Missing Pieces the Philadelphia Phillies Could Still Land

December 30, 2013 by PHIL KEIDEL  
Filed under Fan News

Ladbrokes has the Philadelphia Phillies at 33-1 odds to win the 2014 World Series.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Those are the same odds as the Seattle Mariners and the Chicago White Sox. Those odds put the Phillies well behind the following teams, all 25-1: Toronto Blue Jays, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants and Baltimore Orioles. Only the Pirates even made the 2013 Major League Baseball playoffs from that group.

Even more disconcerting is the wood the Phillies apparently need to chop within the National League East. The Washington Nationals are the second choice in the whole field at 9-1 (behind the Los Angeles Dodgers). The Atlanta Braves are 16-1.

Since the Phillies will not take the field until March 31, 2014 in Arlington, Texas, the only way they can improve their odds now is in free agency.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, the free-agent market looks like the sale racks at the mall on Christmas Eve. Even if they have what you are looking for, they probably do not have it in your size or at your price.

Nelson Cruz is still out there, primarily because his contract demands appear to ignore his recent 50-game suspension for violating MLB's substance-abuse policy. Cruz wants to be paid as if every number he posted for the past few seasons is untainted and repeatable. But there is taint, and there is doubt.

After Cruz, the pickings are even thinner. Do Kendrys Morales or Nate McLouth excite you? Probably not. Barring some unforeseen trade, the Phillies are probably all set in the everyday eight.

That may be all right, as long as the Phillies do the smart thing and land one of the free-agent starting pitchers still looking for work.

CBSSports.com's free-agent list ranks them in this order: Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, A.J. Burnett and Bronson Arroyo. Yes, Masahiro Tanaka is ahead of all those guys. But the Phillies are not about to pay Tanaka's posting fee plus whatever his contract will eventually call for.

Because the Phillies have committed to winning in 2014 despite all evidence pointing to a needed rebuild, they really have to fire one more bullet and land another above-average starting pitcher.

Any rotation headed by Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee is going to be competitive. But backing them up with Kyle Kendrick and a string of unknowns won the Phillies 73 games in 2013.

Specific to the Phillies, an added bonus to the starters still available in free agency is that they are all right-handed. Adding a Santana or a Garza to the rotation would enable the Phillies to slot the new man in between southpaws Hamels and Lee.

It is not my money, nor is it yours.

So let the Phillies dip into the piggy bank for one more starting pitcher to deepen the rotation and, just maybe, enhance those World Series odds in the process.

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MLB: Could the Philadelphia Phillies Be a Potential Player for Masahiro Tanaka?

December 26, 2013 by Pete Dymeck  
Filed under Fan News

General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. is now backpedalling from his recent days of wheeling and dealing, where he threw Ryan Howard a bag of money valued at $125 million and another $50 million for Jonathan Papelbon.

However, the Phillies GM insists the team can compete, but to do so the organization must spend their money more "wisely" and "intelligently."

All indicators point to the Phillies being finished spending money other than adding a cost-effective piece here or there.

Even with a new television deal that could potentially fetch the organization $150 million or more annually, Amaro Jr. seems certain to lay low with the posting of Japanese superstar pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

With Philadelphia's projected 2014 payroll, the team is set to be "$25 million to $30 million under the luxury-tax threshold." Therefore, the Phillies are forecast to have a payroll hovering around the same $168 million range as last season.

One thing Amaro Jr. does get right is when he declares:

"Why would you spend money that you think is going to be money not well-spent? That's the important part. With the way the market is set up right now, I'm not real comfortable with going the extra mile with some of the guys that are out there still that may improve us a little bit, but in the long run may be detrimental to us."

Unfortunately, he should have thought about that several years ago. 

Contracts such as Howard's and Papelbon's are nothing but detrimental to the Phillies. Without digressing too much, Amaro hit the nail on the head with his statement, but hindsight is always 20/20.

Tanaka is a different story though.

At 24 years old, the Japanese righty posted a 24-0 record with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. He pitched 212 innings in 28 games, which is comparable to Cole Hamels (220 IP in 33 games).

Since the age of 18, Tanaka has averaged 188 IP per season.

Similarly, Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez debuted at age 19, but his first full season didn't come until the next season. In his first full seven seasons, he averaged 219 IP annually.

Of course, Hernandez is one of the best pitchers in the modern era.

Attributing comparisons between he and Tanaka is unfair, but to suggest Tanaka may be overworked is sensationalism at best. As evident in this crude comparison, Tanaka has seen less innings pitched annually between the ages of 18 through 24 than Hernandez between the ages of 20 through 26.

No one knows if Tanaka is as special as King Felix though.

On the flip side, Tanaka has some red flags.

Of course, the number of innings pitched since turning 18 is of concern, but the red flag itself could be over-assessed. More importantly, Tanaka's strikeout rate per nine innings pitched has declined each of the last two seasons since peaking at 9.6 SO/9 in 2011. 

Tanaka's SO/9 rate of 7.8 in 2013 is very good, but it places him in the same range as C.J. Wilson (7.97) and Felix Doubrount (7.71). That isn't impressive for someone pegged to earn more than $100 million.

The $20 million posting fee which must be paid before any Major League club can negotiate with the righty isn't anything compared to what he will earn contract-wise. However, the high risk and high reward with Tanaka is something that shouldn't be taken lightly.

If Amaro Jr. is serious about spending the team's money more prudently, one must think he is not waging a battle plan to land Tanaka. Truth be told, the Phillies have yet to be seriously linked to the righty.

On the other hand, the plan for the rotation does not look very promising either.

Jonathan Pettibone is a near lock to get a rotation spot after pitching decently last season. This leaves two spots for Roberto Hernandez, Kyle Kendrick and the virtually unknown Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.

Without much wiggle room to add another arm to the starting rotation, it's more likely than not that Amaro Jr. watches the Tanaka race from the sidelines.

This will be the second consecutive offseason where the Phillies GM has failed to make a splash.

It's possible Amaro is snake-bitten from his most recent mistake of signing Papelbon. His reluctance to aggressively pursue the top free agent arms this winter is another indicator of what to expect with the Phillies and Tanaka.

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Philadelphia Phillies’ Christmas Wishlist: More Scrooge Than Santa This Year

December 23, 2013 by Pete Dymeck  
Filed under Fan News

Oh, the yuletide spirit is among us. As families and friends gather over the holiday season, unwrapping gifts and perusing old photo albums, let us not forget what the Philadelphia Phillies should be wishing for this Christmas season.

Anyone wishing for Ruben Amaro Jr. (and his bad contracts) to take a hike out of the city via the Schuylkill Expressway will be out of luck. You might as well cross that off your wishlist. A more reasonable approach to drafting a wishlist is necessary. This season is not about erasing bad memories but forging stronger bonds for the coming year. 

While they may not deserve it, the Phillies are in need of several gifts. 2013 wasn't very kind to the organization. It's time to recollect and move forward with a realistic wishlist. Not a scroll of paper asking for a new Mercedes, in-ground swimming pool or a new spouse, but a pragmatic list that is realistically attainable.

 

Wish No. 1: A healthy Ryan Howard

The truth is that the Phillies are a better team when Ryan Howard sees at least 620 at-bats per season. Unfortunately, a concrete causal relationship between Howard and Phillies' wins doesn't exist because of so many other variables. However, when Howard missed the majority of the last two seasons, the Phillies suffered. The last time he was fully healthy, the Phillies played in October.

Howard's days of producing a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 4 or 5 are likely over, but the Phillies have missed his presence in the heart of the lineup. In his last two seasons at full strength, the big lefty averaged 32 home runs and 112 RBI. 

His strikeout percentage climbed to nearly one in every three AB over the last two injury-plagued seasons. No one can tell for certain if his injury problems are behind him, but if they are, the Phillies will be a better team with him in the lineup. Even if he does strike out 190 times in 2014.

 

Wish No. 2: Jonathan Pettibone's emergence as a viable starter

Apparently cash-strapped, the Phillies are not going to sign Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana after all. With one of the top one-two punches in Major League Baseball (Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee), the Phillies need the back end of their rotation to show up and be productive for 200 or more innings.

The onus is on Jonathan Pettibone. The righty saw 100.1 innings last year and finished with a semi-respectable 4.04 ERA. His win-loss record of 5-4 is forgettable though. With a low strikeout rate, Pettibone relies on his control and command. 

He didn't appear to be too hit-or-miss last season though. His worst stretch came between Memorial Day and June 15th. Of the 45 earned runs he allowed last season, 33 percent of them came between the aforementioned span. Needless to say, Pettibone is crucial to the Phillies' success moving forward. A few more steps in the right direction will satisfy everyone in Phillies Nation.

 

Wish No. 3: A Jesse Biddle promotion

A 5-14 record in Double-A Reading is nothing to write home about, but the organization's top prospect is gearing himself for a MLB debut in 2014. As for the pros, Biddle has heat, and his 10-plus K/9 rate is recognized as something he could come close to retaining when he reaches the majors. 

The cons are his inconsistency and 5.33 walk percentage. If the local product can fine-tune his command and control more appropriately, the Phillies could see him in July. After all, no one is confident in Kyle Kendrick or Roberto Hernandez.

 

Wish No. 4: No Jonathan Papelbon Jerseys

Let's get it over with. Even if the Phillies have to eat $8 million of his remaining salary per annum, they should do it. Papelbon acts as if he hates Philadelphia and, because of his attitude, Philadelphia is growing to hate him.

Aside from Amaro Jr., if anyone will be getting booed on Opening Day, it will be the closer. No one trusts Papelbon. His age and contract make him nearly untradeable. The Phillies are essentially stuck with him unless they give him away, eat the majority of his contract and accept pebbles in return. Dump the guy already.

 

Wish No. 5: A dinger for Ben Revere

After 342 MLB games and 1,400 plate appearances, Revere still has warning track power. Nothing more. Imagine if Revere was standing in the box, staring down Stephen Strasburg. Upon Strasburg's leg lift and delivery, Revere squares on the ball and boom, it goes flying into the left field bleachers? Citizens Bank Park would go nuts.

I know most people are still unsure of what to think about the center fielder. He was traded for a fan favorite, Vance Worley, and was abysmal to start in 2013. Revere did bounce back, but an injury ended his season. Nothing more than a wallop over the fence would get fans more energized for Revere.

But then again, who am I kidding? Former Phillies center fielder and Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn had just 29 career HRs. Ashburn is the guy the organization chose to name the center field concourse after, as if he could hit a ball there.

Regardless, a homer from Revere would be nice to see. 

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Philadelphia Phillies Big Offseason Questions That Still Need to Be Answered

December 22, 2013 by PHIL KEIDEL  
Filed under Fan News

The only legitimate questions that need answers where the Philadelphia Phillies are concerned involve their pitching.

Not that that is necessarily a good thing.

Saying there are no questions to be answered on the offensive side of the club does not mean that the Phillies have their hitting all figured out.

It just means that, barring some shocking development like a multiplayer trade or a big-money free-agent signing like Nelson Cruz, the everyday eight are basically set.

The Opening Day lineup is likely to look something like this:

  • Ben Revere, CF
  • Jimmy Rollins, SS
  • Chase Utley, 2B
  • Ryan Howard, 1B
  • Marlon Byrd, RF
  • Domonic Brown, LF
  • Carlos Ruiz, C
  • Cody Asche, 3B

It almost certainly will not last, of course. With five regulars in their mid-to-late 30s, injuries and ineffectiveness are sure to compel manager Ryne Sandberg to shuffle the deck frequently. But that looks like the lineup for now.

The two questions that still must be answered are therefore:

  1. Who will be Philadelphia's fifth starter?
  2. Will Jonathan Papelbon still be a Phillie on Opening Day?

The Phillies rotation starts out hot with Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee in the first two positions. The roller-coaster ride that is Kyle Kendrick will be the third starter, and the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona will be the fourth starter.

After that, well, it does not look all that promising.

John Lannan is probably not coming back, though he is still unsigned. Jonathan Pettibone pitched well enough during his time in the rotation to deserve a look, but little has been heard from him since he was shut down in August.

According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, that fifth rotation spot might go to a wholly unknown commodity. The Phillies committed $12 million to Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez in August, and they may just close their eyes and take their chances with him.

"(J)ust this week, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Gonzalez would be competing with Jonathan Pettibone and others for the fifth spot in the rotation," Zolecki recently wrote.

Regrettably for the Phillies, the question surrounding their closer position is somewhat the inverse of their fifth starter issue. The Phillies are not sure they have a competent fifth starting pitcher and very much want one. The Phillies know they have a capable closer—and they seem to want him gone.

There are barriers to moving Papelbon; specifically, his lost velocity and the $26 million he is still guaranteed for the next two seasons.

But stranger things have happened. As Justin Klugh of Philly.com recently reported, the Baltimore Orioles "have recently gone through a mess of a closer situation."

First they lost incumbent closer Jim Johnson. Then they had Grant Balfour signed but backed out of the deal after his physical scared them off, per Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com.

Could the Phillies seize on the Orioles' desperation and rid themselves of Papelbon? Probably not without eating most of his contract—which means Papelbon is probably staying.

So, you know, happy holidays and all that.

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Projecting Philadelphia Phillies’ 2014 Batting Order

December 19, 2013 by Alec Snyder  
Filed under Fan News

While the 2013-14 MLB offseason continues to trudge along, the Philadelphia Phillies seem to stand pat and watch as most of the major names on the free-agent market latch onto other teams. Why?

Well, for starters, the Phillies signed outfielder Marlon Byrd in early November to a two-year, $16 million contract. They then made news for the wrong reasons by re-signing catcher Carlos Ruiz to an astounding three-year, $26 million deal. After filling the team's obvious offensive holes, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. proceeded to sign catcher Wil Nieves as the team's backup backstop and trade for reliever Brad Lincoln from the Toronto Blue Jays.

But Amaro wasn't done yet. His final major league move to date this offseason came at the close of the winter meetings in Orlando, Florida, when he signed starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez to a one-year, $4.5 million deal. With most of their holes filled, the Phillies are practically set for next year in terms of fielding a roster. But will it be competitive?

That's a conversation for another time. For now, let's take a look at the Phillies' projected batting order on Opening Day 2014, taking into account the potential for trades and other free-agent signings, should they apply.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Reassessing Philadelphia Phillies’ Offseason Plan and What’s Next

December 19, 2013 by Joe Giglio  
Filed under Fan News

In Philadelphia, plans are subjective to change by the minute. Led by the impetuous nature of general manager Ruben Amaro, the Phillies lack direction.

Thus far this offseason, their handling of the free-agent market and trade rumors circling out of Philadelphia belabor this point: This franchise is heading south, quickly.

After setting the outfield market by handing Marlon Byrd a two-year, $16 million contract in early November, the organization allotted a three-year commitment to a 35-year-old catcher months removed from a poor season. 

The same thought process, misguided as it may appear, works in defense of the head-scratching deal given to starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez. Acquiring relief pitcher Brad Lincoln, at the expense of catcher Erik Kratz and lefty Rob Rasmussen, per Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, also fits the bill.

As delusional as those moves were, at least they were completed in the name of competing for a postseason berth in 2014. 

What's transpired in the midst of those moves is beyond puzzling. As the Phillies take steps to ensure meaningful baseball next summer at Citizens Bank Park, half the roster has appeared in trade rumors.

From the logical (Domonic Brown), to the hopeless (Jonathan Papelbon), to the sentimental (Jimmy Rollins) to the full-scale rebuilding effort (Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels), the Phillies enter the latter portion of December at a crossroads of a critical offseason.

At some point soon, a roster must take shape for Ryne Sandberg's first spring training in Clearwater, Fla. as the man in charge. Juggling multiple scenarios, short-term hopes and long-term dreams are fine for December, but far from it in February.  

In Philadelphia, fans want to see winning baseball again. From 2007-2011, no National League team dominated like the Phillies.

It will take time, patience and ingenuity to return a once proud and dominant franchise to respectability in the the NL East.

Here's what should be next for the Philadelphia Phillies

*All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise noted.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Best Potential Trade Packages and Landing Spots for Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins

December 16, 2013 by Joe Giglio  
Filed under Fan News

A symbol of unprecedented success for the Philadelphia Phillies may soon be the first casualty in a long rebuilding process. 

Jimmy Rollins, the 14-year veteran and former National League MVP, is currently on the trade block in Philadelphia. According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the Phillies have made it clear to teams that they are very willing to move the 35-year-old shortstop. 

If a trade commences, Rollins, afforded a no-trade clause in his most recent contract, would have to sign off on leaving the only professional organization he's ever known. Heading into the 2014 season, Rollins is just 59 hits away from breaking the all-time hits record in Phillies history, per Baseball-Reference.com

When the day for a decision arrives, Rollins could have multiple suitors to choose from. 

Here are the best potential trade packages and landing spots for Jimmy Rollins.

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Grading Philadelphia Phillies’ Moves so Far This Offseason

December 15, 2013 by PHIL KEIDEL  
Filed under Fan News

Philadelphia Phillies fans have been reduced to being thankful for potentially disastrous moves the team did not make.

Specifically, the Phillies did not trade Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee or Domonic Brown at the Major League Baseball winter meetings last week.

The three signings the Phillies have made this offseason—Carlos Ruiz, Marlon Byrd and Roberto Hernandez—addressed specific needs for a catcher, a right-handed power bat in the outfield and a right-handed starting pitcher in the rotation.

That is the best you can say for those three signings—that they addressed specific needs. Because no one is buying tickets to Citizens Bank Park to watch Carlos Ruiz catch or to watch Marlon Byrd play the outfield.

And you would have to predict that Roberto Hernandez, he of the 6-13 record with a 4.89 earned run average for a 92-win team, is not going to be much of a draw.

So the best moves the Phillies have made this offseason are the ones they have (so far) refrained from.

Phillies fans love Chase Utley. He is still a player people want to see.

They used to love Ryan Howard, and if we're being honest it would only take a torrid April or May with a dozen or so bombs to bring that feeling back.

The same is true for Jimmy Rollins—a hot start for J-Roll in 2014 will bring fans to their feet for him again.

Jonathan Papelbon's act still plays when the Phillies are winning. Not so much when they're not.

On recent form, though, none of those players really moves the needle from a ticket-buying perspective.

Hamels, Lee and Brown are the three best reasons to come to Citizens Bank Park. Lee and Brown were All-Stars in 2013; Hamels might have been one if the team had ever hit for him.

Regardless, a ticket to watch Hamels or Lee pitch is still the Phillies fans' best bet for a return on investment; a well-pitched game that the Phillies will have a better-than-average chance to win.

As for Brown, Phillies fans have to be intrigued to learn which player Brown really is.

Is Brown the young, dynamic slugger who hit 27 home runs in 2013? Or is he the guy who hit 12 home runs (total) in three previous seasons, never raising his batting average over .245 in the process?

The Phillies' moves this offseason, then, are a paradox of action and inaction.

The three signings are a C, maybe a C-. Giving Ruiz three years and Byrd two feels excessive.

Holding onto the Phillies' three marquee names, though? That is an A.

Hamels, Lee and Brown are still the best reasons to pay attention to the Phillies at all.

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Jesse Biddle, Other Prospects Who Could Help the Philadelphia Phillies in 2014

December 13, 2013 by Pete Dymeck  
Filed under Fan News

A headline declaring "Phillies Grab Whatever Roberto Hernandez is", per Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs, reaffirms the sad state of affairs at 1 Citizens Bank Way. With a roster in flux and a determination to disappoint in 2014, the Philadelphia Phillies will have to rely on some prospects at some point in the upcoming season.

Naturally, the estimated time of arrival for the following prospects is hard to predict. Philadelphia's front office is obstinate in making the roster work with its current configuration. No matter how humdrum the lineup appears, David Montgomery, Bill Giles and Ruben Amaro, Jr. will trot a band of 30-something's out onto the diamond under the illusion that the team is built to be a contender now.

Most folks don't have the wool pulled over their eyes though. 

The fact is the Phillies are not on the same level as the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals. Outside of their own division, other squads, such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds appear much more viable as National League Wild Card contenders than the Phillies.

Still, hope remains in Philadelphia. The hope which engulfs Phillies Nation is banking on some of the up-and-coming prospects overachieving and proving the analysts at Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs wrong. 

If any of the following prospects emerge as efficient and productive Major League Baseball players, then the Phillies will be able to counter their apparent dismal roster construction with younger talent. However, finding space on the 25-man active roster for the following prospects will be tough with how it is projected to be assembled.

Let's take a look at who could possibly help the Phils in 2014.

 

LHP Jesse Biddle

Widely regarded as the organization's best pitcher, Biddle projects to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter. A local product born in Philly who attended Germantown Friends School, Biddle was drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft. 

With a four-pitch repertoire, the lefty has the savvy to be a force on the mound. His fastball and curveball grade out the best, but overall, his command has been iffy. Regarding his mechanics, many suggest Biddle still has some work to do. At 22 though, he still has some room to grow, especially since the Phillies added the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona.

Expectations for Biddle will likely be as high as they once were for Cole Hamels. While Biddle isn't necessarily the prospect that Hamels was, the fact that Biddle is a local product from Mount Airy won't suppress the excitement of his arrival.

 

RHP Ethan Martin

Martin landed in Philadelphia via the Shane Victorino-to-Los Angeles Dodgers trade in 2012. He was the first high school pitcher selected in the 2008 MLB draft. Martin appeared in 15 MLB games this past season where he proved his command was fallible. While putting up an earned run average of over six, Martin still managed to average more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

With a mid-to-upper 90s fastball, Martin can cruise through an at-bat so long as his pitch count remains low. The longer he is on the mound, the dicier he gets. The late break in his curveball shows promise, but Martin's best secondary pitch is his changeup. 

Martin is likely to see the majors before Biddle this year. GM Amaro Jr. recently stated that Martin is expected to be "stretched out" during the spring, per Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News, implying the Phillies are planning to use Martin as a starting pitcher. At the same time, Martin is likely to make his money as a reliever in the majors. 

 

3B Maikel Franco

The Phillies will give Cody Asche every opportunity to win the third base job this spring. While Asche could be considered a prospect, the fact he had 179 plate appearances last season removes the title from before his name. Still, as promising as Asche has looked at times, it is Franco who could be the better player. Only time will tell though.

As a right-handed hitter, Franco mashed 31 home runs in the minor leagues last year. The highest level of development he reached was Double-A though. With a strikeout percentage that is less than half of what Ryan Howard's is, Franco does show some promise at the plate. Ironically enough though, Franco only walks 3.4 percent of the time.

For an organization short on right-handed hitting talent, Franco is a lock to get an opportunity to shine in spring training. However, he is expected to begin the year with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. If Asche fails to present himself as a viable everyday third baseman, Franco's chances of being promoted increase drastically, so long as Franco himself continues to display power. 

 

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the Phillies farm system isn't awash with talent. Roman Quinn, a speedy shortstop who showed tons of promise at the lower levels, ruptured his Achilles tendon early last month. One of the better prospects for Philadelphia, Quinn will take a major step back as he could miss all of 2014.

J.P. Crawford, the Philllies' first overall pick of the 2013 MLB draft, is still a couple years away from the big leagues. He did win the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League batting crown, showing promise for the future.

Catcher Tommy Joseph is a virtual unknown as this point. While he appeared to be a strong candidate to open 2014 with the big league team, a concussion last May set him back considerably. 

Lefty Adam Morgan has an incredible slider, but that appears to be it. He was expected to be rushed along but with his faulty command and control, could see the entire 2014 season in the minors.

Carlos Tocci is another prospect who is much closer to Single-A than he is to the majors. Despite considerable upside in his bat and defense, the talk of him being a five-tool player is a bit premature. Signed when he was 16, he still has a long way to go.

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Grading Philadelphia Phillies and Ruben Amaro Jr. on 2013 MLB Winter Meetings

December 13, 2013 by PHIL KEIDEL  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies and their general manager, Ruben Amaro Jr., conducted themselves at the 2013 Major League Baseball winter meetings like a deadbeat dad at Christmas.

Maybe they had great intentions. Maybe they had big plans.

But due to a lack of funds (lost long ago on bad investments) and a dearth of ingenuity, the present that Phillies fans got from their team from this December boondoggle was the equivalent of a convenience store bag of pork rinds bought at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com had the news first:

Per Steve Adams of mlbtraderumors.com, "Hernandez will receive a $4.5 million guarantee, and his contract contains another $1.5 million worth of incentives."

Adams then recited the very *whatever* statistics Hernandez posted as a Tampa Bay Ray in 2013: "The 33-year-old Hernandez pitched to a 4.89 ERA with 6.7 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a healthy 53.2 percent ground-ball rate in 151 innings, marking his first full season since 2011."

Wow, Dad, thanks for the fifth starter! Or probably the fourth starter given the present state of the Phillies rotation.

This news has to come as an enormous letdown to Phillies fans who heard all sorts of wild speculation this week about big pieces that could be coming or going.

Per Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Amaro Jr. spent as much time "dismissing or downplaying rumors involving Cole HamelsCliff LeeDomonic Brown and Jonathan Papelbon" as he did saying anything substantive.

When word surfaced about Amaro Jr. shopping Hamels and Lee, hardballtalk.nbcsports.com's Craig Calcaterra said it best: "If someone — anyone — has a clue what the Phillies’ grand plan is, I’d love to hear it. I’m sure anyone would."

Never mind, though, because Hamels, Lee, Brown, Papelbon and everyone else who began this week as Phillies property remains Phillies property.

So, to paraphrase Rick Pitino, Matt Kemp is not walking through that door. David Price is not walking through that door. Not even Ervin Santana is walking through that door.

Comedian Sarah Silverman said it best on her Twitter feed the other day. "It's the thought that counts," Silverman tweeted, "unless that thought is '(screw) it—it's the thought that counts.'"

That is exactly how Phillies fans will feel after the team leaves Lake Buena Vista, Fla. with one inexpensive, low-impact free-agent signing and without consummating a blockbuster deal.

The grade for the Phillies and Amaro Jr. is "D" as in "deadbeat" and "dad."

Enjoy your pork rinds, Phillies fans.

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