Tag Archives: Jake Arrieta

Offensive ending to 2019 a harbinger for winning Phillies in 2020?

There is no arguing that the Philadelphia Phillies 2019 season can rightly be considered a failure. The final 81-81 record and fourth place divisional finish was a major disappointment to an organization and fan base that began the season with lofty expectations.

The Phillies entered the season’s final month with a winning record at 69-65. Though they had fallen to third place by that point, the club was still squarely in the postseason hunt at just 3.5 games behind the second NL Wildcard playoff berth.

Over that final month, the Phillies produced just a 12-16 record, collapsing in both the standings and that playoff hunt. In the end, they finished eight games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for that second NL Wildcard spot.

However, despite the losing record during the month of September 2019, there were positive signs which might bode well for the 2020 Phillies campaign to come.

While much was made last season of injuries to the bullpen and inconsistencies across the starting pitching rotation – and those did indeed exist, and were obvious contributing factors to the final record – one fundamental offensive statistic also reveals a big part of the problem.

In 2019, the Phillies offense finished 14th, or middle-of-the-pack among the 30 teams of Major League Baseball, with 774 runs scored. Seems about what you might expect for a .500 ball club, right?

But when you take a glance only a little bit beyond those overall numbers you find more than just a middling group of run producers. The 2019 Phillies hitters cannot even be considered to have been simply inconsistent. This was actually a truly schizophrenic bunch.

The magic number for the 2019 Philadelphia Phillies turned out to be four. Score four or more runs, and you win the vast majority of the time. Don’t reach that mark and you lose.

The Phillies were 72-23 during the 2019 season in those games in which the offense produced at least four runs scored. That figure was fourth-best in the 15-team National League, trailing only the baseball’s top regular season club, the LA Dodgers, as well as the World Series champion Washington Nationals and the NL Central champion Saint Louis Cardinals.

However, when the Phillies offense failed to reach that four-run mark, the club went just 9-58, a .134 winning percentage that was 14th of the 15 National League clubs.

The deficient pitching was a big part of that latter poor record. When the Phillies offense couldn’t score, the pitching wasn’t good enough to win games on their own.

For some perspective, the franchise-record 102-win Phillies team of 2011 failed to score at least four runs in 78 games. Last year’s club was 11 games better in that regard. The 2011 club with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Raul Ibanez leading the way finished just 13th in the NL in runs scored that year.

But that 2011 Phillies ball club also went 30-48 during games in which their offense failed to score at least four runs. It was the outstanding pitching of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, Vance Worley, and a solid bullpen led by closer Ryan Madson that made such a record possible.

The Phillies addressed their offensive shortcoming that year, acquiring the dynamic bat of Hunter Pence just prior to the trade deadline. The club produced at least four runs in 27 of the first 36 games with Pence in the lineup and nearly doubled their lead in the NL East over that six week period.

The point of all this being that had the 2019 Phillies been able to score at least four runs more frequently – and they averaged 4.78 per game – they would have been a winning ball club. That’s even with their poor pitching. They may even have been a playoff team. Of the top eight teams in average runs scored per game, seven reached the 2019 postseason.

Despite their poor 12-16 record over the month of September, the offense finally began to produce more consistently. During the season’s final month the Phillies set a new franchise record for home runs in a single month by slugging 46 long balls.

It wasn’t just a power surge. Beginning with games of August 27, the Phillies stole 23 consecutive bases without being caught. This was the first such successful stolen base streak by the club in a decade. Their 81.3% success rate overall in 2019 was the fifth-best by any Phillies team since the statistic was first tracked over a half-century ago.

With the increased power linked up to the effective use of speed over that final month, the Phillies offense produced at least four runs in 16 of 28 games. The hitters averaged 6.78 runs scored per game during the month, two more runs per game than over the full season.

Certainly the Phillies 2020 offense cannot be expected to score four or more runs in 90 games, and the team will not average more than 6.5 runs per game. That would be the pace set by the team in September of last season.

Also, it wasn’t as if much of that increased production came from those expected to be regulars in 2020. Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto, the club’s two most consistently productive hitters over the course of the season, had fairly normal production levels in September.

Meanwhile, a few of the others had a poor month. Rhys Hoskins slashed just .170/.274/350 over 117 plate appearances. Scott Kingery slashed .191/.232/.393 over 96 plate appearances during September. Jean Segura was .238/.253/.333 during the month. Those three, expected to be regulars in 2020, combined for nine homers, 28 RBIs, 34 runs, and nine stolen bases in September.

One of the biggest run producers for the Phillies during September 2019 was Brad Miller. The utility man received 56 plate appearances during a month in which he slashed .327/.339/.800 with eight home runs, 11 RBIs, and 12 runs scored. Miller played in 66 games and made 26 starts for the Phillies last season after joining the club in mid-June. The 30-year-old is currently a free agent.

The addition of Zack Wheeler to the starting rotation and expected better seasons from both Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta should combine with better health and consistency from the bullpen in the coming season to give the Phillies better results on the mound.

Given reasonable health in 2020 by the key players in the lineup, the increased offensive production of September 2019 could indeed be a harbinger of better days to come. The performances of Hoskins, Kingery, and Segura this coming season will be pivotal in making that happen.

Combine even a modest turn towards those better offensive numbers with a similarly modest increase in performance from the pitching staff, add them to the presence of new manager Joe Girardi, and it all could well add up to that elusive winning record and playoff berth in 2020 for the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

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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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Philadelphia Phillies December 2019 mailbag

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No one in baseball is more under the spotlight this off-season than Phillies general manager Matt Klentak.

 

Back on Christmas Eve Eve, I asked my social media followers to shoot me out any questions that they might have on the Phillies.

As you might expect, the majority of those ended up in reference to moves the club has made and might still make during this current off-season.

Following are a representative sampling, along with my responses, presented in a question (Q) and answer (A) format.

 

Q: Sean Fitzpatrick (@SeanFit91141350 on Twitter) asks “I’m questioning the configuration of the infield as it stands now. I dont see either Segura or Kingery as a legit third base option, and which one plays second? Do we bring in an outside option?

A: As we sit here in the week between Christmas and New Year’s the Phillies 2020 infield configuration appears that it will feature Rhys Hoskins at first base, Jean Segura at second, Didi Gregorius at shortstop, and Scott Kingery at third base. Kingery is likely keeping the spot warm until top prospect Alec Bohm is ready, at which point Kingery would return to a super-utility role. That assumes he is not needed at another position due to injury.

Q: Robin Heller (@flower_auntie on Twitter) says “I am wondering about who will play third base and how they will address the holes in the rotation!

A: As for third base, see the above answer – though there remain rumors that the Phillies could consider a trade for Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. The starting rotation is currently projected to be made up of Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, and Vince Velasquez.

It doesn’t appear as though GM Matt Klentak feels that there are “holes in the rotation” – though you and I would disagree with him. Arrieta needs to prove that he can stay healthy and produce past May. Eflin and Velasquez have been consistently inconsistent.

Wheeler was a great signing. But we went into this off-season believing that the Phillies needed two new starting pitchers of the type who had proven to be winners at the big-league level. There is still plenty of time to bring in another arm via free agency or trade.

Among free agents remaining, perhaps Klentak would consider taking a shot on Alex Wood, if the 28-year-old southpaw keeps hanging out on the market and his price is reasonable. The Phillies have also been linked to Arizona lefty Robbie Ray.

Q: Dan McElhaugh on Facebook asks “You (Phillies) need to address the bullpen and get another starter. What are you doing about it?

A: I addressed the starting pitchers above. However, you also have to consider that top pitching prospect Spencer Howard is close to big-league ready and will likely impact the rotation at some point in 2020. He is probably going to start at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and assuming health and success there we should see him by the second half of the season, at the latest.

The bullpen is a tough question. There actually are the makings of a decent group here. But much of that depends on them being healthier than last year’s group. Right-handers include Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Edgar Garcia, Trevor Kelley, Robert Stock and possibly even Nick Pivetta or prospect Adonis Medina.

Among lefties the club currently has Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Austin Davis, and Cristopher Sanchez. You could even see minor league starters Cole Irvin, Ranger Suarez, and JoJo Romero slide into a pen role.

There are a number of veteran relievers remaining on the free agent market including Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, Francisco Liriano, and Fernando Rodney. Any of them would help upgrade the bullpen. Klentak may be waiting to see if any can eventually come dirt cheap.

Q: JBFazz1213 (@JBFazz1213 on Twitter) stated “Very Disappointing if the Phillies don’t sign Dellin Betances because of the Luxury Tax.

A: As we now know, the Phillies indeed did not sign Betances, who received a one-year deal at $10.5 million guaranteed from the division-rival New York Mets which can rise to $13 million based on incentives. He also received two player option years, though if he proves himself healthy it is likely that Betances re-sets his value and returns to the free agent market next fall.

Having previously pitched his entire career in the Big Apple with the Yankees, he has a number of ties to New York. Likely of most importance were that the doctors who treated his shoulder injury and his Achilles injuries are located there. Those injuries, especially the September Achilles, are likely most of the reason that the Phillies and any number of other ball clubs in need of bullpen help were not involved.

Q: Wally Potter on Facebook asks “Why does the Phillies farm system have a bad history of producing quality starting pitching ? More specific within the last 40 years.”

A: Back in July of 2019, Dan Roche of NBC Sports Philadelphia did a nice piece on this very subject. In that piece, Roche listed the top 10 homegrown Phillies pitchers over the last four decades as ranked by Baseball-Reference WAR value.

Those ten arms belong to, in order, Cole Hamels, Aaron Nola, Kevin Gross, Randy Wolf, Brett Myers, Ryan Madson, Don Carman, Kyle Kendrick, Hector Neris, and Ricky Bottalico.

It’s not a bad list, but there is a major and obvious flaw. Nola and Neris are “now” arms on the current roster. Hamels, Myers, Madson, and Kendrick were all pitchers with the 2008 World Series champions and were with the club for a number of years around that magical season.

What you are left with are Gross, Carman, and Ricky Bo as the only pitchers developed out of the Phillies farm system from the late-1970’s through the mid-2000’s who had any real impact on the ball club.

Roche estimates that the Phillies have drafted upwards of 1,000 pitchers over the last 40 years and stated “Even by blind luck, a team should be able to do better than the Phillies have.

The answer to the “why” is difficult to explain. That poor history comes under various regimes led by eight different general managers and a number of higher executives.

Perhaps that poor homegrown pitching record is beginning to change. If you make the history just of the last dozen years or so, you get seven of the above 10 names. You also get arms such as current top pitching prospect Spencer Howard and former top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, the centerpiece of the J.T. Realmuto deal.

Q: d dask (@DocD19 on Twitter) wanted me to “Ask Matt Klentak if he is allergic to southpaws?

A: I am not sure regarding the topic of Klentak’s allergies. But I get it. Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels, Dallas Keuchel, and Hyun-Jin Ryu were all available as free agents this time around. Any would have been a perfect fit for the Phillies rotation – especially our old hero Hamels on a one-year deal. The exact reasons why the GM didn’t get any of those arms to Philly is perplexing, to say the least.

Q: DDNAGS (@DDNAGS1 on Twitter) opined “They will not win with the current roster. Ask Matt Klentak when he is going to get off his big ass and make a couple trades? We don’t need all these scrubs he always signs.

A: Well, that’s simply wrong. Klentak signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen last off-season. He signed Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius this off-season. They had a .500 roster prior to the recent moves and on paper appear to be improved. So, it would seem that, given health, they are already good enough to “win with the current roster.
Now, if you are talking about winning enough to reach the playoffs, maybe even contend for a division crown, and beyond that, a world championship, I get it.
It is my contention that the Phillies need a more proven center fielder, a left-handed veteran starting pitcher, another veteran bullpen arm with a successful track record, and another bench bat with pop from the right side similar to what Jay Bruce brings from the left. Let’s see what the GM does between now and the start of the season.

Q: PhilliesCurveballMachine (@phillies_the on Twitter) asks “Will a “culture change” in the clubhouse under the new coaching staff really make a difference in the team’s intensity/ focus/ “hustle” this season? And will this translate into wins? Why/how?

A: When you talk about a “culture change” inside the Phillies clubhouse, you specifically mention the change of managers from Gabe Kapler to Joe Girardi. Honestly, we’re not going to know how the club responds. But I expect that a proven winner with a championship pedigree will be more influential and regarded more positively than a rookie with a cheerleader personality.

There is another major change inside the clubhouse, with a pair of starting players gone in Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco. This year should find Realmuto, McCutchen, and Harper stepping into even more vocal leadership roles. I don’t know about you, but that prospect elicits more confidence from me.

I am expecting that Girardi will simply not tolerate any lack of hustle. He is not only going to be willing to make an example out of any player, but also have the confidence and support from management to bench anyone for any reason.

This comes from the popularity of his hiring, the unpopularity of the general manager, the fact that Girardi is just beginning what should be at least a three-year run in the dugout, and his own confidence based on his experiences as a championship-winning player and manager.

Now, will this change in style and substance result in more victories? I think it will have some effect. However, the team has to stay mostly healthy, especially where its biggest stars are concerned, and needs to receive actual improved performance from a few players. Any more positive attitude needs to be backed by positive performances.

Q: Andrew (@Andrew201711 on Twitter) asks “With the roster as it stands , I don’t see the Phils doing any better than third place …. your thoughts ?

A: For me the big thing right now is that factor of health. If the roster as currently assembled remains healthy, they can contend for a postseason berth. If they stay healthy, get improved performances from a few players such as Adam Haseley, Hoskins, and Arrieta, and if Klentak can make a couple of big in-season moves, they can win the division.

All of that said, the Braves are two-time defending NL East champions with a talented young core. The Nationals are defending World Series champions. Both teams have solid overall rosters. The Mets have improved their already tough pitching staff in both talent and depth this off-season. All three of those teams finished above the Phillies in the 2019 standings.

It is way too early for me to make any predictions. A lot can still change on not only the Phillies roster, but that of their division rivals. But right now you can make a legitimate argument for the club finishing anywhere from first to fourth in the National League East Division in the 2020 season.

That’s it for the mailbag this time around. I’ll open it up once again as spring training gets underway in February. Between now and then, you can always hit me up on social media: @philliesbell on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

Five Phillies who must improve for club to reach the playoffs

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Getting more and better performances out of Arrieta will be pivotal to the Phillies hopes for 2020 contention

 

The Philadelphia Phillies have a better starting lineup and pitching rotation right now than they had at any point during the 2019 season. Which means that the Phillies are, at the moment with everyone healthy, better than they have been since the early years of this soon-to-end decade.

None of this means that they are good enough to reach the 2020 postseason. The regular season schedule for the upcoming season is slated to end on Sunday, September 27 in Washington. For the Phillies to be playing October baseball, any number of things have to go right.

That consideration of health will be vital. The club will need to receive anticipated All-Star caliber production from top stars Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Aaron Nola, and Zack Wheeler.

It would also help if the front office, specifically general manager Matt Klentak, can bolster the back-end of the Opening Day roster with a couple of more impactful bench and bullpen pieces.

Even if all of that goes right – the team stays relatively healthy, the stars produce as expected, the bench and bullpen prove effective – for the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans to enjoy playoff baseball for the first time since 2011 the following five players simply must step up their games.

Rhys Hoskins

The Phillies starting first baseman finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2017 despite not making his debut until mid-August. Extrapolating his freshman numbers over a full season would have resulted in 54 homers, 144 RBI, and 111 runs scored.

Miscast as a left fielder the following year, Hoskins still produced power at the plate with a 34 home run, 72 extra-base hit, 96 RBI, and 89 runs scored campaign. He also held his own under the glare of the national spotlight with a solid performance in the Home Run Derby as part of the mid-season All-Star Game festivities.

But in 2019, Hoskins regressed. Despite receiving 45 more plate appearances during his age 26 season, his production dipped to 29 homers, 85 RBIs, and 86 runs scored. His strikeouts rose from 150 to 173 and his batting average slid from the .246 to the .226 level.

While Hoskins walks total rose from 87 to 116, his on-base percentage rose just 10 points to the .364 mark. The fact was that he simply did not make nearly enough contact, especially contact resulting in power, this past season.

What Hoskins needs to do in 2020 is make more and harder contact, sacrificing some of the patience he showed last year for more aggressiveness at the plate. His slugging percentage, which has slipped from 1.014 to .850 to last year’s unacceptable .819 mark should be at .900 or above. That will be the surest sign as to whether Hoskins is producing at a playoff-caliber level.

Jean Segura

When Klentak traded away Carlos Santana for Segura last December it was expected that the seven-year veteran and two-time All-Star would become a significant upgrade at shortstop over former top prospect J.P. Crawford.

During his age 29 campaign in 2019, Segura didn’t have a bad year, he just didn’t enjoy a particularly good season either. Defensively, Fangraphs ranked Segura at 15th, the exact mid-point, among all qualifying MLB shortstops for this past season. That was two places higher than the former shortstop, Freddy Galvis, who many Phillies fans considered a top glove man.

At the plate over his six full seasons in Major League Baseball prior to arriving in Philadelphia, Segura averaged roughly 10 homers, 50 RBIs, 25 doubles, 78 runs scored, and 27 stolen bases with a .288 average and .328 on-base percentage.

His numbers this past season? 12 homers, 60 RBIs, 37 doubles, 79 runs, 10 steals with a .280 average and .323 OBP. That is pretty much in line with his career production. It is the kind of season that the Phillies should have expected from him.

What the Phillies could really use in 2020 is for the All-Star caliber Segura to show up. In 2013 with Milwaukee he hit .294 and stole 44 bases. Then in 2018 with Seattle he hit .304 with 20 steals and 91 runs scored.

It is expected that with the acquisition of Didi Gregorius to play shortstop, that Segura will be sliding over to second base. Playing that position for the entirety of 2016 with Arizona, Segura produced his best season in the big-leagues. He slashed .319/.368/.499 that year with 20 home runs, 68 extra-base hits, 64 RBIs, 102 runs. Those were all career highs, and he added 33 stolen bases.

Adam Haseley

At age 23, Haseley began the 2019 season playing at Double-A Reading. The Phillies first round MLB Draft pick in 2017 at eighth overall quickly rose to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Over the first two months of the season at two levels, Haseley was enjoying a solid campaign and advancing through a natural progression. He was on pace to make his big-league debut in September when rosters expanded while receiving a full summer against advanced Triple-A pitching in the minors.

A variety of circumstances in Philadelphia caused him to be rushed to the majors for a pair of early June cameos, and those ongoing circumstances led to his promotion for good in mid-July.

His rookie season resulted in a .266/.324/.396 slash line. Haseley contributed five homers, 19 extra-base hits, 26 RBIs, 30 runs scored, and four stolen bases. He saw action all across the outfield: 40 games in center field with 36 starts, 22 in left field with 15 starts, 10 in right field with eight starts.

It is expected that Haseley will at least open the 2020 season as the Phillies starting center fielder. Among all MLB players who appeared in at least 300 innings there this past season, Haseley was ranked just 26th by Fangraphs defensively. That will have to improve if the club is to receive playoff-caliber defense at what is a vital position on the field.

Offensively his 2019 numbers extrapolate out to about a dozen homers, 65 RBIs, 50 extra-base hits, 75 runs, and 10 steals. Those numbers need to be improved upon if the Phillies are to become legitimate contenders. The good news is that Haseley will turn just 24 in April. Odds are that he will indeed continue progressing. If he is going to be the everyday center fielder for the entire season, that improvement will be a must.

Scott Kingery

I’ve often described Kingery as the Swiss army knife of the Phillies. During his rookie 2018 season, Kingery started 101 games and appeared in 119 as the regular shortstop. But he was also used at six other positions by manager Gabe Kapler, everywhere but catcher and first base.

In this past season, Kapler utilized his versatility at a half-dozen spots, including 65 games in center field and 41 at third base. A Gold Glover at second base in the minor leagues, Kingery has only seen 14 games of action and made just eight starts over his first two years in the big-leagues at what is clearly his best defensive position.

Things are shaping up for more of the same in 2020. Right now, Kingery is slated to open as the third baseman. However, rumors continue to persist of the Phillies interest in free agent Josh Donaldson or a possible trade for Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs.

Even if the Phillies stand pat at the hot corner, top prospect Alec Bohm should be ready to take over the third base position at some point in the 2020 campaign. It is almost a foregone conclusion that, barring injuries, Kingery will eventually be pushed off the position and back into his super-utility role.

No matter where he is used, it is almost a certaintly that Kingery will be in the regular starting lineup at one position or another. It will be with improvement at the plate where he can become a difference maker.

Kingery received just 16 more plate appearances this past season than in his rookie year. But his home runs jumped from eight to 19, extra-base hits from 33 to 57, RBIs from 35 to 55, runs from 55 to 64, and steals from 10 to 15. His rookie slash line of .226/.267/.338 was improved to .258/.315/.474 this past summer.

Turning 26-years-old in late April, there is no reason that the Phillies should not be able to count on Kingery to continue increasing his offensive output. He is a potential 25-25 player in homers and steals. A little more consistency at the plate resulting his becoming a  hitter who bats at or near the top of the order and scores 100 runs. That needs to be the next step in Kingery’s development.

Jake Arrieta

The lone hurler on this list, Arrieta needs to stay healthy and deliver more consistent outings in 2020 for the Phillies starting pitching rotation as its most veteran arm.

No one expects the right-hander, who turns 34 in early March, to repeat or even approximate his 2014-16 peak with the Chicago Cubs when he was one of the top starters in baseball and the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner.

But the Phillies need to get at least a little more than they have received over his first two seasons with the club: 18-19, 4.26 ERA, 1.369 WHIP, 314 hits over 308.1 innings with a 248/108 K:BB ratio across 55 starts.

In April and May of 2018, Arrieta made his first 10 starts with the Phillies. Seven of those were Quality Start outings of at least six innings and three or fewer earned runs allowed. This past season, six of his first seven outings resulted in Quality Starts once again.

From May 10 through the early end to his season in 2019, Arrieta had a 5.26 ERA and opposing batters hit .300 against him. From June 3 through the end of the 2018 season, Arrieta had a 4.88 ERA.

The fast starts to his first two Phillies seasons were encouraging. Arrieta showed during April and May that he can still be a winning pitcher when healthy and motivated. Discouraging were the fall-offs in his performance and health as those seasons moved along.

In 2018 it was a cartilage issue in his left knee that likely caused Arrieta’s decreased effectiveness. That issue required surgery last off-season. He then lost his effectiveness and most of the final two months of this past season due to bone spurs in his pitching elbow, which also required surgery. He was quoted back in August by Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Without this bone spur, I’m going to be able to use everything effectively. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I know what I need to do to execute certain pitches. I’m physically limited at this point. I don’t have the ability to do those things. With some more space in the elbow, without that distraction in there, I’m going to be pretty good.

The Phillies have $22.5 million options on Arrieta for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Those will certainly not be exercised. However, the pitcher could get himself a nice deal from some team come this time next year if he can deliver a full, healthy, productive season. That would also go a long way towards pushing the Phillies to the postseason.

 

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Bryan Price brings tremendous experience as new Phillies pitching coach

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Price has been a pitching coach and manager in MLB for two decades

 

Just days after officially hiring Joe Girardi as their new manager, the Phillies have filled one of the key open positions on his coaching staff.

Bryan Price, who most recently served as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds from 2014 into the 2018 season, has been hired as the Phillies new pitching coach.

Price brings tremendous experience to the job. He previously served as pitching coach with the Seattle Mariners (2000-06), Arizona Diamondbacks (2007-09), and the Reds (2010-13) in addition to his managerial term in Cincinnati.

Girardi and Price have a recent link. Back in the summer, the Phillies new skipper was named as the manager of Team USA for the upcoming international Premier 12 tournament. Price was scheduled to be his pitching coach.

However, on taking the Phillies job, Girardi was replaced as Team USA manager by Scott Brosius. It remains unclear whether Price will remain with Team USA through the Premier 12 tourney, which kicks off the qualifying process for the 2020 Summer Olympics and runs from November 2-17, 2019.

The Mariners pitching staff led the American League in ERA in the 2001 season, earning Price the USA Today Baseball Weekly Pitching Coach of the Year Award. In 2007, his Dbacks staff finished fourth in ERA in the National League and helped the club reach the NLCS. For that performance, Price was named as the Major League Baseball Coach of the Year by Baseball America.

With the Reds, Price guided a pitching staff that twice finished among the top five in National League ERA. However, his managerial stint did not prove as successful. Cincinnati went just 279-387 in parts of five seasons, and he was ultimately fired after a 3-15 start in 2018.

Price was involved in a highly publicized and controversial incident in April of 2015 when he went on an expletive-laden rant against the Cincinnati media after a reporter published what Price felt was information regarding an injury to catcher Devin Mesoraco which put the Reds at a competitive disadvantage.

The 57-year-old Price is a native of San Francisco. He was the eighth round choice of the California Angels in the 1984 MLB Draft as a pitcher out of the University of California-Berkeley, the 190th player selected overall.

Price reached the Double-A level in the Angels organization before being released following the 2016 season. After taking a year off in 2017, Price signed with the Seattle Mariners and eventually reached Triple-A. Over a five-year minor league career he accumulated a 31-19 record with a 3.74 ERA across 90 games, 75 of those as starting assignments.

Price has other prior Phillies connections besides his brief period with Girardi in preparation for their Team USA assignment. Phillies Wall of Famer Pat Gillick hired Price as the pitching coach in Seattle when Gillick was the general manager of the Mariners.

Phillies 2008 World Series hero Jamie Moyer was a pitcher on those Mariners’ staffs under Price.

If I was looking for a pitching coach, he’d be at the top of my list.~ Jamie Moyer

“He’s a student of the game and he cares about his pitchers,” Moyer said per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I think first and foremost that’s what jumps out about him — how much he cares about his pitchers. He was a first-time pitching coach when he came aboard and we had a lot of veterans on that team. He quickly earned their trust with great communication and with a lot of give and take. His style was basically, ‘What do you do well and what can we do with it to make you better?’

On Monday, prior to the announcement of Price’s hiring, Girardi had commented on the pitching coach position. “Just as important is a real ability to relate to the pitchers, sometimes the struggles they’re going through, and that there’s a deep relationship there,” Girardi said per Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The pitching coach has a tough job because there’s so many pitchers that they deal with. But he has to know each one of them really well, and they have to trust him, and that’s really important.

Based on his long history of success as a pitching coach and Moyer’s comments, it appears that Price fits that need for a strong communicator well. He looks like a perfect fit for the new Phillies coaching staff, which now seeks a similar strong addition for the hitting coach position.

Per Matt Gelb at The Athletic, Price turned down at least two offers to coach elsewhere before taking the job with the Phillies. One concern that he had was the ability to infuse the game’s new shift towards analytics with his more natural old-school style approach.

What I don’t know, I can learn,” Price said per Gelb. “But one thing I won’t forget is the fundamentals of pitching — of competitiveness and preparation and the detailed work that is really the lifeblood of being a competitive major-league pitcher. There are just essentials to it that aren’t going to be defined by a spreadsheet or technology that tells you if you’re doing it right or wrong. A reasonable mind says they both have a place. To think that one thrives without the other, it doesn’t. I can tell you, in pitching, there’s no uniformity.

Now, who exactly will be the pitchers under his tutelage during the 2020 season? The Phillies staff finished 17th in ERA, 20th in OPS against, and  22nd in batting average against among the 30 teams in Major League Baseball this past season.

Given health, the starting rotation in 2020 is almost certain to include Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. Based on the majority of his performances combined with his age and upside potential, Zach Eflin would also seem a lock. Top pitching prospect Spencer Howard is likely to make a strong push for a rotation spot as well, possibly as early as spring training.

More questionable are the fates of Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta. Each is talented, but neither has been able to establish themselves as a reliable starting pitcher for the Phillies. They both could end up as trade candidates this off-season, or end up in the bullpen if better options are found.

I don’t speak for the Phillies in any way, shape or form. I’m new to the organization,” said Price per Gelb. “We had a good talk about philosophy. We will use our analytics and technology department in a very strong and positive way. But I think the pitching coach’s job is to help extract as much talent and build as much confidence in the group as possible through relationship building. It’s through building trust. It’s through sharing experience and knowledge. We give these guys a goal of becoming something special, instead of something that’s specialized.”

Most observers believe that the Phillies are going to need to add two new, veteran arms to that rotation in free agency in order to compete against talented Washington and Atlanta teams in the NL East. At least one of those new starting pitchers needs to be ace-caliber, someone such as Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg.

That will be the primary job of general manager Matt Klentak this off-season, providing pitching talent of a caliber that can help the Phillies to become winners and return to the postseason for the first time nine years.

 

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