Tag Archives: 2020 Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies 2020 Opening Day 26-man roster prediction

Over the last couple of days a handful of Philadelphia Phillies sources took their stabs at predicting which players would come north with the club at the end of March, making up the club’s official 26-man 2020 Opening Day roster.

So, why not me?

For a team that has not finished with a winning record or finished above third place in any of the last eight seasons, there are actually not too many spots up for grabs – at the moment.

One thing we all know about spring training is that things change from late-February through late-March. Injuries occur, trades happen, and pop-up players surprise with unexpectedly outstanding performances that are impossible to ignore.

For now, these are the 26 players who I would open the first season with under new skipper Joe Girardi if today were the regular season opener, rather than simply the Grapefruit League opener.

I will re-visit this again as we come down to the wire a month from now, taking a look at how this list held up and examining who may have emerged with a better opportunity.

STARTING PITCHERS (5)

Aaron Nola: RHP turns 27 in June, sixth season in MLB, all with Phillies

Zack Wheeler: RHP turns 30 in May, sixth season in MLB, first with Phillies

Jake Arrieta: RHP turns 34 in early March, 11th season in MLB, third with Phillies

Zach Eflin: RHP turns 26 in April, fifth season in MLB, all with Phillies

Vince Velasquez: RHP turns 28 in June, sixth season in MLB, fifth with Phillies

RELIEF PITCHERS (6)

Hector Neris: RHP turns 31 in June, seventh season in MLB, all with Phillies

Seranthony Dominguez: RHP is 25 all season, his third in MLB, all with Phillies

Bud Norris, RHP turns 35 in March, 11th season in MLB, first with Phillies

Jose Alvarez: LHP turns 31 in May, eighth season in MLB, second with Phillies

Francisco Liriano, LHP is 36 all season, 15th season in MLB, first with Phillies

Adam Morgan, LHP turns 30 next week, sixth season in MLB, all with Phillies

CATCHERS (3)

J.T. Realmuto, RH turns 29 in March, seventh season in MLB, second with Phillies

Andrew Knapp, SH is 28 all season, fourth in MLB, all with Phillies

Deivy Grullon, RH is 24 all season, second in MLB, both with Phillies

INFIELDERS (6)

Rhys Hoskins, 1B: RH turns 27 in March, fourth season in MLB, all with Phillies

Scott Kingery, 2B: RH turns 26 in April, third season in MLB, all with Phillies

Didi Gregorius, SS: RH is 30 all season, ninth season in MLB, first with Phillies

Jean Segura, 3B: RH turns 30 in March, ninth season in MLB, second with Phillies

Josh Harrison: RH turns 33 in July, 10th season in MLB, first with Phillies

Neil Walker: SH turns 35 in September, 12 season in MLB, first with Phillies

OUTFIELDERS (6)

Bryce Harper, RF: LH is 27 all season, ninth season in MLB, second with Phillies

Adam Haseley, CF: LH turns 24 in April, second season in MLB, both with Phillies

Andrew McCutchen, LF: RH is 33 all season, 12th season in MLB, second with Phillies

Jay Bruce: LH turns 33 in April, 13th season in MLB, second with Phillies

Nick Williams: LH turns 27 in September, fourth season in MLB, all with Phillies

Roman Quinn: SH turns 27 in May, fourth season in MLB, all with Phillies

 

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Phillies suffering through a southpaw starting pitching drought

There was a time not all that long ago when the Philadelphia Phillies starting pitching rotation included outstanding southpaws among the group. And looking back through history, the team has nearly always presented a lefty option.

As recently as 2014, the season began with both Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee still in that starting rotation. The two left-handers had been teammates at that point for the better part of four of the previous five seasons.

When Lee first joined the Phillies in a 2009 trade from Cleveland he stepped into a starting pitching rotation that already included both Hamels and veteran Jamie Moyer.

Hamels was first called up to the big-leagues by the Phillies as a 22-year-old rookie in May 2006. The Phillies had no lefty options in their rotation as that season opened. Before it was over they would have three.

In the middle of the 2005 season, Randy Wolf, who had been a member of the team’s starting pitching group for the prior six years, suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He would miss the entire second half of that 2005 season and the first four months in 2006.

Wolf returned to join Hamels in the Phillies rotation on July 30, 2006. Less than three weeks later, Moyer arrived in a trade from Seattle. The three would finish out that year together before Wolf moved on to the Dodgers via free agency.

Wolf had been promoted to the big-leagues back in 1999, joining the rotation for good in June. In the prior two seasons, Matt Beech had been the lone left-handed Phillies starting pitcher.

Back further into the 90’s, the club had seen Sid Fernandez, Mike Mimbs, David West, and a late-career Fernando Valenzuela take regular turns at one point or another. And in the early part of the decade, the duo of Terry Mulholland and Danny Jackson helped the 1993 team win a National League pennent.

Mulholland had joined the team in a 1989 trade from San Francisco which also brought southpaw Dennis Cook. Those two joined Bruce Ruffin and Don Carman, giving the Phillies four left-handed starting options.

Carman could trace his own career beginnings back to the final effective years in the career of not only the greatest left-handed starter, but also the greatest Phillies pitcher of all-time, Steve Carlton.

During the early 2000’s, Wolf would be joined in the Phillies pitching rotation at various times by other left-handed starters, including Omar Daal, Bruce Chen, and Eric Milton. After Wolf was lost to the elbow surgery, Eude Brito was called up and made five starts as a left-hander.

Some of these southpaws were among the greatest pitchers to ever pull on a Phillies uniform. Some were effective starters for short periods. Others were journeymen filling a rotation spot for just a short period.

But one thing that Phillies teams had in their pitching arsenal for decades was a legitimate left-handed starter. Even before Carlton’s arrival, the last place 1971 Phillies had veterans Woodie Fryman and Chris Short and young Ken Reynolds, all lefties, pitching out of the rotation.

The pipeline, if you will, of left-handed starters has dried up down at Citizens Bank Park since the departure of Hamels. The next-man-up was supposed to be Adam Morgan, but he was never able to secure a long-term role and has now settled in as a reliever.

After Morgan finished up the 2016 season still as a member of the rotation, the Phillies had no left-handers take a regular turn for most of the next two-and-a-half years.

Trying to keep his team in the playoff hunt last season, general manager Matt Klentak signed 30-year-old Drew Smyly in late July and a week later swung a trade for 36-year-old veteran Jason Vargas. That gave the Phillies a pair of southpaws in their rotation down the stretch. But both were short-term additions, and neither will be back for the 2020 season.

As the Phillies get set to open the Grapefruit League season down in Florida this coming weekend there are once again few legitimate left-handed starting pitching options for the rotation.

In a Wednesday piece on the rotation, Scott Lauber for The Inquirer wrote: “Lefty prospect Damon Jones is a dark-horse candidate.” I like Jones, a 25-year-old who went 5-4 with a 2.91 ERA. He allowed just 74 hits over 114.1 innings across 23 starts with a 152/59 K:BB ratio in a 2019 season split between three levels of the minor league system. However, I see Jones more as a power reliever.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t lefty arms around camp, even a couple who could fill a rotation slot briefly at some point. The bullpen has a variety of left-handed options for new manager Joe Girardi, including Morgan, Jose Alvarez, and Francisco Liriano.

Liriano has made 300 starts in MLB over 14 seasons and could potentially be used as a spot or emergency starter. The only other two left-handers currently in camp who appear to have any chance to take the mound as a starting pitcher in the big-leagues at some point would appear to be Cole Irvin and Ranger Suarez.

Irvin is now 26-years-old. He went 2-1 with a 5.83 ERA over 16 games, just three of those as a starter during his first taste of MLB play a year ago. However, Irvin has made 41 starts at Triple-A Lehigh Valley over the past two seasons. The Phillies are likely to keep him stretched out there again to begin 2020.

Suarez made three starts when first called up in 2018. He was used exclusively out of the bullpen in 37 games with the Phillies last season. Suarez made 28 starts over the last two seasons between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Down in the minor leagues the Phillies currently have only two left-handers who appear to have even a possibility of one day taking the mound as a starting pitcher. Those would be Erik Miller, chosen in the fourth round of the MLB Draft last June, and Ethan Lindow, who was the organization’s Pitcher of the Year last season. Both are a couple of years away, and neither can be considered a true top prospect at this point.

Is it important to have a left-hander in the starting rotation? Does it matter? That is a legitimate question. If the Phillies had five legitimate, effective, right-handers in their rotation at any point over the last half-dozen years it might not be an issue.

Showing opposing hitters the change of pace that a left-hander offers, neutralizing top left-handed hitters for the first two or three turns through the batting order. These are just a couple of ways a southpaw would help.

For my money, I would prefer to always have a right-left starting pitching mix that included two of one and three of the other. My preferred rotation would alternate lefties and righties against each opponent.

It would be nice if the Phillies could at least develop one truly legitimate starting left-hander. That, or trade for one who could be an effective member of their rotation for a few years. Right now, that arm does not appear to be on the 2020 roster.

 

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Could the 2020 Phillies finish in last place?

Wait…what??? The Philadelphia Phillies finishing in last place in the National League East Division during the upcoming 2020 season? You would have to be nuts to even entertain such a notion, right?

Wrong, chewing tobacco breath! Well, it’s at least not such a difficult proposition when you consider how the Phillies were evaluated in the preseason PECOTA projections.

For those unfamiliar with it, PECOTA stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm. It is the proprietary system from the folks at Baseball Prospectus that projects player and team performance.

Baseball Prospectus uses their system to project the final standings for the upcoming season and also presents the percentage chance for each team to reach the postseason.

This year’s projections were pushed through that system, and PECOTA spit out a final record of 77-85 for the Phillies. That put them in fourth place in the NL East Division and gave the club just an 8.9% chance of making the playoffs.

For the rest of the division, PECOTA projected the New York Mets (88), Washington Nationals (87), and Atlanta Braves (83) to all finish with more wins than the Phillies. Only the Miami Marlins (71) were picked behind them.

If PECOTA is to be believed, it would mean that Joe Girardi’s first Phillies team has been evaluated as being as close to a last place – six games – as they are to a third place ball club.

Now, arguments against the entire premise itself aside, and I am sure that many Phillies fans would come up with quite a few, let’s assume the PECOTA system is as valid as any. What would it take for the Fish to make up those six games, and actually pass the Phillies in the real final 2020 standings?

I follow the Phillies and all of baseball closely on a regular basis, and can say without reservation that fans have plenty of concerns and criticisms of the ball club.

The Phillies enter the season with a first baseman who underwhelmed in 2019 and was one of the worst hitters in all of baseball over the season’s final two months. They have new starters at each of the other infield positions, none of whom had an especially productive season a year ago.

In the outfield, the club has a left fielder coming off major knee surgery and playing at age 33. Their center fielder is scheduled to be an unproven 24-year-old in his first full big-league campaign.

On the mound, the Phillies starting rotation has a veteran third starter who has collapsed over the final four months during each of the last two seasons, and pitchers in the back three spots who have not established themselves as effective winners. The bullpen has two dozen potential members at spring training hoping to thwart the injury devastation of a year ago.

Every one of these concerns is legitimate, and each has been aired regularly by fans of the team during the course of this winter. So, let’s assume that it all goes bad.

Andrew McCutchen‘s knee either doesn’t hold up over six months, or he loses something in the field and at the plate because of it. Adam Haseley and Scott Kingery fail to develop into impact players. Rhys Hoskins and Jean Segura disappoint once again. Ditto the majority of the pitching staff. And GM Matt Klentak is unable to come up with pieces to fix any of the problems.

At this time of year, hope springs eternal. Spring training camp has just opened. The first Grapefruit League games are a week away. Major League Baseball’s regular season is still six weeks off in the distance. And then it’s a six-month long marathon of almost daily baseball.

Frankly, everything could go right – or many things. The Phillies could contend all summer, add a couple of key pieces in-season, and either win the division or reach the playoffs as a Wildcard team. They could give fans the first taste of exciting October baseball in almost a decade.

But the fact is, everything could just as easily go wrong. If even most of the things described above do actually go wrong, it would be disastrous. If, God forbid, the club loses someone like Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Aaron Nola, or Zack Wheeler for any lengthy period due to injury, could they overcome that loss?

If those things happen, and the rest of the division plays mostly to their potential, and the Marlins overachieve just a little bit, then the nightmare scenario of a Phillies last place finish could indeed unfold. That would surely result in Klentak losing his job. Perhaps team president Andy MacPhail as well.

Keep in mind, PECOTA is certainly not an exact science. A year ago they projected the Phillies for 89 wins, tied with the Nationals for the top of the division. Of course, the club finished with just 81 wins and in a fourth-place position.

For the coming 2020 season, Rob Mains at Baseball Prospectus wrote the following on their evaluation of the Phillies:

The problem with the Phillies is that they were, despite their mere .500 record, one of the luckiest teams in the majors last year, with a third-order winning percentage that was seven games worse than their actual record.

PECOTA’s projection would indicate improvement. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler are an imposing 1-2, but the integers after that aren’t. The bullpen is unsettled. Two of Didi GregoriusScott Kingery, and Jean Segura seem likely to play out of position, and PECOTA sees all three as below-average hitters. (It’s particularly down on Kingery, expecting a 78 DRC+). Bryce Harper’s outfield mates are 33-year-old Andrew McCutchen coming off major knee surgery and Anyone’s Guess in center.

No one wants it to happen. Frankly, I don’t believe it will happen. But don’t say that the last-place scenario hasn’t at least crept into the back of your mind. That is an unfortunate result of the last eight years and of collapses by the Phillies down the stretch in each of the last two seasons. Sorry that I had to even bring up the possibility.

 

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Sorting the pitching should be the story of 2020 spring training

There are a number of story lines set to play out as the Philadelphia Phillies open their formal spring training with workouts this week down in Clearwater, Florida. None is more important than the battles for a number of spots on the club’s Opening Day pitching staff.

New manager Joe Girardi will be paying special attention to the large group of arms in camp. It will be the successful or failure of the pitchers that will largely determine how the club fares over the coming 2020 season.

Also vital will be the ability of Girardi and new pitching coach Bryan Price to sort them all out. The two baseball veterans need to make the right decisions regarding who to keep on the big-league roster, who to stash away in the minor leagues for help later in the season, who to let go, and what roles on the Phillies staff each pitcher is best prepared to fill.

In the rotation, three arms are absolutely set in stone, assuming health. Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Jake Arrieta have roles locked up from the outset. Zach Eflin is less experienced and may not be an absolute lock, but he enters camp as a presumptive member of the rotation as well.

Assuming all four come through camp healthy it would leave any others to battle it out for the fifth starter role. Vince Velasquez enters camp as the most likely to fill that slot. His challengers will be right-handers Nick Pivetta and Enyel De Los Santos as well as the lone left-handed starter at the moment, Cole Irvin.

It’s great talent,” Price said of Velasquez and Pivetta per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “But we do have to refine that talent and the productivity.

I think there’s a lot of pitching here that has room to get much better and I’m looking forward to being a part of that any way I can.”

Velasquez will be a special challenge. This is likely his last chance to prove that he can be a reliable starting pitcher for a big-league rotation. If he doesn’t step up in 2020 in that role the likelihood is that he will either be permanently moved to the bullpen or traded away.

The coaches will take a long look at Spencer Howard, but the organization’s top pitching prospect is expected to open the year with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. If the team needs an emergency starter early in the season the opportunity will likely go to someone else. But by no later than June, Howard should be ready to fill any such rotation opening.

Southpaws JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez and righty prospect Adonis Medina are in camp and still viewed as potential big-league starting pitchers. All are lower on the organizational depth chart and would only see an increased role if a series of disastrous injuries should strike.

The bullpen is the place where there will be plenty of competition involving experienced veterans and talented youngsters. Some of the more interesting battles of the spring and some of the biggest roster surprises emerge from the relief pitching corps.

Right-handed relievers in camp from the Phillies current 40-man roster include Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Tommy Hunter, Edgar Garcia, Deolis Guerra, Reggie McClain, and Robert Stock. Neris, who has a contract arbitration hearing this month, is the presumptive closer.

Dominguez could be a particularly impactful addition after missing most of 2019 with an arm injury that both he and the club feared might require Tommy John surgery. Fact is, the talented 25-year-old may not be completely out of the woods yet. But he is ready to go at this point.

You get a Seranthony Dominguez that can stay healthy for the whole year, that’s a huge addition,” Girardi said per Matt Breen at The Inquirer. “You’re talking about a guy that was a closer and an eighth-inning guy that wasn’t there a good portion of the season.

Bud Norris, Blake Parker, Trevor Kelley, Anthony Swarzak, and Drew Storen are the more experienced members of a large group of non-roster invitee right-handed relievers. Each of them has the ability to make the club with a big spring.

From the left side, the 40-man roster group includes Jose Alvarez, Adam Morgan, Austin Davis, and newcomer Cristopher Sanchez. Non-roster southpaws in camp will include Francisco Liriano, Zach Warren, Tyler Gilbert, and prospects Kyle Dohy and Damon Jones.

Any of the arms who lose out in the fifth starter contest could also find a bullpen role. However, it is more likely that Pivetta, Irvin, or De Los Santos would instead be assigned to Lehigh Valley in order to remain stretched out as a starting pitcher.

In my pre-spring training evaluation and rankings of the starting pitching rotations for the teams in the National League East Division the Phillies came out fourth. The club came out third in my bullpen rankings thanks largely to those increased depth options.

If you look at this club last year, there were a lot of injuries, especially in the bullpen,” said Girardi per Evan Macy at The Philly Voice. “I did about five Phillies games at MLB Network and every time there was a different bullpen.

Girardi almost certainly remembered that situation when he took charge of the Phillies and pushed GM Matt Klentak to provide him with more potential veteran options. The bullpen now appears to have far more depth of legitimate talent this time around to weather any repeat of such an injury storm.

NOTE: As this piece was being published, De Los Santos became the first official casualty of spring. Matt Gelb reported that the pitcher injured his hamstring and will be out for a few weeks. Considering all of the competition this almost assures that he starts the regular season at Triple-A.

 

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