Tag Archives: J.P. Crawford

For a second straight series a top opposition prospect bat debuts against the Phillies

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Brendan Rodgers was the third overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft

For the second straight series, Citizens Bank Park has been part of the introductory process to Major League Baseball for the top prospect of the Philadelphia Phillies opposition.

Earlier in the week, top Milwaukee Brewers prospect Keston Hiura made his big-league debut. The 22-year-old second baseman was the Brewers’ first round selection at ninth overall in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of California-Irvine.
Hiura went just 2-12 over his first three games, with both hits coming in his first start on Tuesday night. But all the California native has ever done is hit, wherever he has played. He was tearing up the Triple-A Pacific Coast League to the tune of a .333/.408/.698 slash line with 11 homers, 24 extra-base hits, 26 RBIs, and 23 runs scored prior to his promotion.
Last night in South Philly it was the visiting Colorado Rockies turn to break in their top prospect. Like Hiura, Brendan Rodgers is also an infielder who was their first round choice, going at third overall in the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft out of a Florida high school.
Also like Hiura, Rodgers had been tearing his way through the Pacific Coast League when he got the call. He was slashing .356/.421/.644 at Albuquerque with 20 extra-base hits, nine homers, 21 RBIs, and 34 runs scored.

Rodgers made his big-league debut with the Rockies on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park. (David B. King)
A natural shortstop, Rodgers is expected to play mostly second base in Colorado, the position at which he debuted last night. That is due to the presence of All-Star shortstop Trevor Story already in the lineup for manager Bud Black.
Watching talented young hitters such as this make their entry into the big-leagues, Phillies fans have begun to wonder, where is ours? When will a legitimate top young hitter again come out of the Phillies minor league system and establish himself as a force in Major League Baseball?
In recent years we have seen just one. Rhys Hoskins was 24-years-old when he debuted in August 2017. Since that time, Hoskins has developed into a legitimate star. He is the cleanup hitter for a first-place Phillies team, leading the club with 11 home runs, 36 RBIs, and 21 extra-base hits while slashing .273/396/.558 against big-league pitching.
The last great Phillies team developed a host of home-grown talents who would eventually grow into a World Series championship team. That group included a position-player core made up of Jimmy RollinsChase UtleyRyan Howard, and Carlos Ruiz.
The Phillies have become a contender this year in large part thanks to the front office going out and obtaining talented, proven veterans who became stars in other organizations such as Bryce HarperAndrew McCutchenJean SeguraJ.T. Realmuto, and Jake Arrieta.
Getting the next young, talented, home-grown hitter into the Phillies lineup as a legitimate force, ala Hoskins, would be huge for this team. It would add impact talent at a minimal cost for years to come. But does the organization have such a player nearly ready to contribute?
In five of the last six drafts, the Phillies have selected a hitter. The lone exception was the one player who has already impacted the team, pitcher Aaron Nola, who was taken at seventh overall in the 2014 draft process.
Former top prospect J.P. Crawford played in 78 games with the Phillies over parts of the 2017-18 seasons. (Ian D’Andrea)
None of the five hitters chosen has made a true impact with the Phillies as yet. Shortstop J.P. Crawford was taken at 16th overall in 2013. He was the club’s top prospect for a number of years but never impressed, finally being dealt away to Seattle this past winter as part of the deal to bring in Segura.
Three of the others were outfielders chose among the top ten players in the draft. Cornelius Randolph (10th overall 2015), Mickey Moniak (1st overall – 2016) and Adam Haseley (8th overall – 2018) are all still trying to establish themselves in the minor leagues. None appears close to pushing their way into the Phillies plans at this point.
However, that next great, young Phillies hitter may indeed be out there on the not-too-distant horizon. Last year’s top draft pick, 22-year-old third baseman Alec Bohm, is tearing up the lower levels of the minor leagues.
Bohm is slashing .343/.405/.552 across Low-A Lakewood and High-A Clearwater so far this spring. He has 19 extra-base hits and 23 runs scored and is the consensus top prospect in the organization.
The Phillies were never really worried about Bohm’s ability to hit. The more important concern has been whether or not the big 6’5″ masher could remain at the hot corner as he developed. While he may never be a Gold Glover, he appears to be progressing well on defense.
Organizational infield coordinator Chris Truby made the following observations back in November per Jim Salisbury for Baseball America:
Alec has an awesome mentality. He wants to be a third baseman…he came in with a little chip on his shoulder to prove to people that he could be a third baseman and he’s putting in the work and time and doing everything in his power to make that happen. I don’t know that he’s ever taken defense as seriously as he is now. He has made tremendous strides since Day One to the end of instructional league. We all know and see he’s going to hit. He’s taking this defense thing personally. He wants to be a total player.
He’s moving better laterally and he’s quicker over there,” said Charlie Manuel, the manager of that 2008 Phillies championship team, per Salisbury.
Bohm is the same age as Hiura and Rodgers, which is not to say that he needs to get to Philadelphia this year. However, if he continues to rake at his current levels and is playing solid defense, there is no reason that fans of the Double-A Reading club shouldn’t expect to see him this summer.
Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez, two stalwarts of the losing years over the last handful of seasons with the Phillies, are squarely on notice. Bohm with Franco and Scott Kingery with Hernandez are clearly developing into the future of the third and second base positions with the team.
That is who you are most likely to find becoming the next impact young hitters in the Phillies lineup. Kingery should be able to force his way out of his current super-utility role and into the starting lineup by 2020 at the latest. And Bohm will be right behind him, likely making his big-league debut some time next season.

For three decades the Phillies have largely been unable to develop a top prospect

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Pat Burrell has been the Phillies best high draftee to develop into a top prospect

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece on the current standing of the Phillies best minor league players on recently released top prospect lists. For nearly three decades, one of the most respected of the resources tracking and producing such lists has been Baseball America.

The same day as my Phillies Nation article was released, Baseball America was publishing their own piece on the history of their top prospect coverage. Specifically, the BA staff was re-visiting every prospect ranked either #1 or #2 on their annual Top 100 Prospects list.
Before even bothering to look down the entire list, which covered every top prospect and runner-up since 1990, a thought popped into my head – have the Phillies ever had someone finish in either spot? I follow the prospect game pretty closely and couldn’t recall the team ever having a prospect ranked that highly.
Sure enough, the list revealed that no Phillies prospect has been ranked as the best in all of baseball on the annual Top 100 list. Only one of the club’s prospects has ever found themselves in the #2 spot. That would be Pat Burrell back in 2000.

A look around the National League East Division reveals that the Atlanta Braves have seen five of their prospects ranked as the best in the game: Steve Avery (1990), Chipper Jones (93), Andruw Jones (96-97), Jason Heyward (2010), and Ronald Acuna just last year. Jones was also the #2 prospect of 1994.
The Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos organization has produced a pair of top prospects: Cliff Floyd (94) and Bryce Harper in both 2011 and 2012. While still in Montreal, Vladimir Guerrero was the #2 prospect in 1997. After the franchise had moved to D.C., Stephen Strasburg finished in the runner-up slot for 2010.
Two of those divisional rivals, the New York Mets and Florida/Miami Marlins, have fared even worse than the Phillies in placing prospects at the top of the ranking lists.
The Mets had Paul Wilson rank #2 in 1996. Wilson pitched just one disappointing season in the Big Apple at age 23 in 1996 before his career was derailed for four years by injuries. He finally recovered enough to appear in parts of three seasons with Tampa Bay and three more in Cincinnati.
The Marlins, established as an expansion organization in 1993, have never placed a prospect in either of the top two slots on the Baseball America rankings. But despite not joining Major League Baseball until the 1998 season, the best at producing top prospects has been another expansion club, the Tampa Bay Rays.
There have been a pair of Rays at the top: Josh Hamilton in 2001 and Delmon Young in 2006. Five Rays prospects have finished in the runner-up slot: Rocco Baldelli (03), B.J. Upton (04), Evan Longoria (08), David Price (09), and Matt Moore in 2012.

Crawford was drafted 16th overall in 2013, became a top 20 prospect from 2016-18 per Baseball America. (David B. King/WikiCommons)
In recent years, Baseball America has been spreading the love around. Nine different organizations have placed prospects in either the #1 or #2 slots over the last five years. Only the Minnesota Twins, with Byron Buxton ranked second in both 2015 and 2016, have appeared twice.
The Phillies have now selected in the top 10 spots of the MLB Amateur Draft in each of the last five straight years: Alec Bohm (3-2018), Adam Haseley (8-2017), Mickey Moniak (1-2016), Cornelius Randolph (10-2015), Aaron Nola (7-2014), and they also picked J.P. Crawford at #16 overall in 2013.
During the 1989-2019 MLB Draft periods where prospects would have been covered by the Baseball America rankings, the Phillies selected within the first four overall picks on a half-dozen occasions: Jeff Jackson (4-1989), Mike Lieberthal (3-1990), Wayne Gomes (4-1993), J.D. Drew (2-1997), Gavin Floyd (4-2001), and Burrell, who was the top overall pick of the 1998 Draft.
Here are the instances where the Phillies placed someone within the top 20 of the Baseball America Top 100 prospects: 1990 – Pat Combs (20), 1997 – Scott Rolen (13), 1999 – Burrell (19), 2000 – Burrell (2), 2003 – Floyd (9), 2004 – Cole Hamels (17), 2010 – Domonic Brown (15), 2011 – Brown (4), 2014 – Maikel Franco (17), 2015 – J.P. Crawford (14), 2016 – Crawford (6), 2017 – Crawford (12) & Moniak (17), 2018 – Crawford (16) and finally Sixto Sanchez (13) this year.

The Phillies clearly were able to develop strong players without them having been ranked near the very top of the list. Key players from the 2000’s heyday including Jimmy RollinsRyan HowardChase UtleyCarlos Ruiz, and Brett Myers were never top 20 overall prospects.
The inability to develop a truly marquee prospect was not a hindrance to the Phillies ability to develop a consistent contender in the last decade. Big props go out to vastly under-rated former GM Ed Wade’s ability to unearth gems. But the club is about to wrap a three-decade stretch in which that inability helped result in two of the three becoming losing decades.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Phillies have not historically fared well in the prospect-ranking game

Phillies off-season moves will mean goodbyes for some current position players

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Altherr, Franco, Herrera (L-R) among current Phillies who could be gone in 2019

Most of the talk during this current Major League Baseball off-season where the Philadelphia Phillies has been concerned has revolved around new players coming to the team.

A new shortstop was brought in via trade in Jean Segura. A new corner outfielder signed in Andrew McCutchen. A couple of new bullpen pieces in left-hander James Pazos and right-hander Juan Nicasio.
In the deal with the Seattle Mariners that saw Segura, Pazos, and Nicasio all arrive, two holdover infielders left in Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford. That deal made room for the return of Rhys Hoskins as the everyday first baseman.
But a number of Phillies position players remain on the roster in limbo. Moves still to be made could well determine the immediate future for each of them.
The Phillies are one of the finalists for the services of infielder Manny Machado. If he chooses to play his home games at Citizens Bank Park for most of the next decade, that could have an effect on Maikel FrancoScott Kingery, and Cesar Hernandez.
If Machado comes and agrees to play third base, then Segura is at shortstop. Hernandez, if not traded himself, would then open spring training as the starting second baseman with Kingery as a super-utility player. If Hernandez is dealt, Kingery starts at second base.
In that scenario, Franco is clearly out. The Phillies would be aggressively shopping the 26-year-old prior to or during spring training.
Franco could survive, if Machado insists on shortstop and the Phillies slide Segura over to second base. If that happens, then it would likely be Hernandez who is shipped out before the season. The team could also decide to play Kingery every day at third base. Then we are back to Franco leaving town.
In the outfield the Phillies are one of the finalists for Bryce Harper. The likelihood is that they will see what happens first with Machado. If they land him, then they probably drop out of the Harper bidding. If the miss out on Machado, the Phillies may then become even bolder in trying to land Harper.

Franco and Hernandez could be joining their former Phillies infield mate Galvis in soon wearing a different uniform.
So, let’s say Machado chooses the New York Yankees or Chicago White Sox. And then let’s say the Phillies are able to outbid the Los Angeles Dodgers and other for Harper’s services. Then what happens in the outfield? Two of the three starting spots would be taken by him and McCutchen.
That would leave a glut of holdover outfielders scrambling for a final starting berth, or for the opportunity to become part of a platoon. Those players would be Odubel HerreraAaron AltherrNick Williams, and Roman Quinn.
The Phillies would probably be best served playing Harper in right and McCutchen in left, with Quinn playing center field in between them. However, Quinn’s injury history may always prove a question mark. That might make Herrera the lead option in the short term.
Such a scenario likely puts Williams and Altherr on the trade blocks, though the latter could prove to be a valuable bench player. The 25-year-old Williams has the skills to start in the big-leagues and deserves that opportunity, so he is most likely to be traded.
Of course, the Phillies might not land either Machado or Harper. That still wouldn’t mean they are done in the free agent market. There remain other options that would require spending far less “stupid” money.
They could turn their attention on the infield to a shorter term option such as Troy Tulowitzki at third base. Then we are likely back to the Franco-on-the-block situation. In the outfield, maybe someone like A.J. Pollock, and then the outfield is back to being overcrowded.
If the Phillies are able to add no one else to their starting position player mix for the 2019 season, things could still get interesting. If Hernandez says, he is likely entering his final season in a Phillies uniform, with Kingery taking over at second base by 2020 at the latest.

In the outfield, McCutchen becomes the new left fielder. You are probably then back to a Williams-Altherr platoon of sorts in right field, with Herrera and Quinn battling for center field time. Franco would remain the third baseman, unless the Phillies receive a good offer for him, making Kingery the third base starter.
One thing seems certain: the Phillies are far from done, and their current position player mix is likely to be shaken up on a couple of fronts before spring training ends, possibly before it even arrives.
Franco, Hernandez, Altherr, Williams, Quinn, Herrera. Some combination of those players is likely to be playing in another uniform during the 2019 season.

Harper and Machado would make this a happy holiday for Phillies fans

Harper would make a great Christmas gift to fans
If you follow Philadelphia Phillies social media as closely as I do, you have come to the same realization that I have over the last few days. Phillies fans are growing increasingly impatient with management’s failure to make really big moves so far this off-season.
The Phillies fan base was finally thrown a piece of red meat at the start of this week with the trade to acquire infielder Jean Segura and a pair of relievers.
In that deal the team also shed the contract and lineup albatross of Carlos Santana and officially gave up on J.P. Crawford as the shortstop of the future, a position to which he once seemed destined.
But tossing that piece of meat served as nothing more than chum in the waters for those victory-starved fanatics. The Phillies fan base wants something big done – really big – and Segura ain’t that.
In fact, from what I have read and heard, those fans want not something, but somethings, plural.
The Phillies are coming off a season in which they collapsed from a month on top of the division to finish in third place in the National League East, and only held on to that spot because time ran out on the New York Mets, who were charging up from behind at the end.
So far this off-season the two teams who finished ahead of them, the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, have each made multiple big moves to strengthen their teams. And the Mets just pulled off a trade that could be considered even more impactful than the Phillies move to add Segura.
Despite making a significant trade with the Seattle Mariners just days ago, Phillies fans are not feeling very positive. The reason for that comes from a combination of three things, one of those being the aggressive actions of those divisional rivals.
A second reason for their frustration comes from the team itself. It was three weeks ago that I wrote here at Phillies Nation on multiple reports  that owner John Middleton had stated the club “expected to spend money” and might even “be a little bit stupid about it“, implying major big-ticket additions.
The local Philly sports media has stoked the hot stove fires with statements such as this from Scott Lauber at Philly.comon Middleton:

“Officials from multiple rival teams have suggested, more seriously than not, that he’s (Middleton) prepared to offer a blank check to either Harper or Machado and have him fill in the number. There has even been speculation that the Phillies could drop more than $700 million to sign both players.” ~ Scott Lauber, Philly.com

Phillies fans are still hoping that Middleton will spend some stupid money this Christmas season.
There remains plenty of reason for Phillies fans to continue to hope during this off-season. That comes primarily from the simple fact that both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain unsigned. Both impact hitters are still free agents and available for Middleton and the Phillies to sign.
That combination fits perfectly what this Phillies team needs to become a genuine contender in the National League over the next half-decade or so. Two impactful middle-of-the-order bats, one an infielder, one an outfielder.

Add those two players to what is already here, and the Phillies are on their way. Find a way to also add one more significant starting pitcher and you might be able to consider the Phillies as the favorites in what promises to be a vastly improved NL East in the 2019 season.
Earlier in this piece I mentioned that there were three things causing agita in the bellies of the fan base. The moves made by division rivals and the expectations built up by the team and the media were the first two. Those could be salved a bit by the continued possibility of landing these two big fish.
However, the third reason for all the frustration, stomach-churning, and social media angst is perhaps the most dangerous.  That would be the fact that the Phillies are not the only team actively and realistically pursuing Harper and Machado.

Lee became a surprise Christmas gift to Phillies fans in mid-December 2010
The deep-pocketed and fearless New York Yankees have been repeatedly linked to Machado. The Los Angeles Dodgers recently made an aggressive push on Harper, sending partial owner Magic Johnson to help try and woo the superstar to La-La-Land.
The Chicago White Sox have been rumored as solidly in on both players, and have what it takes to land both. Across town, the Chicago Cubs remain involved in the pursuit of Harper. Perhaps as many as a half-dozen other clubs have interest in one or the other or both.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has not yet made a single move in his three years in the position that has put the Phillies in a position to contend for a division crown, let alone a National League pennant or a World Series championship.
With the pressure clearly on from the moves made by his divisional competitors and the statements of ownership, Klentak is now under the spotlight. If his job is not on the line this off-season in Middleton’s eyes, it should be. The time is now to be bold, as the team tried to sell as its 2018 motto. We’ll soon find out whether Klentak really has that quality in him.
Phillies fans remain frustrated despite a big trade this week. The reasons are understandable. But the two biggest prizes remain available. They perfectly fit what the team needs.
If the team can land both, Phillies fans will be flocking to Citizens Bank Park and the website to hungrily gobble up tickets. The excitement from such a one-two free agent signing punch would make 2010’s “Merry Cliffmas” signing of Cliff Lee look tame by comparison.

James Pazos not just a throw-in in trade between Phillies and Mariners

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Pazos arrives to Phillies as part of Jean Segura trade

The Philadelphia Phillies and Seattle Mariners have completed a tradethat was anticipated for days. In the formal announcement, the Phillies have sent Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford to Seattle in exchange for Jean SeguraJuan Nicasio, and James Pazos.

Phillies fans are very familiar with the stories of the two players who are headed out to the Pacific Northwest, so I won’t spend time regurgitating the details of their careers.
Segura is the obvious centerpiece of the deal from a Phillies perspective. He upgrades the shortstop position immediately. Nicasio is a 32-year-old veteran right-handed reliever who doesn’t beat himself with walks, and who is owed just one year at $9.25 million on his contract.
Pazos, the “third” piece in the deal coming to the Phillies, is the player in this deal with whom fans are least likely to have some familiarity. While he is not a lights-out closer-type pitcher, he is far more than a simple throw-in on the back-end of a big deal.
Pazos is a 27-year-old native of Gilbert, Arizona who was the New York Yankees 13th round selection in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of San Diego. His big-league debut came in 2015 and he would make 18 total appearances with the Yankees over two seasons.
On November 18, 2016 the Yankees dealt the southpaw to the Mariners in a straight-up deal for right-handed pitching prospect Zack Littell. New York would subsequently flip Littell to the Minnesota Twins in the July 2017 trade for veteran starting pitcher Jaime Garcia.

Over the last two seasons Pazos has become a key member of the Mariners bullpen. He has allowed just 98 hits over 103.2 innings across 119 games with a 3.39 ERA, 3.83 FIP, and a 1.322 WHIP during those two seasons.

Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times found the inclusion of Pazos in the deal to be “curious”, writing the following in his own story on the deal:

“Pazos’ inclusion in the deal is curious but speaks to his struggles and lost velocity at the end of last season. The big lefty’s fastball slowly deteriorated from upper 90s down to low 90s and still no ability to consistently spot what was labeled an average breaking ball. The Mariners said publicly that it was a mechanical issue that led to the decrease, but some people in the organization worried that he was dealing with an injury.” ~ Ryan Divish, Seattle Times

While Pazos isn’t the kind of power lefty that free agents Andrew Miller or Zach Britton, both of whom remain on the Phillies radar, would bring he is a steady option from that side for manager Gabe Kapler to use in the match-up game that the skipper prefers.
However, Pazos was actually much more effective in 2018 against right-handed batters than against left-handers. The righties hit just .228 against him over 125 plate appearances while lefties hit him at a .280 mark in 86 plate appearances. Per Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia he was often a one-pitch hurler last season.
New Phillies lefty reliever James Pazos threw 802 pitches last season and 736 were 4-seam fastballs — 91%

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If you’re worried that his success might have been a product of the favorable pitching environment at Safeco Field, which ranked 27th of 30 MLB ballparks in runs allowed during this past season, don’t. Opposing hitters got to Pazos for just a .233 batting average against on the road while hitting him at a .263 mark in Seattle.

He also brings financial affordability for his experience level. Pazos made just over a half-million dollars for the 2018 season. He won’t be eligible for arbitration until after next season, and cannot become a free agent until after the 2022 campaign.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as In Phillies – Mariners big trade, James Pazos not just a throw-in