Tag Archives: Drew Smyly

Phillies pitching X factors or non-factors?

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the 2020 Philadelphia Phillies will be able to count on the top two pitchers in their starting rotation to produce results at levels competitive with any in the game.

As the month of May draws to a close and June begins in the coming season, Aaron Nola will turn 27 and Zack Wheeler will turn 30 years of age within a week of one another. The two right-handers are legitimate All-Star caliber talents. So we’ll call them givens in the rotation.

Now, let’s also assume that veteran Jake Arrieta, who turns 34 early in spring training and will be looking to establish his continuing value in what will be the final guaranteed season on his contract produces at a legitimate mid-rotation level. If Arrieta can stay healthy that should be considered a reasonable outcome.

And let’s finally assume that Zach Eflin, who will turn 26 as the regular season gets underway in early April, is ready to emerge as another legitimate mid-rotation option. Four of his final seven starts in 2019 were Quality Start outings, and Eflin went five innings in two of the other three. In those seven starts he registered a 2.83 ERA and .239 Batting Average Against, allowing 37 hits over 41.1 innings. So again, it is a reasonable outcome to expect.

All of that falling perfectly into place would give the Phillies four starting pitchers who would keep them competitive in the majority of their games. Given an average of roughly 33 starts for each of those pitchers over a full, healthy, effective season, that would leave at least another 30 games to be started by other pitchers.

In 2019, not counting ‘bullpen games’, the Phillies gave 36 starts to a group of pitchers who were not members of their rotation when the season began: Drew Smyly (12), Jason Vargas (11), Jerad Eickhoff (10), Cole Irvin (3).

As we approach the start of spring training, general manager Matt Klentak and the Phillies brain trust appear ready to pass on the remaining arms available in free agency and go with what the team has right now at the back of the rotation.

So, what are the possibilities, and what are the probabilities? What can the Phillies reasonably expect to get from any of the current fifth-starter pitching options? I rank them here in order of most likely to produce real value to least likely.

    • Spencer Howard: I released my most recent Phillies top 20 prospects just prior to Christmas, and Howard ranked at #2 on the list. The 23-year-old has just a half-dozen starts at Double-A and is most likely to begin the season back at Reading or with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. I wouldn’t expect him to be ready, or at least for the Phillies to feel he is ready, until at least mid-late May, more likely in June or even in the season’s second half. But he is the most talented arm here, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Howard give the Phillies a dozen or so starts this coming season.
    • Vince Velasquez: Vinnie made 23 starts in 2019 and has made 92 over his four seasons with the Phillies. That experience and his natural talent make him the odds-on favorite to land a rotation spot out of spring training. Now, can he keep it? Over the last three seasons he has cumulative 4.93 ERA, 4.64 FIP, and 1.393 WHIP marks over 336 innings pitched. If those numbers don’t improve early on, the club can no longer wait to move on from Velasquez, who turns 28 in early June, as a starting pitcher.
    • Nick Pivetta: The righty will turn 27 on Valentine’s Day and opened last season filling the fifth starter role. After 13 disastrous starts in which he allowed 78 hits including 16 home runs over 69 innings with a 5.74 ERA and .307 BAbip mark, Pivetta was relegated to the bullpen, never to return to the rotation. His results were no better in relief, as he allowed 25 hits over 24.2 IP across 17 games with a 4.38 ERA and .333 BAbip. There is perhaps no pitcher with more to prove entering the spring, and no pitcher with as wide-ranging a possible outcome. Rotation? Bullpen? Riding buses back in the minor leagues?
    • Cole Irvin: The southpaw turns 26 at the end of January and will still technically be a rookie in 2020 since he pitched in just 41.2 innings with the Phillies last year. In those innings he failed to impress, allowing 45 hits across 16 appearances. He was given three starts in May. The first two were promising. But after he was blown up at Wrigley Field in late May, Irvin was relegated to the bullpen and never given another opportunity in the rotation. In the minors he was used almost exclusively as a starter, going 34-15 with a 3.07 ERA over four seasons. The Phillies infamously have been unable to develop a left-handed starter. It would not be a major upset to see Irvin beat out Velasquez and Pivetta in spring training and earn a role in the rotation to begin the season.
    • Enyel De Los Santos: Despite the fact that he has made appearances with the Phillies in each of the past two seasons, De Los Santos also maintains his official MLB rookie eligibility into 2020 and ranked #8 on my Phillies top 20 prospects list in December. The Phillies have used him in a dozen scattered games including giving him three starting opportunities. The righty turned 25 on Christmas Day and has produced solid results over five minor league seasons. He could become an effective reliever, but also could end up trade bait and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him have a few solid seasons at the back of the rotation for some team in the future.
    • Adonis Medina: Considered for a few years as one of the Phillies’ top pitching prospects, Medina’s star has faded considerably over the last year or so. He still ranked #5 on my list of the club’s top prospects in December, but if I used such symbols it would have been with a downward arrow next to his name. Medina’s ERA has risen in each of the last three years, last season reaching an unacceptable 4.94 mark over 22 games (21 starts.) Also, his strikeouts have plummeted each of the last two seasons while his walk rate is rising. All of the trends are negative at this point. He turned just 24-years-old a month ago, so has time to turn it around. He and Howard will likely be the 1-2 combo at Lehigh Valley at some point in 2020, racing to see who gets the call to Philly first. Right now, odds are that won’t be Medina.
    • Ranger Suarez: A real darkhorse in this race. But as a left-hander with starting experience, Suarez has to be mentioned. Like De Los Santos, he also has made appearances with the Phillies in each of the last two seasons. Unlike De Los Santos, he no longer has rookie eligibility. Suarez pitched in 37 games with the big club in 2019, all out of the bullpen. That was after three of his four appearances in 2018 had been starts. All seven of his Triple-A appearances last year were as a starter, however. Suarez is just 24 years of age. He won’t turn 25 until late August. While he could make the big club out of spring training, the most likely scenario is that he opens the 2020 season back with Lehigh Valley as a starter. But at some point during the season, expect to see him back up to bolster the Phillies bullpen. Any opportunity in the big-league rotation is likely to be short-lived and on an emergency basis, based strictly on the timing of such a Phillies start coinciding with his turn in the Triple-A rotation.

Of course, there is always the wildcard possibility. No, I’m not talking about the playoff berth. I mean the wildcard that another pitcher could be added. Smyly remains available, and at the right price it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the Phillies try to bring him back on a one-year deal.

Also, if the Phillies stand pat with what they have and still manage to contend, the month of July will almost certainly be filled with rumors of trades for some veteran pitchers who are available at that point.

Can any of these organizational pitchers emerge to become a true X factor in the Philadelphia Phillies starting pitching rotation this year? Or will they instead either flip to the bullpen, or in a worse-case scenario for some, become complete non-factors in the 2020 season?

 

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Dwindling free agent pool still includes players to help Phillies

When the off-season began for the ball clubs of Major League Baseball it was my belief that we were in store for a second straight winter of city tours.

At the very least, super agent Scott Boras was going to take the top pitcher, Gerrit Cole, and the top hitter, Anthony Rendon, around the country to a handful of cities for team visits in a repeat of what happened a year ago with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

As we now know, it never happened. This time around, the vast majority of free agents had a good idea where they wanted to play. Negotiations went down fast, with few team visits at all.

The Phillies got involved, as was anticipated. General manager Matt Klentak was able to land two new pieces in shortstop Didi Gregorius and the starting pitcher that everyone knew they needed in Zack Wheeler.

But even with those two additions, the Phillies appear to need a little more. They play in a tough division that includes a two-time defending champion in Atlanta, the defending world champions in Washington, and an improved New York Mets club. All three of those teams finished ahead of the Phillies in 2019.

It appears that Klentak is ready to hold third base for top prospect Alec Bohm, plugging in super-utility guy Scott Kingery for a few weeks until Bohm is deemed fully ready. And it looks as if Klentak wants to see what former first round pick Adam Haseley can do with an everyday opportunity in center field.

If those things are absolutely true, then the Phillies would not be shopping around for any more starting caliber position players. But they still have needs in the bullpen and on the bench, and another starting pitcher, preferably a left-handed veteran, couldn’t hurt.

So, considering those as the Phillies needs and knowing that the free agent market has seriously dried up, are there any players remaining available who could help the club, and who Klentak might actually still consider inking to a deal?

Earlier this week, Hall of Fame scribe Jayson Stark put out what he considered to be an All-Unemployed Team, with each of the players still out there as available free agents:

And just yesterday, former big-league general manager Jim Bowden published a piece for The Athletic on the top remaining free agents. He listed the Phillies as a “best fit” for two of those, third baseman Josh Donaldson and relief pitcher Will Harris.

Donaldson would appear to be a longshot at best. In fact, there is a very real possibility that the slugger will be manning the hot corner and hitting in the middle of the lineup for an NL East rival once again next year. Both the Braves, with whom he played in 2019 on a one-year contract, and the Nationals are considered the front-runners to land the services of the veteran.

Harris is an intriguing possibility. The 35-year-old right-hander is a veteran of eight big-league campaigns. He was a 2016 All-Star, won a World Series ring with the Houston Astros back in 2017, and has been one of baseball’s top relievers over his last five seasons spent in a Houston uniform.

This past year, Harris allowed just 42 hits over 60 innings with 62 strikeouts across 68 appearances. He also has 23 games of postseason experience on his resume.

Other free agents also still remain who at least fit the mold of what the Phillies could use. They include veteran left starters Drew Smyly and Alex Wood and relievers Steve Cishek, Daniel Hudson, Brandon Kintzler, and Hector Rondon.

For bench bats there are players such as Starlin Castro, Brian Dozier, and Ben Zobrist. If the Phillies do consider a move on a position player who could start, center fielder Kevin Pillar might prove to be a nice fit.

At this stage it would appear that shoring up the pitching staff with a veteran back-end starter and at least one veteran bullpen arm are the best bets for possible additions.

However Klentak chooses to fill in his roster over the balance of the off-season, as the calendar flips to 2020 there remain players out there on the market who could help the Phillies in the season to come.  Those names may not be sexy, but every contending team needs key contributing-level players as well.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Should Phillies pursue a top bat over a top starting pitcher?

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Keuchel is a legitimate option if the Phillies choose to, or are forced to, settle below the top-level free agent arms

 

With the ‘Hot Stove’ season now open across Major League Baseball, teams have begun the process of trying to upgrade their roster for the 2020 campaign.

The Philadelphia Phillies are coming off what was a disappointing .500 season in 2019. After a ton of high-profile activity last off-season and a fast start, the club sputtered over the final four months to finish at 81-81.

Most evaluators and fans feel that the biggest shortcoming for the team this past season was the pitching staff. The Phillies failed to get quality outings from their starting pitchers and suffered numerous injuries that depleted their bullpen.

The bullpen could bounce back simply with a return to health by a few of the arms and with a modest free agent signing or prescient trade addition.

But the rotation will be more difficult. There are a pair of ace-caliber pitchers available in Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, and a strong second-tier arm in Zack Wheeler. The Phillies have plenty of money and the incentive to sign any of them.

However, would they actually be smarter to ink a couple of lesser-tier arms, pitchers who do not have a qualifying offer attached, instead spending their big money on another impact bat to fill one of their lineup holes? It’s a legitimate strategy to consider.

If so, which arms could actually improve the rotation and might make the most sense for the club to pursue? And then, what bats might the club be able to add that would significantly upgrade the lineup?

MID-LEVEL ARMS

The Phillies gave 72 combined starts in the 2019 season to a group of pitchers that included Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Jerad Eickhoff, Drew Smyly, Jason Vargas, and Cole Irvin.

The lowest ERA among that group was the 4.45 mark of Smyly, a southpaw who was added as a free agent in mid-July who is now an unrestricted free agent. Each of the others was either near or over the 5.00 mark.

There are a handful of solid starting pitching options available in free agency who do not have qualifying offers attached. They are unrestricted free agents who will not cost anywhere near the price of a Cole or Strasburg contract.

Left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu is an injury risk and will turn 33 years of age at the end of spring training. But he could be had for something like a three-year, $54-million deal. For this year’s NL Cy Young Award runner-up who has top of the rotation talent, it could prove a major bargain. Would the Phillies roll the dice?

The Phillies passed on Dallas Keuchel this past season and then watched him become a difference-maker in the rival Braves rotation as Atlanta pulled away in the standings. The lefty turns 32 on New Year’s Day and might be looking for a five-year deal. But if the former NL Cy Young Award winner who also has four Gold Gloves on his résumé would settle for three years at $15 million per?

There is also, of course, Cole Hamels. The former Phillies ace and World Series hero will turn 37-years-old two days after Christmas. The lefty has publicly stated that he would go on a one-year deal. How about the Phillies take him up on that offer at $15 million with incentives and a club option for 2021?

Adding a pair of left-handers from among the Ryu, Keuchel, Hamels group, depending on the price in dollars and years, would likely end up much more affordable and hang much less of a risk albatross around the Phillies necks as would a Cole or Strasburg deal alone.

TOP POTENTIAL IMPACT BATS

It’s very difficult to evaluate where the Phillies 2020 holes will be, simply because the club hasn’t made up its own mind regarding a number of holdover players.

Decisions on Scott Kingery, Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez, and Adam Haseley in particular will determine not only the answers to a number of questions – but also will actually determine those questions themselves.

So, I will proceed in the way that I see best for the Phillies future. That means Kingery plays second base every day, both Hernandez and Franco are gone, and Haseley becomes a bench player or starts in center field every day at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

What that means is the Phillies have holes to fill in center field and at third base. The center field hole cannot be filled in free agency, at least not by anyone who would be a marked improvement on Haseley.

If the Phillies wish to add a championship caliber center fielder it will have to be done via trade. In past articles, I have advocated for the club going after Boston Red Sox defensive whiz Jackie Bradley Jr.

Whether it would be Bradley or some other target, filling this position with a more proven veteran is something that general manager Matt Klentak needs to make a priority. Klentak needs to find his Garry Maddox for Willie Montanez trade. Phillies fans should well recall that important May 1975 trade with the San Francisco Giants.

However, filling the third base hole can indeed be done through the free agency route. In fact, there are three different players available, all at different commitment levels of years and dollars

Anthony Rendon is the top available hitter. Turning 30-years-old next June, he would likely come at a price tag of $30-35 million over as many as seven years. Rendon would bring elite, Gold Glove-caliber defense and a clutch middle-of-the-order bat to the lineup, but at a premium price that would tie up the position for years.

Josh Donaldson is a former AL MVP who turns 34 in two weeks. He is a proven middle order hitter who remains a top glove man at the hot corner. Donaldson played on a one-year deal this past season in Atlanta. It will likely cost a three-year, $75 million commitment this time around.

A third option at third base would be 31-year-old Mike Moustakas. He is nowhere near the caliber of defender at the hot corner as the first two, and is not as reliable a hitter or run producer either. However, at a notch below both Rendon and Donaldson he would also come cheaper. He might even go for a one-year deal at $10-12 million, allowing the Phillies to remain committed to Alec Bohm over the longer term.

 

Even if he can successfully fill the holes in center field and at third base, as well as add two more veteran starting pitchers, Klentak still has more work to do this off-season. He needs to add a couple of better veteran bench options, as well as perhaps adding another strong reliever. Get all that accomplished and the Philadelphia Phillies are legitimate 2020 postseason contenders.

 

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Phillies and White Sox set to battle in Sunday Interleague series finale

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Citizens Bank Park will be the scene of Interleague action on Sunday

The Philadelphia Phillies (58-52) held on for a 3-2 victory over the visiting Chicago White Sox (47-61) on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park.

With that win, the Phillies moved back into a tie with their NL East Division rivals, the Washington Nationals, for the second National League Wildcard spot.
The Phillies and Nationals are each six games behind the Atlanta Braves in the loss column in the race for the NL East Division crown.
Beating teams like the White Sox is imperative to any hope that the Phillies might have of ending their eight-year stretch of missing the playoffs.
The Chisox are one of the half-dozen worst teams in the game, both by record and by any statistical evaluation. Picking up a victory on Sunday would give the Phillies two of three here, winning the series. That is the minimum they must accomplish against losing teams. So, that makes this afternoon’s contest of great importance to the home squad.

SUNDAY STARTING LINEUPS

PHILLIES

  1. Corey Dickerson LF
  2. Jean Segura SS
  3. Bryce Harper RF
  4. Rhys Hoskins 1B
  5. J.T. Realmuto C
  6. Cesar Hernandez 2B
  7. Scott Kingery 3B
  8. Drew Smyly P
  9. Roman Quinn CF

WHITE SOX

  1. Leury Garcia CF
  2. Tim Anderson SS
  3. Jose Abreu 1B
  4. Jon Jay RF
  5. Eloy Jimenez LF
  6. Ryan Goins 3B
  7. James McCann C
  8. Yolmer Sanchez 2B
  9. Reynaldo Lopez P

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP

Phillies – Drew Smyly: 1-0, 0.69 ERA, 1.91 FIP, 0.846 WHIP, 8 hits over 13 IP across two starts with a 13/3 K:BB
White Sox – Reynaldo Lopez: 5-9, 5.43 ERA, 5.10 FIP, 1.464 WHIP, 136 hits over 124.1 IP across 22 starts with a 117/46 K:BB

PHILLIES NUGGETS PREGAME NOTES

  • The Phillies will honor the 2009 National League Champions with a reunion this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.
  • Phillies enter play today with a 24-13 record during day baseball and their .649 winning percentage in the afternoon ranks 2nd among all National League clubs and 4th in the majors.
  • Since the start of the 2018 season, the Phillies are 20-12 in Interleague play and their .625 winning percentage is T-3rd-best in MLB.
  • Phillies are 50-13 this season when they score at least four runs in a game and their .794 winning % when doing so is 2nd-best in the National League and 5th in the majors. The club’s .794 winning % when scoring four or more would be their highest in a single season since 2011 when they went 72-13.
  • Realmuto currently ranks 11th among all National League position players with 3.3 WAR this season (Fangraphs). The Phillies have not had a position player finish in the top 10 in the NL in WAR since 2011 when Shane Victorino posted a 5.6 WAR in 132 games. In 27 games since June 29, Realmuto is slashing .308/.330/.529 with 17 R, 13 XBH (8 2B, 5 HR) and 19 RBI.
  • The Phillies demoted third baseman Maikel Franco to Triple-A Lehigh Valley prior to today’s game. The presumption is that Scott Kingery will play the position for most of the rest of the season. Adam Haseley will rotation in the outfield with Quinn and Dickerson, as well as Jay Bruce once he is healthy.

TICKET IQ PROGRAMMING INFORMATION

 

How Phillies GM Matt Klentak channeled "Hoosiers" at the trade deadline

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In the classic 1986 film “Hoosiers”, Gene Hackman stars as basketball coach Norman Dale, who takes the reigns of a rural Indiana high school team in the early-1950’s.

Hackman/Dale is an old-school coach, even for those long-ago days. He uses a number of tough-love methods, trying to mold his team into a winner despite a highly skeptical and passionate fan base in the local community.
In one such incident, Dale’s Hickory High School team begins a game with just six players. He benches one for disobeying his rules, and when another player fouls out, Dale refuses to allow the benched player to take the floor.
The referee approaches and says “Coach, ya need one more,‘ to which Dale replies “My team’s on the floor.
In this analogy, Phillies fans are the referee. Matt Klentak is Norman Dale.
Sure, leading up to Wednesday’s MLB trade deadline, Klentak had added lefties Drew Smyly and Jason Vargas, bumping both Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin to the bullpen.
But Phillies fans wanted more. They wanted a co-ace to pair with Aaron Nola at the top of the rotation. Or at the very least, someone who would slot in as a legitimately talented, proven #2-type starting pitcher behind the right-hander.
Those Phillies fans wanted someone such as Zack GreinkeMadison BumgarnerRobbie Ray or Alex Wood.
And so, on trade deadline day, the fan base sat staring at their laptops, pads and phone screens thinking “Ya need one more.
But there would be no new ace added to the Phillies starting rotation on this day. And since are no longer waiver trades allowed during the month of August, there will be no new aces at all during the 2019 season.
Matt Gelb of The Athletic tweeted out that, in summary, Klentak’s position was that “We can’t trade our best prospects all the time. We weren’t willing to meet prices on better players.

 

 

Matt Klentak, summarized: We’ve been adding for the last two months. We can’t trade our best prospects all the time. We weren’t willing to meet prices on better players. Dickerson has a groin injury and will be “eased” into action.

 

 

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In other words, Klentak answered those Phillies fans as Dale answered the referee: “My team’s on the floor.
It remains to be seen what will happen over the final 8 1/2 week of the regular season. The Phillies rotation is certainly deeper, has more experienced arms in it, and now has a pair of southpaws. But will that be enough to help push the club to the postseason for the first time in eight years?
Dale’s methods worked. His team won the Indiana state high school basketball championship in the film, which was inspired by the real-life Milan High School team which had won the 1954 Indiana state basketball championship.
But Dale won thanks not only to his methods, but also to the return and excellence of a genuine great player to the team. Will any such player step up, stand out, and lead these Phillies to the promised land? Or at least into October baseball?