2016 Phillies Report Card: Vince Velasquez

Not one local paper seized the opportunity to use the headline “VERY VERY EXTRAORDINARY” when Vince Velasquez struck out 16 Padres en route to a three-hit shutout on April 14. No wonder the industry is on the decline. You can pin it on the internet if you want, but when you miss out on Nat “King” Cole references, you’ve no one to blame but yourself.

A highlight of his and his team’s season, VV’s early-year gem may have put unattainable expectations on the second-year hurler’s season. Set those aside, and what’s left is a very very strong year for a potential stalwart in the Phils’ approaching competitive window. Continue reading…

2016 Phillies Report Card: Andrew Knapp

Matt, I am writing the Crashburn Alley report card on Andrew Knapp. Since I am largely unqualified to comment on his defensive attributes, do you have any kind or unkind words on the subject? Or possibly a resource I could refer to?

Below average, arm is average, framing improved but not smooth, blocking needs work

Likelihood that he gets to average? Or is the bat going to have to be his carrying tool?

Low, combo of bat and being a catcher could make the whole package average

The above correspondence with prospect aficionado Matt Winkelman provides a simple context in which to view Andrew Knapp. Due to terms like below average and needs work, Knapp’s emergence as an effective major league entity will rely on both (a) his ability to hit, and (b) his very existence as a catcher. To his credit, Knapp has the being a catcher part down quite well. That leaves only the bat as unresolved.

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2016 Phillies Report Card: Aaron Altherr

Aaron Altherr was called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley in August 2015 to replace Maikel Franco, who had his wrist broken by a Jeremy Hellickson fastball a week prior. This was not his MLB debut, as he’d taken 6 trips to the plate in 2014, but for all intents and purposes, this was the first glimpse of Altherr Phillies fans got. And he did not disappoint.

Despite a 25.5% K-rate, Altherr powered himself to a 125 wRC+ over 161 plate appearances on the strength of a .248 ISO. That, along with above-average outfield defense and baserunning, earned him 1.8 WAR, or about what you could expect an average major leaguer to produce in a full season. Altherr did that in a quarter of a season. He also did this.

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2016 Phillies Report Card: Jeanmar Gomez

That Jeanmar Gomez played the role of an effective closer for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies for so long was a slight miracle in and of itself. It’s not to say that Gomez is an incompetent reliever, but simply one not built for high-leverage situations. You can’t find a semi-reliable closer in the league without a great out-pitch, an offering that jumps out on opposing scouting reports like a bolded stat on a Baseball-Reference page. That is where Gomez lacks. But as new age bullpens are leveraged more and more by managers navigating the back half of games, reliable groundball-inducing relievers are viable commodities. Gomez was just that. With a groundball-rate in the top 25% of qualified National League relievers, Gomez’s sinker-slider-changeup combination was worthy of the Phillies tendering him a contract (which they did last week).

His strikeout rate, however, is the ultimate indicator that he doesn’t belong as a long-term closer. Of 60 National League relievers with 50-plus innings of work, Gomez’s 15.8 K% was lower than all but two. No closer with at least 18 saves had a lower strikeout-rate (Gomez ended 2016 tied for eighth in the MLB with 37 saves).screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-4-11-33-pm Continue reading…

Phillies Expected to Sign Joaquin Benoit

UPDATE: According to Matt Gelb, the deal is worth $7.5 million.

According to Jim Salisbury, the Phillies have reached an agreement with right-handed reliever Joaquin Benoit, pending a physical. Benoit split last season almost evenly between the Mariners and the Blue Jays. He was terrible in Seattle and amazing in Toronto, and the main culprit (as these things usually go) was an increased walk rate and home run rate in Seattle. Taken as a whole, his last season was not very different from his prior seasons, once you account for his advanced age. I think it would be unwise to expect better than the 2.81 ERA he posted over 48 innings in 2017.

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2016 Phillies Report Card: Cameron Rupp

Back before the 2013 season, Matt Winkelman and I were holding down the proverbial fort at PhuturePhillies.com, and we conceived to go back and forth on a couple players where we had wide splits on our soon-to-be-published organizational rankings. One of those players was Cameron Rupp. My ranking of Rupp was about 15 spots ahead of Matt’s, and my reasoning had been well documented in the comments of the blog the previous year (note: never read the comments). I spelled it out once again:

“In my opinion, he’s good enough and tracking in the right direction to see him having a 3-5 year window of being a just below average/average big league regular at the plate and probably about the same behind it, with back-up roles in the years beyond that. And that kind of player is valuable. He’s no Buster Posey. He’s not going to be anyone’s franchise player, but he’s a good backstop with a good arm, and he’s got at least a fair amount of power, without sacrificing plate discipline.”

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2016 Phillies Report Card: Peter Bourjos

These report card grades we’ve been giving out are not meted on an absolute scale. If that were the case, the best players would get A’s and a player like Peter Bourjos, who just hit 21% worse than league average as a right fielder, would earn a failing grade. But like all baseball evaluation, these grades are given on a relative scale, based on expectation.

If you’ve followed Peter Bourjos for much of his career, you essentially knew what was coming. Last offseason Bloglordess Corinne Landrey wrote a post about the Phillies outfield options for the upcoming season. In this post, she talked about Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon, and even trading for Marcell Ozuna. However, shortly after the post went live, the Phillies claimed Bourjos from the Cardinals and Corinne added an update blurb about him. This is what it said:

UPDATE: The Phillies announced that they’ve claimed outfield defensive guru, Peter Bourjos, on waivers about two hours after I posted this. Bourjos is entering his final year of arbitration and adds very little on offense.

Bourjos was one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball for the first several years of his career. He’s always been very fast with great range but limited arm strength. That’s not to say he’s Juan Pierre out there, but perhaps he would have been better off spending time in left field than right.  According to both DRS (+1) and UZR (+1.1), he was a slightly above average right fielder, but for a guy with a reputation as a “defensive guru,” that’s faint praise.

As for the bat, well, let’s just say Corinne was spot on with her analysis there. Outside of a June in which he posted a 190 wRC+ in 23 games, he was absolutely dreadful at the plate in 2016. Bourjos stepped to the plate 383 times and posted a .291 wOBA with an on-base percentage below .300 on the season. Bourjos is a good baserunner, but with so few chances to showcase it, his prowess on the basepaths was wasted. He had just 6 stolen bases against 4 times getting caught.

Bourjos wasn’t always a black hole at the plate. Through the first three years of his career Bourjos posted a 97 OPS+ and 7.1 fWAR over almost two full seasons of playing time. Since, his OPS+ has dropped to 83 over 414 games, and he’s posted just 2.5 fWAR. This year? He posted an 82 OPS+, right in line with his previous three seasons.

The most succinct way I can sum up Bourjos’ year is as follows. He was a bad hitter after a career of bad hitting. His fielding went downhill as he approaches his 30th birthday. He continued to be a below-average player after being a below-average player for several years now. If you had realistic expectations for Bourjos entering the year, as Corinne did, I don’t think you can really fail Boujos despite his bad year. He gave us exactly what was advertised.

Grade: C-

2016 Phillies Report Card: Tyler Goeddel

Tyler Goeddel was at a bit of a disadvantage in 2016. The 23-year old outfielder was plucked from the Tampa Bay Rays’ farm system as the first pick in the Rule 5 draft. The 2011 first round pick rose through the Rays system as a third baseman, but was converted to the outfield in 2015. His strong arm made him a fit for right field.

Throughout the Minors, Goeddel had above-average speed and roughly average power, and had the strongest season of his prospect career in 2015. That year, he produced the best strikeout and power numbers of his career to-date, while racking up his fourth straight 20+ stolen base season. He was seen as one of the most polished batters available in the Rule 5 draft, and in a rare move, was confirmed to be the Phillies’ top overall selection days in advance.

Goeddel’s disadvantage from the jump in 2016 was two-fold. The primary disadvantage he faced was inherent to being a Rule 5 pick – by definition, these inexperienced players are required to stick on the Major League roster all season, and unlike other struggling players, cannot receive further seasoning in the Minors. Most of these players fail, and are returned to their original team.

His secondary disadvantage was specific to Philadelphia’s recent success in the Rule 5 draft. Goeddel spent the 2016 season in the shadow of Odubel Herrera‘s massive success only a year earlier, and beyond that, the Phillies’ success at selecting athletic, disciplined outfielders in the Rule 5 draft (Shane Victorino, Ender Inciarte, and Herrera were all selected in an eleven year stretch and have produced 48.5 combined fWAR since their drafts). Expectations were probably unreasonable from day 1.

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2016 Phillies Report Card: Cody Asche

Cody Asche, as most Phillies’ fans are aware, was the team’s 4th round pick in the 2011 draft, and one of the team’s top prospects in the nascent stages of the organization’s rebuilding effort. Asche rose quickly through the Minor Leagues, succeeding at several levels and emerging as the team’s everyday third baseman in 2013, only two full seasons removed from his professional debut.

He assumed everyday duties again in 2014, but was forced to adapt to left field following the Major League emergence of Maikel Franco in 2015. His Minor League success just hasn’t translated to the Major Leagues, where his offense consistently sat 10 percent worse than league average from 2013-2015. His defense (both at third base and left field) has been seen as below average as well, but regardless, he entered 2016 firmly in the team’s outfield mix.

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2016 Phillies Report Card: Maikel Franco

Maikel Franco is simple to explain. Consider, his entire season can be reduced to a pair of text messages sent to the author on June 5, 2016:

1. [2:00 PM]: Nice job by Franco turning 3-0 into an out. What a spaz.

2. [2:43 PM]: Nice job by Franco turning 0-2 into a rocket home run. What a beast.

For those even moderately aware of Franco’s play this year, the above requires no exposition. You may proceed to the arbitrary grade at the end of this post, decide upon the level of injustice committed, and file your grievance accordingly. For those who remain unsettled by such an abrupt depiction of Franco, let’s examine how these claims are able to distill a player into 124 characters of text.

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