2016 Phillies Report Card: J.P. Crawford

J.P. Crawford, in his age-21 season, made it to the Triple-A Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs for 87 games. Regardless of which prospect list you trust, Crawford is considered a top-3 prospect in all of baseball, as of the midseason updates, and now, the Phillies’ best prospect in years is now knocking on the door of the Big League Club. Many (including myself) would have loved to see him ply his trade against Major League pitchers, but that wasn’t realistic, given that he wasn’t on the 40-man roster and the service time manipulation that teams use to keep players cheaper longer.

If you’re not very familiar with Crawford’s profile, he has a very advanced control of the strike zone for a player his age, and he projects to have a plus hit tool, average power, above-average baserunning, plus fielding, and a plus arm. He has the potential to be a perennial All-Star, and, coming off a 2015 season in which he dominated High-A (192 wRC+ in 95 PAs) before impressing in his first taste of Double-A (121 wRC+ in 506 PAs), expectations were high.

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2016 Phillies Report Card: Jeremy Hellickson

As we made our bold predictions to start off the 2016 baseball season, I guessed that Jeremy Hellickson would be a halfway decent reclamation project for the Phillies. Looks like I was right. (I also predicted that the Blue Jays would win the World Series so what the hell do I know?)

At any rate, thank you Jeremy Hellickson. Your relatively decent season made me look like a relatively decent prognosticator. With a 12-10 record, 3.71 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 154 Ks, this was Hellickson’s best season since his 2012 campaign.
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2016 Phillies Report Card: Edubray Ramos

Edubray Ramos‘ journey to the Majors was not as rapid as the last three seasons would lead one to believe. While he did begin the 2014 season in the Venezuelan Summer League (a lower level than state-side rookie ball), and had spent over three months in the Majors by the end of the 2016 season, Ramos’ professional career actually began several years earlier.

At age 17, Ramos was signed and then released by the St Louis Cardinals as they shuttered the doors of their own Venezuelan Summer League team. In a story that has been told before, Ramos spent the next two years literally painting cars and cleaning floors to cover his mother’s medical bills before receiving an opportunity to tryout for the Phillies. He was signed without a bonus before the 2013 season, and came stateside in 2014.

He quickly ascended the Minor League ranks as a reliever, and entering the 2016 season, was one of the most interesting relief prospects in the Phillies’ system. Beginning the season back in Reading, Ramos quickly earned a promotion after pitching 15 innings with a 25 percent K-BB rate. He maintained his dominance in Lehigh Valley, producing a 25.6 percent K-BB rate while allowing only one run over 23.2 innings.

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2016 Phillies Report Card: Zach Eflin

There was probably an unrealistic expectation set over the summer of 2015. Within a single month’s time, Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff debuted for the Phillies. Nola was expected to be good. Eickhoff was expected to be not terrible. Both stepped onto a major league mound and immediately looked like quality rotation pieces.

Their sudden success made us briefly ponder a world where the Phillies were immune to things like “prospect attrition rates.” Then Zach Eflin stepped onto a major league mound and immediately looked like Sean O’Sullivan.

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2016 Phillies Report Card: David Hernandez

In the full-season bullpen shuffle from which Pete Mackanin was forced to fill his late innings, only three relievers posed as year-long possibilities: Hector Neris, whose report card Tim Guenther wrote last week, Jeanmar Gomez, whom I will profile in a few weeks, and David Hernandez.

Hernandez’s 72.2 innings of work tied for the 15th most thrown by a reliever in the National League, not necessarily an ideal situation for Mackanin, but sadly more reliable than the majority of the one-in-one-out candidates that more accurately resembled a slow-moving line at the local overcrowded college bar than a functioning bullpen.

With a slightly above average ERA for a reliever (3.84 compared to the 3.93 league average) and slightly below average FIP (4.32 compared to a 3.99 league average), Hernandez’s 2016 season – the lone year of a one-year deal signed in December 2015 – was essentially a large helping of meh.

But a one-year rental of an average relief arm no doubt helped an otherwise morbid relief contingent. David Hernandez was, all things considered, beneficial for the bullpen. Take that in. Chew on it. Then spit it out, and, by the end of this report card, never again waste a moment’s thought on him. Continue reading…

2016 Phillies Report Card: Cesar Hernandez

Entering the 2016 season, Cesar Hernandez was a player on the fringe of the roster. He held a career 86 OPS+ and just 33 extra base hits in three years. Unlike a lot of slap hitting types, Hernandez didn’t bring the elite defense and baserunning that light hitters need to provide value. In the beginning of 2016, it looked like much of the same from Cesar, who posted a .256/.308/.321 line through May.

Then the calendar flipped to June, and Cesar got hot and stayed hot. From June through the end of the season, he posted a .311/.398/.425 line, notching 6 home runs and 8 triples, compared to 2 home runs and 7 triples in his career before June. The result is an overall batting line 8 percent better than league average, and along with improved defensive marks, he put up 4.4 fWAR and 3.3 bWAR in 2016. After just 33 extra base hits from 2013-2015, Cesar had 31 in 2016.

The question remains, though: Is he actually this good?

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2016 Phillies Report Card: Jerad Eickhoff

I’m going to begin this report card of Phillies’ young right-hander Jerad Eickhoff with an instance of the semi-popular Baseball Twitter game, “Guess The Statlines”. This is more rhetorical than a genuine attempt to stump readers, because your first guess at each of the below statlines will likely be correct.

Player A: 284.1 IP / 79 ERA- / 92 FIP- / 15.0 K-BB % / 48.7 GB % / 4.3 fWAR

Player B: 248.1 IP / 84 ERA- / 95 FIP- / 15.9 K-BB % / 40.1 GB % / 4.0 fWAR

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Jeremy Hellickson Accepts Qualifying Offer

In a somewhat surprising move, Jeremy Hellickson has accepted the Phillies Qualifying Offer. Therefore, the Phillies will pay him $17.2 million for the 2017 season. While $17.2 million might sound like a lot for a pitcher of Hellickson’s caliber, there are several reasons why it would have made sense for him to decline.

For one, this free agent class is the most dismal in recent memory. Hellickson figured to get among the highest value contracts of all pitchers this offseason. The only free agent starter who produced more WAR than Hellickson is Rich Hill, who missed a good chunk of the season with injury and will play the 2017 season at age 37. Hellickson, who will play the 2017 season at age 30, appears to be the better bet to stay on the field despite his lengthy injury history.

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Aaron Nola, In Three Parts

Philadelphia Phillies’ starting pitcher Aaron Nola has had interesting, but confusing, young career to date. The seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft, Nola was considered as polished a pitching prospect as you’re likely to see. While Brandon Finnegan was the first 2014 draftee to reach the Majors – notably pitching in both the College World Series and Major League World Series in the same season – Nola was close behind. After only 164.2 innings in the Minors, he debuted on July 21, 2015 and took no time to adjust. Known for his deceptive delivery, advanced command, and a strong fastball/curveball combination, he appeared to immediately live up to his mid-rotation projection.

However, a visualization of Nola’s 188.2 Major League innings would probably resemble something like a performance rollercoaster, and could be split into three different periods, each relatively equal in chronological time.

Source IP Pitches/IP Strike % K% BB% GB% BABIP Hard% SwStr% ERA-
7/21/2015-9/26/2015 77.2 14.4 65.4% 21.4% 6.0%  47.6% 0.289 28.8% 8.6% 93
4/6/2016-6/5/2016 78.0 14.7 68.0% 27.2% 4.8%  53.9% 0.270 24.2% 10.5% 64
6/11/2016-7/28/2016 33.0 19.6 62.9% 21.1% 8.2%  57.8% 0.451 37.1% 8.0% 238

A lot of really great writing has been done about Nola’s career so far, and I’m going to reference a lot of it here. However, looking at Nola’s 2016 season line, I haven’t been able to square how well he did in almost all areas with how many runs were scored while he was on the mound. For instance, Nola’s 55.2 percent groundball rate was among the 10 best in baseball, minimum 100 innings pitched. His 19.1 percent K-BB rate was one of the 20 best rates. He didn’t even have an unusually high home run rate – it was exactly league average. It’s hard to be a pitcher with both a great FIP and groundball rate and still allow an above average number of runs.

So, let’s take a look at Nola, and not only take a look at what’s happened during each of these three periods, but also at what makes him successful in the first place. First, a quick acknowledgement to Mike Fast, whose old blog inspired some of the visualizations and tables below. His three part series analyzing then-player, now-manager Brian Bannister was particularly influential.

Let’s begin by taking a look at each period of Nola’s Major League career individually.

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2016 Phillies Report Card: Ryan Howard

On November 3rd, the Phillies declined to pick up Ryan Howard’s $23 million option for 2017, officially ending the once-vaunted slugger’s equally storied and beleaguered tenure in Philadelphia. His departure will surprise you if you spent the last five years in a sensory deprivation tank.

This moment was long in the making. We don’t need to rehash the disastrous 5-year, $125 million contract, the subsequent spate of injuries, the stone-handed defense, or the dispiriting swing-through strikeouts that seemed to happen more often than not as time wore on.

There is something symbolically fitting about the fact that Howard is the last of our Champions to depart. After all, he was the Big Piece, the hulking midsection of a lineup that propelled the Phillies to a World Series victory in 2008. Howard remains at the center of our most treasured memories, his massive stance, gargantuan swing, and towering round-trippers engraved in our shared history. At his peak—between 2005 and 2011—Howard was as fearsome and exciting a hitter as there was in the game.

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