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Phillies Baseball



Updated: 2017-03-22T17:39:28.336-04:00

 



R.I.P. Dallas Green

2017-03-22T17:39:28.369-04:00

The man at the helm of the Philadelphia Phillies first World Series Championship in 1980 has passed away. Rest In Peace Dallas Green.



The Focal Point: The 2017 Player Preview of Cesar Hernandez

2017-03-17T16:45:24.246-04:00

Cesar Hernandez can impress and confound you in a manner of minutes.The 28-year-old can put a brutal 0-2 pitch in play, race up the first base line and earn an infield hit. Then, on the first pitch to the next batter, he'll get picked off first base. Heading into his age 27 season, with nearly 400 games under his belt, one would think Hernandez would have a better grasp of the game. But the kid who led the league in triples last year, got nabbed on the basepaths 13 times against 17 stolen bases.This is the ninth in a series of posts previewing the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. The previous post looked at Tommy Joseph. This one looks at Cesar Hernadez and wonders how good he could be if he could maintain his focus.Focus is the issue, right? It can't be anything else, can it? Hernandez has a ton of ability. He's got speed for the basepaths and the field. He's got gap power. He's got soft hands.But he makes mistakes that leave you shaking your head almost every game. Sometimes he tries to take an ill-advised extra base. Sometimes he doesn't seem to be in the right position. Either way, he doesn't get the most out of his capabilities.Let's dream about what would happen if he did.Getting on-baseHernandez clearly has skills in this area. He led the team in on-base percentage last year. He gets on base via walks (66 in 2016) and hits (a .285 batting average the past two seasons.) From June 23 2016 on, he seemed to really put it together. In 87 games, he walked 51 times and hit .327/.421/.433 mark.It was during that stretch that the Phillies really stressed him putting the ball on the ground more. It's unreasonable to expect him to put up those numbers over an entire season. Those are Hall of Fame numbers. But, if he focused on putting the ball in play and using his tools better, it's not hard to imagine him ending 2017 with a .300/.385/.415. Scoring runsIt's kind of astounding that Cesar Hernandez only scored 67 runs last year. Dude reached base 229 times. Yes, he was on a bad offense, but consider this: Ender Enciarte played for the second worst offense in baseball. His on-base percentage was 20 points lower than Hernandez' was. He reached base more than 20 fewer times. And he scored 20 more runs.Let's be honest. If Hernandez gets on base at a similar or better clip, the batters behind him will hit likely hit better than they did in 2016. And that should drive up his runs a bit.But Hernandez can't make outs on the basepaths.Stealing basesWith Hernandez' exciting speed, he should be compiling much better stolen base numbers. Even if he is getting caught at a bad rate, he should still be stealing 25 or more bases. If he can improve his focus, however, it's not hard to imagine him putting up more interesting numbers. Say 33 stolen bases against 12-15 caught stealing. DefenseHernandez glove doesn't grade out terribly according to the metrics. But it could be a lot better. The coaching staff and he can clearly work on improving his positioning. With that and added focus, things could improve.The possible final resultLook, I'm not saying Hernandez could be an MVP. But if he were to improve his focus and continue a slight development in his other statistics, he could end 2017 with a .300/.385/.415 line with 28/12 stolen base numbers and 10 triples, combined with a 1 or better dWAR. Tell me you wouldn't take that.The real resultThis was a fun exercise in The Possible. But Hernandez has proven he's not going to do that. In reality, though, it's not hard to imagine him hitting .290/.375/.375 with 20 homers and 15 caught stealing and a bit of improved defense. That's not fantastic, but on a rebuilding team, it's not awful. If he ends up with another 3-plus WAR season, fans should be fairly content. It means he'd have kept the seat warm for one of the Phillies more heralded prospects.The most fascinating thing with Hernandez this year will be what happens when J.P. Crawford gets the eventual call. Will Hernandez have played well enough to have secured a spot in the lineup and make [...]



The Zen Master and the Hunter Pence Trades: The 2017 Player Preview for Tommy Joseph

2017-03-16T11:52:52.904-04:00

Let's talk about the Hunter Pence trades. A little more than two years ago, Phillies fans continued to lament the move that brought Pence to the Phillies. They saw burgeoning stars in Houston, where Jon Singleton had already signed a $10-million deal, Jarred Cosart was in the process of winning 13 games, Domingo Santana was tearing up the minors and Josh Zeid was pitching in the big leagues.

It was one of the big knocks on Ruben Amaro's win-now managerial style. He'd given up the farm for a guy who, after a season and a half, was already out of town and winning a handful of rings in San Francisco. He seemed to have been shipped off for parts. Tommy Joseph looked like he'd never reach the Big Leagues. Nate Schierholtz had been cut loose only to have a good season in Chicago. Seth Rosin pitched himself out of Philly.

Fans were probably right to be concerned that the deal would be monumental flops At this point, let's remember Gust Avrakatos' favorite story in "Charlie Wilson's War."
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This is the eighth in a series of previews for the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. Our most recent one took a look at Cameron Rupp. This post takes a Zen Master approach to Tommy Joseph.


Now, let's look at where all those players stand.


Traded to Milwaukee, Santana spent 2016 as a negative WAR player. He's still just 24.

Traded to Miami then San Diego, Cosart has dealt with injuries and disciplinary issues, along with ineffectiveness. In the past two seasons, he's gone 2-9 with a 5.19 ERA. He'll be 27 this year.

Waived by the Astros after the deal, Josh Zeid spent two years scuffling in Anaheim's bullpen. He hasn't been in the big leagues since 2014.

After the trade, Singleton was considered the Astros' best prospect. He had a cup of coffee in the big leagues and they signed him to a $10 million deal. He was suspended for violating MLB's drug policy twice. He batted .202/.337/.390 in AAA in 2016. He's batting .211 with two home runs in Spring Training.

For those prospects, the Phillies got a guy who played 155 games, hitting .289/.357/486 with 28 homers. That's basically one All-Star season.

Two of the three players they got are gone. Schierholtz hasn't been in the Majors since 2014. Rosen since 2015.

That brings us to Tommy Joseph. You know the story. The Phillies gave up on him last year. When no one else signed him, they resigned him to play Triple-A. All he did was mash. The 24-year-old earned an early-season call to the big leagues and ended up playing 107 games, popping 21 home runs, hammering out an .813 OPS and earning a starting job this year. Thanks to a low on-base percentage, his war was just .5.

So of all the players involved in the two Hunter Pence trades, only two had positive WARS in the big leagues in 2016: Pence with 1.9, Joseph with .5.

On the plus side, Joseph had a .339 on-base percentage from June 24 on, so there's a decent chance he could put up a .315-.340 on-base percentage in 2017. If he keeps popping home runs at the rate he did in 2016, teams will have no choice but to walk him at times.

Joseph, who will be 25 this year, is projected to hit around 28 homers with a .775-800 OPS according to many projections.

So, how did those Hunter Pence trades work out? We'll see.

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The Stopgap: 2017 Player Preview for Cameron Rupp

2017-03-16T10:56:50.515-04:00

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/rthBbnVjR0Q?ecver=2" style="height: 100%; left: 0; position: absolute; width: 100%;" width="640">Cameron Rupp is who we think he is. And that's OK. In fact, that's something we can be thankful about.Rupp is a burly catcher with slightly above average defensive metrics and power and slightly below average on-base capabilities. He's got flaws. He's got plusses. He's a perfect stopgap for one of the Phillies young catching studs.This is the seventh in a series of posts previewing the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. Most recently, we chronicled the Question Mark that is Aaron Nola. This post looks at Cameron Rupp and what he means to the organization.Phillies fans are beginning to hang their dreams on the bat and arm of Jorge Alfaro. The 24-year-old has a booming bat an a monster arm. Fans also have high hopes for Andrew Knapp, who looks like he could hit .275 with 12 home runs and a .330 on-base percentage in the big leagues.So what value does Cameron Rupp have with the franchise?I'd argue plenty. What he brings to 2017?I don't think it's hard to imagine Rupp being a 3-4 WAR player this year, based mostly on his power numbers. All he needs to do is tick up his on-base percentage a bit. He was at .302 the last two seasons. If he could get to .310 or .312, he'd be well on his way to being more valuable. Rupp will likely start the season as the everyday catcher with Andrew Knapp carrying back-up duty. Rupp will give guys like Knapp and Alfaro a chance to ease their way in to the rotation.If Knapp lights the world on fire at the outset, he could see increased playing time. But the organization probably wouldn't make him a starter over Rupp for quite awhile.There's just too much for the organization to gain by playing Rupp four or more days a week, which brings us to the second point.What does Rupp bring in a trade?Rupp has been around for parts of four seasons and still can't be a free agent until 2021. His earliest arbitration year is next year. So, he is an effective, cheap player at a prime position.Unless something shocking happens, I don't see Rupp being traded during this season.Let's compare what he does and costs with some recent free agents.Rupp's .750 OPS is almost in line with Drew Butera's .808. Butera just got a $3.8 million, two-year deal from the Royals.Rupp's .750 OPS is slightly better than Wellington Castillo's .745. Castillo just got a $6 million, one year deal with the Orioles.If teams have to pay that much for guys of Rupp's pedigree, the Phillies should be able to get a decent prospect in return. Let's look at some recent trades involving catchers of Rupp's caliber.Anaheim traded Jett Bandy (a rookie with a .690 OPS) to Milwaukee for Milwaukee's backup catcher Martin Maldanado and middling prospect Drew Gagnon.San Diego traded Derek Norris (a .689 career OPS who made $2.9 mil in 2016) to Washington for midlevel prospect Pedro AvilaNew York traded Brian McCann (coming off a .748 OPS) to the Astros for the Yankees now 11th and 28th best prospects.I know what you're thinking. Brian McCann is not comparable to Cameron Rupp. Sure, McCann has a legitimate Hall of Fame case (a six-time All-Star with a career .800 OPS) and Rupp hasn't started 200 games in his career yet.But Rupp had a higher OPS and WAR last year than McCann, who is on the wrong side of 30.Again, barring Knapp hitting .310 with 8 home runs in the first half and Jorge Alfaro tearing up Triple-A, Rupp isn't getting traded during the season.But he could bring some value in the offseason.That said, he'd also be worthwhile to keep around as an insurance policy as Alfero and Knapp continue to grow.Either way you look at it, Rupp is a valuable member of the organization right now. And, importantly, he will be in the future.[...]



The question mark: 2017 Player Preview for Aaron Nola

2017-03-14T11:13:02.229-04:00

allowfullscreen="" class="giphy-embed" frameborder="0" height="270" src="//giphy.com/embed/WzSaScGMu4L04" width="480">via GIPHYAaron Nola could be a future ace. Through his first 25 starts, he looked the part. The young right-hander had tossed 155 frames of 3.12 ERA, with 153 strikeouts against 18 home runs and 34 walks.Then he turned into a 6-foot-2, 195 pound batting tee. From June 11 to July 28, he gave up 54 hits and 14 walks in 33 innings. What was strange was that he only gave up three home runs and struck out 36 batters. This is the sixth in a series previewing the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. The previous post looked at Vincent Velasquez. This post looks at the impact of Aaron Nola's health.Nola's health is likely the key to where the Phillies finish in the standings.The Phillies rotation could be very good. If they're able to trot out Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Vincent Velasquez, Clay Buchholz and Aaron Nola on a regular basis, it could be a stable, reliable rotation that shocks people. The Phils are lucky in that they also have a stable of young guns waiting in the minors: Mark Appel, Ben Lively, Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin.We basically know what we should get out of Hellickson and Eickhoff this year - 200 innings apiece of 3.75 ERA, a 4.10-4.30 FIP and few free baserunners. Velasquez probably pitches 150 innings, some of which will be electrifying. Buchholz has a chance to be a good fourth or fifth starter. But what can we expect of Nola, who missed the final two months of 2016 with an elbow injury that had fans fearing Tommy John surgery?I'm willing to bet there's a correlation between how many games the Phillies start and where they finish in the win column. If he makes 0-10 starts, they're probably win 62-67 games. If he makes 11-20 starts, they can probably win 68-72 games. If he starts 21-30 games, they might win 73-77 games. If he starts 31-33 games, they might win 78-80 games.Nola is that important because if he's starting that many games he's A. healthy and B. helping the bullpen. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/79XQy_aMy20?ecver=2" style="height: 100%; left: 0; position: absolute; width: 100%;" width="640">Resting the bullpenIn Nola's first 12 starts in 2016, Nola made it to the seventh inning seven times. He pitched fewer than six innings just once. Go back to 2015 and look at those numbers. As a rookie, he tossed at least six frames in seven of 13 starts.If he's healthy, you can't help but think Nola would make it through six in at least 70 percent of his starts and through seven in about 55 percent of his starts. That's likely giving the arms more rest than Jake Thompson and crew will be able to provide.How effective can Nola be?I don't put a lot of stock in Spring Training stats, but reviews have been fairly solid for Nola. He's throwing back around his normal speed. He's definitely shown some rust, giving up more hits than innings pitched. But he's been stingy, allowing just 1 walk in 7 1/3 innings pitched. He's also struck out nine.Nola's next spring training start will be important as he'll be stretched out a bit more than he has been.Look to see how he finishes that outing. Of course, it won't tell you what his 2017 season will be like. But each test he passes in Spring Training will be a valuable moment for the Phillies.The more Nola pitches, and the better he pitches, the better off the Phillies will be.[...]



The Live Arm: 2017 Player Preview for Vincent Velasquez

2017-03-10T10:17:13.209-05:00

frameborder="0" height="224" src="http://m.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=1219863283&topic_id=6479266&width=400&height=224&property=mlb" width="400">Your browser does not support iframes. If Vincent Velasquez ever puts it together, he's going to be a force in the National League East. The young gun showed a ton of promise early in 2016, rolling out to an 8-2 mark and a 3.15 ERA by the end of his 16th start with 98 strikeouts in 85 2/3 innings pitched. If he ever puts those numbers up over a full season, the Phillies will be exceptionally lucky.The problem is that Velasquez put up a 0-4 record with a 5.96 ERA over his final seven starts and had to justifiably be shut down because of an innings limit.This is the fifth in a series to preview the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. The previous post in the series covered Jerad Eickhoff. This post looks at what to expect from the live arm of Vincent Velasquez.The right-hander should look to improve in two areas of his game in 2017. If he can pull them off, the Phillies will be in good shape. The Phillies should be able to count on Vasquez for about 150 innings. More innings pitchedLast year, Velasquez compiled his 131 innings over 24 starts. That was 5.45 frames per start. It's more important that Velasquez proves to go deeper into his starts than it is that he makes more starts. Not including the start he left after getting just one out, Velasquez didn't make it into the sixth inning in nine of his 24 starts. That's 37.5 percent. If you add the injury game, he didn't make it into the sixth inning in more than 41 percent of his starts. That's unacceptable. Getting more innings in Let's say Velasquez starts 25 games this season. As a 24-year-old, he completed seven innings or more just three times in 2016. Again, that's gotta improve.Let's say Velasquez again has one complete game in 2017, but also pitches into the eighth inning one more time. Then add three more starts of 7-plus frames. So over five starts, he completes 38 innings.Let's say he has another 13 starts in which he completes six frames. Combine that with the previous five starts we disgussed and he's got 116 over 18 starts.Add in four starts of five innings and he's got 136 frames over 22 starts. He's a young kid and we figure he has three starts in which he averages 3 innings. That's 145 innings over 25 starts. Sprinkle in the times he's pulled mid inning, and there's a good chance he's probably got 150 innings over those 25 starts. That pulls him up to an average of 6 innings a start.Fewer pitches per inning src='http://m.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=1077941083&topic_id=6479266&width=400&height=224&property=mlb' width='400' height='224' frameborder='0'>Your browser does not support iframes.Because he strikes out so many batters, Velasquez will always through a ton of pitches. Last year, he threw 2,213 in his 131 frames. That's 16.8 pitches per frame. Compare that with some other high usage, but more effective arms.Justin Verlander threw 3,668 pitches in 227.2 innings. That's 16.1 pitches per frame.Corey Kluber threw 3,189 pitches in 215 innings, That's 14.8 pitches per frame.Carlos Martinez threw 3,027 pitches in 195.1 innings. That's  15.5 pitches per frame.It's possible that Velasquez can be someone like Chris Tilllman, who throws about 17 innings a frame and still makes an All Star team. But if Velasquez can tick that number down a bit, he'll be much more efficient.Velasquez isn't as prone to the walk as one would think. He gave up just 3.1 per nine last season. If he can remain consistent with that, but also get a few quicker outs, he'll be in good shape.Batter's swung at the first pitch in 59.8 percent of plate appearances. The MLB average last year was 60.4. He's not far off, but he's off. Getting slightly above that, maybe 61 percent, would likely mean a few[...]



Young Reliable: 2017 Player Preview for Jerad Eickhoff

2017-03-09T00:34:05.343-05:00

Jerad Eickhoff doesn't have an arm you dream on. He has an arm you rely on.
A former 15th round draft pick who was acquired in the Cole Hamels trade, Eickhoff wasn't expected to be the ace of the staff. He didn't have a live arm. He didn't have a dazzling repertoire of pitches. He didn't have an insane frame. His minor league stats were far from dominating. At best, people saw him as a fifth starter.
Meanwhile, Eickhoff is the only pitcher in camp other than Jeremy Hellickson with a chance to start on Opening Day. This is the fourth in a series of posts previewing the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. The previous post profiled Maikel Franco. While we won't dream of Eickhoff taking the hill on Opening Day, we can expect him to take his spot in the rotation every day thereafter.


Recapping a reliable starter's first full season.

Eickhoff has proven to be a horse. In his first big league season, he tossed 197 effective frames over 33 starts.
He went at least seven innings in seven (21 percent) of his starts. He made it through six innings in 23 (69.7 percent) of his starts.
To put that in comparison, Madison Bumgarner is universally considered one of the best pitchers in baseball. He made it through seven innings in 15 (44 percent) of his 34 starts. He went at least six frames in 29 (85 percent) of his starts.
Here are a few other examples.

John Lackey made it through the sixth in 25, and the seventh in 11, of his 29 starts.
Ian Kennedy made it through the sixth in 20, and the seventh in 6, of his 33 starts.
Noah Syndergaard made it through the sixth in 19, and the seventh in 11, of his 31 starts.

Those are three very different pitchers. They're all considered good pitchers. Eickhoff's numbers compare nicely.
The right-hander was remarkably consistent in 2016. After his fifth start, his ERA never went below 3.36 or above 4.44.
At the end of the year, he had compiled 167 strikeouts, against 42 walks, 30 homers and 187 hits. He finished with a 4.15 FIP, a 1.130 WHIP, and per nine rates of 8.5 hits, 1.4 home runs, 1.9 walks and 7.6 whiffs. He ended up with a 3.5 WAR.

What to expect in 2017

If Eickhoff stays healthy, he should be able to top 200 innings. That would be a big deal for the Phillies, who haven't had a pitcher do that since AJ Burnett and Cole Hamels pulled it off in 2014.
Eickhoff has good command, so we probably won't see a huge spike in his walks, but it is unlikely he'll match his superb 2016 numbers of 1.9 walks per nine innings. His hits allowed probably won't change that much.
The area he could see a ton of improvement in is home runs allowed. Giving up 30 bombs in 33 starts isn't awful, but it's far from great.
If he can increase his innings to 205-210, but drop his home runs allowed to under 28, he'll likely have taken a next step in his career.
If he pulls off something like 208 innings of 8.8 hits, .9 homer runs and 2.0 walks per nine on 7.9 whiffs, the Phillies will have made out very well in the Hamels trade.




The Big Bat: 2017 Player Preview for Maikel Franco

2017-03-02T14:59:29.111-05:00

Maikel Franco is still every young. It doesn't seem like it because his whip-quick bat has been around for parts of three seasons.
But, remember this: He is younger than Mark Appel, Andrew Knapp and Ben Lively.
He's younger than Tommy Joseph, Vincent Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff.
He's younger than Joc Pederson and Oscar Tavares.
So the fact he didn't break out in 2016 isn't something people should be worked up about.

This is the third in a series of previews on the 2017 season. Most recently, we looked at expected Opening Day starter Jeremy Hellickson.


The Phillies have expected a lot from Franco over the years. He had his first full season last year,  playing in 152 games. He finished the year hitting .255/.307/.427. Those numbers are significant drops from his numbers from a half season in 2016. He did launch 25 home runs and drive in 88 runs.

It's safe to say no one expects Franco to win an MVP, but he should improve on those numbers.

What Franco must improve

Knowing the strike zone is incredibly important. Everyone knows that. The fewer times you swing outside the zone, the more likely you are to make solid contact. The more likely you make solid contact, the more likely you get on base. If you lay off pitches outside the zone you don't get yourself out.

This is where Franco has to improve.

Franco still has to master this aspect of the game. He took a small step backward last year, going from 26 walks in 80 games to 40 walks in 152 games. If Franco's approach can get a bit better, and he ends up with 55-60 walks on the year, his numbers in other areas will definitely improve. He'll hit more home runs, which will, in turn, lead to more free passes.

Franco will strike out, but he's been pretty consistent during his career, whiffing about 100-110 times per every 160 games. That's something you can live with in the middle of your order.

It will be interesting to see how Franco works with Matt Stairs, who is getting a ton of press early in Spring Training for having an affect on the players.

Is Franco A Building Block for the Future?

When he arrived on scene, I thought Franco could be a multiple-time All Star. I'm not sure that's in his future, but it won't shock me if it is.
This year, his second full season, will let us know how important he is to the future of the franchise. It's hard to imagine him not being on the roster in two or three years. But if he puts up solid, improved numbers this year - say a .265/.325/.465 slash line - he will have cemented himself as a building block for the future. Anything better than that and the franchise might start looking at buying out some of his arbitration years.






Opening Day Starter: 2017 Player Preview for Jeremy Hellickson

2017-03-01T11:50:05.310-05:00

allowfullscreen="" class="giphy-embed" frameborder="0" height="270" src="//giphy.com/embed/Y66kxi3QGzIY0" width="480">via GIPHYBarring an injury, Jeremy Hellickson will start his start on Opening Day for the second time on April 7. This is the complete list of pitchers who will have done that more times than Hellickson:Hall of Famer Kid Gleason (three times)Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander (five times)Jimmy Ring (three times)Hall of Famer Robin Roberts (12 times)Chris Short (six times)Hall of Famer Steve Carlton (14 times)Terry Mulholland (three times)Curt Schilling (three times)Brett Myers (three times)Roy Halladay (three times).None of us are arguing Hellickson, who earned a Rookie of the Year award six seasons ago and owns a career 61-58 record, will ever visit Cooperstown without a ticket. But Hellickson will definitely leave Philadelphia having made a mark.This is the second in a series of posts previewing the 2017 Phillies. Our first post looked at Odubel Herrera.The Phillies aren't expected to contend for a wild card this year, but they could end up closing in on a .500 record, especially if any of the young players take a big jump. Hellickson, who has pitched very well since late July 2015, could be a big part of that.What we know about HellicksonLet's look at the numbers since the 2015 All Star Break.Games: 42Innings pitched: 240.3ER: 100Hits: 221BB: 61K: 195HR: 33ERA: 3.74WHIP: 1.173H/9: 8.27BB/9: 2.28K/9: 7.30HR/9: 1.123You should know that his ERA, WHIP and hits, walks and strikeouts per nine are all better or equal to (HR/9) his career marks. In other words, he's trending in the right direction. When the Phillies got Hellickson, most people called him a fourth or fifth starter. If he continues those numbers, he's be considered a third or fourth starter. That's not an insignificant thing at the trade deadline.What to look for in 2017 allowfullscreen="" class="giphy-embed" frameborder="0" height="270" src="//giphy.com/embed/sP3UR7jdRmuOI" width="480">via GIPHYBased on Hellickson's positive trends, but tinging them with his history in previous years, it's not hard to imagine Hellickson putting up another 3-WAR season. Probably slightly above.First, he'll likely limit the number of free baserunners he allows to something like 2.3 per 9 and striking out around 7.5. That's a nice rate. The biggest fluctuating stat for Hellickson is his batting average on balls in play. During his best years, he's at or below .276. He's done that three times. During his three years of struggle, he was at .306. If Hellickson can repeat last year's .276 mark or even go down to his 2012 mark of .264, he'll be a big producer for the Phillies.Last year, thanks to his improved ability to turn batted balls into outs (a return to the numbers earlier in his career) and limit walks (an ongoing trend), he had one of his best years. Don't expect another leap in 2017. But don't be surprised to see some improvement.The X-factor is consistency. Hellickson spent the first 2.5 seasons of his career putting up quality starts in 64 percent of the times he took the mound. Then he spent three years getting quality starts in 38 percent of his starts. It was a stretch that didn't see him pitch as many innings per start, give up harder hit balls with more regularity and miss time due to injury. Last year, he returned to getting quality starts in 53 percent of his starts. What value does Jeremy Hellickson offer?Let's look at Jeremy Hellickson as an asset. Sam Hinkie-haters can move along. I want to do this because it's a very intriguing look at what a player means to a team.The Phillies got Hellickson without giving up a heralded prospect. The main hope was for him to eat innings. It's doubtful they expected him to have a 3 WAR, but he did. It's definitely doubtful the[...]



The Face of the Franchise: The 2017 Player Preview of Odubel Herrera

2017-02-17T14:08:02.789-05:00

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mg1-rY9eTjA" width="485"> At one point this offseason it looked like Odubel Herrera was trade bait. Instead, the Phillies signed him to a new 5-year contract, thereby making him the face of the franchise.This is the first in a series previewing the 2017 Phillies. We start with Odubel Herrera because, as we said, he's the face of the franchise. He's an All-Star and has an 8 WAR since being plucked from the Rangers in the 2015 Rule 5 draft. Let's look at our expectations for 2017.Herrera is quickly becoming one of the best Rule 5 picks in history. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Mc37Q9e1GYw" width="485">What we knowIn our 2016 preview, we said we hoped he would end up with a WAR of 3-4. He was coming off a strong season and we thought a goal was to see his strikeout rate down to 22 percent and his walk rate up to 7 percent. We also said we'd like to see him have a better stolen base percentage while swiping at least 20 bags.Guess what! Our bat-flipping hero went from 16 to 25 stolen bases and was caught just 7 times, one fewer than in 2015. His strikeout rate dropped to 20.4 percent and his walk rate went from 5.2 to 9.6, an astounding increase.He finished the season with a .286/.361/.420 slash line and a 111 OPS+. He did this while holding down a .349 bapip. Here's what we know. After two big league seasons, Herrera has proven his batting average and on-base percentage will be above league average, he will put up solid defensive numbers. I'm not entirely sold he will hit 15 homers again. He had just one more extra-base hit than he did in 2015. It's entirely possible he just had a few balls carry more than he did last year. The trade off is I don't think he'll ever hit just 21 doubles again.What we'd like to see in 2017Coming off an All-Star season and signing a 5-year contract means expectations are raised for El Torito. Flair and Flash is fun. But he's got to keep up the production. Here's what we'd like to see in 2017Extra-base hits: Herrera hit 21 and 42 doubles the last two seasons. I don't think it's a stretch to hope he would hit 45-50 extra-base hits this season. That means he'll have two do two things. The first is that he can't have any more prolonged slumps. No full months in which he hits .227. The second is that he has to continue to grow his knowledge of the strike zone, Cut down on the swings in which he goes outside the zone. A mix of 38 doubles, 12 homers and six triples would be worthwhile.Base running: Do we know where Herrera will hit this year? He spent 76 games in the leadoff spot last year, 38 in the two hole and 23 batting third. Of course he'll bat In the top 3. I could see him batting leadoff or third. Leadoff means he should have a chance to steal 30-35 bases. Batting third probably means he stays in the 25-30 range. Either way, he should have a goal of an 80 percent stolen base mark. Anything below 75 is a failure. Herrera took an extra base 41 percent of the time last season. That's a number that could improve a bit, especially with the offensive improvements around him.Strikeouts: Strikeouts aren't as bothersome to most people. Herrera, however, has some tools - particularly his speed, but also his gap power - that benefit the team if he makes more contact. It's doubtful he would lose a lot of power if he cut his strikeout percentage below 20.GoalsHealth: It's a given; but we still need to say it. The Phillies need Herrera to play in a minimum of 140 games. They have to hope for 155 or more.On-base percentage: Herrera went from .344 to .361. He can't fall below .350. If he pulls off a .350 OBP he'll be solid. If he can get it to .370, the Phillies will be very happy. If he stays above .380, the team will be ecstatic.Ru[...]



2016 player review: Jeremy Hellickson

2017-02-07T15:43:20.562-05:00

Editor's Note: This is the 27th in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Elvis Aurajo was the last player profiled.

Let's be honest, Jeremy Hellickson was fantastic in 2016. The Phillies gave up a rookie league pitcher for Hellickson in a low-risk move. At worst, the former rookie of the year would eat some innings. Maybe they'd spin him off in a trade to a team that needed a fifth starter.

Who expected Hellickson to...

Pitch 189 innings of a 3.98 FIP, 1.153 WHIP and a 3.0 WAR?
Finish with per nine averages of 8.2 hits, 1.1 home runs, 2.1 walks and 7.3 strikeouts?


Yeah, it would have been nice if the Phillies traded him for a prospect at the deadline, but assuming he'd walk as a free agent after getting a qualifying offer was the right decision. He was going to be, at worst, the third best starter on a weak free agent market.

Well, we all know he accepted the qualifying offer, so the Phillies have him back in 2017.

2016 grade: B+
Will we see him again in 2017: yes





2016 Player review: Elvis Araujo

2017-02-06T22:04:56.510-05:00

This is the 26th in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. David Lough was the last player profiled.

I was sure Elvis Araujo would be a huge part of the bullpen and the Phillies future. He looked so good in 2015, pitching to a 3.38 ERA in 40 games as a 23-year-old.
To be clear, Elvis gave up too many walks - 4.9 per 9 innings - he allowed just one home run in 34 and 2/3 innings and struck out 8.8 per nine.
This year, the walks and strikeouts increased. He also gave up more home runs - four in 27 and 1/3 innings - and hits.
On Nov. 18, the Phillies lost him to the Marlins in a waiver claim. He was granted free agency on Jan. 5.





2017 Free Agent Squard

2017-02-05T09:26:06.384-05:00

Spring Training is about 2 weeks away, yet many seemingly useful veterans remain in the limbo of free agency. Keeping with my annual tradition, I've constructed a team consisting solely of free agents. The rotation is a bit thin, overall defense would be sub-par, and there's not much speed, but I think collectively they'd still have a chance to outplay a handful of teams out there (I'm looking at you Padres, Reds, Twins, A's, Brewers, and even our beloved Phillies).Catcher:Matt Wieters - .243/.711, 48 R, 17 DBL, 17 HR, 66 RBI, 1.7 WARDioneer Navarro - .207/.587, 26 R, 13 DBL, 6 HR, 35 RBI, -0.8 WARFirst Base:Mike Napoli - .239/.800, 92 R, 22 DBL, 34 HR, 101 RBI, 5 SB, 1.0 WARSecond Base:Chase Utley - .252/.716, 79 R, 26 DBL, 14 HR, 52 RBI, 2.0 WARShortstop:Daniel Descalso - .264/.773, 38 R, 12 DBL, 8 HR, 38 RBI, 0.6 WARThird Base:Aaron Hill - .262/.714, 48 R, 14 DBL, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 1.2 WAROutfield:Angel Pagan/LF - .277/.750, 71 R, 24 DBL, 5 TRPL, 12 HR, 55 RBI, 15 SB, 1.0 WARMichael Bourn/CF - .264/.684, 48 R, 13 DBL, 6 TRPL, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 15 SB, 0.3 WARFranklin Gutierrez/RF - .246/.780, 33 R, 9 DBL, 14 HR, 39 RBI, 0.3 WARBenchPedro Alvarez/1B/3B - .249/.826, 43 R, 20 DBL, 22 HR, 49 RBI, 0.7 WARChris Carter/1B/OF - .222/.821, 84 R, 27 DBL, 41 HR, 94 RBI, 0.9 WARErick Aybar/UTL - .243/.623, 34 R, 19 DBL, 34 RBI, -0.2 WARKelly Johnson/UTL - .247/.698, 25 R, 14 DBL, 10 HR, 34 RBI, 0.5 WARLineup:1. Michael Bourn/CF2. Angel Pagan/LF3. Mike Napoli/1B4. Chris Carter/DH5. Matt Wieters/C6. Daniel Descalso/SS7. Franklin Gutierrez/RF8. Chase Utley/2B9. Aaron Hill/3BRotation:Jason Hammel - 30 GS, 15-10, 166.2 IP, 144 K, 3.83/1.21, 1.1 WARDoug Fister - 32 GS, 12-13, 180.1 IP, 115 K, 4.64/1.43, 0.0 WARColby Lewis - 19 GS, 6-5, 116.1 IP, 73 K, 3.71/1.13, 2.4 WARJered Weaver - 31 GS, 12-12, 178 IP, 103 K, 5.06/1.46, -0.7 WARJorge De La Rosa - 27 G, 24 GS, 8-9, 134 IP, 108 K, 5.51/1.64, 0.0 WARBullpen:Travis Wood - 77 G, 4-0, 61 IP, 47 K, 2.95/1.13, 0.5 WARJoe Blanton - 75 G, 7-2, 80 IP, 80 K, 2.48/1.01, 1.7 WARLuke Hochevar - 40 G, 2-3, 37.1 IP, 40 K, 3.86/1.07, 0.3 WARDavid Hernandez - 70 G, 3-4, 72.2 IP, 80 K, 3.84/1.50, 0.9 WARPeter Moylan - 50 G, 2-0, 44.2 IP, 34 K, 3.43/1.30, 0.6 WARJavier Lopez - 68 G, 1-3, 26.2 IP, 15 K, 4.05/1.46, 0.2 WARTommy Hunter - 33 G, 2-2, 34 IP, 23 K, 3.18/1.27, 0.6 WARLeftovers:Jake Peavy/SP, Mat Latos/SP, Jon Niese/SP, Edwin Jackson/SP, Nolan Reimold/OF, Coco Crisp/OF, Adam Lind/1B, Seth Maness/RP, Yusmeiro Petit/RP, Chien-Ming Wang/RP, Gordon Beckham/UTL, Billy Butler/1B, Jeff Francoeur/OF, Cole Gillespie/OF, Chris Johnson/UTL, Ryan Howard/1B, Drew Stubbs/OF, David Lough/OF, Alexei Ramirez/SS.[...]



2016 Player Review: David Lough

2017-02-02T09:17:28.360-05:00

Editor's Note: This is the 25th in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Severino Gonzalez was the last player profiled.

David Lough has some interesting tools. He plays great defense. He doesn't strike out much. He can run a bit, too.
He's not a bad fifth outfielder to have around. In just 96 games during the 2013 season, he pulled off a 2.7 WAR. That season, he had a .286/.311/.413 slash line, stole five bases, hit five home runs and slashed 17 doubles. He put up similar numbers in 2014, his first year with the Orioles.
Since then, however, he's had trouble converting his contact to hits.
Early on, it seemed as if Lough had figured things out. He hit .311/.364/.379.
Afterward, however, he hit .184/.326/.263.
The Phillies released Lough in August.

2016 grade: C-
Will we see him again in 2017: Not likely.





2016 Player Review: Severino Gonzalez

2017-02-02T09:15:27.871-05:00

Editor's Note: This is the 24th in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Brett Oberholtzer was the last player profiled.

Severino Gonzalez has bounced back and forth between Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley for the last two years. In the minors, Gonzalez has put up solid numbers, limiting walks (1.5 per nine) and home runs (.7 per nine). He's also compiled some decent strikeout numbers (7.3 strikeouts per nine).
During his time in red pinstripes, however, he's been very ineffective, giving up a 6.68 ERA, a 1.484 WHIP and giving up nine home runs and 84 hits in 66 innings.

Despite his youth and decent stuff, the Phillies shipped him to the Marlins for a player to be named later.

2016 grade: F
Will we see him again in 2017: If he makes the Marlins roster, he'll pitch against the Phillies.




2016 Review: Brett Oberholtzer

2017-02-01T23:21:39.173-05:00

Editor's Note: This is the 23rd in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Michael Mariot was the last player profiled.

The narrative was there. Brett Oberholtzer, a kid from Delaware, would come home and pitch well as part of a haul that would reinvigorate the franchise.

The left-hander acquired in the Cole Hamels Ken Giles trade had promise, arriving with a career 1.332 WHIP and a 3.72 FIP. He had solid control (2.1 walks per 9) and didn't allow home runs in Houston's bandbox.

Hitters rocked him for an 8+ ERA by the end of April. Despite a promising June, posting a 3.31 ERA that month, it wasn't enough as he was placed on waivers in August.

2016 grade: D
Will we see him again in 2017: Only if he pitches against the Phillies.



2016 Player Review: Michael Mariot

2017-01-23T16:30:01.670-05:00

Editor's Note: This is the 22nd in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Vincent Velasquez was the last player profiled.

This might sound nuts, but if you asked me how many games Michael Mariot pitched for the Phillies, I'd have guessed 40 to 50.
Mariot only pitched in 25 games and that shocked me.
It's probably because he gave up so many home runs - 5 - in such a short amount of time that it couldn't be possible he only pitched 21.2 innings.
Mariot is an interesting guy to look at. There's some promise there. He pitched to a 2.23 ERA in Lehigh Valley. He struck out 9.6 batters per 9 innings in Philly. He also gave up just 7.5 hits per nine in the Big Leagues.
But the control killed him. He gave up 5.8 walks per nine and 2.1 home runs. Those last two numbers will derail the good from the previous numbers.

That's why the Phillies designated the 28-year-old for assignment. But the Phillies know he's still worth a shot, so they invited him to Spring Training.

2016 grade: D
Will we see him in 2017: Probably



2016 Player Review: Vincent Velasquez

2017-01-23T14:26:57.016-05:00

Editor's Note: This is the 21st in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Colton Murray was the last player profiled.

The early returns on the Ken Giles trade have been mostly fantastic. Giles, who was fantastic in Philadelphia, struggled a bit in Houston. He posted a  2-5 record with a 4.11 ERA and just 15 saves in 65 innings. That said, his peripherals looked good. He posted 14 Ks per nine. His FIP was 2.86. He'll be fine. Houston will enjoy having him.

On the Phillies' side, Brett Oberholtzer pitched his way off the team. I was somewhat surprised by that. While I didn't expect him to be an All-Star, I expected more than a 4.83 ERA. Harold Arauz looked good for Lakewood. The 21-year-old appeared in 19 starts, pitching to a 3.55 ERA, 1.040 WHIP and allowing just four home runs and 24 walks in 99 innings. Thomas Eshelman got hit hard in Reading after some success at Clearwater. He is still just 22. Mark Appel suffered an injury in Triple-A. Appel (10) and  Eshelman (18) enter the season ranked among the Phillies' top prospects, according to MLB.com.

But the guy who shined the most was Vincent Velasquez. The 24-year-old tossed 131 often electric frames, pitching to a 4.12 ERA, a 3.81 FIP, a 1.328 WHIP. He allowed 21 home runs and 45 walks, but he struck out 152 batters. 

Velasquez exploded on the scene with a 16-K, three-hitter against the San Diego Padres. Though he had to spend some time on the disabled list in June, he looked grat through July 19, holding down a 3.19 ERA and an 8-2 mark. At that point, he had pitched 85 innings. The wall was coming. In 2015, he had pitched 88 innings. In 2014, he had pitched even fewer frames than that.

From July 19 on, Velasquez had a 5.96 ERA, giving up 11 homers and 30 walks in 45.1 innings.

Velasquez was the subject of trade speculation at the deadline and this offseason, but it's hard to imagine the team trading a guy with his capabilities when they won 71 games last year and added some intriguing pieces this offseason.

2016 grade: B+
Will we see him in 2017: Barring anything catastrophic, he'll be in the rotation.



2016 Player Review: Colton Murray

2017-01-23T09:11:48.802-05:00

Editor's Note: This is the 20th in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Adam Morgan was the last player profiled.

The Phillies drafted Colton Murray in the 13th round of the 2011 Amatuer Player Draft. He is the fifth player from that class to make it to the Major Leagues.
Considering that the class was so recent, that's not a bad haul so far. The other players were Ken Giles in the seventh round (Big win there), Cody Asche in the fourth round, Adam Morgan in the third round and Roman Quinn (Possibly a win there) in the second round.
Of course, the first rounder, Larry Greene Jr., bottomed out fairly quickly. 
Mitch Walding and  Harold Martinez remain in the system. Austin Wright was used in the Jeremy Hellickson trade.

Murray hasn't pitched particularly well in his appearances with the Phils over the past two years. He has a 6.18 ERA and a 5.05 FIP. He doesn't have terrible control, and he misses bats, so he's not a lost cause as a Major Leaguer. He's been invited to spring training. 

2016 grade: D
Will we see him again in 2017: Probably at some point




2016 Player Review: Adam Morgan

2017-01-20T09:10:26.466-05:00

Editor's Note: This is the 19th in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Aaron Nola was the last player profiled.

I have a soft spot for Adam Morgan. I like left-handed pitchers. I like players who work back from injuries. I like pitchers who don't walk anyone.

So I hoped Morgan would have a strong season in Philly. Instead, he got shipped out of town at the expense of Brett Applesauce Oberholzer. I didn't get that move when it happened.
Morgan eventually got called back to the big leagues for an April 29 start.
Morgan never got into a groove, ending up 2-11 with a repugnant 6.04 ERA and allowing 23 home runs in 113 innings.
He did, however, remain stingy with walks (2.3 per 9) and improved his strikeout numbers (7.5).
His velocity increased and it almost seemed like the 26-year-old couldn't harness it.
I don't think he's a bad pitcher. But I think he could be slightly better than his career has shown. It wouldn't shock me if, at some point, he put together a 12-10 season with a 4.20 ERA and a 3.76 FIP thanks to his low walks and about 7 strikeouts per 9.
Morgan is probably a little bit more than organizational filler at this point - because he has experience - but I don't see him fitting in with the team's long-term plans.

2016 grade: D
Will we see him again in 2017: Possibly.



2016 Player Review: Aaron Nola

2017-01-16T10:23:35.721-05:00

Editor's Note: This is the 18th in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Taylor Featherston was the last player profiled.Aaron Nola is supposed to be a linchpin in the Phillies' future success. The former 7th overall pick had a strong rookie campaign, logging a 6-2 mark with a 3.59 ERA, a 4.04 FIP, a stingy 2.2 walks per nine innings and a respectable 7.9 strikeouts per nine. He was just 23 when the season began.And he looked like a cornerstone.Through 12 starts, Nola had a 5-4 mark and a 2.65 ERA. He'd tossed at least 100 pitches in five starts. He'd struck out seven or more batters in seven starts. He'd walked two or fewer batters in all but one start. He'd given up five home runs in 84 frames. His fastball darted. His curveball bit. A possible ace was in the making.At that point in the season, the Phillies were a surprising 28-29.After that point, the Phillies would go 43-62 and Nola would get roughed up, to the tune of a 9.82 ERA and opponents hitting .367 with a .531 slugging mark. It would turn out the right-hander was pitching through some elbow issues and Nola would go on the disabled list on July 28 and not pitch again. He had a low-grade sprain of his UCL and a low-grade strain of his flexor pronator tendon.His future is in doubt. Now, I'm not as concerned as most. I don't think this definitely means Tommy John surgery is in his future. Then again, I'm no doctor. I understand the surgery is more likely than with someone who hasn't strained those tendons.One good note is the Phillies haven't shied away from promoting Nola in the lead up to the 2017 season. He's attending an autograph signing with Tommy Joseph on Wednesday at Citizens' Bank Park and will be at a couple of banquets in Reading and Allentown.2016 grade: CWill we see him in 2017: If all goes well, he'll make 28 or more starts.[...]



2016 Player Review: Taylor Featherston

2017-01-16T09:52:47.028-05:00

Editor's Note: This is the 17th in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Luis Garcia was the last player profiled.

Taylor Featherston has the look of a big league ballplayer. In 503 minor league games, he's hit .270/.337/.448 with 56 home runs and 55 stolen bases. He plays good defense at multiple positions.

But in two years at the Major League level, he hasn't hit like a big leaguer, posting a .156/.206/.233 line with nine walks against 57 strikeouts.

Last season was particularly rough, with him hitting .115/.129/.154 in 27 plate appearances. He looked overmatched.

Is Featherston a AAAA player? Someone who stands out at Triple-A -- how many middle-infielders at that level hit 13 homers, four triples and 23 doubles in 99 games -- and can't hack it in the big leagues.

Maybe.
 
Featherston will be 27 in 2017 and has been invited to big league camp.

2016 grade: D
Will he be back in 2017: If there are any injuries to the middle-infield, he's a lock to return.





2016 Player Review: Luis Garcia

2017-01-15T18:58:19.770-05:00

Editor's Note: This is the 16th in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Roman Quinn was the last player profiled.

Luis Garcia had a solid season in 2015. It looked like he could be a stalwart in 2016. It never came to fruition.
Garcia pitched in just 17 games, 55 fewer than the previous season. He tossed just 15.1 innings, giving up 21 hits and eight walks. 
The right-hander did look good at Lehigh Valley, pitching to a 2.14 ERA in 48 games and 54 innings pitched. 
With their young arms and offseason moves, it's hard to imagine the Phillies went into the offseason with high hopes for Garcia, who will be 30 in 2017, next season.

Season grade: F
Will we see him again in 2017: Probably. He has enough skill that he'll show u at some point, just don't expect him to be an important cog in a bullpen that already has Joaquin Benoit, Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris and Pat Neshak.





2016 Player Review: Roman Quinn

2017-01-13T17:00:32.480-05:00

Editor's Note: This is the 15th in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Frank Herrmann was the last player profiled. I have dreams built on Roman Quinn.I know I shouldn't, but I love guys like Juan Pierre, Michael Bourn, Kenny Lofton. Sure, they break down quicker than most power guys. Sure, they're not as effective if they don't get on base.But speedy, defense guys can be so exciting.The thing I like about Quinn is that the secondary tools are just as impressive.He's stolen 159 minor league bases and been caught just 46 times. He's got a .353 minor league on-base percentage, and it's trending up.He's got warts, though.First, he's got a dreadful history with injuries. It really makes you wonder how durable he'll be. And if a player is not on the field, he's not helping you at all.Second, he strikes out an awful lot. Quinn whiffed 19 times in 69 plate appearances.All in all, he has to get a good grade on the year. He made it to the Major Leagues. He played effectively in the Major Leagues. But he's not going to get an A because he dealt with more injuries.2016 grade: B-Will he be back in 2017: If he stays healthy, there is no doubt Quinn will get playing time in Philadelphia.[...]



2016 Player Review: Frank Herrmann

2017-01-13T15:33:16.644-05:00

Editor's Note: This is the 14th in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Joely Rodriguez was the last player profiled. 

Frank Herrmann pitched for the Phillies?
Frank Herrmann has two R's in his last name?
Frank Herrmann pitched 14 games for the Phillies?
Frank Herrmann hadn't pitched in the Major Leagues since 2012?
Frank Herrmann is 32 years old?

Frank Herrmann won a game?
Frank Herrmann has a 5-3 record in the Big Leagues with a 4.72 ERA during his career?
Frank Herrmann gave up seven home runs in 15 innings pitched?
That's a lot of home runs!