Solving the Maize: Reflections on Ruf, Asche and Player Makeup

Twelve-hundred miles due west of Citizens Bank Park, where a golden sun beats down on the heart of America, armies of corn sway in uncanny unison from horizon to horizon and Eric Crouch jerseys are acceptable bridal party garb, David Seifert’s odometer turns over.

The Phillies Mid-Western Area Scout is responsible for signing two of the primary reasons any of us are still watching the big league club this year, Darin Ruf and Cody Asche. For the die-hards, Ruf and Asche have been the warmth emanating from the dumpster fire that is the 2013 Phillies. Their arrival in the big leagues has been the subject of much discourse in the Media Market of Brotherly Love because of some of the over-arching issues Ruf and Asche represent as it pertains to talent evaluation and because….well, there’s really nothing else to talk about. We here at Crashburn have been no different. Since Ruf’s outer-body experience in Reading last August, nobody in the system has been discussed more on this site because of the insane juxtaposition between his numbers (this site’s traditional modus operandi) and the opinion of the entire scouting industry (except for one guy I know of). It’s time we take another look at both players from the scouting perspective and discuss how and why opinions have changed, if they have at all as well as reflect on the scouting process itself. Continue reading…

The Future is Unwritten: Cameron Rupp

The catching situation at the upper levels of the Phillies’ farm system looks drastically different than it did at the start of 2013. If you reflect back to the Spring, Tommy Joseph (who I projected to be an average everyday catcher with the caveat that he’d probably need at least a season and a half of work at Triple-A before he became a big leaguer) started the year in Allentown at the tender age of 21. Concussions have since clouded his future at the position and could force a move to first base where his bat won’t profile every day. Behind Joseph was Sebastian Valle, who had the look of a cost-controlled backup whose stock was down but still had an interesting swing path, some bat speed and average defensive skills. Valle was tasked with repeating Double-A, and somehow saw his tools regress even more than they did in 2012. Finally there was Cameron Rupp who began this year in a timeshare with Valle before grabbing the starting job by the balls and then ascending two levels to make his Major League debut last night. His development is a small but welcome feather in the cap of the organization’s front office that drafted Rupp just over three years ago. Continue reading…

The Future is Unwritten: Perci Garner

With my minor league season officially over (except for the Triple-A National Title game in Allentown on the 17th) I’m left with a car that’s been driven far too much these last two weeks, a body weary from all that driving and a mountain of notes that I now get to spend the next six months writing up here at Crashburn in all sorts of fun ways. I’d like to start that by telling you about Perci Garner, a player in the system that isn’t often mentioned but was really interesting to watch and could play a 2014 role on a big league club in desperate need of bullpen help. Continue reading…

Please Don’t Get Sexy: Trevor May

Last October I published a report here on former Phillies prospect, Trevor May (which you should probably take 5 minutes to read before you take in this piece. It’s very relevant later on). Once the top prospect in the system, May’s 2012 season was a rocky, frustrating campaign which saw his prospect status suffer a precipitous decline. May was traded during the offseason to the Minnesota Twins as part of the Ben Revere trade. On Saturday, I had the opportunity to see a new incarnation of Trevor May, a pitcher who is covered in the developmental fingerprints of the Minnesota system. Continue reading…

Ethan Martin Scouting Report

Ed. Note: This was originally scheduled to run prior to the start of last night’s Braves-Phillies game, but Eric had trouble getting WiFi at the airport.

Tonight marks the debut of Ethan Martin, a 6’2” righty who was the primary return in the Shane Victorino trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer. Martin has one of the better arms in the system but also has a few issues that could prevent him from pitching as a starter long term. I’m writing this post in the Philly airport, waiting to board for a flight to Florida, so bear with its length, which is considerably shorter than you’re used to seeing from me.

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Longenhagen Scouts Williamsport, Gonzalez updates, bites from Reading

Scouting lower level talent is my favorite endeavor because the dream of youth and projection is alive everywhere you look. The Williamsport Crosscutters roster has it in spades. I ventured out there (and will go back again before the season is over) during a weekend series against the Lowell Spinners. Here are most of my notes.. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 63: Some Massive Betrayal of the Faith

Some free advice to anyone who drives a mid-2000s Toyota Corolla. If you have an FM adapter for your iPod (which you all should, since Toyotas of that vintage have neither a tape deck nor an MP3 plug-in, you can make your steering wheel sound exactly like a cowbell. Just hold the wheel with your left hand at 9 o’clock and bang the adapter against the wheel at around 4 o’clock. It makes a sound like a cowbell and you’ll hum “Low Rider” to yourself every time you get behind the wheel.

Your questions:

@asigal22: “Crashbag Question: If the phils trade Papelbon and M. Young, but sign Utley, that is a win-win?”

The Phillies, according to Baseball Prospectus, have a 6.3 percent chance of making the playoffs and about half that chance of winning the division. And while that’s certainly not a precise number and it’s not literally impossible for them to come back, it’s probably not too far off the truth. And if you’re one of those people who thinks wanting to reload for next year (to say nothing of years to come) in the face of overwhelming evidence your team is beaten is some massive betrayal of the faith…in other words, if you’re one of those people who decides to forge ahead in the face of the overwhelming likeliness of defeat, spouting all the while that idiotic line from Dumb and Dumber, then maybe you hang on, win 82 games instead of 81 and lose Young for nothing at the end of the season. But major league GMs are paid to make smart decisions based on significant available information, not to shield you from have to confront a state of the world you find inconvenient.

The Phillies bought low on Young, and he’s played okay so far this season–.288/.344/.414 is well above average for an on-base guy this season, even though his defense has been so bad as to beggar belief. Scuttlebutt is that teams are interested in Young, and as a veteran right-handed bat, he could be quite a useful pickup for a team with designs on a playoff run. Would you get a top-100 prospect for him? Almost certainly not, but the Phillies are just now rebuilding a farm system that was decimated in service of building five consecutive division winners and if Ruben Amaro and his men have their eye on a sleeper prospect in the farm system of an interested team, absolutely trade him. Besides, even if you can’t do math and think the Phillies are still in it, they could plug Kevin Frandsen in at third base and probably not lose a whole lot in terms of 2013 production.

Papelbon may actually be at the peak of his trade value right now. Relievers, particularly relievers with lots of career saves, are overvalued at this point in the season, as general managers of contending teams 1) get nervous and try to just add any extra talent or 2) actually view another good relief pitcher as the last piece of a championship team. Even with his ridiculous contract and declining fastball velocity, someone would give up an asset for Papelbon, plus you’d clear upwards for $40 million from the team’s books by trading away the rest of his salary for 2013, plus the next two years, plus his vesting option in 2016. Which you know he’d hit because whoever has the most career saves is the closer until his arm falls off.

Now, to Cliff Lee. He’s still one of the best, most consistent, most durable starting pitchers in the game. Yes, he’s getting paid $25 million for the next two seasons, plus a $27.5 million vesting option in 2016, his age 37 season, if he pitches 200 innings in 2015 or 400 in 2014 and 2015 combined. Which, considering that he’s done so or is on pace to do so in eight of the past nine seasons, looks likely. It’s a lot of money.

And you know what? I’d pay it to him if I had plans to win a World Series in that time, particularly considering the increasing scarcity of bankable free agents. Lee is the Phillies’ most valuable realistic trade chip, the only player they can move for multiple significant assets, and that’s why he’d be a good player to trade, not as a salary dump but as a piece to move for younger, cheaper players. But considering Lee’s repertoire and durability, maybe it’s worth keeping him around and seeing if you can rebuild in the next three years. I’d at least listen to offers, but if nobody ponies up something too good to turn down, there’s no harm in keeping him.

Which brings us to Utley. Utley is 34 and has a checkered injury history, and could be a massive upgrade at second base for Oakland, Baltimore or Los Angeles. Even Tampa, if they wanted to bolster their chances, could move Ben Zobrist elsewhere on the diamond if they wanted Utley. You couldn’t get multiple impact prospects for him, but I bet you could get one good player, someone who would fit in with Jesse Biddle, Maikel Franco and Adam Morgan as a back-end-of-the-top-100 type, or somewhere thereabouts. Odds are Utley won’t be a significant contributor to the next good Phillies team even if they do keep him, so the rational thing to do would be to trade him.

But that’s where my rationality ends and my fandom begins. Utley’s never played anywhere else, he was the best player on the best stretch of teams in franchise history and the closest thing to a true Phillies Hall of Famer for 20 years in either direction. He’s said he wants to stay. So I’d extend his contract, even if it’s not the best thing to do for the team on paper.

So I think the situation you described–trade Papelbon and Young, re-sign Utley–is my ideal scenario, again, depending on what kind of offers they get for Cliff Lee.

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