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.

Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 13: Smooth Center Fielders

By this time next week the Phillies could already have lost many games, but for now they are undefeated in games that matter. With the 25 man roster set, all we have to look forward to this weekend is minor league rosters and praying that no one gets hurt before the opening day ace-off between Jeremy Hellickson and Scott Feldman.

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.

@Long_Drive: In your opinion do we have any kids on the farm that reach the majors at age 21 or below?

Reaching the majors by your age 21 season (it is much harder to report on actual age at the time of call up) usually means one of two things. You are either really good, or you got off to a young start. Since the 2006 season, 8 players made it to the majors by age 19, 31 by age 20, and 115 by age 21. Now some of these players only came up for a brief cup of coffee, others are Mike Trout. But what got me interested is that the only Phillie on the list was Maikel Franco, but he had actually turned 22 by the time he was promoted. A lot of this was a combination of bad drafting by the Phillies, coupled with trading everyone away. So who could be the next guy to do it? Here are the players 21 or younger in my top 30 prospects: Mickey Moniak (18), Sixto Sanchez (18), Franklyn Kilome (21), Cornelius Randolph (19), Adonis Medina (20), Kevin Gowdy (19), Arquimedez Gamboa (19), Jhailyn Ortiz (18), Daniel Brito (19), Cole Stobbe (19), Carlos Tocci (21), Bailey Falter (19), and JoJo Romero (20). Continue reading…

Phillies Clarify Catching Situation

For a team without many established players, the Phillies did not have many camp battles this season. Coming into the year there were two bench spots and one bullpen spot up for competition. One spot that was not considered up for debate was backup catcher. After a spring of that position not looking secure, the Phillies solidified on Monday that Andrew Knapp will be the backup to Cameron Rupp to open the 2017 season when they released veterans Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan.

From a roster standpoint, Andrew Knapp making the Phillies opening day roster made sense for both the player and the team. If you hadn’t noticed, the Phillies are facing a 40 man roster crunch and are running out of players they are willing to cut loose to make room. With Jorge Alfaro and Cameron Rupp as the only other catchers on the roster, any non-Knapp option would require freeing up a roster spot. Then there would have been what to do with Knapp in AAA, where Alfaro would be getting most of the at bats. Depending on who fills out the rest of the Phillies bench, Knapp might receive more playing time in the majors than the minors. Continue reading…

Cameron Rupp: A Large Man of Extremes

Heading into the 2017 season, we here at Crashburn Alley strive to update you on a specific storyline regarding many of the returning staples from last season’s roster. Today is catcher Cameron Rupp.

The Phillies have never been long without a franchise catcher. At least not for the last 30 years of their history. Carlos Ruiz has been in various stages of decline over the past few years and as the 2016 season opened he had already ceded his starting job. That starting job had been given to Cameron Rupp. Rupp was never highly regarded as a prospect despite the pedigree of being a 3rd round pick. But nonetheless, he finds himself the Phillies starting catcher with the chance to continue the unbroken line of franchise catchers.

Cameron Rupp has become somewhat of a Statcast darling due to his high exit velocity. By their leaderboards his 92.2 mph average exit velocity ranked 29th out 246 qualified batters (min 200 PA). It showed in his power numbers too. Last year, Rupp had 43 of his 98 hits go for extra bases including 16 home runs, which was 10th among MLB catchers (his Isolated Power was 7th). The problem has been Rupp’s ability to make contact more than his ability to hit the ball hard when he did make contact. In 2016 his strikeout rate was 22nd highest among all major league batters with at least 400 plate appearances. This was an increase from his 2015 rate, but not out of line with his previous rates. The reason for the high rate is Rupp’s swing where he “bars his arm” or extends it fully before his swing comes forward, this extension prevents him from adjusting to pitches mid swing. When combined with how hard Rupp swings, he can be left exposed to offspeed pitches. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 12: Gym Teachers and BlueClaws

This is my first attempt at a Crash Bag and I am already off to a great start with posting it a day later than intended. In the past I have done mailbags more focused on answering lots of questions and talking about many topics about the current team and minor league system. That is not the Crash Bag, the Crash Bag is something different, it is more tangential, it is more fun, and that is what I plan on having here. It may take some time for me to grow into my own voice, but that is really all part of the fun of it.

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.

@nurseintime: Which minor league team will be the best to watch after the draft?

Lakewood and it isn’t really close. The BlueClaws are going to be absolutely loaded with high upside talent. They aren’t going to roll through their league Lehigh Valley might, but that will be because they are going to be so young. Right now my best guess is that the starters are. Continue reading…

Indians Return Rule 5 Pick Hoby Milner

Due to the unfinished CBA and a deep farm system the Phillies were forced to protect 11 players on the 40 man roster from the Rule 5 draft. They did leave a couple of players unprotected, the most notable and major league ready was LHP Hoby Milner. The Indians took Milner in the Rule 5 draft and added him to their 40 man roster. At the time the only left handed reliever on their roster was Andrew Miller. For the Phillies it depleted their already low supply of left handed arms.

As much as Milner looked like a lock to stick when the Indians took him in the draft, that changed dramatically when the Indians signed LHP Boone Logan a little bit later. This week the Indians admitted that they wanted the roster spot and offered Milner back to the Phillies, who accepted. Milner did not have a good spring for the Indians (7.0 IP 9.00 ERA 3 BB 9 K), but he will report directly to major league camp for the Phillies. Continue reading…