Tag Archives: Luke Weaver

Phillies find their third baseman of the future in the present of Maikel Franco

Franco finally solidifying his Phillies future
Entering the 2018 season the future was beginning to get a bit hazy for Maikel Franco. That future as far as the Philadelphia Phillies were concerned was beginning to get even hazier as the first two months unfolded, and the summer arrived.
On June 20, Franco suffered through an 0-4 performance during a game against the Saint Louis Cardinals. That o-fer was just the latest in a season that was getting away from the 25-year-old third baseman.
At that point, Franco was sporting a .240/.284/.409 slash line with just 16 extra-base hits over his first 225 plate appearances. He was playing uninspired defense. In fact, he had already lost playing time with J.P. Crawford making eight June starts at the hot corner.
But then on June 19, Crawford was hit by a pitch from Cardinals pitcher Luke Weaver. That pitch broke a bone in Crawford’s right hand, leading to a nearly two-month stint on the disabled list. It also led to a second chance for Franco.
Though he took that 0-4 collar in his first game back as the everyday starter, Franco would make the most of his second chance. The next night in Washington, Franco produced a four-hit night, and was on his way to securing his position as the Phillies starter at the hot corner.
Over his last 47 games, 44 of those starts, Franco has slashed .327/.369/.577 and has banged 11 home runs and nine doubles. On July 23 against the Los Angeles Dodgers he blasted two homers. Three days later on July 26 in Cincinnati, he repeated that feat against the host Reds.
In an August 2 game at Citizens Bank Park against the Miami Marlins, the Phillies rallied to tie the game at 2-2 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. 
Then with two runners on base, Franco stepped to the plate and delivered an emotional walk off three-run home run, punctuating his blast with one of the most emotional bat flips in baseball history.
In yesterday’s doubleheader split with the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park, Franco continued his solid hitting. He went 3-8 with a home run in the opener, then contributed a double in the second game victory.
A month into his rebirth, Franco was quoted by Rob Parent of the Delaware County Daily Times:

“I know my game plan isn’t different now, when I go out and play defense and my offense, too, when I go to the box. I just want to keep working hard…and do everything I can do for my team..I know the last couple of years here I did not do what everybody expect or what I expect. I’m just trying to forget that…I’m just trying to get better and better every single day.”

In addition to his offensive breakout, which has also included 25 RBI, Franco has stepped up his defensive game with numerous fielding gems. Following a recent strong performance, manager Gabe Kapler was quoted by Jon Marks for Metro Philadelphia:

“Just a reminder things can turn around fast. In the span of a month, you can go from a guy who’s having a hard time staying in the lineup every day, to a guy you legitimately cannot take out of the lineup for any reason.”

Crawford was activated from the disabled list earlier this week and sent down to AAA Lehigh Valley. There he will get the playing time and at-bats needed to regain his timing and form in the hopes of helping the Phillies secure a postseason berth during September.
With the IronPigs, Crawford will be playing at his natural shortstop position. With Franco now firmly entrenched at third base, that is where the future lies for Crawford.
The Phillies recently traded for veteran shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. So barring injuries, when Crawford does return he will be mostly coming off the bench as a defensive replacement, as well as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner.
When the off-season rolls around, things get murkier on the left side of the infield. Cabrera will turn 33-years-old in November and will become a free agent as well. It is unlikely that the Phillies will be bringing him back for 2019.
Will the club go hard for Manny Machado, who has made it clear that he wants to play shortstop? If the Phillies are able to lure the perennial all-star, that would likely turn Crawford into trade bait.
Franco is arbitration eligible in 2019. He cannot become a free agent until after the 2021 season. The Phillies have a large amount of control over him for the next three years. Those three years will take Franco, who turns 26 at the end of this month, through his age 29 season.
What Franco has demonstrated over these last two months is that he is not only the present for the Phillies at third base, but also their future at the position. With third base now locked down, the club can turn to other positions of need in the knowledge that the hot corner is in good hands.

Phillies bring Hector Neris back to their bullpen mix

Former closer Neris returns to the Phillies bullpen mix
The Philadelphia Phillies made an interesting roster move on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for their two-game series with the Boston Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park.
Hector Neris, who began the season as the Phillies closer, was recalled from the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Sent down was infielder J.P. Crawford, recently activated from the disabled list.
Crawford clearly needs playing time after spending most of the last two months recovering from a broken left hand. The injury was suffered back in mid-June when he was hit by a pitch from Saint Louis Cardinals hurler Luke Weaver.
At that point in the season, Crawford had been playing a lot of third base, with Maikel Franco struggling badly. While Crawford was out, Franco heated up and has now apparently become entrenched at the hot corner.
While the Phillies could have demoted Scott Kingery, they instead chose to keep the struggling infielder with the big club. Kingery can play second, third, and short. That versatility was certainly a factor in their decision.
Both Kingery and Crawford could likely benefit from two or three weeks of everyday playing time at the AAA level. Crawford needs it to regain his timing after being off for two months. Kingery needs it to regain his confidence and stroke after looking over-matched for much of his rookie season.
Rosters will expand in a little more than two weeks. It is a near certainty that Crawford will be among the first group of players brought to Philadelphia to help the team during the stretch run of September baseball.
Neris was horrendous during the first three months of the 2018 season with the Phillies, surrendering 11 home runs among the 35 hits that he yielded over 30 innings.
However, with the IronPigs, Neris got back to dominating. In 19 games he allowed just nine hits over 18.2. innings with a 31/7 K:BB ratio. More importantly perhaps, he allowed no long balls.
“…more consistent command of the fastball…the splitter has been consistent in and in-and-out of the zone,” said IronPigs pitching coach David Lundquist per Philly.com’s Ben Pope. “His timing and his delivery is really good right now, and he’s been getting more swing-and-miss.
The Phillies are hoping that the 29-year-old right-hander has gotten his confidence back and his pitching repertoire squared away. If so, Neris has the talent to provide a dynamic presence to the back-end of the Phillies bullpen over the final seven weeks.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Hector Neris returns, J.P. Crawford sent to AAA Lehigh Valley

Brewers and Cardinals cut NL Wildcard deficit to just two games

The Milwaukee Brewers made the Pittsburgh Pirates walk the plank by an 8-2 margin on Wednesday at Miller Park.

Meanwhile in Saint Louis on Thursday, the host Cardinals flew past the Cincinnati Reds for a 5-2 victory.

With their respective wins, both the Brew Crew and the Cards have now pulled within just two games in the loss column of the final NL Wildcard playoff berth.

That spot has been held for months by the Colorado Rockies, who were shut out by the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday. The Dbacks control the top NL Wildcard, with their Magic Number down to 8 in order to clinch an MLB postseason berth.

A two-run homer off the bat of Eric Thames in the bottom of the 3rd inning broke a 1-1 tie for Milwaukee. Brett Phillips added a two-run single later in the frame as the Brewers chased young Pirates starter Tyler Glasnow.

For the Cardinals, rookie Luke Weaver tossed a gem. He allowed just two hits and an unearned run over six innings, striking out six Cincy batters. Tommy Pham’s 20th home run of the season, a two-run shot in the 5th inning, broke open a tight contest.

The 24-year old Weaver was quoted by Jenifer Longasch for MLB.com on his key performance in the midst of a playoff race:

“I know it’s a big deal, but I try to downplay it in my mind and think of it was another game. It doesn’t change my mentality when I go out there. I want to stay aggressive and be strong and put up a great performance.”

Out in the Arizona desert, the high-powered Rockies lineup was kept in check by 27-year old Dbacks starter Zack Godley. The righty scattered five hits across eight strong innings, striking out seven without surrendering a walk.

Dbacks skipper Torey Lovullo was quoted by Jarrid Denney for MLB.com following the game:

“I know that there are a few teams that are right there; right on out heels. It’s not just the Rockies that we’re concerned about in the standings. But we placed all that aside at the right time of the day to go out and execute. We’re not paralyzed by what’s going on around us. I’m happy that these guys are eliminating the noise.”

The Rockies now will host the San Diego Padres this weekend at Coors Field. That series begins a stretch in which Colorado will play teams at least 10 games under the .500 mark (San Diego, San Francisco, Miami) in a dozen straight games.

The Brewers are in Miami this weekend, so the Marlins will have a real chance to play spoiler down the stretch. After that it will be three in Pittsburgh. The Brewers return home for a four-game long weekend set with the Chicago Cubs next Thursday.

The Cardinals play host to those arch-rival Cubs this weekend at Busch Stadium. It begins a nine-game road trip that will continue next week in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

Starting Pitching Has Cardinals Flying High Again

Lance Lynn and his rotation mates leading Cardinals comeback
The Saint Louis Cardinals are the most historically successful franchise in the history of the National League. 
That success is not just ancient history. The Cards have dominated the NL Central Division for more than a decade.
The Cardinals have won more World Series titles (11), and more National League pennants (19) than any other NL team.
In this century alone, the Cards have tacked on nine division crowns, four pennants, and a pair of World Series titles to those totals.
But the 2017 season did not begin in typical fashion for Saint Louis. The team struggled out to a 3-9 start over the season’s first two weeks.
However, if opponents were hoping to take advantage of some down period for the Cardinals, that was the time to catch them. It has all turned around, and the Cardinals are now winning with consistency once again.
Saint Louis has now won 10 of their last 14 games. Following their most recent win on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium, a 2-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cards are back to the .500 mark at 13-13. They sit just 1.5 games behind the division-leading and arch-rival Chicago Cubs.
Four of the victories during this stretch have come by that same 2-1 score, highlighting the segment of the team that has led the way forward: the starting pitching rotation.
During a season in which starting pitchers have been dropping like flies, heading to the Disabled List on a regular basis all across Major League Baseball, the Cardinals staff has proven resilient.
Saint Louis skipper Mike Matheny has been able to call on the same five starting pitchers for each of their turns thus far after one full month of the 2017 season.

CARDINALS ROTATION FLYING HIGH

Paving the way has been the youngest of those starters, 25-year old Carlos Martinez. In his third full season as a member of the rotation, the Dominican native has just a 1-3 record. But Martinez has allowed just 32 hits over 38 innings with a 43/15 K:BB ratio, best on the staff.
Fellow 25-year old Michael Wacha (a couple of months older) is 2-1 with a 3.23 ERA and 1.141 WHIP mark. Wacha has allowed 28 hits over 30.2 innings with a 28/7 K:BB ratio.
After starting his career with parts of six seasons in Cincinnati and a partial season in San Francisco, 29-year old Mike Leake is now in his second year with the Cardinals. Leake is 3-1 with an outstanding 1.35 ERA and 0.990 WHIP. He has allowed just 28 hits over 33.1 innings with a 25/5 K:BB mark.
Lance Lynn is a 30-year old who has spent his entire six-year big league career with the Saint Louis organization. Lynn was a 2012 NL All-Star, and is producing at that level once again this year. He has a 3-1 record with a 2.45 ERA, 1.091 WHIP, and a 25/10 K:BB ratio while allowing just 22 hits across 29.1 innings.
The senior member of the staff is also its most historically successful, but thus far is also struggling the most. Now 35-years old, Adam Wainwright is no longer counted on to be the ace of the staff, but is simply asked to contribute.
Wainwright is a three-time NL All-Star who finished either second or third in the National League Cy Young Award voting four times between the 2009-2014 seasons.
This year, Wainwright is 2-3 with a 6.12 ERA, allowing 39 hits over 25 innings. However, even he may be getting it together. Wainwright has won his last two starts, and has a solid 26/7 K:BB ratio.

ROTATION CARRYING A STRUGGLING OFFENSE

It was Martinez who dominated the Brewers in Tuesday’s 2-1 victory. As reported by Nate Latsch with the New Jersey Herald, Matheny was quick to praise his starter.
“Carlos was as good as we’ve seen him. That was complete-game-shutout stuff…Just a big day…Carlos was everything we needed.”
Matheny and the Cardinals have been getting everything they’ve needed for much of the early season thus far where the starting pitching is concerned.
If an injury should eventually pop up, the Cardinals may be able to cover it from within. Despite losing top prospect Alex Reyes for the year to Tommy John surgery, there is another waiting in the wings.
Luke Weaver is the Cardinals #2 prospect. Now back from his own early-season injury issues, Weaver allowed just three hits over six shutout innings on May 2nd for the AAA Memphis Redbirds.
The 23-year old struck out five and walked no one, and should be ready for a promotion if needed after a few more weeks of minor league action.
The offense has struggled to score, still just 26th in baseball with 106 runs. Their 28 home runs ranks just 22nd in the game. With 13 stolen bases, the Cardinals are 16th in MLB.
Unless there is a major turnaround from that offensive attack, Saint Louis will need to continue getting that healthy production from their starting pitching to be a postseason contender once again.

Cardinals Pitching Pipeline Set to Deliver Again

The St. Louis Cardinals have always produced strong homegrown talent, and a trio of pitchers are coming to continue that tradition.

The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the most successful teams in Major League Baseball history, arguably the National League’s most consistently successful. The Cards have reached the MLB postseason a dozen times already in this new century. They have been World Series champions 11 times in the modern era, including in both 2006 and 2011.
One of the hallmarks of the organization has been the ability to develop and bring to the big leagues some great starting pitchers. From Dizzy Dean in the 1930s to Bob Gibson in the 1960s to Adam Wainwright in recent years, outstanding homegrown starting pitching has helped lead the way to World Series glory.
The Cardinals missed out on the postseason in a 2016 season that saw the club finish 86-76. After winning the NL Central Division crown in three straight seasons, the Cards finished in second place this year, a distant 17.5 games behind the eventual World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
The team wasn’t far off from a return to the MLB playoffs, however. They finished just one game behind both the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants for an NL Wild Card berth.
One of the problems keeping the Cardinals from regular season success this year was the pitching.

St. Louis finished 12th in ERA in MLB this year. They also finished ninth in quality starts, 16th in strikeouts, and 18th in batting average against this year.

Their longtime ace Wainwright turned 35 years old this season and is clearly on the downturn. But despite that fact, and despite the mediocre 2016 pitching numbers, there is plenty to look forward to on the mound.
The Cardinals best pitcher this year was Carlos Martinez, a right-hander who just turned 25 years of age in late September. Martinez went 16-9 with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.224 WHIP this season in 31 starts. He allowed 169 hits over 195.1 innings with 174 strikeouts.

Michael Wacha developed shoulder troubles, but at age 25 there remains hope that the talented righty will be able to come back strong.

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

But the biggest hope for the future comes from a trio of right-handed pitchers who are all among the organization’s top prospects, and who are all on the verge of reaching the big leagues.
Top prospect Alex Reyes turned 22 years old in August, and made his big league debut with a dozen games, five of them starts.
The club’s #2 prospect, Luke Weaver, also made his big league debut in 2016. He pitched in his first nine games with the Cards, eight of them starts.
The third arm is the club’s fourth-rated prospect, Jack Flaherty. The 6’4″, 205-pounder is the biggest and youngest of the three, having turned just 21 years old last month.
With these three talented pitchers on the rise adding to Martinez and possibly Wacha, the future of the St. Louis starting rotation is in good hands.
And since they are all homegrown and all young, they are going to also be inexpensive to the club for years to come. Wainwright is still owed $19.5 million in each of the next two years, but the committed payroll drops in half for 2018.
This will make it easier for the Cardinals to splurge in free agency for a bat or two down the road. Meanwhile, I would expect St. Louis to remain an NL Wild Card contender in 2017. The young arms will prove to be a part of that contending recipe.