Howie Kendrick Looks Like a Leader

When the Phillies traded for Howie Kendrick in the offseason, the idea was to bring in a steady veteran with the leadership qualifications to help guide a roster of young works-in-progress. So far, so good.

The Phillies have tons of money to spend, but this winter, they opted instead to infuse the clubhouse with some much-needed (and reasonably affordable) experience. At 33 years of age, Kendrick has plenty of that, along with a consistent bat and an absurd degree of fielding versatility. At present, Yahoo! Fantasy lists him as eligible to play 1B, 2B, 3B and LF. And quite frankly, if the Clay Buchholz injury is at all serious, I’d also be willing to throw him out on the mound and see what he can do every fifth day.
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Garcia Up, Morgan Down, Buchholz Hurt, Now What?

It only took the Phillies 3 days to wipe away all of the positive feelings from a 17-3 drubbing of the Nationals. Michael already wrote about what happened to Clay Buchholz so it is not worth dwelling too much on his future until we know his MRI results (which came out while writing this). However, his ineffectiveness and injury put the Phillies in the position of running out their three worst relievers in a desperate attempt to keep the damage limited to one night. For his part in putting gasoline on the fire, Adam Morgan earned a trip to AAA sparking the first set of Phillies transactions since the end of Spring Training.

The immediate response by the Phillies was to bring back up Spring Training bullpen competition runner up, Luis Garcia. Because of a rain-out to open the year and pretty decent starting pitching, Garcia only appeared in one game for the IronPigs. On April 9 he came into the 7th inning of a 7 inning double header, and walked 1, while striking two out in a scoreless inning. This means he should be rested for immediate use in case Vince Velasquez goes 4 innings again. Garcia is obviously not a bullpen savior, he will slot in as just an arm, even though his raw stuff might hint that he could be something more. Continue reading…

Oh No! Clay Buchholz is Hurt

Last Friday before I attended Opening Day, I was reviewing Clay Buchholz’s start from the day before. He’d gone 5 innings, striking out 3 and walking 2 while allowing 8 hits and 4 runs. Obviously that’s not a great start. But the thing that really jumped out to me was his severely diminished velocity. His average fastball velocity was 90.2 mph, well below the 92.1 he averaged in 2015 and 2016. I wanted to write something about it, but hey, he was in and out of the bullpen last year, and last year his velocity was similarly low in his first start of the season. I figured I’d give him another start to see where his velocity was following that.

So imagine my delight when Buchholz came out hitting 91 with his first fastball of the night. Of course he walked the first hitter… then allowed a double…. then allowed a home run… then allowed several more runs… then got hurt.

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Gomez’s Struggles Hide Bullpen Rebuild Success

Two years in a row the Phillies have started the year in Cincinnati, and two years in a row they have left with bullpen questions. In 2016, the team shifted from David Hernandez to Dalier Hinojosa to Jeanmar Gomez as closer by April 9. This year, the Phillies are considering moving Jeanmar Gomez out of the closer’s role, but the similarities end there between the two teams. The difference is that the 2016 Phillies were throwing a bunch of things at the wall and hoping for something to work out, and the 2017 Phillies will be moving one of their shutdown setup men to work the final inning of the game.

This offseason, Matt Klentak made it a goal to upgrade the Phillies bullpen. The Phillies projected to return Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, Edubray Ramos, and Joely Rodriguez from a bullpen that was one of the worst in baseball last year, leaving three open spots. To accomplish that goal, he acquired Pat Neshek for nothing and gave Joaquin Benoit a 1 year contract. The results have been immediate. So far this season, Benoit and Neshek have combined with Neris and Ramos to give the Phillies a great group of middle relief. So far the quartet has pitched 12.2 innings, allowed 0 runs, 8 hits, 4 walks, and struck out 14. Meanwhile Rodriguez, Adam Morgan, and Gomez have given up 11 runs in 7.2 innings. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 14: Can the IronPigs Beat the Phillies?

The major league season is underway and the Phillies don’t look great once again (it has also only been 4 games, so let’s not panic). But it is never too early to ask questions about who is part of the future or where the Phanatic should play defensively.

Before getting into the questions, if you are feeling depressed, just follow this link and feel better.

For now the best place to ask questions is on Twitter, either @ me (@Matt_Winkelman or @CrashburnAlley). But you can also reply in the comments here and I will will have some sort of better way for future mailbags.

@RubyTheTreat: If you were to invest in a Phils shirsey today, what would your top 5 choices be? Continue reading…

2017 Lakewood BlueClaws Season Preview

Even though their major league team is much improved, the future of the Phillies rests in their minor leagues. Not every prospect will come up to help the major league team, some will be traded, and some will stumble along the way. Today we continue Crashburn’s preview of the minor league system with the Lakewood BlueClaws. The goal is to give a quick overview of the team and the top prospects, but also a deeper dive into all 25 player on the roster.

Outside of Lehigh Valley, the most interesting team in the Phillies system will be in Lakewood, New Jersey. The team has impact talent at the top, complemented by a group of young high upside players that could join the Phillies upper echelon prospects by the end of the year. The BlueClaws may not be as dominating as the IronPigs, but they should be plenty of fun.

Quick Pitch:

Any discussion of the BlueClaws starts with their pair of 18 year old top prospects. Mickey Moniak was the #1 pick in the draft and has the chance to be a 5 tool center fielder. Sixto Sanchez is only 18 and is already touching 98 this spring. He needs to improve his offspeed pitches, but he is already electric on the mound. Those two will be surrounded by a young rotation that includes fellow top 10 prospect Adonis Medina and a group of hitters highlighted by the Venezuelan double play combination of Arquimedez Gamboa and Daniel Brito. With much of Lehigh Valley slated to graduate this year, Lakewood represents the future core of the Phillies farm system. Continue reading…

2017 Clearwater Threshers Season Preview

Even though their major league team is much improved. The future of the Phillies rests in their minor leagues. Not every prospect will come up to help the major league team, some will be traded, and some will stumble along the way. Today we continue Crashburn’s preview of the minor league system with the Clearwater Threshers. The goal is to give a quick overview of the team and the top prospects, but also a deeper dive into all 25 player on the roster.

The Clearwater Threshers have always been the team out of sight. The other three full season affiliates are within an easy drive of Philadelphia and many public evaluators. This year’s Clearwater team does not feature a lineup that is full of recognizable names, but their rotation should provide plenty of excitement.

Quick Pitch:

The 2017 Clearwater Threshers look a lot like the 2016 Lakewood BlueClaws, a team that rode a couple good hitters and lights out pitching to the South Atlantic League Championship Series. The hitters are highlighted by outfielders Cornelius Randolph and Jose Pujols, both flawed players with big time upside. The real excitement comes from a starting rotation that is topped with 3 young, hard throwing Dominican righties. Franklyn Kilome, Alberto Tirado, and Seranthony Dominguez are all impact arms for the Phillies. Continue reading…

2017 Reading Fightins Season Preview

Even though their major league team is much improved. The future of the Phillies rests in their minor leagues. Not every prospect will come up to help the major league team, some will be traded, and some will stumble along the way. Today we continue Crashburn’s preview of the minor league system with the Reading Fightin Phils. The goal is to give a quick overview of the team and the top prospects, but also a deeper dive into all 25 player on the roster.

It is premature to call Reading the worst roster in the Phillies’ system, but it is definitely the one lacking the most in star prospects. What it does have is a young group of players with breakout potential, especially up the middle defensively and starting on the mound. So while you may not recognize all of the names immediately, you should pay attention, because there are some players here worth knowing.

Quick Pitch

With many of its top prospects moving up to AAA this year, Reading will field its weakest team in a while. The roster lacks star power, but it makes up for it with intrigue. The lineup is full of a mix of very young prospects and older prospects trying to recapture some shine lost in recent years. Reading’s rotation features 2016 breakout prospects Drew Anderson, Tyler Viza, Shane Watson, and Elniery Garcia, once he returns from injury. It is hard to know who will break out in Reading this year, but the raw talent indicates that someone may be due. Continue reading…

2017 Lehigh Valley IronPigs Season Preview

Even though their major league team is much improved. The future of the Phillies rests in their minor leagues. Not every prospect will come up to help the major league team, some will be traded, and some will stumble along the way. Today we kick off Crashburn’s preview of the minor league system with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The goal is to give a quick overview of the team and the top prospects, but also a deeper dive into all 25 player on the roster.

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs might be the best team in the minor leagues. They probably won’t have the most top 100 prospects or the highest ranked prospects, but what they do have is more prospects than positions to play them. There are 11 players that made my top 35 prospects in the Phillies system, and they will be joined by a former Top 100 prospect in Jake Thompson, and eventually another young starter in Zach Eflin. It should make for an exciting year in Allentown.

The Quick Pitch:

The IronPigs are loaded with prospects. The only positions without a legitimate major league prospect will be third base and designated hitter. The rotation is full of young arms that will likely be up with the big league club this season. It isn’t just quantity, as the team has J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro who stand out even on a star studded team. On top of the future potential of the players involved, these prospects bring plenty of excitement, whether it is Quinn’s speed, Crawford’s glove, or the power of Hoskins, Alfaro, and Cozens in the middle of the lineup. Continue reading…

Crashburn Alley’s 2017 Predictions

The baseball season kicked off yesterday, but with the Phillies season getting underway today, it is time for predictions. The staff here (and formerly here) put together our best guess for what will happen during the 2017 season. Given that we all guess different things, I can assume we have already gotten everything right and everything wrong already.

In the comments section, be sure to share your predictions and let us know where we went right and where we went terribly wrong.

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