Tag Archives: A.J. Pollock

Dodgers NL MVP candidate Cody Bellinger leads baseball’s top team into Philly

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Leading NL MVP candidate Cody Bellinger leads LA into Philly

The Philadelphia Phillies (48-45) welcome the Los Angeles Dodgers (62-33) to South Philly for a four game series this week at Citizens Bank Park.

For the visiting Dodgers, this will be a chance to continue to re-establish their dominance. After suffering through their first four-game losing streak since mid-April, the Dodgers exploded for 18 runs to capture their last two against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
The Dodgers come to Philly with the third-highest runs per game average (5.25) in the National League. Also, their pitching staff has the lowest ERA and batting average against in the league.
Those numbers highlight the reasons that the Dodgers have romped to a 14.5 game lead in the NL West Division as they try to win a seventh consecutive division crown. In addition, the Dodgers have the best overall record in the National League, sitting four games clear of the Atlanta Braves in the loss column.
These two teams met at Dodger Stadium at the end of May while both were in first place. The Dodgers swept out the Phillies, outscoring them 18-6 to begin the Phillies slide in the standings. With this series at home, the Phillies will try to reverse both that previous outcome and their own season fortunes.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Cody Bellinger: RF (23) – .334/.431/.687, 31 HR, 52 extra-base hits, 73 RBIs, 72 runs, 8 steals. Leading NL MVP contender.
Max Muncy: 1B (28) – .264/.365/.528, 23 HR, 37 extra-base hits, 62 RBIs, 58 runs
Joc Pederson: LF (27) – .238/.333/.517, 20 HR, 30 extra-base hits, 42 RBIs, 49 runs
Alex Verdugo: CF (23) – .307/.355/.498, 10 HR, 32 extra-base hits, 41 RBIs, 35 runs
Corey Seager: SS (25) – .266/.345/.448, 8 HR, 29 extra-base hits, 38 RBIs, 40 runs
David Freese (36)/Justin Turner (34): 3B – 19 HR, 48 extra-base hits, 61 RBIs, 80 runs

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

A.J. Pollock: The 31-year-old Pollock signed with the Dodgers as a free agent back in January. Los Angeles lured the center fielder away from the division-rival Arizona Diamondbacks, with whom Pollock had played since being selected at 17th overall in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft, with a four-year, $55 million deal that also includes a $10 million player option for the 2023 season.
Pollock was a 2015 NL All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner who was seen as one of the most consistent players in the game. The Dodgers saw him as just that – a consistent presence to man the middle of their outfield for the next few seasons as they tried to push through from NL champions to world champions.
Things did not begin well. After he had slashed just .223/.287/.330 with six extra-base hits over his first 28 games (26 starts), it was announced that Pollock was injured, suffering from an elbow infection. Pollock had a metal plate in his elbow, inserted in a previous surgery. That plate would need to be removed, and Pollock would end up on the IL right through the MLB All-Star Game last week.
Activated for this past weekend, Pollock returned to deliver a half-dozen hits against the Boston Red Sox, capped by a three-hit night in Sunday’s nationally televised extra-inning victory. The Dodgers defense has been the one suspect area for the team in this big season for the club. With the return of Pollock, the outfield defense should begin to stabilize.
Just what the Phillies need to face this week, the best team in the National League actually putting more talent on the field and improving their overall play.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

MONDAY – Clayton Kershaw: 7-2, 3.09 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 1.051 WHIP, 88 hits over 99 IP across 15 starts with a 91/16 K:BB
TUESDAY – Walker Buehler: 8-1, 3.46 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 0.990 WHIP, 89 hits over 104 IP across 17 starts with a 113/14 K:BB
WEDNESDAY – Kenta Maeda: 7-6, 3.82 ERA, 4.31 FIP, 1.056 WHIP, 75 hits over 101.1 IP in 18 starts with a 101/32 K:BB
THURSDAY – Ross Stripling: 4-3 , 3.65 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 1.230 WHIP, 63 hits over 66.2 IP across 24 games (10 starts) with a 69/19 K:BB

THE SKIPPER

Dave Roberts is now in his fourth season at the helm of the Dodgers. He guided the team to an NL West crown in each of this first three seasons, and is well on his way to a fourth straight. The Dodgers have also won back-to-back National League pennants under Roberts guidance.
The only thing missing from Roberts managerial resume is a World Series championship. The Dodgers have not won one since Kirk Gibson‘s miracle home run and Orel Hershiser‘s dominating pitching led the 1988 team to a world title. They lost in seven games to the Houston Astros in 2017 (Gabe Kapler was the Dodgers farm director then) and to Boston Red Sox in five games last year.

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

The first three nights of this series are going to be very similar. Temps in the low-90’s during the day, playing temps in the mid-upper 80’s. Moderate humidity, light winds, almost no chance of precipitation. Typically beautiful summer nights. For the series finale on Thursday afternoon there will be at least a 40% chance of scattered thunderstorms as the leftover residue from Hurricane Barry flows into the area. Otherwise the conditions will be similar to the prior three days.

Marwin Gonzalez and others available who could still help the Phillies

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Versatile Marwin Gonzalez would make a nice addition to the Phillies

As the Hot Stove season pushes to mid-January, the Philadelphia Phillies have emerged as the favorites to land one or the other of the two biggest free agent prizes.

The club met with outfielder Bryce Harper on Saturday in his home town of Las Vegas. They have met previously with infielder Manny Machado at Citizens Bank Park.
Both meetings seemed to go well. There are some, in fact, who have speculated that the Phillies could still actually make a run at both young superstars.
But what happens if their efforts to land one of these marquee talents should fail? Where do the Phillies look to help bolster their roster if they still want to be competitive in what promises to be a tough National League East Division race in 2019?
One direction that the club could go would be to try and put together a top -tier pitching staff. For that to happen they would need to add one, possibly two more starting pitchers to the rotation.
The name that has floated out there the most and longest still remains available. That would be free agent left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who would slot perfectly into the Phillies rotation between Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta.
The club could then also take a run at reliever Craig Kimbrel. Bringing him on board to close out games with David RobertsonHector NerisSeranthony DominguezPat Neshek and the rest of an already improved bullpen in various setup and matchup roles would make the Phillies bullpen truly elite.
A.J. Pollock remains available as an outfield option. The 31-year-old seven-year veteran is not the true impact bat that the club is hoping to add in Harper or Machado. He would make for a poor consolation prize. But on a shorter-term deal, the 2015 Gold Glove Award winner could at least upgrade the Phillies defense in center field while providing some level of offensive value.
Marwin Gonzalez will turn 30-year-old in the middle of spring training. He would not bring the speed that Pollock possesses, but would bring more lineup versatility. Gonzalez is a switch-hitter who can legitimately cover a corner outfield spot and play almost anywhere on the infield as well.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak would almost certainly continue to look around for fits in trade as well. Any of the current outfielders besides Andrew McCutchen and any of the starting pitchers beyond Nolan and Arrieta would presumably be available. The club also has a nice depth of relief pitching from which a trade partner to choose.
In a trade, the Phillies would almost certainly be looking for a corner outfielder with some proven pop. They would also be trying to land an experienced left-handed starting pitcher.
While these are possibilities should the club lose out on both Harper and Machado, some would be possible moves even if the Phillies land one of those big-ticket prizes. Bringing in a southpaw for the rotation would remain a desire, which could keep them in on someone like Keuchel. Adding a more proven veteran bench option would also be important for a contending team, and someone such as Gonzalez would fit that bill perfectly.
The Phillies remain in on both Harper and Machado. I would expect that we will see some resolution to the Machado situation within the next few days. Harper could follow soon after. Once those big deals are done, watch for the rest of baseball’s remaining free agent market logjam to begin clearing rapidly.

Phillies reportedly still involved in Corey Kluber trade discussions

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Kluber is one of baseball’s few genuine ace-caliber starting pitchers

Phillies Nation was rocked by a report on Boxing Day that the two high-profile free agents who the club has publicly pursued with big contract offers this off-season, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, may hold a negative opinion of the city, the Phillies organization, or both.

MLB insider Joel Sherman made the statement, writing the following in the New York Post: “Word is neither player particularly likes Philadelphia…
That statement must be taken with a bit of a grain of salt for a number of reasons. The biggest, of course, is financial. The odds are that if either superstar turns down the Phillies, they would almost certainly be leaving tens of millions of dollars and multiple years of security on the table.
Then you have the source itself. Sherman is a New York guy. Of course, he would prefer to have Machado or Harper playing in his town, where he could enjoy watching them play and reporting on their exploits.
Finally, you have the statement itself. “Word is?” Where does this “word” come from exactly? And neither guy “particularly likes Philadelphia?” What does that even mean? Do they both hate Philly? Do they hold such a negative opinion that they would never play here? Do they even have a negative opinion at all, or are they simply ambivalent about our town?
Set aside the extremely questionable nature of the report, and let’s assume that it is completely accurate on its face. Neither Harper or Machado wants to play in Philly. Both go to a place they really do want, neither deciding to take the “stupid money” that John Middleton is offering. What next for the Phillies?
As Sherman’s report came out on the day after Christmas, at the same time another report was being released by Jon Paul Morosi at MLB.com that again linked starting pitcher Corey Kluber to the Phillies. The Cleveland Indians have been dangling their ace, hoping to land a package of younger players and prospects in return.
While Morosi’s sources have the San Diego Padres as the current front-runners and the Dodgers perhaps a close second in a possible Kluber deal, the Phillies are indeed again lurking and involved.
Tribe GM Mike Chernoff is reportedly looking for a package led by a young, MLB-ready player with upside potential and a couple of solid prospects. Nick Cafardo at The Boston Globe stated the following on the Kluber situation last week:

“…from what we’re hearing, the Indians won’t deal him unless they get value-plus. There would have to be an overpayment of prospects and young players to get a deal done.”

While Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery would certainly be off the table, a Phillies package could lead with any or a combination from among Maikel FrancoNick WilliamsOdubel Herrera, and Roman Quinn.
Any starting pitcher not named Aaron Nola or Jake Arrieta could go. From the prospect ranks, anyone below top prospect Sixto Sanchez should be in play.

All this highlights is the continuing fact that Middleton has made an open checkbook available to general manager Matt Klentak in order to help improve the team. It is now up to Klentak and president Andy MacPhail to entice impact players, difference-makers on the field who will also draw fans, to accept that money.
My take is that, despite New York media wishes, the Phillies are still very much in on Machado and Harper. But the team is also talking other deals, with a potential trade for Kluber just part of that overall strategy to improve the roster for 2019 as best they can.
There are plenty of options still available beyond those mentioned. At third base there is Mike Moustakas. Or you could wait a year and go after Nolan Arenado. At shortstop you could likely roll the dice on a one-year deal with an option on Troy Tulowitzki.
In the outfield, perhaps a short-term deal with A.J. Pollock or Carlos Gonzalez, one that bridges you the two years until Mike Trout becomes a free agent and we are all thrown into an apoplectic frenzy that will make all of this Harper-Machado nonsense look like child’s play.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Corey Kluber reportedly still in play for Phillies

The Phillies are being linked to numerous deals in this Hot Stove season

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The Phillies are being linked to closer Craig Kimbrel and many other free agents

This past weekend saw the annual holiday shopping season open with the mall-walking and store-hopping zaniness of Black Friday. Today has become known as ‘Cyber Monday’, where the gift-purchasing moves to the internet.

The teams of Major League Baseball are also doing some shopping of their own. New rumor logs are being tossed on the Hot Stove fires on a daily basis at this point, keeping baseball fans warm with thoughts of moves by their favorite teams to put them over the top.
To categorize things down in South Philly at the offices of the Philadelphia Phillies as “hot” might actually be an understatement. The team is being linked on a regular basis with almost every half-decent free agent name and trade candidate available.
We have already covered two big names today here at Phillies Nation with my piece on the GM Matt Klentak’s reported talks with Arizona regarding Dbacks superstar Paul Goldschmidt. And our Drew Rhoades wrote of the Phillies interest in lefty reliever Andrew Miller.
The Phillies involvement in the sweepstakes to land one or the other or both of the two biggest-ticket items this holiday season is well known. Both outfielder Bryce Harper and shortstop Manny Machado are apparently at the very top of the Phillies shopping wish list.
However, as Jon Morosi at MLB.com reiterated today, the club is looking down a lengthy holiday shopping list, and they very well could start checking off some other items first, while still trying to pick-up those top prizes.

“The Phillies aren’t waiting on decisions from Harper and Machado as the team ambitiously pursues upgrades to its roster…sources said it’s possible the Phils will sign multiple free agents before Harper or Machado agree to terms.”

Morosi ticked off some names that his sources have revealed are on that Phillies shopping list including pitchers Patrick CorbinNathan Eovaldi and J.A. Happ. The list also includes outfielders A.J. Pollock and Michael Brantley.
Also mentioned by Morosi was the Phillies recently reported interest in closer Edwin Diaz, who the Seattle Mariners say could be available, but for a price. Our Tim Kelly here at Phillies Nation recently wrote that the Phillies were showing interest in both Diaz and Mariners infielder Jean Segura.
Morosi mentions either of the Phillies top two pitching prospects, Sixto Sanchez or Adonis Medina, as likely having to be included in such a deal with Seattle. He also states that if they fail in that pursuit, the club could be adding closers Craig Kimbrel or Zach Britton to their list.

Suffice it to say that as you are out at the stores or at home (or work) on the internet doing your own shopping, Matt Klentak and his team down at Citizens Bank Park are doing their own.

I think it’s fair to say that if you are a Phillies fan, the GM will be stuffing something into your stocking long before Santa ever has a chance to come sliding down your chimney a month from now. Let’s hope that when all is said and done, that Klentak finds himself on our “nice” list, and not our “naughty” list.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Phillies holiday shopping list goes well beyond biggest-ticket items

NLDS Prediction: Arizona Diamondbacks over Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodger Stadium hosts the first two games of a 2017 NLDS

Through four games of the 2017 Major League Baseball postseason, home teams are 4-0. Those hosts have outscored the visiting squads by a 31-14 margin to this point.

For my prediction in this National League Division Series to come true, that is going to have to come to an end. I am picking the Arizona Diamondbacks to top the NL West Division rival Los Angeles Dodgers in what some might consider an upset.

I say “some”, because knowledgeable baseball fans who have been following these teams know that, despite the Dodgers finishing with a better overall record, the Dbacks have actually been the better team for some time.

Guided by second-year skipper Dave Roberts, the Dodgers finished with an MLB-best record of 104-58. That was 11 games better than Torey Lovullo and his Diamondbacks, who had to settle for the top NL Wildcard position.

But as late as August 25, that Dodgers lead had ballooned up to 21.5 games. Over the next month, LA collapsed, losing 20 of their next 25 games. The Dodgers did ultimately recover their equilibrium at the end, winning 10 of their final dozen.

The Dbacks, meanwhile, were nearly polar opposites. They won 20 of 25 between August 21 and September 16 to take complete command of a Wildcard playoff berth.

In that NL Wildcard Game, held on Wednesday night, Arizona blitzed out to an early 6-0 lead over the division-rival Colorado Rockies. The Diamondbacks ultimately powered their way to an 11-8 victory in the slugfest that many had predicted.

The Dodgers offensive attack is led by two of the top young players in the game today in second-year shortstop Corey Seager and rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger.

Seager, was the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year. He also won a Silver Slugger a year ago, and has been an NL All-Star in each of his first two big league seasons. This year he slashed .295/.375/.479 with 22 homers, 77 RBI, and 85 runs scored.

Bellinger is the odds-on favorite to follow him in winning those ROY honors. He slashed .267/.352/.581 after his late-April promotion. The 22-year old slammed 39 homers, drove in 97 runs, and scored 87 times. He logged 37 games in left field, but just four of those came after June.

Third baseman Justin Turner was a first-time NL All-Star this year at age 32. He slashed .322/.415/.530 with 21 homers in just 130 games.

The Dodgers attack also features 26-year old right fielder Yasiel Puig, who enjoyed the best season of his five-year career. The Cuban native belted 28 home runs, second on the club to Bellinger.

Catcher Yasmani Grandal and left fielder Chris Taylor add pop, each surpassing the 20-homer mark this year. And the strong veteran presence of Chase Utley, Curtis Granderson, Andre Ethier, and Logan Forsythe should prove valuable in a tough series.

On the mound, Roberts will send the best pitcher on the planet out to the mound in the opener. Clayton Kershaw missed the entire month of August, and was a bit inconsistent in a half-dozen starts during the month of September.

Kershaw will be followed to the mound by 37-year old righty Rich Hill for Game Two, and then trade deadline acquisition Yu Darvish toes the rubber for Game Three in Arizona.

Roberts has also announced that lefty Alex Wood will start Game Four. There had been consideration to using him as a weapon out of the bullpen, bringing the ace Kershaw back on short rest.

Obviously logic says that any pitcher that’s used to a routine and going on regular rest is probably stronger, and has a better chance of success,” said Roberts in a press conference published by the LA Times. “I just think that with the guys that we have in our clubhouse, the guys who can take the ball, in this case Alex Wood, for us it’s a no-brainer.

Lovullo will matchup 25-year old righty Taijuan Walker, a big trade acquisition last November, against Kershaw. The Dbacks manager has yet to announce who will take the mound on Saturday.

With his top two starters, Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray, both logging multiple innings in the Wildcard Game, it could be either right-hander Zack Godley or lefty Patrick Corbin getting the Game Two nod. However, Ray threw just 34 pitches on Wednesday, and he could end up being the choice as well.

The Arizona lineup is led by first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who slashed .297/.404/.563 with 36 homers, 120 RBI, 117 runs scored, and 18 steals. The NL MVP runner-up in both 2013 and 2015, the 5x NL All-Star should be a strong contender for those honors once again.

The Dbacks received a huge lineup boost at the trade deadline with the acquisition of right fielder J.D. Martinez from the Detroit Tigers. In 62 games with Arizona, Martinez slashed .302/.366/.741, banging 29 homers and driving in 65 runs in that time.

Slugging third baseman Jake Lamb banged 30 homers and knocked in 105 runs. Center fielder A.J. Pollock slugged 14 homers while scoring 73 times and swiping 20 bases in just 112 games. He is one of the most underrated players in the game today.

To some extent last year, but especially in this current postseason, the importance of effective arms out of the bullpen has revealed itself to be more important than ever. Both teams have a variety of such weapons from which to choose.

Lovullo will have righties Jimmie Sherfy, David Hernandez, Archie Bradley, closer Fernando Rodney, and possibly Godley ready out of his bullpen. From the left side he can call on the trio of Andrew Chafin, Jorge De La Rosa, and possibly Corbin.

Roberts will likely lean heavily on right-hander Brandon Morrow, and has one of the best closers in the game available in Kenley Jansen. Starter Kenta Maeda is likely to be used out of the pen from the right side as well.

From the left side it’s likely to be a pair of Tony’s, Cingrani and Watson, seeing most of the action, though starter Alex Wood could also be called upon.

This was not at all an easy call for me. I don’t like making gut calls, and this is purely a gut call in what I see as a tight series.

But the Diamondbacks took 11 of the 19 games between the two squad this season. That includes a late August sweep at Chase Field, and then an early September sweep at Dodger Stadium. They are in no way intimidate by the champions of their division. The addition of Martinez, particularly in giving Arizona a righty hitter against tough lefty Dodgers pitching, has proven an equilizer.

I am calling it Dbacks in four games. I think they find a way to steal one of the first two, though beating Kershaw in the opener will be a tall order. Then I see them easily capable of sweeping in front of their home fans out in the desert.