The Phillies today traded for walking model of inconsistency Clay Buchholz. Along for the ride is a $13.5 million, one year commitment for 2017, which appears the preferred contract length of their offseason. Heading to Boston in the exchange is prospect Joshua Tobias, a 24 year old second baseman who most recently demonstrated his baseball aptitude at A+ Clearwater. It remains uncertain whether the Phillies are buying low on Buchholz, or just buying.
Joely Rodriguez joined the Phillies after the 2014 season, following an inconsistent season between the rotation and the bullpen while with Pittsburgh’s double A affiliate. He performed well in the Arizona Fall League, at which point he was requested in return for long time Phillies’ bullpen stalwart Antonio Bastardo. This is apt, as both teams were exchanging similar skillsets, just at different places on the risk/team control curve.
Both Rodriguez and Bastardo are sturdy-bodied left hand pitchers, relying (at their best) on mid-90s fastballs and whiff-inducing sliders. They both rose through the minors as starting pitchers, but due to fringe-y changeups and control problems, were likely to move to the bullpen. Certainly, there are some differences. Rodriguez throws a sinker, has a harder slider, employs a lower arm slot, and focuses more on generating ground balls. Bastardo has always had a very high strikeout rate, and relies far more heavily on a 3/4 arm slot and fourseam fastball to accomplish that end.
However, as a general profile, they’re undoubtedly similar – left-handed, likely seventh-inning arms with a possible setup man peak. The trade was instead more interesting as a trade of risk, potential, and inexpensive team control for an established arm with a track record, even if it was more expensive and for a shorter period of time. The trade-off was mutually beneficial, because of both teams’ competitive windows. The Phillies were becoming more realistic about their competitive chances and entering a rebuild head-on. The Pirates finally had a competitive core with Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Gerrit Cole, Neil Walker, and a breakout performance from Josh Harrison. Behind Mark Melancon and Tony Watson, Bastardo provided another late-inning option for a team expecting to compete.
When writing these report cards, players are evaluated a few different factors each comprising their own sort of curve, which are all then weighed to the tastes of the writer reviewing the player’s season. These factors include grading the player’s season relative to the rest of the league, their personal expectations (preseason projections), and the role the team expected the player to fill.
Personally, I tend to weigh the latter two factors fairly heavily, which leaves me at something of a loss when evaluating Tommy Joseph. He was the headline piece of the Hunter Pence trade to San Francisco back at the 2012 Trade Deadline. At the time a catcher, he was placed on the 40-man roster ahead of the 2013 Rule 5 Draft, before a series of concussions forced him to move from catcher. At the less valuable defensive position of first base, much more was required from his bat, lessening his prospect value. In fact, prior to the 2016 season, Joseph was outrighted from the 40-man roster and left exposed in the Rule 5 draft.
If part of the grading criteria is an evaluation of the player relative to his expected role on the team, it seems clear that Joseph had no expected role entering 2016. A blistering first five weeks of the season in triple A – he hit .347/.370/.611 with 13 extra-base hits in exactly 100 plate appearances – pushed him into the conversation. On May 13, he was promoted to the Major League roster as Darin Ruf was optioned to Lehigh Valley.
On Thursday, the Phillies gazed into the long-term future of the franchise. What they saw was Odubel Herrera, roaming the outfield grass of Citizens Bank Park, tossing live baseballs into the stands while daydreaming about his next bat flip. Would it come on a home run? A pop-up? A called strike three? There’s only so much you can know about the future. But convinced that Herrera would be a part of it, the Phillies decided to offer the young outfielder a long-term contract that potentially keeps him in Philadelphia through the end of the 2023 season.
Entering 2016, Freddy Galvis has been known as a small, defensive wizard at shortstop with a light, switch-hitting bat. He had the occasional big home run, but would have consistently ranked highly on a hypothetical list of the “least likely power hitters.” However, Galvis ended up being one of the most conspicuous examples of the heightened home run rate that affected all of baseball in 2016.
Freddy Galvis hit 20 home runs in a single season. That’s an unbelievable thing. He hit as many home runs as Carlos Correa, Anthony Rendon, and Russell Martin, all of whom qualified for the batting title. He hit more home runs than Adrian Gonzalez, Ben Zobrist, Alex Gordon, or Dustin Pedroia, all of whom qualified for the batting title. He hit as many home runs as Joe Mauer and Starling Marte, combined (again, both of whom qualified for the batting title).
The San Francisco Giants’ three biggest, healthiest bats – Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Buster Posey – all produced at least 4.0 fWAR while accumulating over 600 plate appearances, and all hit fewer home runs than Freddy Galvis. The Giants as a whole had a 90-72 pythagorean win-loss record and made it to the NLDS, and not a single batter on that team hit as many home runs as this 5′ 10″ switch-hitting shortstop.
Galvis’ race to 20 home runs felt almost like a weird record chase by the end of the year, and anticipation rose with every game in an otherwise dreary season. What began in the second half as an earnest look at a potential breakout spawned a fun and incredulous series of takes related to Galvis’ impending milestone.
Matt, I am writing the Crashburn Alley report card on Andrew Knapp. Since I am largely unqualified to comment on his defensive attributes, do you have any kind or unkind words on the subject? Or possibly a resource I could refer to?
Below average, arm is average, framing improved but not smooth, blocking needs work
Likelihood that he gets to average? Or is the bat going to have to be his carrying tool?
Low, combo of bat and being a catcher could make the whole package average
The above correspondence with prospect aficionado Matt Winkelman provides a simple context in which to view Andrew Knapp. Due to terms like below average and needs work, Knapp’s emergence as an effective major league entity will rely on both (a) his ability to hit, and (b) his very existence as a catcher. To his credit, Knapp has the being a catcher part down quite well. That leaves only the bat as unresolved.
Aaron Altherr was called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley in August 2015 to replace Maikel Franco, who had his wrist broken by a Jeremy Hellickson fastball a week prior. This was not his MLB debut, as he’d taken 6 trips to the plate in 2014, but for all intents and purposes, this was the first glimpse of Altherr Phillies fans got. And he did not disappoint.
Despite a 25.5% K-rate, Altherr powered himself to a 125 wRC+ over 161 plate appearances on the strength of a .248 ISO. That, along with above-average outfield defense and baserunning, earned him 1.8 WAR, or about what you could expect an average major leaguer to produce in a full season. Altherr did that in a quarter of a season. He also did this.
That Jeanmar Gomez played the role of an effective closer for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies for so long was a slight miracle in and of itself. It’s not to say that Gomez is an incompetent reliever, but simply one not built for high-leverage situations. You can’t find a semi-reliable closer in the league without a great out-pitch, an offering that jumps out on opposing scouting reports like a bolded stat on a Baseball-Reference page. That is where Gomez lacks. But as new age bullpens are leveraged more and more by managers navigating the back half of games, reliable groundball-inducing relievers are viable commodities. Gomez was just that. With a groundball-rate in the top 25% of qualified National League relievers, Gomez’s sinker-slider-changeup combination was worthy of the Phillies tendering him a contract (which they did last week).
His strikeout rate, however, is the ultimate indicator that he doesn’t belong as a long-term closer. Of 60 National League relievers with 50-plus innings of work, Gomez’s 15.8 K% was lower than all but two. No closer with at least 18 saves had a lower strikeout-rate (Gomez ended 2016 tied for eighth in the MLB with 37 saves). Continue reading…
UPDATE: According to Matt Gelb, the deal is worth $7.5 million.
According to Jim Salisbury, the Phillies have reached an agreement with right-handed reliever Joaquin Benoit, pending a physical. Benoit split last season almost evenly between the Mariners and the Blue Jays. He was terrible in Seattle and amazing in Toronto, and the main culprit (as these things usually go) was an increased walk rate and home run rate in Seattle. Taken as a whole, his last season was not very different from his prior seasons, once you account for his advanced age. I think it would be unwise to expect better than the 2.81 ERA he posted over 48 innings in 2017.
Back before the 2013 season, Matt Winkelman and I were holding down the proverbial fort at PhuturePhillies.com, and we conceived to go back and forth on a couple players where we had wide splits on our soon-to-be-published organizational rankings. One of those players was Cameron Rupp. My ranking of Rupp was about 15 spots ahead of Matt’s, and my reasoning had been well documented in the comments of the blog the previous year (note: never read the comments). I spelled it out once again:
“In my opinion, he’s good enough and tracking in the right direction to see him having a 3-5 year window of being a just below average/average big league regular at the plate and probably about the same behind it, with back-up roles in the years beyond that. And that kind of player is valuable. He’s no Buster Posey. He’s not going to be anyone’s franchise player, but he’s a good backstop with a good arm, and he’s got at least a fair amount of power, without sacrificing plate discipline.”