Tag Archives: Jesmuel Valentin

Pair of Royals are among the bats linked to Phillies

Whit Merrifield (L), Mike Moustakas (R) linked to Phillies

Following a split of Monday’s twi-night doubleheader with the host New York Mets at Citi Field, the Philadelphia Phillies (50-39) find themselves still tied for first place with the Atlanta Braves in the National League East Division.

Yesterday’s split highlighted weaknesses that remain with this team as it battles to stay in contention with the calendar pushing towards the middle of July.

In the opener, a 4-3 loss in 10 innings, the Phillies rapped out 10 hits and the lineup worked the Mets pitching staff for seven walks. However, they also grounded into a pair of double plays, and twice they failed on attempted sacrifice bunts.

The Phillies saw the leadoff man reach safely in each of the first three innings but left two men on base in each of the first two. Following a solo home run from Maikel Franco in the fourth, they wouldn’t score again.

Bases loaded with one out in the top of the eighth? Nothing. First two men on in the top of the 10th. Nada. Phillies hitters went 2-13 with runners in scoring position and struck out 13 times.

In the nightcap, a 3-1 victory, the offensive production can be summed up in two words: Aaron Nola. The young ace starting pitcher surrendered just one hit and walked just one batter while striking out 10 to gain his 12th victory.

Oh, and that offensive production? Nola also provided his own offense, slashing a two-out, bases-clearing double in the top of the 5th inning. It was one of only two hits that the Phillies would produce in the entire game.

It is no secret that the first place Philadelphia Phillies have struggled to score runs for much of this season. Sure, they have scored in double-digits seven times. Those include a 20-run explosion way back on April 7, and a 17-run outburst just last week.

But those are enigmas. The Phillies have scored three runs or fewer in nearly 44% (39 of 89) of their games. That figure includes a streak that has now reached the team’s last four straight dating back to the 17 runs scored last Friday in Pittsburgh.

Despite being tied for the National League’s third-best record, the Phillies are just 10th in runs scored. A big part of the problem is that they lack consistent pop. As a group, Phillies hitters have worked the league’s sixth-best on-base percentage, but their overall OPS is just 11th among the NL’s 15 clubs.

Clearly this team can use one or two upgrades to the everyday lineup. These need to be hitters who can come in and make a legitimate impact on the Phillies ability to score runs on a more consistent basis.

The crown jewel of the 2018 MLB non-waiver trade deadline remains shortstop Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles. As each day passes with no deal, a new “favorite” pops up in the news. Last week, the Phillies were co-favorites. Then it became the LA Dodgers. Then the Milwaukee Brewers. Now it’s the New York Yankees turn.

The problem with each of those stories has been that when you delve into the details behind the headlines, there is always a “but”, such as teams not wanting to give up a big package, or Machado not wanting to switch to third base.

Jon Heyman tweeted out the following on Tuesday morning:

manny’s interest in staying at SS doesn’t seem like it’s deterring yanks’ interest, though the match isn’t necessarily seen as very likely in any case. (indians are the other team that would want Machado for 3B, the interested NL want him for SS)— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 10, 2018 

Fact is that even with the most inside of MLB insiders, it is all going to be speculation until the last hours, perhaps the last minutes, before an actual deal is in place. Machado clearly is a perfect fit for what the Phillies need: a proven middle-of-the-order run producer.

The Phillies remain as much a contender to acquire his services as any other team. Just yesterday, Roch Kubatko of MASN wrote this:

Machado draws the biggest crowds to his locker as visiting media peck away at him. Would he like to play in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles? Would he prefer cheese steaks or pizza? But he has no choice until the offseason. He can’t pick his city or his position. He goes and plays where he’s told.”

In his own piece on the Phillies offensive struggles and the need to add a hitter or two, Matt Gelb at The Athletic mentioned five more names that team management may be looking to acquire.

The names mentioned by Gelb are wide-ranging in their positions and offensive profiles. They include a pair of sluggers in third baseman Mike Moustakas of Kansas City and outfielder Adam Duvall of Cincinnati.

The 29-year old Moustakas (he turns 30 on September) comes with a lefty bat and has banged 17 homers while driving in 56 runs. That home run total would lead the Phillies, and the RBI figure would be tied with Rhys Hoskins for the club lead. Moustakas has played almost exclusively at third base for his entire eight-year big league career but does have four games at first base this season.

Duvall is also 29 and will also turn 30 years old in September. Now in his fifth big league campaign, the righty hitter has 14 homers and 55 RBI. He has played almost exclusively in left field but has also dabbled at first base. Despite his obvious power, Duvall would also bring an anemic .208 average and .282 on-base percentage, and both left field and first base are filled on this team.

The players mentioned by Gelb also include Whit Merrifield of Kansas City, Jed Lowrie of Oakland, and Eduardo Escobar of Minnesota. Each of these players comes with multi-position versatility.

Merrifield is yet another 29-year old. He turns 30 in January, and though he did bang out 19 home runs a year ago, he is more speed than pop. His 34 steals tied for the AL lead in 2017, and he has 16 this year along with 27 doubles.

Merrifield also has a solid .303 batting average with a .369 OBP. While primarily a second baseman, he has also played in the outfield and at first base.

Escobar is 29 years old and turns 30 in January. Are we sensing a pattern here? Perhaps the most versatile of all those mentioned, the eight-year big leaguer plays primarily at third base and shortstop these days.

However, he also has experience at second and in the outfield as well. He leads the AL with 35 doubles, also has 14 home runs and 53 RBI with a .276/.331/.526 slash line.

At 11 games over the .500 mark, the Oakland A’s are six games back in the AL Wildcard race. This could prove a factor in their ultimate willingness to part with perhaps the best of this group in Lowrie. At 34 years of age, he is also the oldest by five years.

A former shortstop, he hasn’t played there regularly for the last four years. Now he is primarily a second baseman who has also seen time at the hot corner. Lowrie also has pop, with 16 homers, 25 doubles, and 62 RBI as well as a solid .288/.358/.504 slash.

Some fans have felt that Moustakas would be a good fit as a replacement for Maikel Franco at third base, but the stats just don’t seem to bear this out. Over his last 20 games, Franco is slashing .367/.433/.617 with six doubles, three homers, and nine RBI.

Franco has struck out just eight times in his last 67 plate appearances and has also been playing inspired defense. Still just 25 years old, he cannot become a free agent until after the 2021 season.

Gelb points out that adding one or two of the players he mentions makes more sense as a bench, pinch-hitting, and versatility option, rather than as an everyday starter. Such an addition improves the options for manager Gabe Kapler, who currently is relying on inexperienced players such as Dylan Cozens and Jesmuel Valentin in key moments.

“…the debate is not necessarily Franco vs. someone like Moustakas, who has similar numbers. It’s Moustakas vs. Cozens, or Moustakas vs. Valentín, etc.”

Fact is that right now there is no more perfect fit for the Phillies than the 26-year old Machado. The fact is also that the Orioles justifiably and understandably want a high price in return for the pending free agent.

How high would Phillies GM Matt Klentak be willing to go to bring in a player who could end up just a three-month rental? While the team certainly has the money, the young nucleus, the motivation, and the desire needed to entice him to remain here for the long term, there would be no guarantees.

Originally appeared at PHILLIES NATION as “Phillies in need of an impact bat, and remain linked to a few

No June swoon, but Phillies cracks beginning to show

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June proved difficult for first-year skipper Gabe Kapler

Turned out that the Major League baseball schedule makers were not kind to this improved Philadelphia Phillies ball club.

The Phillies ended May with a 31-23 record. Those eight games above .500 marked the first time since the 2012 season that the team ended May above the break-even point.

But a glance ahead at that June schedule revealed that this young bunch had a big challenge ahead of them. It would begin with a difficult road trip. Three games in San Francisco against an improved Giants squad. Three at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, one of the NL’s top teams.

It didn’t begin well. The Phillies dropped five of those six games. It didn’t get much better on their return home. The Milwaukee Brewers, leading the NL Central, came in to Citizens Bank Park and blew their doors off in the first two games, scoring a dozen runs in each.

At that point, the Phillies were 1-7 on the month, and appeared to be fading fast. The Colorado Rockies, who always seem to play the Phils tough, were coming to town for three. That would be followed by a trip out to Milwaukee for three more with the Brew Crew.

Just as it seemed like their season might slip away, manager Gabe Kapler got his club to respond. They edged Milwaukee in the series finale here, then took two of three from the Rockies. Perhaps most impressively, they traveled to Miller Park and won two of three over a mid-month weekend.

Having now won five of seven, the Phillies welcomed another tough team to South Philly in the Saint Louis Cardinals. The Phils again captured two of three, and then won two of three in Washington as well. The only two defeats in those series came when the bullpen blew what should have been comfortable victories.

When the dust cleared last weekend in D.C., the Phillies were once again eight games over the .500 mark. And now perhaps the toughest test of all would come. The Bronx Bombers were coming to Philly.

The New York Yankees arrived in town with baseball’s best record. They also brought their fans with them, as fired up Yankees fans swarmed Citizens Bank Park.

When the Yanks took the first two games, it appeared that the Phillies were getting a lesson in true contention. However, Zach Eflin road in on his white horse and blanked the Bombers in the series finale, once again salvaging Phillies fans hopes.

Now the Phillies are in the midst of a four-game weekend series with the Nationals, the first three of which will close out the calendar month. Despite a crushing 17-7 defeat on Friday night in which Nick Pivetta was driven out early by Washington, they remain six games over the .500 mark.

The Phillies have survived an extremely brutal schedule in June. A win over the Nationals on Saturday night would leave them with a 13-15 record for the month.

However, they will indeed have a losing month, their first such month this season. Cracks were revealed in every area of the roster.

In the rotation and bullpen, the lineup and bench, if these cracks are not filled by management and ownership soon, they could become gaping holes that could still sink this promising ship.

The Phillies appear to have an emerging young ace in Aaron Nola, and the suspicion is that veteran Jake Arrieta will be just fine as the #2 starter. But there still have to be questions about the ability of Eflin, Pivetta, and Vincent Velasquez. A more proven veteran addition to the rotation could prove invaluable in the second half.

Aside from youngsters Seranthony Dominguez and Victor Arano, every bullpen option has proven inconsistent at best to Kapler. The expected return of Pat Neshek should help. Aside from that, the club probably needs to hope for improvement from Tommy Hunter. But a veteran lefty would make a nice addition.

The bench right now has no true, veteran pinch-hitting options to strike fear into the opposition. When either Aaron Altherr or Nick Williams aren’t starting in the outfield, they are easily the best such options. After that, it’s either Pedro Florimon, Jesmuel Valentin, or Dylan Cozens.

And the regular everyday lineup is very inconsistent. The Phillies are 18th among MLB’s 30 clubs in Runs scored. They are 15th in Home Runs, and 19th in both Steals and OPS. Defensively, the club ranks just 27th in Fielding Percentage.

To me, one part of the Phillies problems defensively has been the juggling of some position players, as well as the playing of a couple out of their accustomed positions. I don’t see them changing their philosophy in this regard in the short term, so inconsistent defense could remain a problem for now.

General Manager Matt Klentak and owner John Middleton are squarely under the spotlight beginning in July and moving through the coming off-season. The foundation appears to be here for the next contending Phillies team. But these cracks are very real, and they need to be filled with serious ball players.

Some improvement will come from young players currently on the roster improving. But for guys like Scott Kingery and Rhys Hoskins, that will mean more stable playing time at a comfortable position. For someone like Nick Williams, it means an everyday role.

But much of the push towards true ultimate championship contention will have to come from the addition via trade and/or free agency of more talented players.

The Phillies dipped their toes in such waters this past off-season by adding Arrieta and Carlos Santana, as misguided as the latter signing was for their future. They’ll need a couple more of those moves to stay in contention this year, and to move to more consistent contending status in the coming years.