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Small victories, large defeats.

Updated: 2016-12-09T20:05:49-05:00


Phillies Sign Reliever Sean Burnett to Minor League Deal



The lefty will receive an invitation to Spring Training with a chance to make the team.

The Phillies added a much-needed left handed reliever to their Spring Training mix in signing veteran pitcher Sean Burnett to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league Spring Training. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo was the first to report the acquisition. According to Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, Burnett will make $1.25 million in base salary if he makes the major league team out of camp with the possibility to increase his earnings to $3 million with appearance-based incentives. He can opt out of his deal on March 26—before the start of the regular season.

The 34-year old Burnett missed most of 2014 and all of 2015 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery to repair a torn UCL. He came back last season and pitched for four different organizations—Nationals, Dodgers, Braves, and Twins—but only threw 5.2 major league innings for the Nationals in September. For what it’s worth—a.k.a. very little—he had a 3.18 ERA in those innings. He threw 47.1 innings at the triple-A level for those four organizations with a 2.28 ERA.

At 34 years old and coming off a fairly recent Tommy John surgery, it’s not surprising that Burnett’s fastball sits about two miles per hour slower than it did at the peak of his career. Given, however, that strikeouts aren’t Burnett’s path to success—17.2 percent career strikeout rate—that may not be as big an issue for him as it would be for other relievers. Since 2012, Burnett has relied on his sinker—throwing it on over 70 percent of his pitches—to generate groundball rates consistently well above 50 percent. For his career, 53.4 percent of the balls put in play against him have been grounders, which has allowed him to carry a low BABIP and high strand rate consistently over that time.

Burnett is not the most exciting addition the Phillies could have made this offseason, but, for a team that is light on left handed relief pitching—Joely Rodriguez, David Rollins, and Elniery Garcia (never pitched above High-A) are the only other lefties on the 40-man roster—they could have done a lot worse than a guy who, since 2009, has been consistently solid out of the bullpen. As a reliever, Burnett has a 3.17 ERA for his career.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Burnett were to make the Phillies out of Spring Training simply because they need someone in the bullpen to serve as a left handed specialist. I would, however, be shocked if Burnett ends up being the last left handed reliever the Phillies reach a major or minor league deal with before pitchers and catchers report in February. After all, someone is going to need to pitch those middle relief innings.

2016 Phillies Exit Interview: Peter Bourjos



He’s no Mike Trout, other than for that month or so last summer

In the Big Sort that was the Phillies’ 2016 season, Peter Bourjos represented a decent idea that didn’t quite pan out. Familiar to new GM Matt Klentak from their time together in the Angels organization, Bourjos was the team’s biggest free agent signee during the 2015-16 offseason at a modest $2 million.

The logic wasn’t hard to see. At worst, Bourjos brought a good glove to a team that would feature quite a few young pitchers who’d benefit from solid defense behind them. At best, maybe it wasn’t impossible that Bourjos would recapture the form that made him look like a future star as a 24 year old in 2011, when he slashed .271/.327/.438 with 11 homers and 22 steals while playing a strong center field. In the subsequent years, Bourjos was slowed by injuries and then infinitely lapped by the Angels’ next young outfielder, an Eagles fan named Mike Trout. But with a good half-season, Klentak probably could at least flip him to a contender.

Through the first two-plus months of 2016, however, Bourjos looked more like a guy who was about to get cut: as of June 11, his line was .192/.223/.278, with a paltry 10 extra-base hits and five walks in 161 plate appearances. On June 12, he had a single in his only at-bat.

And then he went out of his freaking mind: from then thru July 15, he hit .411/.454/.678 over 99 plate appearances, with seven doubles, four triples and three homers spiced into the mix.

As Bourjos became a hot trade rumor through mid-July, it looked like Klentak’s bet would pay off. Unfortunately, he cooled off sharply as the July 31 deadline got closer, going just 5 for 40 (all singles) in the second half of July before getting hurt in Miami on July 26, missing more than two weeks. After he came off the disabled list, he ceded playing time to Aaron Altherr and Roman Quinn among others, putting up a more characteristic .243/.300/.405 line in 80 plate appearances over the final seven weeks of the season.

Bourjos won’t be back with the Phillies in 2016. At age 30, it’s pretty clear what he is: a guy with a below average outfield bat, decent defense and ok speed. The Phillies have younger, higher-ceiling outfielders who need at bats. Unfortunately, his likely most flippable moment came and went. It happens, and he’ll continue his journeyman’s path through professional baseball. For about five weeks, though, he was a terror.

Phillies Winter Meetings recap: FF #80


In Episode 80 of The Felske Files, host John Stolnis analyzes the winners and losers at this year's Winter Meetings with ESPN Senior Baseball Writer Jerry Crasnick and Phils beat writer from The News Journal, Meghan Montemurro.

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Phillies lose Hoby Milner in Rule 5 Draft



Also Gain Jorge Flores and Lose Jairo Munoz

The Winter Meetings ended today with the Rule 5 draft. The draft came in two phases, the major league portion when the selected player must stay on the major league roster all year, and the minor league portion where eligible players not on the AAA roster (not the same one you can see by going to IronPigs site) can be selected and just kept. The Phillies protected 11 prospects from the major league phase last month, but were widely expected to lose someone today. With a full 40 man roster the Phillies were also expected to not select anyone in the draft either.

The Phillies did lose someone in the draft in AAA LHP Hoby Milner. Milner was the Phillies 7th round pick in the 2012 draft. A former reliever in college the Phillies converted him to starting where he had moderate success before moving back to the bullpen in 2015. Milner had a bit of a breakout this year when the Phillies lowered his arm slot even more, and he struck out 76 in 65 innings across AA and AAA with a 2.49 ERA. Milner's fastball tops out at 91 and his future is probably as a LOOGY. Milner likely would have gotten an invite to major league spring training and would have had a shot to see the big leagues with the Phillies this year. However, with all the players needing protecting, losing a fringe relief prospect is a small loss for the Phillies given who else was left exposed.

The AAA portion of the Rule 5 draft is littered with failed prospects and minor league depth. In the first round the Phillies filled one of their biggest organizational needs by selecting 25 year old SS Jorge Flores from the Blue Jays. Flores hit .211/.280/.286 last season including .187/.260/.242 in AA at age  24 (he did hit .276/.360/.347 at AA the previous year). Right now the Phillies shortstop depth in AA and AAA is J.P. Crawford and maybe a not ready Malquin Canelo. Flores is a very good fielder and could play everyday at AA waiting for Canelo, or could just be a defensive replacement somewhere in the high minors.

The Phillies did lose RHP Jairo Munoz in the AAA phase. Munoz was the subject of a 3 part series by Mike Sielski last winter. His comeback story is really interesting as is his upside. Munoz is 25 years old, 6'5" and fairly skinny, and also has a fastball that has been clocked up to 98 mph. He also only pitched 9 innings this season as arm injuries plagued him all year. If he can get healthy he may have a bright future, but he had just become buried in the Phillies system.

In other Rule 5 news, Independent League Player of the Year and former Phillies prospect Art Charles was signed by the Reds this offseason and then selected by the Brewers in the AAA phase.

In general this went as well as the Phillies could have hoped. They severely limited their 40 man roster flexibility, but managed to not lose any prospects of note. The biggest beneficiary is Andrew Pullin who could go to AA or AAA and hit his way into the Phillies plans as they look for long term corner outfielders.

The Adam Eaton trade shows Phillies should keep Odubel Herrera


Why the Phils would be wise to hold onto Odubel Herrera for the foreseeable future. The Chicago White Sox just fleeced the Washington Nationals. We watched it. We all saw it. It happened right in front of our eyes. The Washington Nationals, in a pure desperation, win-now mode move, acquired a very good outfielder in Adam Eaton. Eaton is a six-win player under team control for another six seasons at 28 years old. It’s likely Washington will plug him in at the top of the lineup and make him their everyday center fielder for the next few seasons. That’s a very nice new toy to have. But in grabbing Eaton, general manager Mike Rizzo appeared to massively overpay, sending one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, Lucas Giolito, as well as two other very good young arms in Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning, to Chicago in exchange for Eaton. That deal has gotten everyone in Phillies Twitter-land excited about the potential haul their own center fielder, All-Star Odubel Herrera, could bring back to the Phils should GM Matt Klentak decide to make him available. Make no mistake, there are no untouchables on this team. Every Phillie could be had for the right price. But it seems as though, based on the Eaton news, many Phils fans want the team to get aggressive in marketing Herrera to other GMs. I’m going the opposite way here, kids. The Nationals are in a situation where they have two years of contention left. Bryce Harper is leaving that team as a free agent after 2018. So their motivation to deal is greater than most, hence the overpay for Eaton. If you already have a very good young center fielder, one who is 24 years old and, in his first two seasons has a slash line of .291/.353/.419 with 23 homers, a wRC+ of 111 and a combined fWAR of 7.8, why wouldn’t you want to keep him? Wouldn’t you want to build your team around that guy? Take a look at the numbers from Eaton’s last two seasons and Herrera’s first two seasons in MLB, and remember that, prior to last year, Herrera had never played a single game above AA ball. Eaton has been the better, more consistent player the last two seasons, but he’s also slightly less than four years older than Herrera. And Herrera is an above average defensive center fielder, worth 6 defensive runs saved last season while playing every game in center. Eaton played just 45 games in center in 2016 and 113 games in right field. The year before he was worth -14 DRS in center and was at -2 last season, although he was an excellent defender in right. Oh hey, and look where Herrera stands among qualified MLB center fielders over the last two years. .@FelskeFiles In a word, yes.— Michael Stubel (@MichaelStubel) December 7, 2016 CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury speculated a J.D. Martinez-for-Cesar Hernandez trade might make some sense, but only if you believe Hernandez is due for a regression and isn’t really a four-win player. Martinez’ 142 wRC+ and .307/.373/.535 slash line with 22 homers last year certainly would be a nice addition, but is it worth risking the team’s 26-year-old second baseman if he really has become an above average regular at the position? Especially since Martinez would only be here for a season in which the playoffs are a pipe dream? This is the dance the Phils are doing right now. They want to be better in 2017, but not at the expense of blocking playing time for prospects later in the season, and not at the expense of making a short-sighted trade for the unimportant here-and-now. Winning games and being better this season is important for the development of the young players. But right now, Klentak is trying to do that by nibbling around the edges and hoping that a deal will emerge that he can’t refuse. Mackanin, like you and I, is hoping the Phils aren’t totally done this off-season. He’d like another bat. We are ALL Pete Mackanin. [...]

Phillies 2016 Rule 5 Preview


The Phils may not take anyone this year after being major players in previous seasons. The Rule 5 draft is on Thursday morning as most people are looking to abandon the Winter Meetings to return to normal society as quickly as possible. In the past the Rule 5 draft has been a point of success for the Phillies with Shane Victorino (before rule change), David Herndon, Odubel Herrera, and Tyler Goeddel all joining the Phillies for $50,000. The past two seasons the Phillies have taken two players, a hitter and a left handed reliever. Both times the lefty was returned to their original team. On the flip side the Phillies have avoided damage in the Rule 5 draft. The last Phillies player taken was Seth Rosin in 2013, the last Phillies player to stick all year was Lendy Castillo in 2011. First let’s talk about who the Phillies could take in the Rule 5 draft this year: Yep that is it. In theory the Phillies could chuck one of the mediocre relievers on the 40 man roster and select someone in the draft. On the relief front they look to have 6 of the 7 bullpen relief spots locked up with Benoit, Neris, Neshek, Ramos, Gomez, and Rodriguez. That means the bench, and they could use a left handed bench bat, and the best one of those is probably the Phillies own Andrew Pullin, who is not major league ready. They could also use a backup shortstop, and while he isn’t the best of the available, most of the shortstops are on par with the Phillies own Malquin Canelo. The Phillies have said they are not going to clear a spot, so the spot would have to come via trade. With that taken care of, let’s talk about who is in danger. The Phillies already protected 11 players this offseason, which was a combination of system depth and CBA negotiations threatening to add a 26th active roster spot. The Phillies still have players available that could interest teams. Baseball America put out a large preview mentioning 6 that have the raw talent to be interesting, but there are a few more players I would put on the list. Miguel Nunez, RHP - Nunez is a prototypical relief pitcher available in the Rule 5 draft. He has a big arm (95-97) and interesting secondary pitches. However, like many available he has a big wart, he walked over 5 per 9 in AA and didn’t do anything in the AFL to lessen those fears. Someone could take Nunez if they like him more than the others in his range, but he does not stand out. Andrew Pullin, OF - Andrew Pullin hit .346/.393/.559 in Reading with better splits on the road. The problem is that it was a 46 game sample size and he ended the year early with an arm injury. Pullin used to play 2B, but is now mostly limited to LF (he could play RF some) which means he really needs to hit. His power was a bit amplified in AA, but he has a pull heavy approach that has tapped into his power enough that he may hit 15-20 home runs a year at his peak. Pullin is pretty much maxed out physically and does not draw walks at a rate to make his OBP anything special. A team looking a for a LH OF bench bat could take Pullin, but he does not have the long term upside to keep him around if he struggles. Malquin Canelo, SS - Canelo’s bat took a big step backwards in 2016, but he is still a good defender. It is unlikely that is enough to entice a team. Carlos Tocci, CF - Carlos Tocci has reached a point where he just hits. The problem is that those are all singles. He is a great center fielder, but that is the only carrying tool for him. If a team really believes in the glove they could look past the offensive limitations. Seranthony Dominguez, RHP - Dominguez is probably the highest upside player on this list. But he has less than 50 innings of full season ball to his name. His fastball is dynamic as a starting pitcher, but less so when compared to the available relievers. His lack of consistent secondary pitches (both his curveball and changeup flash above average to plus) makes it difficult for 201[...]