Tag Archives: Deivy Grullon

NL East Division position comparison: bench reserves

My look around the National League East Division with a position-by-position evaluation and ranking for each club comes to an end today where position players are concerned.

The Philadephia Phillies fared well at catcher, where they had the top player, and in both center field and in right field, where the projected starter finished second. The Phillies came out at third in the division at each of first basesecond baseshortstopthird base, and in left field.

The defending World Series champion Washington Nationals had the top-ranked player at shortstop as well as in left field and center field. The two-time defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves came out on top at first base, second base, and in right field. And the top player at third base came from the New York Mets.

Today it’s time to take a look at each team’s projected reserve players. The backups and pinch-hitters are going to play a pivotal role in each club’s ultimate success or failure. That is especially so with those who are actually more like platoon starters, or who end up seeing significant playing time due to injuries during the season.

Not only as spring training unfolds, but also during the course of the season, these groups of reserve players will surely change. Unexpected players will win jobs in in the Grapefruit League. Teams may still sign a veteran free agent or two in order to bolster their bench. Top prospects will be called up by their respective clubs, relegating a few players who open the season in a starting lineup to the bench.

Over this weekend the process of evaluating each team will wrap with a look at the starting pitching options on Saturday and then the bullpen arms on Sunday. Finally, I’ll examine and rank the managers as we open a new week.

Once the process is complete,  fans should have a better idea as we begin the month of February as to exactly where their favorite team in the division stands as spring training opens. Pitchers and catchers report on February 11 to Clearwater, Florida for the highly anticipated opening of Phillies spring training.

NL EAST – 2020 BENCH / RESERVE RANKINGS

1) Washington Nationals: The final makeup of the starting infield for the defending world champions is very much in flux as they enter spring training. Howie Kendrick, Starlin Castro, and Asdrubal Cabrera are each in the mix at both second and third base. That trio of veterans will be trying to hold off top prospect Carter Kieboom. A pair of veterans in franchise icon Ryan Zimmerman and newcomer Eric Thames should man first base. Backing up their talented starting outfielders are Michael A. Taylor and Andrew Stevenson, while Wilmer Difo offers another infield option. And the Nats also have an enviable catching tandem in Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes. Whomever skipper Dave Martinez decides to use in his starting lineup on a given day, he will likely have the best bench group in the division as substitute and pinch-hitting options.

2) Philadelphia Phillies: About the only thing we can say for sure about the Phillies bench group is that, given health, Jay Bruce and Roman Quinn will make the squad in the outfield, with Nick Williams as another possibility. On the infield, super-utility player Scott Kingery will likely open the season as the starter at third base. However, once top prospect Alec Bohm is ready, Kingery could bolster the bench by returning to that super-sub role. Behind the plate, Andrew Knapp will be trying to hold off Deivy Grullon for the backup job. The Phillies have a number of solid non-roster invitees coming to spring training, any of whom could make the team. That group includes infielders Josh Harrison, Neil Walker, and Phil Gosselin among others. Veterans Matt Szczur, Mikie Mahtook, and Nick Martini will be among the newcomers trying to force their way into the outfield mix. New skipper Joe Girardi has one of the most wide-open bench battles entering the spring, but it’s a talented, veteran group. He will sort it all out during March and as the season moves along, but it’s almost certain to end up as a much more talented group of subs and pinch-hitters than Phillies squads of the last few years.

3) Atlanta Braves: The two-time defending division champion Braves may have the most talented starting lineup in the NL East entering spring training. If they can improve themselves at third base, that will be a certainty. In the outfield, much will depend on whether Ender Inciarte is healthy and starts in center field. Assuming that is the case, it relegates Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall to bench roles. Tyler Flowers and Travis d’Arnaud give the Braves a strong catching tandem. Young Austin Riley could win the starting job at third base, but Johan Camargo enters spring with the job. One of them will be a reserve, as will Adeiny Hechavarria and Yangervis Solarte on the infield. Outfielders Shane Robinson and Charlie Culberson will be among the veteran non-roster invitees trying to make the team. During the season, either of top prospect outfielders Drew Waters or Cristian Pache could push to the big-leagues. That would make Inciarte a member of the bench as well.

4) New York Mets: If the long-shot possibility of Yoenis Cespedes returning to the starting left field job pans out in spring, that likely pushes J.D. Davis to the bench. That is, unless new manager Luis Rojas decides to give him the starting job at third base, moving Jeff McNeil to second. Should that happen it would make high-priced veteran Robinson Cano a member of the bench brigade. Dominic Smith should provide depth in left field and at first base, with veteran Jed Lowrie as an infield reserve and Jake Marisnick the same in the outfield. Tomas Nido is likely to serve as the backup catcher.

5) Miami Marlins: A big question with Miami will be where does Brian Anderson play most of his innings? He could be the right fielder or third baseman…or split time at both. Jonathan Villar probably starts at either second or third, leaving Isan Diaz and Jon Berti as infield reserves. Garrett Cooper will likely serve as a backup at first base and on the corner outfield spots. Harold Ramirez should see plenty of time as a backup across all three outfield spots. Veteran Francisco Cervelli was signed to serve as the backup catcher. With a team as young as the Fish, a number of prospects could push their way to the big-leagues at any point, further muddying the bench mix for skipper Don Mattingly to sort out.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

NL East Division position comparison: catcher

My position-by-position evaluation of the National League East Division teams moves behind the plate today after covering the full infield over this past week.

The Philadelphia Phillies projected starter was ranked third in the division at each of first base, second base, shortstop, and third base. That is not the case at catcher. The man who is arguably the best backstop in all of baseball plays his home games at Citizens Bank Park.

Even though the Phillies catcher is indeed among the cream of the crop in the game today, the other four teams are not weak behind the dish. Despite the fact that two of the top contenders for the division crown are likely to go with a platoon situation, catcher is generally a position of strength in the division.

Over the next week I’ll begin to work across the outfield from left to right. That will be followed by separate pieces covering each club’s projected starting pitching rotation, their benches, bullpens, and finally the managers.

Once this evaluation process is complete, fans should have a better idea of where the teams in the division actually stand. Pitchers and catchers are due to begin reporting to Clearwater, Florida for Phillies spring training on February 11.

Let’s take a look now at what is easily the single most volatile, unpredictable position in the division for the upcoming 2020 campaign.

NL EAST – 2020 CATCHER RANKINGS

1) J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies: Depending on who is doing the evaluating, Realmuto is either the best or second-best overall catcher in the game today, with Yasmani Grandal of the Chicago White Sox at times rated above him. Turning 29-years-old in the middle of spring training, Realmuto has been an NL All-Star in each of the last two seasons. In his first year in a Phillies uniform, Realmuto was awarded his second straight Silver Slugger Award and his first career Gold Glove Award. He slashed .275/.328/.493 with 25 homers, 36 doubles, 83 RBIs, and 92 runs scored. The big question for the Phillies is whether or not general manager Matt Klentak can get Realmuto to sign a long-term contract. He is due to become a free agent following the upcoming 2020 campaign. There is a big drop-off, especially offensively, when backup Andrew Knapp gives Realmuto a break. But the 28-year-old Knapp is at least competent defensively and has a good rapport with the pitching staff. It is possible that Deivy Grullon, who turns 24 in mid-February, could beat out Knapp for the backup spot in spring training or pass him during the season at some point.

2) Wilson Ramos, New York Mets: The 31-year-old Ramos signed as a free agent with the Mets in December 2018 after ending the prior season in a Phillies uniform. He produced a solid offensive year in New York, slashing .288/.351/.416 with 14 homers and 73 RBIs. Ramos has plenty of experience in the division, having been the starter in Washington for most of the 2011-16 seasons. He won a Silver Slugger and was an NL All-Star in his final year with the Nationals before moving on to Tampa Bay, where he became a 2018 AL All-Star. Ramos is guaranteed $10.25 million this year and the Mets hold a $10 million option for the 2021 season. The backup will likely be Tomas Nido, who turns 26 in mid-April. The drop-off from Ramos to Nido is similar to the Phillies situation with Realmuto and Knapp.

3) Kurt Suzuki / Yan Gomes, Washington Nationals: Gomes just might be the second-best defensive catcher to Realmuto within the division. He turns 33 in the middle of July and will be appearing in his ninth big-league season. Suzuki is a 36-year-old who will be playing in his 14th season. The two combined for 29 homers and 106 RBIs, and each now has a ton of postseason experience to draw on after splitting time behind the plate as the Nationals won the first World Series crown in franchise history in 2019.

4) Tyler Flowers / Travis d’Arnaud, Atlanta Braves: A year ago, Atlanta won their second consecutive NL East Division crown using Flowers and veteran Brian McCann as a fairly strict right-left hitting platoon at catcher. McCann chose to retire after the season. Flowers, who turned 34 just days ago, will return for his 12th big-league campaign. Atlanta signed former Phillies farm hand and Mets catcher d’Arnaud as a free agent and he is expected to see significant playing time at age 31. The two catchers combined numbers a year ago add up to 27 homers and 103 RBIs over 661 plate appearances.

5) Jorge Alfaro, Miami Marlins: Traded by the Phillies to the Fish last February as one of the keys in the deal to bring Realmuto to Philly, Alfaro turns 27 in mid-June. He slashed .262/.312/.425 with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs his first year in a Marlins uniform. Alfaro possesses a cannon for an arm behind the plate, but otherwise will never be more than just passable defensively. With a young team building from within, and with Alfaro inexpensively under club control for another four years, he is likely to become a fixture behind the plate in Miami, and thus within the division. Veteran Francisco Cervelli, who turns 34 during spring training and will be appearing in his 13th season, was signed as a free agent to provide the Marlins with an experienced backup.

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Philadelphia Phillies top 20 prospects winter 2020 update

Embed from Getty Images

Alec Bohm should arrive at some point in 2020 to take over the hot corner at Citizens Bank Park

 

Where minor league prospects are concerned, the Philadelphia Phillies system is extremely top-heavy at the moment. That is, at least as far as any who anyone could reasonably forecast as likely to make a real impact on the ball club in the near future.

Fortunately for the Phillies, their top two prospects appear to be extremely talented. Both should slip right into positions of need, and both should see action at Citizens Bank Park at some point in the 2020 season.

Beyond that it truly becomes a crapshoot. There are a couple more players who could come quickly, but whose ceilings are not as obviously high. And there are a number of others with talent, but who will require more developmental time before we can even begin to make real assessments as to their potential impact on the big-league club.

In putting together this list, I utilized my own knowledge based on following the minor leagues closely and on personal observations. One note on my thought process. Unless a younger prospect is so obviously talented as to warrant a bump due to their gifts, I tend to respect actual performance against more advanced competition at the higher levels of the minors over “toolsy” kids in the lower levels.

In addition to my own thoughts, I also gleaned the published opinions of a number of reliable and respected sources, including Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, Baseball Prospectus and a few others who more intimately follow the Phillies on a regular basis.

The following represents the Philadelphia Phillies top 20 prospects list as I see them here on the first day of winter. They are shown with their most likely position at this time, and the age at which they will play most of the 2020 season.

I am providing writeups on the top ten and then a simple ranking of the next ten. I’ll be updating this list at some point in the spring, probably around April or May of 2020.

  1. Alec Bohm, 3B (23): I juggled Bohm and Howard in my mind for awhile when considering this list. Bohm’s solid play as the starting third baseman for Team USA in the Premier 12 tournament in which he homered, doubled three times, and played a solid third base pushed him to the front. The Omaha, Nebraska native was the Phillies first round choice at third overall in the 2018 MLB Draft out of Wichita State University. He has slashed .293/.368/.474 in two minor league seasons, advancing to Double-A Reading by the end of summer 2019. His scouting report at MLB.com tells the tale of why he is so highly touted: “Bohm has the potential to hit for average as well as power at the highest level. He has strength and excellent bat speed to go along with excellent strike zone control. As a result, he can draw walks and doesn’t strike out much, especially for someone who can generate plus raw power.” In his own report back in August, Matt Winkelman of Phillies Minor Thoughts tells the tale of why some still have slight reservations on Bohm’s ceiling: “The real remaining question facing Bohm is where he will play defensively. He has improved at third base, but his actions still aren’t great and he profiles as below average there. Long term he probably moves off the position and tries an outfield corner before moving to first base.” Unless the Phillies make a late push to sign free agent Josh Donaldson or swing a deal for either Kris Bryant or Nolan Arenado, all unlikely, Bohm will get every chance to be their starter at the hot corner at some point in 2020, and probably for years to come.
  2. Spencer Howard, RHP (23): The Phillies brought Aaron Nola to the big-leagues in recent years and he has developed into an ace-caliber starting pitcher. A year ago at this time, Sixto Sanchez was the club’s top prospect and also viewed as a future ace before being dealt to Miami in the J.T. Realmuto trade. Howard now takes up the mantle as the Phillies top pitching prospect and is beginning to gain similar predictions of eventual stardom. Howard lost a little more than a month in 2019 due to a shoulder injury. He returned by early July and as Baseball Prospectus reported “the Phillies made sure he got plenty of innings in Double-A and the AFL to close the gap.” While he can be inconsistent with his breaking balls at times, Howard’s overall numbers are exciting. In three minor league seasons he has allowed 166 hits over 211.1 innings across 47 starts with a 281/74 K:BB ratio, a 3.28 ERA, and a 1.136 WHIP mark. Baseball America’s scouting report on his potential reads “Other than his stint on the IL with shoulder stiffness, there were few blemishes in Howard’s outstanding 2019 season. He has taken massive strides in his two and a half seasons as a pro and now profiles as a potential No. 2 starter. He could be ready to pitch in Philadelphia by the second half of the 2020 season.” He reached Double-A Reading for a half-dozen starts at the end of 2019. Howard will start at Triple-A Lehigh Valley and, if he stays healthy and continues to dominate, will be up when there is an opening in the Phillies rotation.
  3. Bryson Stott, SS (22): The Phillies first-round choice at 14th overall in the 2019 MLB Draft out of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. His MLB.com report includes “Nearly all of Stott’s tools grade out as at least above-average. He has the chance to be a plus hitter, with very advanced bat-to-ball skills.” Baseball America says “Stott has few clear weaknesses, but also few standout tools.” Some question whether he can stay at shortstop and he may eventually have to slide to second or third base, depending on both his own development and the Phillies future needs. It is likely that he stays at shortstop while rising through the minors over the next couple of seasons.
  4. Francisco Morales, RHP (20): Signed out of Venezuela in 2016 as a 16-year-old, Morales was rated by Baseball America as the top available international free agent that summer. The tall righty has lived up to the hype and could top this list by next off-season. At Low-A Lakewood this past summer, Morales allowed 82 hits over 96.2 innings across 27 games, 15 of those as starts, with a 129/46 K:BB ratio. The MLB.com writeup reflects how most feel at this point: “The raw stuff is all there, but it’s still very much about projection for the big right-hander.” I happen to be bullish on him. He’ll pitch at High-A Clearwater in 2020 with a shot at Double-A Reading if he stays healthy, shows consistency, and continues to produce.
  5. Adonis Medina, RHP (23): A year or two ago, many saw Medina as just slightly behind Sanchez on the Phillies pitching prospect pecking order. He seemed destined for at least a mid-rotation role. Now that is a little cloudier. Winkelman summed it up well: “Medina’s secondary pitches have not taken a step forward and still lack consistency and bite. At his best, Medina will show three plus pitches and look like a mid rotation starter, but there are a lot of times where he is pitching below that.” Medina’s ERA has risen from 2.92 at short-season Williamsport in 2016 to 3.01 with Low-A Lakewood in 2017 to 4.12 at High-A Clearwater in 2018 and most recently to 4.94 with Double-A Reading this past summer. His strikeout totals have dropped each of the last two seasons. His age and experience say that he will pitch at Triple-A Lehigh Valley at some point in 2020, perhaps from the start of the season. His performance and health there will go a long way towards determining his ultimate long-term role. Or he could be used as part of a trade package.
  6.  Mickey Moniak, CF (22): The top overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft out of a California high school, Moniak has been slow to live up to the status of a first overall draftee. While it’s hard at this point to see him ever being impactful enough to justify that lofty selection, his production over the last two summers is giving hope that he can find a big-league role at some point. In just 39 more plate appearances, Moniak increased his extra-base production from 36 in 2018 to 52 in 2019. He more than doubled his home run total from five to 11, and increased his stolen base numbers from six to 15. Moniak has proven to be an excellent outfield defender to this point. He should play at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2020, and could be ready for a backup role with the Phillies by 2021. With continued progress he looks like a future big-league fourth outfielder who can serve as a solid backup at all three positions.
  7. Luis Garcia, SS (19): I hate, hate, hate ranking teenagers who have not flashed much of their projected offensive potential this high. But when everyone else is as bullish as they are on Garcia, I’ll yield to that input. MLB.com says “It’s easy to see Garcia becoming the best prospect in the system in the future and eventually be thought of as one of the top shortstop prospects in the game.” That sounds pretty exciting, no? Baseball Prospectus evaluates him in this way: “We don’t know if he can hit yet. It’s likely to be a few years before we know. He’s very, very far away. Yet even if it takes a half-decade to sort everything out, he’ll only be 23 during the 2024 season.” After a poor 2019 season in which he slashed just .186/.261/.255 over 524 plate appearances as an 18-year-old at Low-A Lakewood, I need to see Garcia begin to produce some offense in order to move him up the list in the future.
  8. Enyel De Los Santos, RHP (24): Now this is more like it for my tastes. An arm who is ready to help the big-league club right now. The issue is, what is the best role for De Los Santos, and what is his ceiling? He signed with the Seattle Mariners as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic back in 2014. He was dealt to the San Diego Padres in November 2015 for veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit, then to the Phillies two years later for shortstop Freddy Galvis. He has been solid at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in each of the last two seasons, but showed mixed results in a series of cameos with the Phillies. Unless he is included as part of a trade package, expect De Los Santos to compete for a bullpen role in spring training. His MLB rookie status still intact, De Los Santos could end up right back in the IronPigs 2020 rotation, waiting for another shot to help out in Philly when needed.
  9. Damon Jones, LHP (25): I’m as big a fan of tall, hard-throwing southpaws as you are likely to find, and that description fits Jones to a T. The Phillies grabbed him in the 17th round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of Washington State. In 2019, Jones rose through three levels of the minors, allowing 74 hits over 114.1 innings across 23 starts with a 152/59 K:BB ratio. He is almost certainly headed for a bullpen role in the big-leagues, and could fill such a role with the Phillies at some point this season. In fact, don’t be surprised if he emerges as soon as spring training and challenges for an Opening Day roster spot. While there is the potential for Mitch Williams-caliber wildness, he appears to have a bit more control than The Wild Thing. I like this guy. He could end up helping the pen for years to come.
  10. Cristopher Sanchez, LHP (23): Hey, a newbie! And a birthday present for me as well. The Phillies acquired Sanchez on my November 20 birthday this year from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for minor league infielder Curtis Mead. The Rays had signed him as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic back in 2013. Like Jones just ahead of him on this list, Sanchez is a tall southpaw, though not with quite as big a fastball. Baseball Prospectus writes “The fastball is plus at 92-94, the slider is firm with tilt, and the change has a chance to be plus with quality separation from his heater and big sink. Tampa Bay had too many quality prospects to protect everyone in December’s Rule 5 draft, so they dealt Sanchez to the Phillies who had the 40-man space to protect this intriguing arm.” He reached Triple-A Durham in Tampa’s system last year, and will be another intriguing option who likely opens with the IronPigs but will be ready to help the Phillies if needed in 2020.
  11. Rafael Marchan, C (21)
  12. Simon Muzziotti, CF (21)
  13. Nick Maton, SS (23)
  14. Johan Rojas, OF (19)
  15. JoJo Romero, LHP (23)
  16. Erik Miller, LHP (22)
  17. Starlyn Castillo, RHP (18)
  18. Connor Seabold, RHP (24)
  19. Jhailyn Ortiz, 1B (21)
  20. Kyle Dohy, LHP (23)

Could make the next list: Jamari Baylor, SS (19)

Others like him more: Deivy Grullon, C (24)

I just don’t get it: Arquimedes Gamboa, SS (22)

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT: