Tag Archives: Neil Walker

NL East Division position comparison: bench reserves

My look around the National League East Division with a position-by-position evaluation and ranking for each club comes to an end today where position players are concerned.

The Philadephia Phillies fared well at catcher, where they had the top player, and in both center field and in right field, where the projected starter finished second. The Phillies came out at third in the division at each of first basesecond baseshortstopthird base, and in left field.

The defending World Series champion Washington Nationals had the top-ranked player at shortstop as well as in left field and center field. The two-time defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves came out on top at first base, second base, and in right field. And the top player at third base came from the New York Mets.

Today it’s time to take a look at each team’s projected reserve players. The backups and pinch-hitters are going to play a pivotal role in each club’s ultimate success or failure. That is especially so with those who are actually more like platoon starters, or who end up seeing significant playing time due to injuries during the season.

Not only as spring training unfolds, but also during the course of the season, these groups of reserve players will surely change. Unexpected players will win jobs in in the Grapefruit League. Teams may still sign a veteran free agent or two in order to bolster their bench. Top prospects will be called up by their respective clubs, relegating a few players who open the season in a starting lineup to the bench.

Over this weekend the process of evaluating each team will wrap with a look at the starting pitching options on Saturday and then the bullpen arms on Sunday. Finally, I’ll examine and rank the managers as we open a new week.

Once the process is complete,  fans should have a better idea as we begin the month of February as to exactly where their favorite team in the division stands as spring training opens. Pitchers and catchers report on February 11 to Clearwater, Florida for the highly anticipated opening of Phillies spring training.


1) Washington Nationals: The final makeup of the starting infield for the defending world champions is very much in flux as they enter spring training. Howie Kendrick, Starlin Castro, and Asdrubal Cabrera are each in the mix at both second and third base. That trio of veterans will be trying to hold off top prospect Carter Kieboom. A pair of veterans in franchise icon Ryan Zimmerman and newcomer Eric Thames should man first base. Backing up their talented starting outfielders are Michael A. Taylor and Andrew Stevenson, while Wilmer Difo offers another infield option. And the Nats also have an enviable catching tandem in Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes. Whomever skipper Dave Martinez decides to use in his starting lineup on a given day, he will likely have the best bench group in the division as substitute and pinch-hitting options.

2) Philadelphia Phillies: About the only thing we can say for sure about the Phillies bench group is that, given health, Jay Bruce and Roman Quinn will make the squad in the outfield, with Nick Williams as another possibility. On the infield, super-utility player Scott Kingery will likely open the season as the starter at third base. However, once top prospect Alec Bohm is ready, Kingery could bolster the bench by returning to that super-sub role. Behind the plate, Andrew Knapp will be trying to hold off Deivy Grullon for the backup job. The Phillies have a number of solid non-roster invitees coming to spring training, any of whom could make the team. That group includes infielders Josh Harrison, Neil Walker, and Phil Gosselin among others. Veterans Matt Szczur, Mikie Mahtook, and Nick Martini will be among the newcomers trying to force their way into the outfield mix. New skipper Joe Girardi has one of the most wide-open bench battles entering the spring, but it’s a talented, veteran group. He will sort it all out during March and as the season moves along, but it’s almost certain to end up as a much more talented group of subs and pinch-hitters than Phillies squads of the last few years.

3) Atlanta Braves: The two-time defending division champion Braves may have the most talented starting lineup in the NL East entering spring training. If they can improve themselves at third base, that will be a certainty. In the outfield, much will depend on whether Ender Inciarte is healthy and starts in center field. Assuming that is the case, it relegates Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall to bench roles. Tyler Flowers and Travis d’Arnaud give the Braves a strong catching tandem. Young Austin Riley could win the starting job at third base, but Johan Camargo enters spring with the job. One of them will be a reserve, as will Adeiny Hechavarria and Yangervis Solarte on the infield. Outfielders Shane Robinson and Charlie Culberson will be among the veteran non-roster invitees trying to make the team. During the season, either of top prospect outfielders Drew Waters or Cristian Pache could push to the big-leagues. That would make Inciarte a member of the bench as well.

4) New York Mets: If the long-shot possibility of Yoenis Cespedes returning to the starting left field job pans out in spring, that likely pushes J.D. Davis to the bench. That is, unless new manager Luis Rojas decides to give him the starting job at third base, moving Jeff McNeil to second. Should that happen it would make high-priced veteran Robinson Cano a member of the bench brigade. Dominic Smith should provide depth in left field and at first base, with veteran Jed Lowrie as an infield reserve and Jake Marisnick the same in the outfield. Tomas Nido is likely to serve as the backup catcher.

5) Miami Marlins: A big question with Miami will be where does Brian Anderson play most of his innings? He could be the right fielder or third baseman…or split time at both. Jonathan Villar probably starts at either second or third, leaving Isan Diaz and Jon Berti as infield reserves. Garrett Cooper will likely serve as a backup at first base and on the corner outfield spots. Harold Ramirez should see plenty of time as a backup across all three outfield spots. Veteran Francisco Cervelli was signed to serve as the backup catcher. With a team as young as the Fish, a number of prospects could push their way to the big-leagues at any point, further muddying the bench mix for skipper Don Mattingly to sort out.



Nationals may finally be starting to heat up as June arrives in NL East

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’VgfFNKgpQldjyjmbkXSk-Q’,sig:’Hcp1k53Bsir9wz1DKHpiGHfNIYmUQ8EIepT_YHiUOho=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’980895100′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

It was a good week for Max Scherzer and the Nationals

This past week of action in Major League Baseball saw us pass Memorial Day and moved into the month of June. While the Philadelphia Phillies (33-26) remain in first place in the National League East Division standings, their lead has grown more tenuous.

Over this past weekend, I released my first MLB Power Rankings of the 2019 season. Fans of the team might be surprised to find that the Phillies ranked just 15th, exactly in the middle among the 30 teams.
This wasn’t an effort to be overly critical, provocative, or sensationalist. My Power Rankings are not at all based on my feelings. They are a statistics-based evaluation of where each team stands when factoring in offense, defense, and pitching factors, as well as their win-loss records.
The Phillies have remained atop their division largely because the other four teams haven’t done much to distinguish themselves this season. My rankings found the Braves as the top statistical team in the division, finishing four places above the Phillies at 12th overall in MLB. Meanwhile, the Mets, Marlins, and Nationals all ranked 22-23-24 in that order.
That the Phillies only turn out to rank as a middle-of-the-pack ball club should be cause for concern at this point. The team has major holes to fill in the starting rotation and on the bench, and has to find some way to overcome the plethora of injuries which have steadily eroded their bullpen depth.
And now, thanks to the arrest of their starting center fielder of the last five years on domestic assault charges, an incident that almost certainly has spelled the end of Odubel Herrera‘s time in Philly, the club powers-that-be have a hole in their starting lineup as well.
Currently in the midst of a four-game losing streak that is their longest of the season, the Phillies are now in San Diego for three games to end a 23-game stretch of the schedule that may be their toughest of the entire year. They are now 10-10 in that hard-fought month, which on balance is nothing of which to be ashamed.
The Phillies are a first-place baseball team. They have been perched atop the divisional standings for all but seven days in this 2019 regular season. But there remains a long summer ahead. Four months of grueling play. If they don’t address the holes, they will not remain on top for very long.
As always, my NL East Beat report reveals how each of those Phillies divisional rivals fared over the course of the past week: games scores, pivotal performers, key injuries, and other important updates on each team are included.



    <th aria-label="Win-Loss %" class=" poptip hide_non_quals center" data-filter="1" data-name="Win-Loss %" data-stat="win_loss_perc" data-tip="Win-Loss Percentage
    W / (W + L)
    For players, leaders need one decision for every ten team games.
    For managers, minimum to qualify for leading is 320 games.” scope=”col” style=”background-color: #dadcde; border-color: rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(170, 170, 170); border-image: initial; border-style: solid; border-width: 1px; float: none !important; margin: 0px; opacity: initial; padding: 0px 12.375px; text-align: center;”>W-L%

    <th aria-label="Games Back" class=" poptip sort_default_asc center" data-stat="games_back" data-tip="Games Back of Division/League Leader
    Computed as games over .500 of leader (W-L) minus games over .500 of team divided by two.
    Typically computed at the end of play for a particular day.
    Blank for 1st game of DH.” scope=”col” style=”background-color: #dadcde; border-color: rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(170, 170, 170); border-image: initial; border-style: solid; border-width: 1px; float: none !important; margin: 0px; opacity: initial; padding: 0px 12.375px; text-align: center;”>GB

    East Division
    Team W L
    Philadelphia Phillies 33 27 .550
    Atlanta Braves 32 27 .542 0.5
    New York Mets 28 31 .475 4.5
    Washington Nationals 26 33 .441 6.5
    Miami Marlins 21 36 .368 10.5

    ATLANTA BRAVES (2 – 3)

    Summary: The defending NL East champions had a losing week and still picked up a half-game in the standings on the Phillies, moving within one game of the division lead.
    They dropped the first three games of the week, two to the Mets and their series opener with the Detroit Tigers. Their offense then awoke to put 17 runs up on the scoreboard, allowing them to beat down the Tigers and win the final two games.
    Key injuries: Center fielder Ender Inciarte has a lumbar strain and is said to be weeks away from resuming baseball activity. Righty reliever Darren O’Day has missed two months with a forearm strain for two months and has not yet begun throwing.
    Upcoming: Following an off-day on Monday, Atlanta goes on the road this week. They will travel to face the host Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park for three games, and then down to Marlins Park for three over the weekend in Miami.

    MIAMI MARLINS (5 – 2)

    Summary: While the Fish are still in last place, they have played much better baseball of late. They have won 11 of their last 16 games, and now have three American League teams with a worse record than theirs.
    The Marlins took the finale of a four-game wrap-around series with the Washington Nationals on Monday after dropping the previous three last weekend. Then they captured two of three games against both the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants to fashion the NL East’s top record over the week.
    Key injuries: First baseman Neil Walker, who had been the club’s most consistent hitter over the first two months, hit the IL with a right quad strain. He is out for an undetermined length. Righty reliever Drew Steckinrider remains out with a flexor strain in his right forearm and hopes to return at some point after the all-star break.
    Upcoming: Miami is off on Monday, then travels to Milwaukee for a three-game set with the Brewers. After that, the Marlins return home to start a nine-game homestand, beginning with a visit from the Braves over the coming weekend.

    NEW YORK METS (2 – 5)

    Summary: The Mets suffered through an unsuccessful week out west, dropping three of four to the Los Angeles Dodgers and then two of three to the Arizona Diamondbacks. In each series, one of their losses came via walk-off fashion.
    Key injuries: Second baseman Robinson Cano missed the entirety of last week with a left quad strain. He is expected back in action this week. Super-utility man and Phillies-killer Jeff McNeil was lost to a hamstring strain and is likely to be out for this week, though he could return on the weekend. Infielder Jed Lowrie has a sprained left knee capsule and Grade 1 hamstring strain and has been moved to the 60-day IL. Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes will miss the rest of the season following right ankle surgery.
    Upcoming: Following a Monday off-day in the schedule the Mets will be home all week at CitiField, hosting the San Francisco Giants and then Colorado Rockies for three games each. It will the the start of 12 straight games in the Big Apple, with the only two “road” tilts coming at Yankee Stadium next week.


    Summary: The Nationals have appeared to be a sleeping giant, battling numerous key injuries while they got off to perhaps baseball’s most disappointing start to the season. However, the Nats have now won seven of their last nine, and could possibly be righting their ship.
    After dropping last Monday’s tilt to Miami at home, Washington traveled down to Atlanta and back up to Cincinnati. They swept the Braves in two games, then captured two of three in Cincy over the weekend. Now seven games behind the Phillies, it is the closest they have been to the top of the division since May 18.
    Key injuries: First baseman Ryan Zimmerman remains out as he battles plantar fasciitis with no exact timetable for a return. Their 5th starter, Jeremy Hellickson, is out indefinitely with a shoulder strain. The bullpen also remains dinged depth-wise with righties Trevor RosenthalKoda Glover, and Justin Miller all on the IL.
    Upcoming: The Nationals have Monday off and then host the Chicago White Sox for a pair of Interleague games. Washington then heads out on the road for a week. They start it by following the Phillies in to San Diego, where they will take on the Padres in a four-game long weekend series.

    Phillies need to win this weekend series against the Marlins

    Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’GxLvmTM3QuJ9Fo-l83ebSg’,sig:’xZZKOjw4NbA3inAROwXbsEhDLVUx01qsx5qXrowHGqc=’,w:’594px’,h:’397px’,items:’50781261′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

    Winning this weekend series at home is important for the Phillies

    The Philadelphia Phillies (14 – 12) will host the Miami Marlins (8 – 18) on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Parkin South Philadelphia. This will be the third game of a four-game weekend set and the sixth overall meeting here in the early part of the season between the two divisional rivals.

    Last night’s 4-0 victory left the Phillies alone in first place in the National League East Division standings. Meanwhile, Miami enters the contest with the worst record in the NL, tied with the Kansas City Royals for the worst record in all of Major League Baseball.
    The Phillies really need to start taking advantage of teams like the Marlins, especially at home, winning series and putting runs on the board. After dropping the opener, the only way that the Phillies can win this particular series will be to capture both tonight and Sunday afternoon’s contests.
    After this weekend, three of the next four series will be against teams who currently sport losing marks. But a glance forward reveals that much of the Phillies first-half schedule right through the MLB All-Star break is filled with tough opponents and/or divisional series and not too many games against non-contenders.
    The Phillies will have enjoyed 17 home games by the time the month of April ends next Tuesday. That will be the most home dates the team will play during any calendar month this season: May (14), June (13), July (12), August (15), September (10) and then hopefully at least a handful in October.
    Saturday night’s weather is expected to be sunny at the 6:05 pm first pitch time and right through sundown, then remaining clear with a near 0% chance of rain the entire night. It has been a windy day in Philly and will be breezy at the start, with winds around 15 mph out of the WNW. Those will diminish by about three mph with each passing hour, and the 62 degree first-pitch temperature will drop by about one degree per hour.



    1. Andrew McCutchen CF
    2. Jean Segura SS
    3. Bryce Harper RF
    4. Rhys Hoskins 1B
    5. J.T. Realmuto C
    6. Nick Williams LF
    7. Cesar Hernandez 2B
    8. Maikel Franco 3B
    9. Jake Arrieta P


    • Lefty reliever Adam Morgan delivered his 14th consecutive appearance without allowing a run in Friday night’s contest. That ties him for the second-longest such streak in franchise history. Should he extend it one more game, Morgan would join what is right now a four-way tie for the longest such opposition scoreless streak at 15 straight appearances. Two more in a row and the club record would be his alone.
    • After a scoreless 2/3 of an inning on Friday night, righty reliever Edubray Ramos has a 2.25 ERA over his last 68 innings dating back to August 22, 2017.
    • Cesar Hernandez is hitting .338 with a .394 OBP over his last 16 games and 71 plate appearances. J.T. Realmuto is slashing .325/.378/.625 over his last 45 plate appearances across 11 games (10 starts)
    • The Phillies are still not getting much offensive production from their bench group. Aside from the currently injured Scott Kingery, none of those reserve players his hitting higher than the .222 average of backup catcher Andrew Knapp, while Phil Gosselin (4) and Nick Williams (3) are the lone contributors with more than one RBI.


    1. Curtis Granderson LF
    2. Miguel Rojas 1B
    3. Brian Anderson RF
    4. Starlin Castro 2B
    5. Jorge Alfaro C
    6. Isaac Galloway CF
    7. Jon Berti 3B
    8. Rossell Herrera SS
    9. Trevor Richards P


    • Where the Marlins offense is concerned it’s all cold. Last night marked the seventh time already this season that the club has been shutout. In 20 of their 26 games the team has managed to score just three or fewer runs.
    • Saturday has been the Marlins day. They are unbeaten at 4-0 on Saturdays in these early weeks of the 2019 season with all of those victories coming against division rivals: 7-3 and 4-2 over the Braves, 10-3 over the Phillies, and 9-3 over the Nationals.
    • Jorge Alfaro continues to hit his old team. The catcher was obtained by the Phillies as part of the Cole Hamels trade with Texas back in 2015 and shipped to Miami in the Realmuto deal back in February. He now has two hits in each of the four games he has played against the Phillies.


    • Jake Arrieta: 3-2, 2.65 ERA, 1.147 WHIP, 26 hits allowed over 34 IP with a 25/13 K:BB. His outing of eight innings 10 days ago against the Mets remains the club’s longest of the season.
    • Arrieta has delivered a Quality Start in each of his five outings this season. In his two losses the club has scored just three total runs. He has a career 6-1 record with a 2.78 ERA and a .217 batting average against with just 43 hits allowed over 55 innings against Miami.
    • Trevor Richards: 0-3, 3.72 ERA, 1.241 WHIP, 20 hits allowed over 29 IP with a 28/16 K:BB
    • Richards is a 25-year-old right-hander who made 25 starts for Miami as a rookie last season. He is giving them length this year, having gone at least six innings in four of his five outings. His last time out this past Sunday he struck out seven in a 5-0 loss to Washington. His Marlins teammates have severely let him down, scoring just eight runs over his five starts.
    • Following their loss to the Mets in his last outing, Arrieta publicly called out Bryce Harper for getting thrown out of the game early while things were still close. I wrote about it in the following piece: Arrieta was right, Phillies need Harper on the field


    • The Phillies activated shortstop Jean Segura from the IL on Saturday afternoon, returning outfielder Dylan Cozens to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
    • After Friday’s win the Phillies are now 9-3 when they score first, 11-3 when they score four or more runs, and 13-1 when they hold a lead after the 6th, 7th or 8th innings. They are 13-6 in games in which they blast at least one home run, and are 13-7 when their starting pitcher gives them at least five innings.
    • Andrew McCutchen remains just one RBI shy of 800 for his career. Maikel Franco is two doubles short of 100 for his career.
    • Realmuto has thrown out nine runners attempting to steal this season, by far the most in MLB. The next-highest catchers have five.
    • Neil Walker has by far the most experience facing Arrieta of any Marlins hitter. The veteran infielder has fared well against the Phillies starter over their careers. In 25 a-bats, Walker has a .320 average and has homered off Arrieta.