Tag Archives: Clearwater

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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Phillies 2016 Spring Roster Primer

The Philadelphia Phillies pitchers and catchers are reporting to Bright House Field today for the start of 2016 Spring Training in Florda.

After a long winter of rest for most, recuperation for some, the hurlers and backstops were scheduled to check-in at Bright House Field on Wednesday. 
Workouts are scheduled to begin on Thursday, though some informal work has already begun.
The full squad of position players will join the pitchers and catchers next week, with the first full squad workout scheduled for next Tuesday, February 23rd. 
The first game, which will mostly feature Phillies minor leaguers, is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, February 28th at 1:05pm against the University of Tampa.
So we’re finally here, Spring Training has arrived. 
The sound of balls thumping into mitts and gloves, and bats striking balls, will be heard all across Florida and Arizona for the next six weeks as the Phils and the other 29 Major League Baseball teams prepare for the 2016 regular season.
To help get Phillies fans caught up with what happened over the off-season, and prepare for some of the more interesting story lines as the Grapefruit League unfurls, let’s present a little primer to get the ball rolling.

THE LEFTOVERS
And then there were two. With last season’s trades involving Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, only two players remain from the 2008 World Series championship team: 1st baseman Ryan Howard, and catcher Carlos Ruiz.
Both “The Big Piece” and “Chooch” are entering the final guaranteed season’s of their contracts. Fans are likely about to see both in a Phillies uniform for the final times as active big leaguers. 
It should surprise no one to see either or both move along at some point during the season. If you want to say a goodbye, spring training or early in the season will be your best bets.
MARQUEE PLAYERS
The Phillies are sure to build much of their advertising, at least early on this season, around 3rd baseman Maikel Franco, outfielder Odubel Herrera, and pitcher Aaron Nola
They are all young, all likely long-term pieces of the Phillies rebuilding program and future, and all playing in their 2nd big league season.
Thanks to his midseason injury a year ago, Franco still has just 393 plate appearances on the back of his baseball card. He is a 25-30 homer, 85-100 RBI bat waiting to happen, and likely hits in the #3 hole in the batting order for the forseeable future. 
Herrera could end up in either left or center field. He is a high-average bat, but needs to run more to become a true offensive weapon. 
Nola is a natural #2-3 starter, but could be the best the rotation has to offer at this point.
NEW FACES THAT MATTER
Barring injuries, the newcomers that you should familiarize yourself with are starting pitchers Jeremy HellicksonCharlie MortonBrett Oberholtzer, and Vincent Velasquez, reliever David Hernandez, and outfielders Peter Bourjos and Tyler Goeddel.
Hellickson will turn 29 in early April, and is a former AL Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove winner who is assured a rotation spot. 
Also assured a spot is the 32-year old Morton, a veteran of eight big league seasons. Both are righties.
Oberholtzer and Velasquez each came from Houston in the Ken Giles trade. Oberholtzer is the early line favorite for the 5th starter job. 
Velasquez has the talent to start, though many see him as a potential closer one day. If he doesn’t win the 5th starter job, he likely heads to AAA Lehigh Valley. Hernandez could become the new closer. 
Bourjos is a glove-first player who could start in center field. Goeddel was the team’s top selection in the Rule 5 Draft, and could see significant time as the 4th outfielder.
INTERESTING QUESTIONS
There are a couple of potentially interesting situations in the infield. 
Will manager Pete Mackanin go with a strict 1st base platoon of the lefty-swinging Howard and the righty bat of Darin Ruf
All the available evidence says that is what would be best, but it will be Mackanin’s call. Watch both how he uses the two, and how they perform.
At 2nd base, can Darnell Sweeney steal the starting job away from Cesar Hernandez – and does it even really matter?
The outfield should be interesting as well. Herrera, Bourjos, Goeddel, and Aaron Altherr are all good athletes who can potentially form a solid defensive unit, if nothing else. 
Where does Cody Asche fit in, if anywhere? Best bet is that he makes the team as a super utility player, covering some 3rd base and some left field.
The 5th starter battle is most likely to come down to lefties Oberholtzer and Adam Morgan, and righties Velasquez and David Buchanan
The combination of experience, talent, and minor league options favors Oberholtzer, though he could also be used out of the bullpen if one of the others simply flat-out wins the job.
BULLPEN SCRUM
The bullpen should be wide open, aside from Hernandez, who seems a lock and the likely closer to start the season. 
The lefties fighting it out will be Elvis AraujoDaniel StumpfFrank Herrmann, and James Russell
It is likely that two make the final cut – though if Oberholtzer or Morgan end up considered a reliever rather than being sent to AAA, it would make this much more interesting.
Truly anything could happen, any could win a spot with a hot spring.
THE KIDS
The Phillies have granted spring training invitations to some of their top prospects. 
Fans who head down to Clearwater will get to enjoy seeing the TBOH #1 Phillies prospect in shortstop J.P. Crawford and the outfielder who is the club’s #2 prospect in Nick Williams
Also on hand will be a catcher who could very well take over the starting big league job at some point this season in Andrew Knapp, and an ultra-speedy outfielder who is our #9 Phillies prospect at TBOH in Roman Quinn.
On the mound, getting invitations to camp were righthander Jake Thompson who was our TBOH #3 Phillies prospect, Mark Appel who was our #4 Phillies prospect, and Zach Eflin who was our #8 Phillies prospect
While it is a real longshot for any of the youngsters to make the team, they will gain valuable experience to help prepare to begin at AAA, with possible in-season call-ups on the horizon.
WILDCARDS
The Phillies have a handful of non-roster players with big league experience whom they have invited to spring training, who could potentially factor into the mix, either in Philly or with a job at Lehigh Valley and a possible in-season promotion. 
These players include outfielder David Lough, infielder Ryan Jackson, infielder Emmanuel Burriss, and catcher J.P. Arencibia.
FOR REAL?
There is one player who is of the most particular interest to me, and that is sophomore starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff
Is he as good as he pitched after coming over in the Cole Hamels deal from Texas last season? 
Eickhoff enters the spring having been virtually handed a spot in the starting rotation. Few could have seen that coming when the trade was made. I’ll be watching to see if he remains effective this spring.
To some extent it will be the performances and health of these players over the next six weeks that will determine their role with the organization. 
But in a very real way, it will be the judgment of Mackanin and his coaching staff in a number of situations. 
A player might not seem to have statistics to win a role, but the staff may see things in practice and in games that are missed in a box score.
One thing that is certain about the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies: the final page will be fully turned from the old glory days – and man, were they glorious – to a new age of players who will make up the core of what we all hope will be the next glory age. 
The team is still not likely to win this year, but we should begin to see the light at the end of this dark tunnel of losing baseball.