Tag Archives: Mickey Moniak

Phillies reportedly looking at right-handed hitting center fielders

As potentially convoluted as the Philadelphia Phillies infield situation could get during the 2020 season, the outfield appears to be fairly set at this point

In right field, Bryce Harper put together an outstanding first season in Philadelphia. As long as he remains healthy, Harper is locked into the starting lineup at the position for years to come.

Andrew McCutchen is the left fielder. The veteran is expected to be 100% recovered from the devastating knee injury and subsequent surgery that ended his own first season with the club in early June. In fact, he responded earlier this week to a piece that I published asking what the Phillies could expect from him in 2020.

In center field, 2017 first round draft pick Adam Haseley will enter spring training as the anticipated everyday starter after appearing in 65 games during his rookie season last summer. Haseley, who turns 24 in mid-April, made 40 of his 65 overall appearances in center field in 2019, including 36 starts.

This morning, MLB insider Jon Morosi revealed that the Phillies may be looking to add a right-handed hitting complement to the lefty-swinging Haseley.

 

On the assumption that general manager Matt Klentak is still willing to look at available options outside of the organization, which players remaining on the free agent market might make the most sense for such a role?

The best available right-handed hitting center fielder is probably Kevin Pillar. Having just turned 31 years of age earlier this week, Pillar is a seven-year veteran.

Pillar has spent most of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays, who dealt him to the San Francisco Giants just one week into the 2019  campaign. He went on to enjoy his best season with 21 homers, 61 extra-base hits, 88 RBIs, 83 runs scored, and 14 steals. Pillar also finished fifth among all MLB center fielders in putouts.

Other available free agents fitting the bill of an experienced center fielder who bats right-handed include Peter Bourjos, Rajai Davis, Austin Jackson, and Juan Lagares. Switch-hitting speedster Billy Hamilton is also available.

The Phillies current outfield depth includes left-handed hitters Jay Bruce, Nick Williams, and Odubel Herrera. The latter is not expected to remain with the club into the 2020 season after a highly publicized domestic violence incident last year.

Even the top two outfield prospects in the minor league system, 2016 first overall draft pick Mickey Moniak and 2016 international signee Simon Muzziotti, are each left-handed hitters. Both can play center field but neither is big-league ready at this point.

The lone player on the Phillies current 40-man roster who fits the bill would be the injury-prone Roman Quinn, a switch-hitter. It is a near certainty that Quinn will make the team and fill a reserve outfield role with as long as he is healthy.

Two players who have big-league experience and who fit the right-handed hitting center field bill were signed by the club this winter to minor league deals. Both Mikie Mahtook and Matt Szczur (pronounced ‘Ceasar’) will come to spring training with a shot at filling the role for the club.

In an emergency, McCutchen could slide over to briefly cover the position. He played in 15 games there in 2019 including 10 starts. But his days as an MVP and Gold Glove caliber defender in center are long over, and it would be best to limit McCutchen’s exposure there considering the knee injury.

It is no secret that the Phillies hope to use last year’s .500 finish (81-81) as a springboard to compete for a postseason berth in 2020. Assuming health and continued positive development, Haseley will get the majority of starts in center field.

For the Phillies in the coming season, having a quality, experienced, right-handed hitting option at the position could prove to be a big help, giving Haseley a break against some tougher southpaw pitchers.

 

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Philadelphia Phillies top 20 prospects winter 2020 update

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Alec Bohm should arrive at some point in 2020 to take over the hot corner at Citizens Bank Park

 

Where minor league prospects are concerned, the Philadelphia Phillies system is extremely top-heavy at the moment. That is, at least as far as any who anyone could reasonably forecast as likely to make a real impact on the ball club in the near future.

Fortunately for the Phillies, their top two prospects appear to be extremely talented. Both should slip right into positions of need, and both should see action at Citizens Bank Park at some point in the 2020 season.

Beyond that it truly becomes a crapshoot. There are a couple more players who could come quickly, but whose ceilings are not as obviously high. And there are a number of others with talent, but who will require more developmental time before we can even begin to make real assessments as to their potential impact on the big-league club.

In putting together this list, I utilized my own knowledge based on following the minor leagues closely and on personal observations. One note on my thought process. Unless a younger prospect is so obviously talented as to warrant a bump due to their gifts, I tend to respect actual performance against more advanced competition at the higher levels of the minors over “toolsy” kids in the lower levels.

In addition to my own thoughts, I also gleaned the published opinions of a number of reliable and respected sources, including Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, Baseball Prospectus and a few others who more intimately follow the Phillies on a regular basis.

The following represents the Philadelphia Phillies top 20 prospects list as I see them here on the first day of winter. They are shown with their most likely position at this time, and the age at which they will play most of the 2020 season.

I am providing writeups on the top ten and then a simple ranking of the next ten. I’ll be updating this list at some point in the spring, probably around April or May of 2020.

  1. Alec Bohm, 3B (23): I juggled Bohm and Howard in my mind for awhile when considering this list. Bohm’s solid play as the starting third baseman for Team USA in the Premier 12 tournament in which he homered, doubled three times, and played a solid third base pushed him to the front. The Omaha, Nebraska native was the Phillies first round choice at third overall in the 2018 MLB Draft out of Wichita State University. He has slashed .293/.368/.474 in two minor league seasons, advancing to Double-A Reading by the end of summer 2019. His scouting report at MLB.com tells the tale of why he is so highly touted: “Bohm has the potential to hit for average as well as power at the highest level. He has strength and excellent bat speed to go along with excellent strike zone control. As a result, he can draw walks and doesn’t strike out much, especially for someone who can generate plus raw power.” In his own report back in August, Matt Winkelman of Phillies Minor Thoughts tells the tale of why some still have slight reservations on Bohm’s ceiling: “The real remaining question facing Bohm is where he will play defensively. He has improved at third base, but his actions still aren’t great and he profiles as below average there. Long term he probably moves off the position and tries an outfield corner before moving to first base.” Unless the Phillies make a late push to sign free agent Josh Donaldson or swing a deal for either Kris Bryant or Nolan Arenado, all unlikely, Bohm will get every chance to be their starter at the hot corner at some point in 2020, and probably for years to come.
  2. Spencer Howard, RHP (23): The Phillies brought Aaron Nola to the big-leagues in recent years and he has developed into an ace-caliber starting pitcher. A year ago at this time, Sixto Sanchez was the club’s top prospect and also viewed as a future ace before being dealt to Miami in the J.T. Realmuto trade. Howard now takes up the mantle as the Phillies top pitching prospect and is beginning to gain similar predictions of eventual stardom. Howard lost a little more than a month in 2019 due to a shoulder injury. He returned by early July and as Baseball Prospectus reported “the Phillies made sure he got plenty of innings in Double-A and the AFL to close the gap.” While he can be inconsistent with his breaking balls at times, Howard’s overall numbers are exciting. In three minor league seasons he has allowed 166 hits over 211.1 innings across 47 starts with a 281/74 K:BB ratio, a 3.28 ERA, and a 1.136 WHIP mark. Baseball America’s scouting report on his potential reads “Other than his stint on the IL with shoulder stiffness, there were few blemishes in Howard’s outstanding 2019 season. He has taken massive strides in his two and a half seasons as a pro and now profiles as a potential No. 2 starter. He could be ready to pitch in Philadelphia by the second half of the 2020 season.” He reached Double-A Reading for a half-dozen starts at the end of 2019. Howard will start at Triple-A Lehigh Valley and, if he stays healthy and continues to dominate, will be up when there is an opening in the Phillies rotation.
  3. Bryson Stott, SS (22): The Phillies first-round choice at 14th overall in the 2019 MLB Draft out of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. His MLB.com report includes “Nearly all of Stott’s tools grade out as at least above-average. He has the chance to be a plus hitter, with very advanced bat-to-ball skills.” Baseball America says “Stott has few clear weaknesses, but also few standout tools.” Some question whether he can stay at shortstop and he may eventually have to slide to second or third base, depending on both his own development and the Phillies future needs. It is likely that he stays at shortstop while rising through the minors over the next couple of seasons.
  4. Francisco Morales, RHP (20): Signed out of Venezuela in 2016 as a 16-year-old, Morales was rated by Baseball America as the top available international free agent that summer. The tall righty has lived up to the hype and could top this list by next off-season. At Low-A Lakewood this past summer, Morales allowed 82 hits over 96.2 innings across 27 games, 15 of those as starts, with a 129/46 K:BB ratio. The MLB.com writeup reflects how most feel at this point: “The raw stuff is all there, but it’s still very much about projection for the big right-hander.” I happen to be bullish on him. He’ll pitch at High-A Clearwater in 2020 with a shot at Double-A Reading if he stays healthy, shows consistency, and continues to produce.
  5. Adonis Medina, RHP (23): A year or two ago, many saw Medina as just slightly behind Sanchez on the Phillies pitching prospect pecking order. He seemed destined for at least a mid-rotation role. Now that is a little cloudier. Winkelman summed it up well: “Medina’s secondary pitches have not taken a step forward and still lack consistency and bite. At his best, Medina will show three plus pitches and look like a mid rotation starter, but there are a lot of times where he is pitching below that.” Medina’s ERA has risen from 2.92 at short-season Williamsport in 2016 to 3.01 with Low-A Lakewood in 2017 to 4.12 at High-A Clearwater in 2018 and most recently to 4.94 with Double-A Reading this past summer. His strikeout totals have dropped each of the last two seasons. His age and experience say that he will pitch at Triple-A Lehigh Valley at some point in 2020, perhaps from the start of the season. His performance and health there will go a long way towards determining his ultimate long-term role. Or he could be used as part of a trade package.
  6.  Mickey Moniak, CF (22): The top overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft out of a California high school, Moniak has been slow to live up to the status of a first overall draftee. While it’s hard at this point to see him ever being impactful enough to justify that lofty selection, his production over the last two summers is giving hope that he can find a big-league role at some point. In just 39 more plate appearances, Moniak increased his extra-base production from 36 in 2018 to 52 in 2019. He more than doubled his home run total from five to 11, and increased his stolen base numbers from six to 15. Moniak has proven to be an excellent outfield defender to this point. He should play at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2020, and could be ready for a backup role with the Phillies by 2021. With continued progress he looks like a future big-league fourth outfielder who can serve as a solid backup at all three positions.
  7. Luis Garcia, SS (19): I hate, hate, hate ranking teenagers who have not flashed much of their projected offensive potential this high. But when everyone else is as bullish as they are on Garcia, I’ll yield to that input. MLB.com says “It’s easy to see Garcia becoming the best prospect in the system in the future and eventually be thought of as one of the top shortstop prospects in the game.” That sounds pretty exciting, no? Baseball Prospectus evaluates him in this way: “We don’t know if he can hit yet. It’s likely to be a few years before we know. He’s very, very far away. Yet even if it takes a half-decade to sort everything out, he’ll only be 23 during the 2024 season.” After a poor 2019 season in which he slashed just .186/.261/.255 over 524 plate appearances as an 18-year-old at Low-A Lakewood, I need to see Garcia begin to produce some offense in order to move him up the list in the future.
  8. Enyel De Los Santos, RHP (24): Now this is more like it for my tastes. An arm who is ready to help the big-league club right now. The issue is, what is the best role for De Los Santos, and what is his ceiling? He signed with the Seattle Mariners as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic back in 2014. He was dealt to the San Diego Padres in November 2015 for veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit, then to the Phillies two years later for shortstop Freddy Galvis. He has been solid at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in each of the last two seasons, but showed mixed results in a series of cameos with the Phillies. Unless he is included as part of a trade package, expect De Los Santos to compete for a bullpen role in spring training. His MLB rookie status still intact, De Los Santos could end up right back in the IronPigs 2020 rotation, waiting for another shot to help out in Philly when needed.
  9. Damon Jones, LHP (25): I’m as big a fan of tall, hard-throwing southpaws as you are likely to find, and that description fits Jones to a T. The Phillies grabbed him in the 17th round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of Washington State. In 2019, Jones rose through three levels of the minors, allowing 74 hits over 114.1 innings across 23 starts with a 152/59 K:BB ratio. He is almost certainly headed for a bullpen role in the big-leagues, and could fill such a role with the Phillies at some point this season. In fact, don’t be surprised if he emerges as soon as spring training and challenges for an Opening Day roster spot. While there is the potential for Mitch Williams-caliber wildness, he appears to have a bit more control than The Wild Thing. I like this guy. He could end up helping the pen for years to come.
  10. Cristopher Sanchez, LHP (23): Hey, a newbie! And a birthday present for me as well. The Phillies acquired Sanchez on my November 20 birthday this year from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for minor league infielder Curtis Mead. The Rays had signed him as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic back in 2013. Like Jones just ahead of him on this list, Sanchez is a tall southpaw, though not with quite as big a fastball. Baseball Prospectus writes “The fastball is plus at 92-94, the slider is firm with tilt, and the change has a chance to be plus with quality separation from his heater and big sink. Tampa Bay had too many quality prospects to protect everyone in December’s Rule 5 draft, so they dealt Sanchez to the Phillies who had the 40-man space to protect this intriguing arm.” He reached Triple-A Durham in Tampa’s system last year, and will be another intriguing option who likely opens with the IronPigs but will be ready to help the Phillies if needed in 2020.
  11. Rafael Marchan, C (21)
  12. Simon Muzziotti, CF (21)
  13. Nick Maton, SS (23)
  14. Johan Rojas, OF (19)
  15. JoJo Romero, LHP (23)
  16. Erik Miller, LHP (22)
  17. Starlyn Castillo, RHP (18)
  18. Connor Seabold, RHP (24)
  19. Jhailyn Ortiz, 1B (21)
  20. Kyle Dohy, LHP (23)

Could make the next list: Jamari Baylor, SS (19)

Others like him more: Deivy Grullon, C (24)

I just don’t get it: Arquimedes Gamboa, SS (22)

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Phillies owner John Middleton shows he is clearly not “a potted plant”

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Gabe Kapler was fired after two seasons as Phillies manager

 

On Friday, October 11, 2019, less than two weeks after their once promising season came to an end with a final disheartening defeat that left the club without a winning record for an eighth consecutive season, the Philadelphia Phillies held a press conference.

The purpose of the presser was ostensibly to address the firing of manager Gabe Kapler. However, as principal owner John Middleton sat down at the dais, flanked by general manager Matt Klentak to his right and Phillies president Andy MacPhail to his left, there was clearly an even broader agenda.

The goal of Friday’s session was undeniably to put out the fires now raging throughout the Phillies fan base. That flame sparked as the club slowly fell out of contention over the final two-thirds of the season, then completely collapsed over the final weeks for a second straight year.

But the flames are not out. In fact, judging by the response on both traditional and social media, those flames are only burning hotter today.

The bottom line appears to be that not only did the fan base want Kapler gone, but Phillies fans also wanted to see Middleton turn the page on what has thus far been a failed MacPhail-Klentak regime.

That will not be happening – at least not for now. Logic would appear to say that, now readying for the third manager during their term, both men are now squarely under the spotlight themselves, about to face increased scrutiny from the owner.

If the failures of the first four full years under MacPhail and Klentak continue next season, it would be absolutely negligent for Middleton to allow them continued management roles with the team.

The biggest takeaway from the show was that Middleton himself is clearly the man who will have the final say in every important matter as this organization attempts to reach its goal of becoming a long-term contender.

Middleton is involved. Not just in the way that an owner is usually in charge. He is going to not only be intimately involved in the biggest big-league talent acquisitions, but also have the final say in a new manager and other key personnel moves.

MacPhail opened the press conference with a statement in which he laid out Middleton’s decision-making process in releasing Kapler with one year to go on the manager’s contract.

The club president provided that, on the recommendation of he and Klentak, the owner had undertaken a wide-ranging, week-long process of evaluation which included receiving positive feedback on Kapler from a number of sources. However, MacPhail then stated the following:

What John didn’t hear was any explanation of why we were 20-36 over the last two Septembers. Or more importantly, what was gonna be in place to ensure that didn’t happen again.

What MacPhail never once addressed was his own role in the failures of those two September collapses. It is the job of he and his hand-picked GM Klentak to provide the players, in both minor league depth and big-league talent, for the manager to have as resources to compete and succeed at the highest level.

As the second questioner from the local media called upon, Howard Eskin of SportsRadio 94 WIP FM and sports director at WTXF-TV wasted no time in asking the question of Middleton that was on the minds of most fans:

John, when you fired (former Phillies GM) Ruben Amaro, you said it’s a results based business…Gabe Kapler took the hit. And I’m wondering why it was just Gabe Kapler? And I, among other people, are wondering why…those two gentlemen are sitting with you today?

Middleton then went on a minute and a half spiel in which he questioned Eskin back, then tossed out some statistics showing improvement in the bullpen over the last couple months of the season. Bottom line, the owner failed to address the pivotal question directly.

MacPhail then jumped in, attempting to justify his and Klentak’s low-rated minor league system. The club president made excuses regarding picks lost due to free agent signings and the selection of high school players, and hung his hat on two or three recent draftees ranked by many services as among the top 100 in the game.

The fact remains that it was MacPhail and Klentak’s decision to select those high school players, including Mickey Moniak with the first overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft, over talented older prospects who have already impacted the big-leagues for other organizations, players who came from those same drafts.

Alec Bohm (34), Spencer Howard (88), and Bryson Stott (89) rank among the current top 100 prospects in baseball per MLB Pipeline, while Baseball America ranks just Bohm and Howard on their top 100 prospects list.

The draft is an inexact science, and teams are going to have hits and misses, even near the top of the first round. But talent comes to a Major League Baseball organization from more than the draft.

Despite four years of those drafts and four years signing international and other free agents to the minor league system, the Phillies organization is ranked among the bottom one-third in depth of minor league talent by nearly every reliable evaluator.

Baseball America had them at #25 back in mid-August. Fangraphs currently ranks the Phillies at #23 overall among MLB organizations. While MLB didn’t provide a recent full ranking, the Phillies were not listed among the top half of organizations back in August of this year.

When MacPhail took over as club president and hired Klentak as his general manager in the fall of 2015, the Phillies were clearly in rebuilding mode. They also had one of the top-ranked farm systems in baseball. Today, after four years, the club has still not registered even a winning season, and the farm season has virtually collapsed.

Both MacPhail and Klentak mentioned that outfielder Adam Haseley, the eighth overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, and pitcher Cole Irvin, the club’s fifth rounder in 2016, have already impacted the Phillies big-league roster.

Haseley slashed just .266/.324/.396 over 242 plate appearances this season, but did play solid defense. Irvin had a 5.83 ERA and 5.06 FIP while surrendering 45 hits over 41.2 innings in which he struck out just 31 batters this season. That is hardly a duo to hang your hats on as you try to defend your record in talent evaluation.

In response to a question posed by Kevin Cooney of PhillyVoice and Forbes, Middleton made it clear that the search for the new manager would be conducted by Klentak. But that would happen only after the GM sat down with he and MacPhail and laid out a profile of what to look for in a candidate.

Middleton will then be presented with the final name for an interview and evaluation. Clearly, the owner will have the final say on who is hired as the next Philadelphia Phillies manager.

During the course of the press conference, it was pointed out that the Phillies front office was “allowed to play the long game” by making the decisions not to give up young talent at the trade deadline in order to help the 2019 team reach the postseason. Meanwhile, Kapler was forced in the shorter term to try and compete with a lesser roster.

To that, Middleton stepped in with a matter-of-fact response: “That’s the inherent nature of the business. And it’s been that way for a hundred years, and it will likely be that way a hundred years from now. That just goes with the territory. And if the manager doesn’t like it or can’t handle it, then the manager shouldn’t be the manager.

What the owner was saying is a baseball truth that was known well to Kapler: managers are hired to be fired. The list of big-league skippers who get the job and then remain in the same position with the same organization over the long haul, eventually leaving or retiring on their own terms, is extremely short.

As the press conference wound towards a conclusion, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com questioned Middleton directly regarding the owner’s assertiveness in getting intimately involved in matters over the last year.

Especially, Zolecki questioned Middleton regarding any concerns that the owner may have that, had he not gotten so involved, things would be even more troubling today under the MacPhail-Klentak management team.

I’d like to think I actually bring value to an organization. That I’m not a potted plant sitting in the corner…This is what CEO’s do. You wouldn’t have a need for a CEO if everybody in that organization made every decision correctly every time.

Middleton never addressed, at least not in any way that will be accepted by the fans, the status of MacPhail and Klentak. But that is a bit telling in itself. If the two men do not see themselves as now more on the hot seat with the owner than even the new manager will ever be, they are sorely mistaken.

There is one man in charge of the Philadelphia Phillies these days. That man decided that it was time to change managers – again. It will be that man, John Middleton, who will now have to answer to his fan base should his decision to keep this upper management team in place backfire.

How do the Phillies match-up with the Braves?

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Following a half-decade of losing baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies are trying desperately to build their roster back to a truly competitive level.

Ownership opened their wallets this past off-season, shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade the starting lineup.
Last summer, the Phillies surprised many by taking and holding first place in the National League East Division for much of the summer. However, the club eventually collapsed over the final seven weeks of the season to finish in third place, once again with a losing record.
Bolting past the Phillies were the Atlanta Braves, who themselves were coming off a string of losing campaigns. Heading into the 2018 season, the Braves had suffered through four consecutive losing seasons. From 2015-17, Atlanta never finished closer than 23 games to the top of the division.
So, both the Phillies and Braves were awful for years coming into the 2018 season. But in the end, the Braves won a division crown, only their second since 2005. The Phillies missed the postseason for a seventh consecutive season.
There was a surge in excitement around the Phillies after the big cash outlay this past off-season. And as the 2019 season got underway at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies swept the Braves, outscoring their rivals by 23-11 over three late-March games and looking for all the world like the better ball club.
Flash forward four months, and things could not look any different. The two teams have met seven times since that opening series, with Atlanta winning five of those. Over the last three meetings, the Braves have now outscored the Phillies by a 30-10 margin.
The standings reflect this change as well. The Phillies early season lead in the division evaporated in a cloud of injuries, poor pitching, and inconsistent offensive production. Meanwhile, the Braves caught fire and again bolted to the top.
After Friday night’s 9-2 victory, Atlanta now leads the Washington Nationals by 5.5 games in the NL East standings, with the Phillies now 6.5 games back. And the fact is, the talent gap appears grimly wider than that between the two teams.
An examination of the two starting lineups, both now and projected over the coming seasons, reveals a major challenge ahead for the Phillies in trying to catch and stay with the Braves.

FIRST BASE

Harper and Hoskins give the Phillies two legitimate long term weapons. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)
Freddie Freeman (29) v. Rhys Hoskins (26): The Phillies have a three-year age edge here. But it’s not as if Freeman is going to be old over the next few years. As he ages into his early-30’s, Freeman is likely to remain an All-Star caliber run producer. Hoskins is a good run producer. Freeman is elite. Neither is a great defender. Unless there is some leap forward from Hoskins, this match-up is likely to favor the Braves for the next 3-4 seasons. But this is not a position where the Phillies need a change.
Advantage: Braves

SECOND BASE

Ozzie Albies (22) v. Cesar Hernandez (29): The Braves smartly signed Albies to an extremely club-friendly contract that will keep him with Atlanta through the 2025 season, with two more club option years. Meanwhile, Hernandez is due to become a free agent following the 2020 season. This could well be his last year with the Phillies, possibly his last week in red pinstripes if dealt before the deadline. The real future match-up is with 25-year-old Scott Kingery, who should be the future at second base for the Phillies. Kingery has a chance to be much more impactful, and would make this an “even” push for years to come. All three are solid defenders.
Advantage: Braves now, but ‘Even’ over the longer term

SHORTSTOP

Dansby Swanson (25) v. Jean Segura (29): This is a reversal of the Freeman-Hoskins situation, age-wise, with the Phillies having the veteran who will be aging into his 30’s. Swanson likely has at least three more seasons in Atlanta before he can become a free agent. Segura has a Phillies contract through those same three years, with a club option for one more. Segura is a slightly better hitter, but Swanson has improved his approach this year and may still have more upside to come. Defense is an important part of the shortstop position, and there Segura has it all over Swanson. This is a Phillies advantage, but just as with the first base edge to the Braves, it is not a position where Atlanta needs to be overly concerned about the difference in talent.
Advantage: Phillies

THIRD BASE

Phillies desperately need top prospect Bohm to become truly impactful to keep pace with Braves young talent. (Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
Josh Donaldson (33) v. Maikel Franco (26): This is an extremely interesting match-up, because the two players currently occupying the positions are not likely to be with either team over the next few seasons. Donaldson is on a one-year contract, and the Braves have his heir apparent in-house with Austin Riley, who they have mostly played out of position in left field for now. Franco cannot be a free agent until after the 2021 season. However, the club’s top prospect, Alec Bohm, could be ready for a full big-league shot as soon as next season. Franco is a better defender right now, Donaldson a more impactful hitter. This season, I would prefer the 2015 AL MVP Donaldson. Longer term, it’s hard to know what Riley and Bohm will become. But Riley was considered a strong prospect as well, and has 16 home runs in just 243 plate appearances as a 22-year-old rookie. So even with the Phillies getting better at the position by bringing up their top prospect, they only remain a likely ‘push’ at this position over the long term.
Advantage: Braves now, but ‘Even’ over the longer term

LEFT FIELD

Austin Riley (22) v. Andrew McCutchen (32): There is no way to gauge these two as a fair comparison, since ‘Cutch’ is out for the season following knee surgery and Riley will not be in left field longer term, probably not beyond this season. Right now, with Jay Bruce (32) on the IL as well, the Phillies have a revolving door in left field, mostly using some combination of Nick Williams (25) and Adam Haseley (23), either of whom it would be difficult to define a future role for. For the Braves, the outfield is where you can begin to see a scary future developing for the Phillies to compete. A future Atlanta configuration would well see Acuna (see below) flip over here to left, with their top two prospects taking over in center and right. Those would be a pair of 20-year-olds in Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, both of whom are tearing up the minors and could arrive next summer. McCutchen, assuming health, can keep the Phillies competitive here for a few years.
Advantage: Braves now, ‘Even’ over next 2-3 years, Atlanta beyond that

CENTER FIELD

Moniak’s recent development has been encouraging. If he can become a true big-league talent, the Phillies job keeping pace becomes much easier. (Cheryl Purcell)
Ronald Acuna Jr.(21) v. Scott Kingery (25): Another position where these two are not likely to be the longer term answers for either club. That is not indictment on either. Kingery should be headed to second base to become the Phillies starter at the keystone for years to come. And Acuna is likely to slide over the left, making way for Pache, who is considered an elite defender. The real question will be, who is going to become the Phillies long-term center fielder? Is it Haseley? 2016 top overall draft pick Mickey Moniak? Frankly, if the answer isn’t either one of these two players, that will be a massive indictment of the organization. Again, Moniak was the first overall pick in the draft. Haseley was selected at 8th overall just a year later. Right now, Acuna, who was the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year and one of the game’s brightest young stars,
Advantage: Braves

RIGHT FIELD

Nick Markakis (35) v. Bryce Harper (26): Finally, a position where the Phillies have a clear advantage. Almost a decade younger and just entering the prime of his career, Harper is both a more impactful run producer and a better defender at this stage of their careers. However, Markakis is no slouch for now. The three-time Gold Glover was an NL All-Star as recently as a year ago. He is working on a one-year contract with a team option for next season. He could very well find that option exercised as the Braves give Pache and/or Waters most of another year to develop more fully. As well all know, Harper will be with the Phillies for a long time to come. He is likely to keep this a Phillies advantage position for at least the next 3-4 years, but just how big an advanage will depend on the development of the Braves youngsters after Markakis departs.
Advantage: Phillies

CATCHER

Brian McCann (35) & Tyler Flowers (33) v. J.T. Realmuto (28): By almost every measurement, Realmuto is the best defensive catcher in the game today. He is also in his prime. The Phillies gave up a major package in order to obtain him from the Marlins. He is signed only through next season, and there is no doubt that the Phillies must get an extension with him for at least three more years at some soon point. The McCann (LH) and Flowers (RH) platoon is very effective for Atlanta in the shorter term. They have combined this year for 18 home runs and 54 RBIs. The Braves addressed their lack of a long-term answer by selecting Shea Langeliers at 9th overall in last month’s MLB Draft. This is a Phillies advantage due to Realmuto’s elite defense. But again, they must extend his deal, and the Phillies need a better backup than Andrew Knapp.
Advantage: Phillies
For the Phillies, the three key youngsters as they move into the 2020’s and try to compete with Atlanta will be Bohm, Moniak, and Haseley. If two of those three youngsters become truly impactful big-league ball player, the Phillies should be fine. If only one, it makes it tough. If none develop as hoped, then the Phillies will have an uphill battle.
None of this even takes into account the situation on the mound, where the Braves have strong, young, highly-rated youngsters already in the big-leagues and where they have a number of well regarded prospects on the way. The Phillies really need someone such as Spencer Howard to develop fully, and are probably going to have to spend soon in free agency for a top-level arm or two.

As the MLB trade deadline approaches, Phillies center field target emerges

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Jackie Bradley Jr would slide perfectly into Phillies center field position

 

As the July 31 trade deadline approaches in Major League Baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies have a number of holes that could use filling if the club wants to seriously take a run at the 2019 postseason.

The struggles of the pitching staff are well known to all Phillies fans. The starting rotation could use two more reliable, veteran arms. The bullpen, struggling through numerous injuries all season, could use better options as well.
Among the reserve position players, a more reliable, veteran backup is needed at catcher. In addition, the club could use a more talented veteran bat with some pop than is currently available off the bench for manager Gabe Kapler.
The glaring need in the everyday lineup can be found out in center field. That is the one position that immediately jumps out as an area where improvement is needed.
During this season, the Phillies suffered the unexpected loss of the incumbent starter, Odubel Herrera, to his legal troubles and league suspension stemming from a domestic violence incident. It is not likely that he is ever going to appear in a Phillies uniform again, at least not if the fan base has anything to say about it.
Andrew McCutchen sliding over was a possibility, and the veteran actually filled in a number of games when Herrera had suffered an April injury. But McCutchen was also lost for the season when he suffered an ugly knee injury which required surgery. He will not return until spring training of next year.
Kapler has been trying to get by with a combination of the perpetually out-of-position Scott Kingery and the perpetually injured Roman Quinn. Also, youngster Adam Haseley has been given a shot when healthy.
But if the Phillies are serious about getting to the 2019 postseason and making a legitimate further run by 2020, they need a more proven answer in center field. Enter my suggestion as a potential trade target, Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
Bradley is a 29-year-old Virginia native who was the Red Sox pick at 40th overall in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of South Carolina. He made his big-league debut in the 2013 season, and is now in his fourth season as Boston’s full-time starter in center field.
He is not a big hitter, carrying a career slash line of just .237/.319/.405 over nearly 3,000 plate appearances. He has demonstrated some pop in the past, with a 26 homer-87 RBI campaign during his lone AL All-Star season back in 2016. He has modest speed, topping off with 17 stolen bases a year ago.
What Bradley brings to the Red Sox, and what he would bring to the Phillies were they to find a deal, is truly elite defense in the middle of the outfield. You see, for my money, Bradley is as good a defensive center fielder as I have ever seen. That is not a statement to be taken lightly when I got to see Garry Maddox roam the outfield every day for a decade in a Phillies uniform.
Bradley has won just one Gold Glove Award. That came for his work last year. And that is a flat-out crime, no disrespect to players such as Byron Buxton, Kevin Kiermaier, Brett GardnerKole Calhoun or Nick Markakis, each of whom has taken home one of those plaques awarded in the American League since the 2014 season.
With a defensive outfield of McCutchen in left, Bradley in center, and Bryce Harper in right, the 2020 Philadelphia Phillies would put one of the top defensive groups in the game out there day after day. This season, Bradley would help cover for some of left fielder Jay Bruce‘s defensive shortcomings.
On a championship contender with multiple offensive weapons, a defensive whiz as good as Bradley can be part of the lineup. The Phillies should have those weapons already in place with Harper, McCutchen and Bruce joining shortstop Jean Segura, catcher J.T. Realmuto, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, second baseman Scott Kingery and third baseman Maikel Franco – or top prospect Alec Bohm at the hot corner.
The present group has not produced as consistently as they are capable of during this 2019 season. I still expect them to elevate their individual and collective games over the final two and a half months. Much more should certainly be expected of them over the longer haul in the next couple of years.
Bradley can be a free agent after the 2020 season. The Phillies would have him for a run this year and next, unless they chose to extend him. If the Phillies could ink Bradley to a two-year extension, carrying him through 2022 and his age 32 season, that could be ideal.
The top overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft, Mickey Moniak, would turn just 24-years-old in May of 2022. He is a center fielder who has begun to look like a potential big-league regular. Should that development path continue at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, then Moniak may be ready. But spending a year serving as a backup to acclimate could also prove valuable.
As a price for Bradley, the Red Sox, like most other clubs, would probably be looking at young pitching. Perhaps a combination of Adonis Medina with one of the more experienced arms such as Nick Pivetta or Vince Velasquez would get it done.
Why would Boston do it? First, the Red Sox can cover the position by sliding over left fielder Andrew Benintendi, who could be a strong center fielder in his own right. In return for a player who they could lose to free agency 15 months from now they would get a pair of live arms.
The Red Sox could call up one of the top power bats in the minor leagues, Bobby Dalbec, to play in left with the Green Monster behind him. Or Dalbec could play first, with Michael Chavis flipping to left. Boston could also shop for a short-term power bat to man the position.
Boston is currently sitting in third place in the American League East Division, nine games behind the arch-rival New York Yankees. They are 1.5 out as part of a five-team scrum within three games of one another in the AL Wildcard race.
The Phillies need more than this, I know. They still have to go out and get better quality pitching of their own. That is going to prove extremely difficult in the present market, with a number of contenders looking for the same thing, a few of whom seem better positioned to land the more talented and experienced available arms.
Fill in your holes. Try to make a run in 2019, but also keep an eye towards 2020 and the following couple of seasons as well. That is what a Bradley deal would be all about. Fill that center field hole with a truly elite defender, and move on to  filling the next hole. Pick up the phone, Matt Klentak, and give Boston GM Dave Dombrowski a call.