2017 Phillies Report Card: Rhys Hoskins Crashbag

I met the man at a pretty good tapas joint in Barcelona on the eve of the Catalan Secession Referendum. He was having a Sangria, of course, and talking up the Ibérico he’d earlier sampled at the all-too-brightly-lit spot around the corner. I wondered if he really knew what he was talking about, or if he was just halfway drunk already, because that place, I’d been told just the day before, always, *always* passes off their lower-end Jamóns to tourists.

Rhys Hoskins stood out like a sore thumb, what with his imposing physicality, and the fact that he clearly learned the broken Spanish he was mustering from spending last winter as a line cook at Distrito. Continue reading…

Phillies To Call Up J.P. Crawford: Looking Forward

This piece is a companion to my J.P. Crawford retrospective on Phillies Minor Thoughts.

The most anticipated transaction in the Phillies system for the best 3+ years was the promotion of J.P. Crawford to the majors. It was a move that was meant represent the start of the new age of Philadelphia baseball. Crawford has slipped a bit from this path, but he is still the Phillies top prospect and his promotion is still probably the biggest event of the Phillies 2017 season. Instead of being the start of the new age of Philadelphia baseball, Crawford will be asked to augment what already looks like a bright future highlighted by Odubel Herrera, Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, and Aaron Altherr. There has been much written about Crawford over the years and what he might mean to the Phillies, but here on the eve of his callup we get a chance to step back and look at his full minor league resume and see what he might be for the Phillies.

It is hard to translate any sort of statistical defensive numbers from the minors to the majors. What we do know from scouting is that Crawford has great instincts at shortstop and a strong and accurate arm. For the most part he is not a flashy player because his body control makes his motions appear smooth, but he is capable of the making the play deep in the hole at short or making a play on pure athleticism.

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Phillies Call Up Rhys Hoskins

Earlier this week the Phillies announced they were moving their best pure hitting prospect from first base to left field to accommodate Tommy Joseph staying at first base. I have a lot of thoughts about what the move means strategically, but what is done is done. What that move does mean is that the Phillies are finally promoting Rhys Hoskins, just as an outfielder and not a first baseman. For the second year in a row Hoskins is one of the best hitters in minor league baseball, and this time he is doing it in a more neutral environment as opposed to the hitting paradise that is Reading.

Without talking about position or league context, we need to talk about Hoskins the baseball player. At the plate Hoskins features a simple swing, he has a bit of a leg kick, but overall is swing is quiet. He gets good loft with it, but it also isn’t a complete uppercut. Most of his contact is going to be to the pull side, but he does have the power to go the opposite way. When he first came up there were a lot of questions about his raw power, and they are mostly fair as his power is probably plus, maybe it is plus plus. What he has done incredibly well over the years is to refine his approach and pitch recognition. This has allowed him to get the most out of his raw tools, and so while his raw power doesn’t measure up to Dylan Cozens, he is able to match him in actualized production. Hoskins is mostly a fastball hitter, but he will crush mistakes over the plate. He has less frequently expanded the strike zone in the upper levels, but can still chase breaking balls. The complete package is one fairly light on weaknesses. This season he has reverse platoon splits, but only 123 PAs against LHPs so it is hard to read too much into his relative struggles vs them, given that he crushed them in 2016. This year he has walked more than he has struck out vs RHPs which is a stark improvement on last season where he had a 50 to 97 walk to strikeout rate vs same side pitching. Overall he should be an average hitter (.260-.270) with a good on base percentage, and he has the power to hit 30+ home runs a year with an equal amount of doubles. He might have a bit more ceiling than that if he can maintain his AAA strikeout rate, but I would expect it to regress back towards 20% from the 15.8% it is at right now. Continue reading…

Bad Luck Continues, Aaron Altherr Out For Longer

I feel like I keep repeating this, but the 2017 Phillies are a bad baseball team, but they also are a really unlucky one. Before the weekend, they were poised to have Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, and Cesar Hernandez healthy, and have Howie Kendrick out on a rehab assignment. Then Aaron Altherr hurt his hamstring, and today Matt Gelb rained on the parade some more by reporting that the injury was more serious than initially diagnosed and that Altherr would be out for 3-4 weeks. The injury robs the Phillies of one of their best bats and ruins the Williams-Herrera-Altherr outfield that gave fans a reason to watch every night. With the Phillies now down another bat, it was natural to turn to farm to look for another prospect to come join the Phillies. Continue reading…

Two Six Year Minor League Free Agents May Alter 40 Man Plans

It is rare that a player sticks around a major league organization for 6 full years without once encountering the 40 man roster. For those that make it that far in their minor league career, free agency awaits. Their team may add them to the 40 man roster before the end of the league year to prevent this. For the most part, players that reach this distinction are players like the Phillies’ Carlos Tocci who were young international signings who developed late. While Tocci is probably the highest ranked prospect who could be a free agent, a pair of relievers offer the most intrigue.

The Phillies kicked off the 2011 draft with a complete dud in Larry Greene Jr, but the class will always be considered a success because of the reliever they took in the 7th round, Ken Giles. The rest of the class has marginal major leaguers (Adam Morgan, Cody Asche, and Colton Murray), a feel good story who is also a major leaguer (Brock Stassi), and an oft injured athlete (Roman Quinn). While the dust has settled on most of those players, it is the 18 year olds the Phillies took in the 12th and 17th rounds that are on the verge of making the majors. Continue reading…

What Does a Successful Second Half Look Like?

To say this season has not gone according to plan would be a huge understatement. We all remember the now-infamous prediction by Pete Mackanin that the Phillies could be a .500 team this year. Well through just over 50% of the season, they’ve got a .333 winning percentage. In order to finish the season at .500, the Phillies would have to win 52 of their final 75 games, and, well, that’s just not going to happen.

Some would say this was a lost season. The team obviously hasn’t won a lot, but more alarmingly, several presumed key pieces to the next Phillies playoff team have taken significant steps backward. Odubel Herrera has a 76 wRC+. Cesar Hernandez has been hurt. Tommy Joseph has been replacement level. Maikel Franco has been well below replacement level. Jerad Eickhoff has taken a step back. Vince Velasquez has been hurt. Hector Neris has taken a step back. The revolving door at the back of the rotation has been more like a Tilt-A-Whirl. But you knew all of that already.

I’m here to tell you that the storm clouds can pass. There are a few things that need to happen to salvage this so-far lost season and keep the rebuild going in an upward trajectory.

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Phillies Calling Up Nick Williams

In addition to just being bad, the Phillies have been unlucky this year. Due to uncertainty over the CBA, they protected 11 players from the Rule 5 draft. This move severely depleted the Phillies fungible call up depth, as well as giving them almost no flexibility in making call ups over the course of the season. Injuries to Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz, and Cesar Hernandez along with ineffective performances from Michael Saunders, Jeanmar Gomez, Joely Rodrguez, and Edubray Ramos have already stretched the roster to it’s breaking limits. When you add in injuries to Zach Eflin and Jesmuel Valentin, and a PED suspension for Elniery Garcia the Phillies are out of warm bodies to throw in front of promoting prospects. So when the Phillies were forced to send Hwie Kendrick to the DL for the second time, they had no choice but finally turn to one of their big time prospects and call up outfielder Nick Williams.

Williams isn’t just a random call up. After 9 months and 203 games in AAA, Williams has shown that he deserves to be in the major leagues. His season stat line of .280/.328/.511 hides a poor walk rate and an astronomical strikeout rate, hallmarks of all of his bad traits. However, Williams is finishing up a June with a much improved walk rate and a continuation of the power he showed in a hot homer stretch in May. Overall this month, Williams is hitting .282/.351/.524 with 6 walks in his last 6 games. Continue reading…

Development is Not Linear: Andrew Pullin

It is easy to think of minor league progression as a nice linear path, where each year a player improves and moves up a level until they can’t cut it and are no longer relevant. This is rarely the case, but even if that is the level progression, the road to the majors is rarely easy and full of constant hurdles. This would explain why the Phillies have a 23 year old prospect with a .343/.390/.587 line in AA across two seasons and 66 games, who has never been ranked higher than #28 on a Baseball America prospect list (he made their 2012 and 2016 lists).

Reading outfielder, Andrew Pullin currently is hitting a blistering .337/.382/.651 through Reading’s first 20 games, which has started to quell any lingering concerns from his breakout 2016 season. It is clear that Pullin is a better prospect than where he ranked on offseason lists (in the interest of full disclosure, he ranked #28 this offseason for me). Now that doesn’t mean he was a big miss by the scouting community, instead he is an interesting case study in how a prospect changes over the course of their career. To get this all started, we should go back to the beginning Here is what Baseball America wrote about Pullin at the time of the draft and then after he finished his first year in the GCL. Continue reading…

Crashbag Vol. 17 – Do Not Seek The Treasure

Hey, it’s my first Crashbag. Hope it gives you a chuckle, or failing that, that at least you think I’m an idiot afterwards.

Mark Appel was a #1 overall pick and now someone has asked a question about whether he’ll have as good a career as a guy who posted one and one fifth career WAR (I averaged BRef and Fangraphs…for…science). That this is even a realistic question is just a brutal assessment of Appel. Harsh. Poor guy.

I liked Condrey in ’08 – he was reliable-ish, and threw a pretty good ground ball rate over 69 innings, (interesting), while lacking an out pitch that could have helped him out of some jams. Though even one more out would have ruined that “interesting” season, so… Continue reading…

The Return of Zach Eflin

Clay Buchholz is officially out for the season. Even if Buchholz had stayed healthy, it was likely that the Phillies were going to have a major pitcher injury at some point. The good news is the Phillies are strong in major league ready starting pitching. This time, the Phillies are not dipping down into the prospects, instead going with 23 year old, not quite a rookie, Zach Eflin.

This is the second year in which Eflin was called up after the Phillies experienced a starting pitcher injury. His first trip to the majors was not good, and he posted a 5.54 ERA over 63.1 innings. Now that number is a bit deceptive, because you break his season up into 3 distinct time periods.

First MLB Start: 2.2 IP – 27.00 ERA – 9 H – 3 BB – 2 K – 3 HR

Seven Solid Starts: 47.2 IP – 2.08 ERA – 36 H – 5 BB – 24 K – 3 HR

Three Injured Starts: 13.0 IP – 13.85 ERA – 22 H – 9 BB – 5 K – 6 HR Continue reading…