes time for that level of personal investment to build up. I can list dozens of players I love to watch play. I may even refer to some of them as favorites off-hand from time to time, but true genuine favorites in the literal sense of the word? For me only two players have achieved that status: Scott Rolen and Chase Utley. I don’t know when my next favorite will come along, but I know no one is particularly close right now. Instead, what I have right now are short-lived obsessions when one player is on an exciting tear. At various times this year, I’ve favored Odubel Herrera or Aaron Nola or Vince Velasquez or Maikel Franco. But at this specific moment in time, my “favorite” is a player I endearingly refer to as “The Enigma”, shortstop Freddy Galvis.

Here’s the most important starting point with Freddy Galvis: he has the worst on-base percentage in the majors among qualified hitters and the player with the second most, Alexei Ramirez, was released by his team earlier this week. Not only that, his .269 OBP isn’t far off from his career mark of .278. So it’s bad, but it’s also unsurprisingly bad. No one expects Galvis to be an offensive force because we’ve been watching him in the majors since 2012 and he’s consistently been ineffective at the plate. There’s absolutely nothing enigmatic about that.

But then there’s this ridiculous stretch he currently finds himself on. Entering play last night, he was sporting a .278/.333/.577 slashline in 105 plate appearances since (arbitrary end point alert) August 6th. A .577 slugging percentage! The power surge was thanks to seven home runs in the span of the month. Last year, Galvis set his career high for home runs in a single season with seven. This year he matched that in a stretch of 105 plate appearances!

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