Positional Preview: Prospects

So, let me clear something up here, right off the bat. Maybe you’ve already figured this out, but, technically, “Prospects” is not a position. However, on the 2016 Phillies, prospects are as important a subset of the roster as any. And so, if I haven’t completely blown your mind, I hope you’ll follow along with me as I take a look at a handful of guys who will be worth watching in spring training, and in their minor league seasons at Reading and Lehigh Valley.

Star Potential Up The Middle: J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams

It’s been said before about a thousand times, and I’m not sure I can add much to the conversation here, but let me try: JP Crawford has awesome dogs. Have you seen them? Beautiful. Here’s one of them.

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Spring Storylines – Twenty-Six Guys Who Can Play Some Center Field

Gone are the days of Michael Martinez. Gone are the days of John Mayberry Jr. Gone are the days of “maybe Cesar Hernandez” and “I don’t know man, Grady Sizemore?”. The 2016 Phillies have actual center fielders coming to camp to back up an incumbent. Odubel Herrera enters the spring with a firm grip on a starting role, but behind him, there is a crowd vying for the other outfield spots. Almost all of them have at least some ability in center, and one of them might even push El Torito to a corner.

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Spring Storylines: The Phillies’ (Temporary) Middle Infield Problem

By now you’ve probably heard of the Phillies’ next great shortstop, J.P. Crawford. The global top-10 prospect is likely to be manning the dirt at Citizens Bank Park sometime this summer, and if not, he’ll certainly be there for good on Opening Day 2017. In the meantime, you’ll be subjected to another season of a lot of Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez. As much as I like both players’ personalities, their games aren’t exactly indicative of first division regulars, or even major league starters. The 26-year-old Galvis is a known quantity at this stage of his career, and his career 72 wRC+ tells you everything you need to know. He’s a (very) low-OBP bench/utility guy who can hit a homer once a month. Hernandez was, as you may recall, anointed as the team’s second baseman by former General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., before Chase Utley could even drag himself out of the trainer’s room.

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Pending Arbitration Cases for the Phillies

The Phillies have three players in line to file for arbitration prior to tomorrow’s filing deadline: Jeremy Hellickson, Jeanmar Gomez, and Freddy Galvis. Unless they agree to contract terms this week, the three players will each exchange contract figures with the team on Friday. If they remain unable to agree to terms in the upcoming weeks, they will go to a hearing in February where an arbiter will choose either the salary figure submitted by the team or the one submitted by the player.

Arbitration essentially guarantees a raise to eligible players on their previous season’s salary and uses back of the baseball card statistics as a basis to determine how large the raise will be. (Note: As a result, this is one area of baseball in which stats like pitchers wins or RBI, which are often ridiculed around these parts, are very consequential.) Here are the projected 2016 salaries for the Phillies’ eligible players according to the arbitration projection model developed by Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors:
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Would Justin Upton on a One-Year Deal Make Sense for Philadelphia?

Recently there have been whispers that teams are considering free agent Justin Upton on a one-year deal. While it’s not unprecedented for a free agent saddled with draft pick compensation to settle for a one-year deal — Nelson Cruz signed with the Orioles at 1/$8M just before spring training two offseasons ago after rejecting a qualifying offer for Texas — I find it extraordinarily difficult to buy that there’s much substance to these rumors. Cruz was 33, a one-dimensional player fresh off a PED suspension, and coming off three consecutive sub-2 fWAR seasons. Upton is 28, can still handle a corner outfield position, maintains an attractive power-speed combo at the plate, and is coming off three consecutive 3+ fWAR seasons. He’s not quite as attractive a free agent as Jason Heyward was, but he’s not far behind and he’s certainly no 2013-2014 offseason Nelson Cruz.

A mega-deal for Upton was a given when this offseason began and yet it’s January and Upton remains unsigned. Upton isn’t alone, fellow outfielder Yoenis Cespedes remains unsigned and Alex Gordon re-signed with the Royals just two days ago. Whatever the reasons for the lag in the position player free agent market, I find it hard to imagine that there’s been a seismic shift that prevents Upton (or Cespedes) from getting their expected paydays. But the whispers do raise a fascinating hypothetical: If Upton is available on a one-year deal, could the Phillies be a fit?

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Phillies Sign Bailey & Mujica

The Phillies have signed veteran right-handed relievers Andrew Bailey and Edward Mujica to minor league deals with invitations to big league Spring Training, putting a ribbon on a total bullpen overhaul that shifts the team from a homegrown crew to a grab bag of reclamation projects and newer, shinier organizational arms. Bailey is a Proven Closer who began his career in Oakland, but has dealt with a litany of injuries and hasn’t pitched more than 40 innings in a season since 2011. Mujica saved 37 games for the Cardinals in 2013, thus earning the Proven Closer tag as well, but has spent most of his career as a 7th/8th inning guy. The two newest Phillies, who were born three weeks apart in 1984, will compete for late-inning duties with David Hernandez and Ernesto Frieri, also recently signed by the Klentak regime.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 6: Hot Stove with Gravy

Happy Thanksgiving! This is my favorite holiday of the year. There’s no agenda other than to eat an enormous, irresponsible quantity of amazing food, do no work, and spend time with friends and family. No gifts, no praying, nothing … except an awful, murderous backstory that’s really convenient to tuck away for the sake of celebrating and giving thanks. So without further ado, let us commence the Thanksgiving Crash Bag.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 5: The 2016 Phillies

The Crash Bag is back just in time for Hot Stove season! After a disastrous and depressing season of 99 losses, the Phillies enter a strange new world. The next Phillies team will be the first without Jimmy Rollins or Chase Utley since 1999. There’s a lot to look forward to, so let’s get to it.

If we’re all very good girls and boys, September 2016 will be J.P. Crawford time. I’m not expecting him to be Carlos Correa as a rookie, but considering the options and the implications on his development, I don’t see Crawford batting eighth. If he and Nick Williams come along as expected, I imagine the lineup may look something like this: Continue reading…

2015 Phillies Report Card: Ruben Amaro Jr.

It’s been easy to shit on Ruben Amaro Jr. Has been for years. After all, he was given a championship club and turned it into a 99-loss disaster over the course of his six seasons as Phillies General Manager. He did some good things, like trading for Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, and eventually signing Cliff Lee as a free agent. But we all know he also did some things that were bad, (Ryan Howard’s bloated and unnecessary contract extension), dumb, (signing Jonathan Papelbon when waiting a week would have saved him a first-round draft pick penalty), and downright ugly, (the second Cliff Lee Trade – I mean, gross, right?). Continue reading…