Things are looking up for the Phillies

Given the unforeseen success produced by the Philadelphia Phillies, trailing first place by roughly four games, and strength of pitching, ranking eleventh in earned run average among Major League Baseball, July figures to be an interesting month. Concluding an impressive month of May, translating to fifteen wins, Philadelphia opened up a ten game road stint, seven played on the west coast.

Philadelphia won only three games, presently three wins above .500. Though two weeks have not yet passed within the month of June, Philadelphia has already lost seven games and Jake Arrieta publicly expressed displeasure with his team’s “defensive shifts”. Likewise, Philadelphia is posting a team batting average south of .200 and an earned run average of 6.12 as of June 10th.

Scattered rumors speculate that the Phillies plan to pursue a myriad of impact players ranging from Cole Hamels (3-6, 3.86 ERA) to Manny Machado (.311, 18 HR). Most recently, as reported by MLB Network and FanRag Sports’ own, Jon Heyman, “ultimately the Phillies probably make the most sense as a landing spot for the biggest star likely to be dealt this trading season – either via trade or eventually as a free agent,” (FRS Baseball).

The twenty-five-year-old shortstop is in the midst of presumably his final year as a Baltimore Oriole, serving as a deadline rental. Because the price to obtain a high caliber player as good as Machado is immense, Philadelphia is more likely to pursue him in free agency. Baltimore, rightfully so, is likely seeking a plentiful amount of young prospects with long-term upside. Ironically enough, plenty of potential has accumulated within Philadelphia’s farm system, Minor League Baseball’s fifth-best rated farm system, according to MLB.com. However, Baltimore’s asking price was reportedly too high and Philadelphia has some prospects that if not traded, will flourish in just a couple of seasons.

Signed through the remainder of the 2018 season, with the addition of potentially two more years under contract, Jake Arrieta powerfully compliments Aaron Nola. The two combine for an earned run average of 5.32, almost .10 points better than Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg‘s combined 5.41. On the brink of his first All-Star appearance, Nola is tied for sixth among Major League pitchers for quality starts, 10 or 0.77%, and ranks ninth in WHIP while having an average of only 3.92 supporting runs per start.

Vincent Velasquez, despite a lopsided 4-7 record, owns an 11.09 strikeout per nine inning ratio. His score of 11.09 is good for ninth in Major League Baseball, ahead of Luis Servino, Corey Kluber, and Jose Berrios. Velazquez ’s opponents have collectively totaled 119 bases, just nine more than Chris Sale’s 110, while the two have equally surrendered ten home runs. Velazquez’s ground ball to fly ball ratio of 0.74 remains better than David Price’s 0.71 and Julio Teheran’s 0.68. Additionally, according to an ESPN Sabermetric statistic which measures tough losses, Velazquez is tied for third, with two, implying that his record paints a poor image of his efficiency.

Although he and the 6’5” right-handed Nick Pivetta fulfill their roles as backend rotation pitchers, neither has emerged as an ace. Regardless, Philadelphia is patiently grooming their young pitching prospects. Sixto Sanchez, Philadelphia’s only Top 100 Prospect according to Baseball America, Adonis Medina, Franklyn Kilome and Ranger Suarez were all acquired via international signing, rather than through the draft.

Placed on the disabled list due to right elbow inflammation, NBC Sports’ Jim Salisbury reports that the Phillies, “don’t believe it is serious,” in regards to Sixto Sanchez’s injury. Nonetheless, Sanchez’s upside is magnificent and his growth this season has progressed rapidly. No short of velocity, Sanchez features both a four-seam and two-seam fastball, which consistently reaches the high nineties. MLB.com’s renowned prospect expert, Jonathan Mayo, graded Sanchez’s fastball a 70, which reads as “well above average”. Within Sanchez’s wide array of pitches, the nineteen-year-old includes both an over the top breaking ball, which breaks down similar to a 12-6 curve and an offspeed pitch that travels across the plate similar to a slider.

His changeup is lacking some movement, but its’ change of pace velocity makes for a brilliant offspeed pitch. Pitching less than 100 innings in a full season within his Minor League career thus far, Sanchez is still extremely young and ever growing. However, MLB.com’s twenty-third overall prospect struck out 45 batters this season, while only walking 11. Pitching almost identical to a season prior with Lakewood, one of Philadelphia’s Single-A affiliates, Sanchez earned four wins this year. Similarly, Sanchez lowered his run average to 2.70 from last season’s 3.32, while also elevating his strikeout per nine inning ratio to a career-high 8.7. Before his injury, the Dominican born pitcher registered a 2.51 earned run average and a 1.07 WHIP, one of the best in the Florida State League.
Adonis Medina, MLB.com’s 77th best prospect, currently holds a 6-2 record with 40 strikeouts in 46.2 innings pitched. Reliant on secondary pitches and good command, Medina struck out 133 batters just a season ago.

Medina has faced at least 100 batters in each of his five seasons, pitching over 300 innings free of injury. Seemingly enough, there is realistically not enough room in Philadelphia for every young pitcher to fit within the starting five. This would most likely force prospects such as JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez into what would become a young and electrifying bullpen. Enyel De Los Santos, nonetheless, repetitively dominates and will continue to do so at the Major League level.

Santos pitched 121 innings in 2016 and then 150 in 2017, combining for 18 total wins. Quickly surging through Single-A, Santos spent his entire 2017 season in the Texas League, pitching for Philadelphia’s Double-A affiliate, where he fanned 138 of the 617 batters he faced. Santos’ strikeout per nine inning ratio is up to 9.4 in 2018, 1.1 high than last season, and has only given up twelve earned runs. Santos leads the International League (AAA) in earned run average, 1.63 and is currently third in strikeouts and WHIP, while placing fifth for innings pitched. Most notably, Santos’ curveball has not yet caught up with his fastball and changeup, but opponents are hitting just .200 against the big righty. Despite a low arsenal of pitches, the strikeout dominant Santos will provide a spark out of the bullpen or as a low tier starting pitcher.

Because Philadelphia is home to a crowded middle infield, intriguing prospects such as Arquimedes Gamboa and Luis Garcia project to add depth until they can perform better than Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford at the Major League level. Though there are not many cornerstone position players on the Phillies, Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera serve as the face of Philadelphia’s franchise. Jorge Alfaro, an underappreciated defensive catcher, figures to be a durable long term catcher. However, right field, Maikel Franco, and Carlos Santana eventually require replacement. Alec Bohm, the Phillies’ recent third overall pick, could be a solution, but not for a few years.

An organization set to spend money for years to come, Philadelphia can buy offensive production, but that remains to be seen. Philadelphia spent their eighth overall pick in 2017 on Adam Haseley, a versatile 6’1” left-handed outfielder. Prior to 2018, Haseley was Jonathan Mayo’s 95th prospect and Baseball America’s 100th. Appearing in 56 Florida State League games, Haseley is batting .298, with 13 doubles on 70 total hits. Haseley, in Clearwater’s latest bout, compiled three hits, extending his hit streak to 12 games and his on-base streak to 27. Haseley already drove in 33 runs this season, while stealing seven bases and committing just three errors. The twenty-two year old lacks power, and has an average OPS, but plays both sides of the baseball well.

Phillies former first overall pick, Mickey Moniak, is improving on what was a sluggish start, raising his batting average to almost .250. Regardless, Haseley at least seems to be a more impactful position player than any first round Phillies player drafted since 2013.

Although many of the picks that Philadelphia spent in the past decade have gone to waste, this organization has a deep farm system indeed. Of course, not every single player will live up to their expectations, but with much upside and money to spend, Philadelphia is headed in the right direction.

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