Phillies Fall 2016 Top Ten Prospects: Near Misses

Over the past week, I have been releasing a countdown of the Philadelphia Phillies Top Ten Prospects as of Fall 2016.
That Phillies top prospect list shows that this vastly improved organization has a tremendous mix of talented youngsters coming at a variety of positions.
The current top ten includes three pitchers, a catcher, a second baseman, a shortstop, and four outfielders. At least three of these prospects appear ready to impact the team in the 2017 season.
But there were others who didn’t make the cut, but who were close. Players who are legitimate big league prospects. 
Certainly a few of them would have made the top ten list in the estimations of other talent evaluators. Let’s examine a few of the prospects who just missed my list.


Possibly the most familiar name who was not included on my Fall 2016 Phillies Top Ten prospects countdown was outfielder Dylan Cozens. If I went further, he would probably be #11 or 12 on my list.
Along with another interesting hitter, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, I want to see Cozens produce next season at AAA Lehigh Valley before ranking them any higher.
The pair played the 2016 season with AA Reading, a notorious hitting environment. When I think of guys who were bat-first players who put up big numbers at Reading, I think of Darin Ruf.
If Cozens and Hoskins turn into Ruf, they are not top ten caliber prospects. For me, it will be all about how these two perform at the next level in the 2017 season.
Another who just missed is catcher Andrew Knapp. The 2015 Paul Owens Award winner has clearly been passed on the organizational catching ladder. Knapp seemed to regress a bit in 2016, so next year will be a big season for the now 25-year old.
There are four other hitters who I really like, but who are just too far away yet for me to include in a top ten list. Those are third baseman Cole Stobbe, and outfielder Jose PujolsJhailyn Ortiz, and Carlos Tocci.


Easily the biggest name pitcher who missed my list was former first overall MLB Amateur Draft pick Mark Appel. He would have battled Cozens for the #11 spot on my rankings.
Appel needed bone spurs removed from his right pitching elbow in June. Before his talent can take over and give him a chance, he needs to get and stay healthy.
The 25-year old has a big 2017 season ahead of him, one that could find him advance quickly. If Appel is indeed healthy and performing to his talent level, he could finish the year in Philadelphia.
It’s easy to like Appel as a person. He is quality in that regard. Now it’s time to find out what he can be as a professional baseball player.
I’m a guy who likes command and control from my pitchers, and the more talented pitchers in the Phillies farm system outside my top ten seem to be lacking that right now.
One who highlights that well is Alberto Tirado. The righty turns 22 years old in a couple of weeks. In 314 minor league innings over parts of five seasons across two organizations, Tirado has shown that he can strike hitters out. He has a 9.4 K/9 ratio. However, he also has an unacceptable 5.7 BB/9 mark.
This was his first full season in the Phils’ organization this year after coming over in the 2015 trade from the Toronto Blue Jays for Ben Revere. Tirado went 7-1 with a 3.90 ERA, allowing just 51 hits over 64.2 innings with 102 strikeouts. Pretty darned impressive. However, he also walked 42 batters, a 5.8 BB/9 ratio that is right in line with his career totals. Unacceptable.
Another arm that I really like, but who is just too far away yet to put in my top ten, is 18-year old righty Sixto Sanchez. He snapped onto the radar this summer, leading the GCL with a 0.50 ERA.
Sanchez has only been pitching for two years, and this was the first year in the United States for the Dominican native. He needs to show that it was no fluke, and that he can keep progressing.


For those who may have missed it, the below is my Philadelphia Phillies Fall 2016 Top Ten Prospects ranking. I’ll be re-evaluating the system again and updating the ranking next May, prior to the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft.
The “name” link takes you to the player’s statistical page at Baseball Reference. The “Fall Evaluation” link takes you to my piece on them, explaining my ranking.

Baseball Hall of Fame: Three Executives Deserve Enshrinement

Voting is now underway for the 2017 candidates to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Under rules amended two years ago, players are now considered for 10 years. 

Those who are not elected pass into the “Era” committees, formerly known as the “Veteran’s Committee”, for future consideration.

The current committees include “Today’s Game”, which evaluates from 1988 – present. “Modern Baseball” looks at 1970 – 1987. “Golden Days” votes on 1950 – 1969. “Early Baseball” examines 1871-1949.

These committees will select individuals on a rotating basis. For the upcoming 2017 Hall of Fame class as well as for 2019, the “Today’s Game” committee will do the evaluating. “Modern Baseball” will go in 2018 and 2020. “Golden Days” and “Early Baseball” will take their turns together for 2021.

The “Today’s Game Era” committee working this year includes 16 members selected by the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors. They will do their voting at the upcoming Winter Meetings. 

Each of the other committees who will do their selecting in future years have the same membership size They are selected in the same manner as well.


Per the Baseball Hall of Fame website, the following are the eligibility requirements for nomination and election by an Era Committee:
(A) Eligible candidates must be selected from managers, umpires, executives and players. They must meet the below criteria related to their classification.
• Players who played in at least 10 major league seasons. They must not be on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list. They must have been retired for 15 or more seasons;
• Managers and umpires with 10 or more years in baseball and retired for at least five years. Candidates who are 65 years or older are eligible six months following retirement;
• Executives retired for at least five years. Active executives 70 years or older are eligible for consideration.
(B) Those whose careers entailed involvement in multiple categories will be considered for their overall contribution to the game of Baseball. However, the specific category in which these individuals shall be considered will be determined by the role in which they were most prominent. There are instances when a candidate is prominent as both a player and as a manager, executive or umpire. In those, the BBWAA-appointed Historical Overview Committee shall determine that individual’s category as a player, as a manager or as an umpire or as an executive/pioneer. Those designated as players must fulfill the requirements of 6 (A).
(C) Any person designated by the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball as ineligible shall not be an eligible candidate.


The 2017 ballot being considered by the “Today’s Game” committee includes five former players who are no longer eligible under the normal 10-year vote. There are also two managers, as well as a trio of baseball executives.
Players nominated this time around are Mark McGwireOrel HershiserHarold BainesAlbert Belle, and Will Clark. The managerial nominees are Lou Piniella and Davey Johnson.
All are worthy of consideration, and valid positions can be put together for their cause. But it is my opinion that only the three executives should be enshrined at this time.
Former Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves executive John Schuerholz is one of these men. The colorful and controversial late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is another. And the former Milwaukee Brewers owner and Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig is the third.

2016 Winter Meetings: Houston Astros

When the Winter Meetings open in National Harbor, Maryland next week, look for the Houston Astros to be one of the big players in free agent deals, big trades, or both.
A new Collective Bargaining Agreement could soon be announced between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. If that happens, the Astros could strike even more quickly.
The two biggest free agent names tied to Houston at the moment are a pair of veteran bats, Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Beltran.


Encarnacion has spent the last eight seasons of his 12-year big league career with the Toronto Blue Jays. He was an AL All-Star for the third time in 2016 when he hit for a .263/.357/.529 slash. He also produced 42 homers, 34 doubles, 127 RBI, and 99 runs scored.
Beltran was with the New York Yankees for the last three years before moving on to the Texas Rangers this past season in a trade deadline deal for three prospects.
Encarnacion will turn 34 years old in January. In addition to his DH work, he has made first base appearances in anywhere from one-third to one-half of the Blue Jays’ games over the last five seasons.
Beltran turns 40 years old at the end of April. In addition to his own DH work, Beltran has seen plenty of outfield action. He could still play at least part-time on a corner.


Houston has already made a handful of moves this offseason as the club seeks to return to the postseason. After a 2015 AL Wild Card berth and narrow ALDS loss to the eventual world champion Kansas City Royals, the Astros finished in third place in the AL West in 2016.
Featuring a tremendously talented young core which includes second baseman Jose Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa, center fielder George Springer, and third baseman Alex Bregman, the team is looking to add veterans for a serious 2017 push.
To that end, general manager Jeff Luhnow has already added catcher Brian McCann, outfielders Josh Reddick and Nori Aoki, Cuban defector Yulieski Gurriel, and pitcher Charlie Morton.


At the GM meetings in early November, Luhnow was quoted by Jeff Kaplan for the Houston Chronicle.
“We’ve always had more of an attitude of wait and see how the market develops and figure out where we can get some value and where we can get players that are complementary,” Luhnow said, per Kaplan“But now we need to be more aggressive. We need to try and get out in front of some things and secure some players to help us win.”
Luhnow has already demonstrated that new aggressiveness. Expect the Astros to add at least one more big bat in the coming days or weeks.
Such a move could also signal further dealings, such as a trade of Evan Gattis. There is even some speculation that Houston could try to move one of its top kids, perhaps Correa, Bregman, or Springer, in a move to land a big arm such as Chris Sale.
The Astros are not conceding the AL West Division to the talented Texas Rangers. They will be doing everything possible to not only make a run at the division title in 2017, but to position themselves for a run at the first World Series championship in franchise history.

Nationals / Expos All-Time 25-Man Roster

The Washington Nationals emerged for the 2005 season after the relocation of the original Montreal Expos franchise.
Major League Baseball expanded by four teams and split into a divisional format beginning in 1969. 
The Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots (now the Milwaukee Brewers) went to the American League. The Expos and San Diego Padres were  assigned to the National League.
The Montreal team was named after the successful World’s Fair “Expo 67” held there in 1967 during the Canadian Centennial celebration.
After a decade of losing, a young core of players emerged in the late 1970’s to turn the team into a contender for the first time. Then from 1979-94 the Expos were consistent winners.
There were 11 winning Expos campaigns and another two .500 seasons during that 16 year stretch. However, Montreal reached the MLB postseason only one time in its history.


A strike in 1981 caused Major League Baseball to split the season into two halves. The teams who finished in first place in each half would then advance to a best-of-five “League Division Series”, a first for baseball.
The defending champion Philadelphia Phillies won the first half, and the Expos won the second half. Montreal then upended the Phils in a dramatic five-game NLDS to move within a step of the franchise’ first World Series.
In the best-of-five NLCS, the Expos took a two games to one lead. The Dodgers tied it up, and the two clubs moved to a decisive Game Five. On a two-out home run by Rick Monday in the top of the 9th, the Dodgers won 2-1 to advance to the World Series.


In 1993, the Expos re-emerged as a division power. However, the Phillies put together a magical worst-to-first season, holding Montreal off by three games to win the NL East crown.
The following year, the Expos entered the season as favorites, not only in the division, but also to win the World Series.
Montreal won 20 of 22 games beginning on July 18 to take the division lead. With a 74-40 record, the Expos led the Atlanta Braves by six games.
And then it all suddenly ended, not in defeat, but with the longest work stoppage in the history of Major League Baseball. A player strike began on August 12 and would last into the following year, cancelling the rest of the season, including the postseason.


The Expos franchise would never recover. They dropped to 5th place in 1995, recovered to win 88 games and finish in 2nd place in 1996, but then plummeted to five straight losing seasons.
An inability to get funding for a new ballpark led to rumors of a move constantly swirling, and then to MLB purchasing the club in 2002. Those relocation nightmares actually became a reality for Montreal baseball fans when the move to Washington was announced.
In their final year north of the border the club finished a dismal 67-95 and in last place. The first season in D.C. resulted in a .500 finish, but the losing continued with six straight seasons below the .500 mark.
Finally, the new Washington Nationals began to contend with a 98-64 record in 2012, winning the first division title in franchise history.
With a new group of young stars, the Nationals have now become perennial contenders in the National League. The 2016 season resulted in their third NL East crown in the last five years.
One thing continues to elude the franchise in Washington. The club remains one of eight current Major League Baseball teams to never have even reached the World Series.


Selecting a 25-Man roster for the franchise was a difficult proposition. They have had an abundance of strong, interesting outfielders and first basemen in their history.
Aside from their obvious Hall of Famer, selecting a backup catcher was a tough chore. There are a handful of decent options.
There were a number of players who you won’t find, but who contributed mightily to the history of the organization.
Included among these are shortstops Chris SpeierOrlando Cabrera and Tim Foli. Catchers Brian Schneider and Darrin Fletcher are not selected.
Outfielders Warren CromartieRondell White, and Jayson Werth fell short. So did infielders Larry Parrish and Andres Galarraga. I opted for versatility and projection in the infield.
Since I forced myself to carry at least two relievers, getting down to the 7th-9th best starting pitchers leads to difficult decisions. That was again the situation here.
On the mound, not making the cut were arms such as Steve RenkoBill StonemanBill GullicksonScott SandersonCharlie LeaJeff FasseroChad CorderoUgueth Urbina, and John Wetteland.
So who did make the cut? The Nationals / Expos All-Time 25-Man Roster includes 11 pitchers (two true relievers), two catchers, six infielders, and six outfielders.

Rookies Were Unsung Heroes of Phillies 1980 Champions

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Rookie Marty Bystrom’s perfect September helped win the NL East in 1980

Much of the credit for the Philadelphia Phillies winning the franchise’s first-ever World Series championship back in 1980 has gone to the core of veteran players.
That title would not have been won without those veterans. Stars such as Mike SchmidtLarry BowaGreg LuzinskiBob BooneLarry Christenson and Dick Ruthven came up through the Phillies farm system.
That homegrown core was supplemented during the 1970s by players brought in through astute trades such as Tug McGrawGarry MaddoxManny Trillo, and Bake McBride.
And then, of course, there was the franchise’s first-ever big free agent signing of first baseman Pete Rose prior to the 1979 season.
All of those players, with the exception of Rose, were together and won the NL East Division crown for three consecutive years from 1976-78. However, the team was eliminated in the NLCS each time.


Feeling that they just needed a proven winner to lead the way, ownership shelled out the money to sign Rose. The result? The Phillies finished in fourth place in his first season of 1979.
Many have given credit for the Phillies finally getting over the hump and actually winning that World Series in 1980 to the managerial change from the laid-back Danny Ozark to the fiery Dallas Green.
While the addition of Rose and the change to Green were certainly key pieces to the team ultimately winning it all, there is another component that is often overlooked.
In 1980, a handful of young players emerged to play pivotal roles. Without those rookies and young players, the fact is that the great veteran core does not win.
I’m not only talking about winning the Fall Classic, but even the division crown. Without these youngsters, there are no playoffs in Philly in 1980, let alone a world championship.


Lonnie Smith was a 24-year-old outfielder in the 1980 season who had received 17-game cups of coffee with the team in both 1978 and 1979.
But in 1980, Smith appeared in 100 games and was given 331 plate appearances. The speedster hit for a .339 average and produced a .397 on-base percentage. He slashed 14 doubles and four triples, scored 69 runs, and swiped 33 bases.
Keith Moreland turned 26 years old in May of 1980. The catcher had also received the same 1978 and 1979 cups of coffee as Smith, appearing in 15 total games in those seasons.
But in 1980, Moreland was given 171 plate appearances over 62 games. He hit .314 with 29 RBI, and was a legitimate weapon when Green wanted to give veteran Bob Boone a rest.


Bob Walk was a 23-year-old right-hander who had been strong in the Phillies minor league system over the previous three seasons.
In 1980, Walk went 11-7 and gave the Phillies 27 important starts. Longtime starter Randy Lerch had collapsed with a terrible season, while Christenson missed two and a half months with injuries.
Reliever Kevin Saucier turned 24 years old in May of 1980. He saw one game in 1978, then 29 games in the 1979 season. In 1980, the lefty appeared in 40 games. He went 7-3 with a 3.42 ERA over 50 innings.
Dickie Noles was a righty reliever who was 23 years old that summer. After his own 14-game audition in 1979, Noles became a full bullpen member in that 1980 season. He tossed 81 innings over 48 games, even registering a half-dozen saves.


The final influential kid to step up for those Phillies may have been the one without whom which the playoffs never happen.
Marty Bystrom turned 22 years old at the end of August. The 6’5″ righty had a strong season with AAA Oklahoma City and got his call-up when rosters expanded in September.
In his first appearance, Bystrom came in from the bullpen and set the Los Angeles Dodgers down in order during the eighth inning of a 6-0 Phillies loss at Dodger Stadium.
Three days later he was given a starting opportunity against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. Bystrom was dominant, firing a complete game shutout.
Green gave him another shot, and another, and another, and another. Bystrom won them all. He went 5-0 that month, allowing just 26 hits over 36 innings with a 1.50 ERA.


Smith, Moreland, Walk, Saucier, Noles, and Bystrom all made the Phillies postseason roster. Bystrom got in thanks to a late injury to starting pitcher Nino Espinosa.
All acquitted themselves well in either the dramatic NLCS victory over the Houston Astros, that historic World Series versus the Kansas City Royals, or both.
The Phillies were indeed a veteran-laden team that finally got over the hump and ended the franchise’s 97-year championship drought in 1980. But they never do it without the pivotal contributions of those youngsters.