Venezuelan Summer League Shutdown Will Impact Phillies

In a bit of under the radar news that’s highly significant for the Philadelphia Phillies, Ben Badler of Baseball America reported that the Venezuelan Summer League is cancelling its 2016 season.

The Phillies were one of four teams with an affiliate in the league which is comprised primarily of 17- to 19-year-olds that are unknown to virtually all baseball fans stateside. The 2015 VSL Phillies top performers were: a 19-year-old outfielder named Enger Jimenez who batted .307/.380/.443 and has been playing for the VSL Phillies since he was 16 and a 20-year-old left-handed pitcher named Sergio Velis who posted a 1.33 ERA in 74.2 innings. Take a look at their roster on Baseball-Reference. If there’s a name you’ve heard of it might be catcher Lenin Rodriguez who signed with a $300,000 bonus in 2014 or maybe you’ve seen the name Freddy Zorrilla before simply because his name is Freddy Zorrilla. Beyond that, it’s littered with names even the most devoted Phillies fans have never heard and, likely, never will hear. The chances of making it all the way from a foreign rookie league like the VSL or the Dominican Summer League to the majors are minimal at best.

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Phillies Fans Aren’t The Only Ones Excited About Phillies Prospects

I don’t write often about the mental aspect of the game here at Crashburn and, contrary to dated stereotypes, it’s not because I don’t believe it has a real impact on the game. It’s a topic I avoid because analyzing “makeup” or “chemistry” is often a fruitless undertaking. It takes extreme conditions for anyone on the outside to accurately assess anything as abstract as the mental or emotional conditions of a situation.

It’s a bit like trying to understand someone else’s family dynamics. Chances are you can pick up on the extreme marital discord between Uncle Bobby and Auntie Sue almost immediately, but the more subtle family dynamics like cousin Jack’s relationship with his father would take years for you to unpack. I prefer to write what I know and I don’t know why Jack tenses up around his father or what goes on inside the head of athletes, but I know marital stress when I see Bobby and Sue and I know Ryne Sandberg lost the clubhouse… and I know something encouraging is happening in the Phillies organization right now.

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Phillies Announce Spring Training Invites for Non-Roster Prospects

The report date for pitchers and catchers is rapidly approaching and if you’ve forgotten how to get excited about the Phillies over the long offseason, the Phillies dropped some news today to help you get back in the spirit:

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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…

2015 Phillies Report Card: Adam Morgan

There’s a neighborhood here in Washington, D.C. called Adams Morgan. There’s a bar there called Madam’s Organ. Clever, I know. A band I was in played open mic there once, circa 1999. We were in town for a gig at a private art show, where an artist who was trying to sell some of her pieces rented out a small space for an afternoon. The band was asked to dress all in black. It felt like a funeral when she sold literally zero works of art that afternoon. We all helped her pack up her things and she went off into whatever was next for an artist who couldn’t sell one single work in an afternoon.

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2015 Phillies Report Card: Maikel Franco

Those of us who really dig deep into Phillies prospects every year have been in on Maikel Franco for a long time. He exploded onto the national scene with a huge 2013 that included half seasons in Clearwater and Reading, but anyone paying attention in 2012 saw the signs of that leap forward. Franco had a dismal first half of the year at Low-A Lakewood, then turned it on and finished strong. The same thing happened in 2014, as Franco struggled mightily early at Lehigh Valley before mashing his way through the second half of that season, (though he mostly crashed throughout a September callup).
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2015 Phillies Report Card – Aaron Nola

For Aaron Nola, after being the college pitcher of the year in 2014, and the #7 overall pick in that summer’s draft,  a ticket to the majors was printed on opening day of 2015. The date of arrival was the only thing left blank. Nola spent a couple months in AA and AAA before he got to write in “July 21”, and honestly, it’s pretty stunning how lax the TSA is with 2014 First Round draft picks. One of those guys could be an ISIS in disguise. (My money’s on Michael Conforto, mostly because he’s on The Mets, and I dislike them so much that I’d prefer to be marooned on top of a mountain with my religious sect than see them win a World Series. Go Royals, Boo Mets, as they say). Continue reading…

2015 Phillies Report Card – Jerad Eickhoff

The first of the Hamels Gang to make the majors, Jerad Eickhoff debuted to mostly good reviews in 2015 (Script idea: Blogger somehow winds up in a cool street gang with Cole Hamels, they dance and sing and throw wicked change-ups and otherwise mess up opposing gangs). But I have an important question for all of you: how exactly am I to pronounce his first name? It’s spelled Jerad, yet BRef only tells me how to pronounce his last name. Is it JAIR ad? JEH rid? Pretty sure it’s not JEE rad or jee RAD. Do you just kind of mush your mouth and say “Jared”? As in, “Hey, let me introduce to my friend *covers mouth a little and mumbles* Joarminsh.”

Or perhaps we should all start using his new nickname, The General, (I like Eick, don’t you?). (I promise not to push this one like I have pushed for Aaron Altherr to be The Rhineland Rocket. It’s not nearly as good and I’m bad at convincing people to use my terms anyway.) Continue reading…

September Call-Up Preview

Tomorrow is the first day of the utter madness that is September baseball. For better or worse, in-game strategy is thrown on its head for the final month of the regular season due to active rosters expanding from 25 roster spots to 40. For a rebuilding team like the Phillies, this can be an exciting time as it often means prospects will be called up for their first taste of the major leagues. This year, however, due to trades and starting rotation woes, most of the Phillies’ would-be September call-ups — Jerad Eickhoff, Alec Asher, Darnell Sweeney, Aaron Altherr — are already wearing red pinstripes.

As a result, Phillies beats writers indicated that the September call-up list tomorrow will be relatively small.
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Utley Retrospective – The Minors and Rookie Campaign(s)

I’m going to take a close look at Chase Utley‘s minor league career and rookie season(s), much like I did with Jimmy Rollins when he was traded to The Dodgers. When I wrote about the franchise-best shortstop last winter, I called James Calvin Rollins “the rarest of the rare”. Damned if we didn’t have two gems surrounding the Keystone Sack in the Keystone State for more than a decade. This is how we got from the draft to a big-league superstar named Chase Cameron Utley. Continue reading…