Tag Archives: David Price

Phillies take a flyer on lefty starting pitcher Drew Smyly

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Drew Smyly still has not returned to form after TJ surgery

The Philadelphia Phillies have reached a contract agreement with 30-year-old free agent starting pitcher Drew Smyly, according to numerous reliable sources.

Smyly is expected to step into the club’s starting rotation quickly. That could mean as soon as this weekend in Pittsburgh, though it is unknown exactly how ready he will be to go deep into an outing at this point.
The left-hander pitched in 13 games this season, nine of those as a starter, for the Texas Rangers. He was 1-5 with an 8.42 ERA, 8.05 FIP, and 1.909 WHIP. Smyly allowed 64 hits over 51.1 innings with a 52/34 K:BB ratio.
Those are some ugly numbers. Any casual fan who simply looks at such a “back of the baseball card” line and wonders why this signing is anything to get excited about would be absolutely correct in their reaction. Smyly has a lot to prove, and is certainly not to be considered “the answer” to the Phillies present rotation troubles.
However, what the team has to be hoping is that they will ultimately get more professional, big-league caliber performances from Smyly at the back-end of their rotation than have been delivered by Nick PivettaVince Velasquez and Zach Eflin. Also, with Jake Arrieta battling bone spurs in his pitching elbow, there is no telling how long the veteran will hold up.
Smyly has tasted success in Major League Baseball. A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, he was the second round choice of the Detroit Tigers at 68th overall in the 2010 MLB Draft out of the University of Arkansas.
Smyly broke into the big-leagues with Detroit, appearing as both a starter and reliever in the 2012-14 seasons. He also made 10 appearances out of the bullpen with the Tigers in the 2012-13 postseason, including a pair of appearances in the 2012 World Series against the San Francisco Giants.
Smyly was dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays in a big three-team swap at the 2014 MLB trade deadline. The Tigers landed David Price from Tampa Bay in that deal in what would prove a failed attempt by Detroit to reach a fourth straight ALCS.
With the Rays, Smyly immediately stepped into the starting rotation and was outstanding. He went 3-1 with a 1.70 ERA, allowing just 25 hits over 47.2 innings across seven starts with a 44/11 K:BB ratio, establishing himself at age 25 as key piece of the Rays future.
Unfortunately, left shoulder problems derailed his 2015 season, limiting him to just a dozen starts. Following an outstanding effort at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox on May 5, Smyly was shut down for what was expected to be the remainder of the season. But he was able to return in mid-August to make another nine mostly effective starts.
I just got a lot of shoulder care, rehab, strengthening program,” Smyly said prior to the 2016 season per Bill Chastain for MLB.com. “… I just stuck to that. Tried to get my core strong and focused on making my shoulder as healthy as it can be and just try to come into spring healthy and ready to go.
It was apparent that he had lost something during that 2016 campaign. He made 30 starts, striking out 167 batters and allowing 174 hits over 175.1 innings for the Rays. However, he was hit hard over his last five starts to the tune of a .294 batting average against with a 5.33 ERA during that season-ending stretch.
Smyly would not pitch again in Major League Baseball until this year. In January 2017, Smyly was dealt by the Rays to the Seattle Mariners. He would never pitch in big-league game for Seattle.
After looking good while pitching with the first-ever U.S. team to win the World Baseball Classic early that spring, he was shut down with elbow discomfort. He would ultimately require Tommy John surgery and miss the entirety of the 2017 season.
A free agent at age 29, rather than his hoped-for big career payday, Smyly had to settle for a two-year, $10 million deal from the Chicago Cubs, who took a flyer on his recovery. The lefty would be able to make just one start in the Cubbies minor league system in the 2018 season, and was dealt to Texas last November.
After his less than stellar performances for them, the Rangers gave Smyly his release just over three weeks ago. He had a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, but decided to opt out of that deal. The Phillies believe there are signs pointing to the possibility that there is still something to squeeze out of him.
Per Joe Giglio with NJ.com: “Smyly is generating swings and misses at a high rate. During his stint in Texas, Smyly struck out 52 batters in 51.1 innings. During two Triple-A starts with the Brewers, Smyly racked up 18 strikeouts in 12 innings.

Arrieta will make the start in tonight’s (Friday) series opener at PNC Park against the host Pittsburgh Pirates. Eflin is scheduled to go on Saturday and Velasquez on Sunday.

Mickey Moniak beginning to look like a worthy top draft pick

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Moniak was the top overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft

During their recent half-decade plummet to the bottom of the National League standings, the Philadelphia Phillies found themselves picking at a high position in the annual MLB Amateur Draft on a regular basis.

The Phillies had such a horrendous season in 2015 that their 63-99 record proved to be the worst in all of Major League Baseball. That set the club up with the #1 overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft.
This was going to be far from a slam-dunk selection. Sure, the draft has yielded some true impact players with that first overall pick. Since the turn of the century, that top pick has produced stars in Joe MauerDavid PriceStephen StrasburgBryce HarperGerrit Cole, and  Carlos Correa.
However, there have been as many misses as hits. Players selected #1 overall since the year 2000 also include Bryan Bullington (2002), Delmon Young (2003), Matt Bush (2004), Mark Appel (2013), and Brady Aiken (2014). Some were injury casualties. Some simply never developed as hoped.
Others made an impact, but it would be hard to say that they justified a first overall draft selection: Luke Hochevar (2006) and Tim Beckham (2008) fall into this category.
Even Justin Upton, taken first overall in 2005, has to be considered an overall disappointment when considering he was the top draft pick. Dansby Swanson, the top selection in the 2015 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, is just emerging this year as an impact player after being traded to the Atlanta Braves.
In June of 2016, Matt Klentak was overseeing his first draft as the general manager of the Phillies. Johnny Almaraz was the club’s head of amateur scouting at the time. When MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred stepped to the podium to announce the selection, he called the name of Mickey Moniak, an outfielder from La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, California.
Collectively, we believe Mickey was the best player available in the draft,” said Almaraz at that time, per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “He’s a true centerfielder with incredible offensive ability and the potential to be a perennial All-Star.”
Per Salisbury, a rival talent evaluator also delivered a glowing appraisal of Moniak: “He’s going to hit and hit for average. He’s a good centerfielder. He can run. The question is how many home runs will he hit? If he ends up getting stronger, he could be a corner bat that’s unbelievable. There’s no negative here. It’s a good pick.
Moniak knew that the pressure would be on him, and seemed ready to accept the responsibility. “I am honored by this and I’m excited to prove the Phillies right,” Moniak said in an interview with the MLB Network after the pick was announced.
After passing a physical exam with the team, Moniak inked a contract that paid him a $6.1 million signing bonus. Financially set, it was time to play baseball.
Almaraz doubled down on his assessment of Moniak’s abilities, per Todd Zolecki of MLB.com: “I think you’ll have a Gold Glove center fielder who will hit in the middle of the lineup and be a leader on the team,” Almaraz said.
As an 18-year-old, Moniak was assigned to the Phillies rookie-level team in the Gulf Coast League. He slashed .284/.340/.409 with 16 extra-base hits, 27 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 194 plate appearances across 46 games. It was a solid beginning to his professional career.
Moving up to Low-A Lakewood the following season, however, Moniak struggled mightily. He slashed just .236/.284/.341 in the summer of 2017 and frequently appeared to be over-matched, striking out in more than 20% of his plate appearances.
Still, the organization liked his maturity and believed he was up to another promotion for last season. It didn’t look that way early on, as things started out even more poorly with High-A Clearwater. Over his first 172 plate appearances across 43 games, Moniak slashed just .217/.233/.253, striking out in more than 25% of the time.
Then, something seemed to suddenly click. In his next four straight games, and five of his next six, Moniak produced a multiple-hit effort. He would slash .303/.346/.464 over his final 71 games and 293 plate appearances, with 30 extra-base hits and 41 RBIs. Moniak also cut down his strikeout rate to below the 20% mark over those final two and a half months.
With that performance his confidence grew, and Moniak moved up to Double-A Reading for this 2019 season. He turned just 21-years-old on May 13, and was playing so well that he was named to the Double-A All-Star team.
Unfortunately, a strained hamstring suffered while making a sliding catch in center field on June 30 has put Moniak on the minor league injured list. He will be in Richmond, Virginia for that Double-A All-Star Game on Wednesday night, but his ability to actually participate is questionable.
Moniak was slashing .266/.324/.437 with 32 extra-base hits, 42 runs scored, and nine stolen bases over 314 plate appearances in 75 games. In his last 13 games prior to the injury, he was hitting .318 with a .436 on-base percentage.
While Moniak had become a strikeout victim in 22% of his appearances this year, the now 6’2″, 185-pounder has quite obviously shown the ability to compete at the second-highest level of the minor leagues at more than three years younger than the average player age.
No, Mickey Moniak is still not demonstrating that he will be a difference-making impact player to the levels envisioned by the organization when he was drafted. But neither is he the bust that many were beginning to call him just one year ago.
I think it’s a lot of hard work in the offseason, but it has to do a lot with the past few years,” he said per Jackson Satz of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “The seasons I’ve had, the good, the bad, learning from everything that’s happened to me throughout my professional career so far. Ultimately, that’s going to work for me to become the best player that I can be.
Now, mission one is to recover from the hamstring and get back into action. The Phillies have advanced him in a patient, yet consistent manner. One minor league level at a time. Moniak has continued to develop, gotten bigger and stronger, and it is now finally possible to envision him wearing a Phillies uniform at Citizens Bank Park.
Fans should expect to see him finish the year with Reading, and then move on to Triple-A Lehigh Valley when next season opens. He is likely to spend most of the 2020 season continuing his development. At that point it will be all about performance and production.
It may not yet be time for Phillies fans to get excited about Mickey Moniak. But it is beginning to become possible to see him as a contributor at the big-league level within the next two years. And it remains possible that he could still become the impact player that Almanzar and others believed him to be.
NOTE: Special thanks to Cheryl Purcell for her picture of Moniak at Reading accompanying this piece, and RIP to a truly good boy, Jax: https://jack-jax.com/

Phillies could use another strong starting pitcher, and lefty Patrick Corbin fits the bill perfectly

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(Corbin has spent his first seven big-league seasons with Arizona)

There has been a great deal of warranted commentary regarding the upcoming Major League Baseball “Hot Stove” season here in Philadelphia.

Most of that talk has been understandably centered around the two biggest free agent bats, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
However, there is little denying that if the Phillies want to step up and contend over the next three or four years, they need to add another winning arm to their starting rotation.
Aaron Nola stepped up in 2018 to demonstrate that he can be the young ace for whom the franchise has been searching for a few years. Jake Arrieta was signed as a free agent early in spring training. He played a solid, veteran second-fiddle to Nola for much of this past season.
Behind those two, the trio of Vince VelasquezNick Pivetta, and Zach Eflin received the vast majority of starting pitching opportunities.
The level of major step forward that the club will require in order to successfully battle and overcome their National League East Division rivals next year cannot be expected to come from all three of them progressing.
Luckily for the Phillies there is a starting pitcher available in free agency who would perfectly slot in where needed, as a strong left-handed starting pitching option for their rotation.
During what was his sixth season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Patrick Corbin turned 29-years-old in mid-July. He was originally a second-round draft pick of the Angels back in 2009, and was dealt to Arizona a year later in a trade package for veteran starter Dan Haren.
As he reached his prime years over the last two seasons, Corbin began to show significant progress on the mound. This past year the New York native became a National League All-Star for the second time.
Corbin made 33 starts for the Dbacks, allowing just 162 hits over 200 innings pitched. He produced an outstanding 246/48 K:BB ratio with a 3.15 ERA, 1.050 WHIP, an ERA+ of 137, and an outstanding 2.47 FIP mark
There is no reason that Corbin should not be expected to deliver five strong seasons during his next contract, which would take him through his age 33 campaign. That is the same age Arrieta will turn during spring training next season.
Corbin made $7.5 million this past year and has earned just over $15.5 million during his Major League Baseball career. This will be his big contract opportunity, and it can be expected that his agents at ISE Baseball will be looking to maximize for their client.
David Adler at MLB.com commented just yesterday on Corbin’s repertoire, which is breaking-ball heavy:

“Corbin is slider-dominant…his most-used pitch by more than 10 percent over his sinker…Combining that with his curveball, Corbin threw breaking pitches 50.3 percent of the time this season. Only Clayton Kershaw threw more. They were the only regular starters who threw breaking balls on more than half of their pitches.”

A lefty with a great slider. I think Phillies fans may be familiar with a couple of those types. Do the names Steve Carlton and Cole Hamels ring a bell?
It is possible that Kershaw could opt-out of his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, that would mean giving up $70 million guaranteed dollars over the next two seasons.
If that doesn’t happen, then Corbin likely becomes the most attractive starting pitcher on the free agent market this off-season.
So what kind of deal are we talking? Last year, Yu Darvish got $126 million over six years. Three years ago, David Price landed a seven-year deal worth $217 million.
I would suspect that we would be talking about a six-year contract in the range of $150 million, which would pretty much split those two deals down the middle. However, if Kershaw is off the market and big teams like the Yankees get involved, it might take a seventh year to land Corbin.
I don’t know whether the Phillies are prepared to step up for a starting pitcher at that level. Maybe they would prefer to go cheaper and older, opting for someone like J.A. Happ or Dallas Keuchel.
But if they want a lefty who has a chance to be a difference-maker for a handful of  seasons, Corbin looks like the best option.

Red Sox vanquished in ALDS, but they’ll be back

The Boston Red Sox should contend once again in 2018

The Houston Astros came from behind, scoring twice in the 8th and once in the 9th inning, then held off a last-ditch rally to down the Boston Red Sox by a 5-4 score on Monday afternoon.

The victory advances Houston into the American League Championship Series for the first time since the 2005 postseason. The defeat in front of more than 37,000 mostly disappointed fans at historic Fenway Park sends the host Red Sox home for the winter.

Over the last decade and a half, those Fenway faithful and the team they love have enjoyed the greatest period of sustained success in franchise history. In those last 15 seasons, the Red Sox have reached the postseason nine times, capturing three World Series titles.

But more importantly for the future of the team is that the prospects for long term future success appears to be just as bright as those recent victorious campaigns.

The Red Sox are blessed with one of the most talented group of young players in Major League Baseball. Half of their projected lineup of position players will spend all of the 2018 season at or below 25 years of age.

That core group and their 2018 season age includes shortstop Xander Bogaerts (24), third baseman Rafael Devers (21), left fielder Andrew Benintendi (23), and right fielder Mookie Betts (25) as everyday starters.

Boston will also be starting a 28-year old Jackie Bradley in his prime. Likely to see the bulk of the catching duties, Christian Vazquez will be just 27 years old.

The club has a couple of young wildcards who are likely to help in some way, at some point in the 2018 season. 24-year old Sam Travis could well push for more time at first base. And it could still all click for Boston’s 26-year old former first round draft pick, catcher Blake Swihart.

Bottom line, there are a ton of good, young, talented position players who will be returning to the Red Sox next season. Those players are likely to continue to get better with age and experience.

On the mound, lefties Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz and righty Rick Porcello will all pitch the entirety of next season at age 29. Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will turn just 25 years of age as the season opens.

There will be a group of talented right-handers, all no more than age 30, who will be returning to make up the bulk of the bullpen. These include Matt Barnes (27), Heath Hembree (29), Joe Kelly (29), and 28-year old Carson Smith.

The normally lights-out closer, Craig Kimbrel, will turn 30 years old at the end of May. He is due to become a free agent following the 2018 season, and will be an interesting situation to watch develop.

That young core is likely to continue to be supported by a group of strong veterans, most especially second baseman Dustin Pedroia, DH Hanley Ramirez, and pitcher David Price.

If there is a big question mark, it may be whether or not manager John Farrell will be asked to return following the disappointing playoff defeat. For me, it shouldn’t even be a question. In his five years at the helm in Boston, Farrell has guided the club to a cumulative 432-378 mark. The Red Sox have won three AL East crowns and a World Series under 55-year old. Farrell should definitely be back.

The Boston payroll will continue high, so the opportunity to add high-priced free agents is not likely here. However, there is already plenty of talent. The club is likely to look for little more than a more experienced lefty reliever this off-season. The minor league prospect talent could bring back something to fill any hole that may pop up during the year.

The Boston Red Sox are set to continue their recent string of successful seasons in 2018. Having won three of the last five AL East crowns, they will again be a top contender in the division next year. And with more experience under their belt, the young core should be expected to keep them a leading contender for years to come.

ALDS Prediction: Houston Astros over Boston Red Sox

One ALDS opens this afternoon with Houston hosting Boston

The Division Series open today in the American League, and each series features a strong AL East contender.

I’m picking both of these “beasts of the east” to go down at the hands of what like slightly more talented opponents.

In one ALDS, the Houston Astros, champions of the AL West, will be facing the Boston Red Sox, champs of the AL East. In the other series, the Cleveland Indians, champions of the AL Central and the defending American League champs, will be taking on the wildcard New York Yankees.

Let’s take the Houston-Boston matchup first. The Astros won 101 games during the regular season, running away with the AL West crown by 21 games.

It was the franchise’ first division title since 2001, and puts them into the postseason for the second time in three years. In 2015, Houston was edged out in a five-game ALDS by the eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals.

The Red Sox went 93-69, and held off the Yankees down the stretch to capture their second consecutive division title, their third in five seasons. The Bosox were swept out of the ALDS a year ago by Cleveland.

Left-handers Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz are scheduled to pitch the first two games in Houston for Red Sox skipper John Farrell. Veteran righty Doug Fister is slated to go on Saturday in Game Three back at Fenway Park in Boston.

For the Astros and manager A.J. Hinch, taking the mound will be trade deadline acquisition Justin Verlander in the opener. The veteran righty will be followed by lefty Dallas Keuchel in Game Two at home.

Hinch has not yet announced his starter for Game Three. That choice will likely come down to veteran Charlie Morton or young righty Lance McCullers.

The Red Sox feature one of the most exciting young lineups combos in baseball. That lineup, with ages in parentheses, includes shortstop Xander Bogaerts (25), third baseman Rafael Devers (21 later this month), left fielder Andrew Benintendi (23), center fielder Jackie Bradley (27), and right fielder Mookie Betts (25 in two days.)

Each of those players is likely to contend for AL All-Star berths and league awards for years to come. Their presence virtually assures that Boston will continue to contend into the next decade.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia and DH Hanley Ramirez bring veteran leadership and experience, as well as continued offensive production as they move towards their mid-30’s.

Farrell won’t hesitate to use normal starters David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, or Rick Porcello out of his bullpen, especially in the first couple of games. Joe Kelly, Addison Reed, and lights-out closer Craig Kimbrel, all righties, could allow Farrell to easily go to a “bullpenning” game strategy.

For Houston, the lineup also features a group of dynamic youngsters. Second baseman Jose Altuve (27), shortstop Carlos Correa (23), third baseman Alex Bregman (23), and center fielder George Springer (28) give the Astros their own core group for years to come.

One reason that I like Houston to win this series is their veterans. Catchers Brian McCann and Evan Gattis, DH Carlos Beltran, and outfielder Cameron Maybin are part of a versatile group that has been through the wars.

The Astros also have one of baseball’s top “X-factor” players in Marwin Gonzalez. The 28-year old switch-hitter can literally play every position on the diamond. He played 19 games at third base, 22 at second, 31 at first, and 38 games at shortstop, as well as 47 games in left field.

On the mound, Hinch can turn to righties Brad Peacock, Joe Musgrove, Will Harris, Chris Devenski, Luke Gregerson, and closer Ken Giles. From the left side, former starter Francisco Liriano is his lone option. Also, he may opt to use McCullers out of the pen.

The Astros ran away and hid in their division. This was a team assembled with a deep October run in mind. I think they get at least into the middle of the month. The veteran lineup options make a difference for me in predicting Houston to win in four games.

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