Tag Archives: PHILLIES

NL East Division comparison: Managers

Over a two-week period at the end of January, I presented a series of pieces evaluating and ranking each of the team’s in the National League East Division on a position-by-position basis.

Those rankings can be found here:

First base, second base, shortstop, third base, catcher, left field, center field, right field, bench/reserves, starting pitching, bullpen.

Those players will have the most to say about how each team fares on the field, and thus in the standings, during the coming season. But the men who write out the lineup cards and make the decisions about who is playing and pitching at any given time will have a big say as well.

If you go back and take a look at my evaluations on each of the positions and incorporate these managerial rankings, you will get a good idea of where each of the teams in the division stand as we prepare for the start of spring training.

Phillies pitchers and catchers are due to report on Tuesday of next week with their first formal workouts coming on Wednesday. The full squad will be in camp by the following week.

The first Grapefruit League game will take place on February 22 when the Phillies visit the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida. The first home game in Clearwater on the 2020 schedule will come the following afternoon when the Phillies host the Pittsburgh Pirates.

NL EAST – 2020 MANAGER RANKINGS

1) Philadelphia Phillies: Joe Girardi

Girardi will be in his first season with the Phillies in the 2020 season. However, he has more actual managerial experience, more of a winning record, and arguably has been under more of a big-league microscope than any skipper in the division. Girardi got his first managerial experience in the NL East when he guided the then-Florida Marlins to a 78-84 mark back in 2006. Though the Fish had a losing record, they also had the lowest payroll in all of baseball. Girardi kept a Marlins team with largely inferior talent in the playoff race until the final weeks. For that performance he was named as the NL Manager of the Year but a dispute with ownership got Girardi fired after that one season. Less than two years later he was hired to take over the highest-profile team in Major League Baseball when he was named as the manager of the New York Yankees to replace Joe Torre. Under Girardi the Yankees would win the 2009 World Series, defeating the Phillies in six games. Over ten seasons in the Bronx, Girardi would guide the Yankees to a 910-710 record and three AL East Division crowns. However, they were never able to again reach the World Series after that 2009 season and did not capture a division title after 2012. When the Yankees were edged out in seven games by what we now know were a cheating Astros team in the 2017 ALCS, Girardi’s contract was not renewed by New York. Girardi will be 55 years of age for the entirety of the 2020 season.

2) Atlanta Braves: Brian Snitker

At age 64, Snitker is the oldest manager in the division. He took over a young Atlanta club going through a rebuilding program similar to the Phillies during the 2016 season. He guided the club to a somewhat surprising first-place finish by 2018, and they repeated as division champions a year ago. However, the Braves have failed to advance in the postseason, losing to Los Angeles in an NLDS in 2018 and Saint Louis a year ago. In last year’s NLDS they led the Cardinals two games to one and held a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the 8th inning in Game Four only to see Saint Louis rally to tie. The Cards then walked it off in the bottom of the 10th, and put the Braves out with a 13-1 romp in the decisive Game Five.

3) Washington Nationals: Dave Martinez

The 55-year-old Martinez is 175-149 over two seasons with the Nationals, his first two seasons as a big-league manager. Of course, his team won the World Series a year ago, and he deserves a ton of credit for keeping them together after a horrendous start. We need to remember that his first team in 2018 went just 82-80 and the club was sitting at 19-31 on May 23 of last season. That gave Martinez an overall 101-111 mark over his first season-plus. From that point onward, the Nationals took off and went an unreal 74-38 (.661) and then moved dramatically through the postseason. The Nats rallied in the bottom of the 8th inning for a 4-3 victory over Milwaukee in the NL Wildcard Game. Then they rallied from down 2-1 in the NLDS to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers, coming from a 3-0 deficit with another 8th inning rally in the decisive Game Five, which they finally won in 10 innings. And with what we now know regarding the Houston Astros cheating scandal, you have to give Martinez and the Nationals a lot of credit in edging out Houston by 4-3 in the World Series. Again they came from behind, winning the final two games after being down 3-2.

4) Miami Marlins: Don Mattingly

Mattingly was a six-time AL All-Star, nine-time Gold Glove Award winner, three-time Silver Slugger, and the 1985 AL MVP over a 14-year big-league career with the New York Yankees, one that could one day see him enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He is 276-370 over four full seasons from 2016-19 as the skipper in Miami. Prior to that he fashioned a 446-363 mark over five seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That gives him an overall 722-733 record in nine seasons, making him the manager with the longest continuous streak of managerial experience. Of course, he had a far better cast of players to work with in LA, finishing in first place each of his final three seasons on the west coast. But each of those clubs failed to advance to the World Series, and Mattingly finally paid with his job for that failure to get to the Fall Classic. He landed on his feet almost immediately in South Florida but has been forced to deal with a change in ownership accompanied by a complete rebuilding program. It would appear that it is going to take at least another couple of years for the Fish to raise their on-field talent level to compete in the division. Whether Mattingly can survive through that period and still be around once they are good enough to win remains to be seen. He turns 59 in late April.

5) New York Mets: Luis Rojas

This will be the first season for Rojas as a big-league manager. He brings the experience of having guided a number of the younger Mets players while a minor league skipper. Rojas has been a coach and manager in the Mets minor league system since 2007, rising through each level of the club’s system. He was the 2013 South Atlantic League Manager of the Year after guiding Savannah to a championship, and later led the High-A St. Lucie club to a first place finish. Rojas gained further managerial experience in the Dominican pro leagues, leading Leones del Escogido to a championship. He managed Double-A Binghamton in 2017-18, then served as the Mets minor league quality control coach in 2019. Just over two weeks ago, Rojas got the Mets job when Carlos Beltran was caught up in the Astros’s sign-stealing scandal. At 38 he will be the youngest manager in the division by far as well as the least experienced.

 

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Kris Bryant to the Phillies: Would he really be worth the cost?

Buzz regarding the possibility of a trade that would send third baseman Kris Bryant from the Chicago Cubs to the Philadelphia Phillies has once again re-surfaced in recent days.

Some of that is simple wild speculation, fueled in part by the pending three-team trade involving the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Minnesota Twins. That deal would send superstar outfielder Mookie Betts and veteran southpaw David Price to Los Angeles.

One thing that a big trade in Major League Baseball frequently does is spur immediate talk of the next big player that might be dealt. So, that is certainly a part of the equation here.

But another part of the equation is the building reality that, despite oddsmakers seeing the Phillies as a leading contender entering 2020 spring training, many baseball talent evaluators still place the club no better than third-best in the National League East Division.

It has also become common knowledge around the game that Chicago is shopping Bryant, who can become a free agent following the 2021 season.

Bryant could become a pivotal player in that NL East race should the Cubs really decide to actively shop him. All three of the Phillies top division rivals, the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, and New York Mets, could use an impactful starting third baseman.

Players are scheduled to report for spring training beginning next week. The Phillies enter their preparations for the coming season with Scott Kingery slotted in as the starting third baseman, keeping that position warm for top prospect Alec Bohm.

In a recent evaluation of the position among the NL East clubs, I generously slotted Kingery in at third in my ranking of those players currently slotted in as hot corner starters. Adding Bryant would give the Phillies the top player at the position in the division.

The scheduled starters for the defending World Series champion Nationals and two-time defending NL East champion Braves are among the biggest question marks for those teams at this point. Adding Bryant would push either club, already arguably better overall, further ahead of the Phillies.

So, when considering a deal with the Cubs that would bring Bryant to Philly, there are three questions that need answering. I’ll take a stab at asking and answering each.

What would Kris Bryant add to the Phillies?

Bryant was the first round pick of the Cubs in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of San Diego as the second player taken overall.

He reached the big-leagues in 2015 at age 23 and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award for a season in which he slammed 26 homers, 62 extra-base hits, and drove in 99 runs.

The following season, Bryant became the National League Most Valuable Player. He slashed .292/.385/.554 with 39 home runs, 77 extra-base hits, 102 RBIs, and 121 runs scored. Bryant capped his season by fielding a grounder and firing to first baseman Anthony Rizzo for the final out as the Cubs won the franchise’ first World Series title in nearly a century.

Bryant is a three-time NL All-Star. Over five seasons in Major League Baseball he has produced 138 homers and has a career .284/.385/.516 slash line. He has also shown some versatility defensively in handling work at both corner outfield spots, as well as playing in a few games at first base with Chicago over the last couple of seasons.

The Phillies would not be adding Bryant to play left field or first base, at least not on a regular basis. Not at this stage of his career. He would be their third baseman for years to come. While Bryant will likely never contend for a Gold Glove, neither would he hurt the club at third base.

Born and raised in Las Vegas, Bryant is a long-time good friend of Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper, also a Vegas native. The two are virtually the same age, with Bryant having just turned 28 last month. They have known one another since they were children, and played both with and against one another while growing up.

Bryant would add another All-Star caliber ballplayer to the Phillies starting lineup. He and his family would bring true friends for franchise cornerstone Harper and his family to socialize with. And he would add another marquee name to help attract even more Phillies fans out to Citizens Bank Park.

What would it cost to bring Kris Bryant to the Phillies?

This is a big question for a few reasons. One of the biggest is that element of competing against both the Braves and Nationals for his services. Atlanta in particular would seem to have the prospect assets to at least match any Phillies offer.

Each of those clubs arguably has as much of a need at the position as the Phillies, if not more so. Each of those clubs is a legitimate contender already. Bryant would push either of those teams closer to making a long October run. Motivation for both to be involved in talks with the Cubs would appear to be there.

What this does is raise the price for the Phillies if they seriously want their package to win out in a bidding war for Bryant with Atlanta and Washington.

A package for Bryant would absolutely start with top hitting prospect Bohm, who could then become the third baseman of the near future in Chicago. But Bohm alone would not be enough.

The Phillies would have to send at least two more players in such a deal. One of those would need to be a pitcher with some upside. Another would have to be some other prospect with upside.

Would the Phillies ultimately have to decide on whether to part with both Bohm and top pitching prospect Spencer Howard in such a deal? Normally I would say no. That is especially the case when considering what the Dodgers had to part with to get the Betts deal done.

Los Angeles is reported to be sending 23-year-old outfielder Alex Verdugo to Boston and veteran pitcher Kenta Maeda to Minnesota in order to get the deal done.

There was rumored to be some element of competition for Betts in this deal as well. The Dodgers up-and-coming division rivals in San Diego were also said to be interested in Betts, and the Padres have a strong minor league system from which to offer a prospect package.

What is not known is exactly how high a price the Padres were ultimately willing to pay. Also, the Dodgers are reportedly giving Boston some salary relief in the deal, taking on half of the $96 million still owed to Price over the next three seasons. So it’s a different kind of deal.

If the Phillies aren’t willing to put Howard into such a deal, and the likelihood is that they would not, then could they still offer enough to beat out the Braves or Nationals potential offers?

The Phillies could put together a package of Bohm, Kingery, and either of two other pitching prospects, Francisco Morales or Adonis Medina. Morales has a higher ceiling at this point. But by including Kingery, they might be able to get the Cubs to go for Medina instead. Chicago might prefer young infield prospect Luis Garcia, which might alleviate putting Kingery into the deal.

Is Bryant worth the price it would cost?

The Phillies would be getting a player with five years of big-league experience. A three-time All-Star, including last season during which he slammed 31 homers, slashed .282/.382/.521, and scored 108 runs. A former NL MVP who has already won a World Series championship.

While Bryant would only have two seasons of contractual control left it isn’t difficult to see him agreeing to a long-term deal. That would keep he and Harper together as the Phillies 1-2 lineup punch for at least the next seven or eight years.

There is an old baseball axiom that says prospects are prospects. While evaluators can gauge their potential, there is no way to know how a kid with no big-league experience is going to perform against the best players in the world under the glare of the largest spotlight on the biggest stage.

I believe that the Phillies need something even more than another strong offensive weapon. It has been and remains my assertion that the Phillies need another proven, talented, winning veteran starting pitcher for their rotation more than anything else. But that is a difficult piece to acquire, and should not keep general manager Matt Klentak from making his team better right now.

Bryant has proven himself to be one of the top offensive performers in baseball. He is in his prime. He is a lifelong friend of the Phillies resident superstar. He would help close the gap even further between the Phillies and the top teams in the National League. This is a deal they should find a way to get done.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

 

Philography: Tony Taylor

My Philography series of mini-bios highlighting the careers of the most interesting and important individuals throughout Philadelphia Phillies history continues with this 23rd entry.

Links to the previous 22 entries, which include such notables as Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Richie AshburnDick AllenJim BunningLarry BowaDarren Daulton and many more can be found below.

In 2002, Tony Taylor became the 24th person overall and the first-ever Hispanic player to be honored with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame. He has since been joined by Juan Samuel (2008) and Bobby Abreu (2019) as Hispanic players honored among the franchise immortals.

Sports columnist Milton Richman, who became the sports editor at UPI and was honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame with the Taylor Spink Award in 1981, said of Taylor back in 1975: “Tony Taylor has a special way with people. It doesn’t matter who they are, other ballplayers, fans, or the press. He’s to the Phillies what Ernie Banks was to the Cubs.

That “special way” – his friendliness, positive personality, and willingness to share a knowledge of and passion for the game that he loves – is what has always endeared Taylor to Phillies fans, especially those who got to enjoy his years as a player with the team during two stints and a long-time association with the club as a coach and goodwill ambassador.

Taylor played for 19 seasons in Major League Baseball, 15 of those in a Phillies uniform from 1960-71 and then from 1974-76. Though his career ended more than four decades ago, Taylor is still 12th on the Phillies all-time hits, 16th in steals, and 17th in runs scored on the franchise leader boards. Only four men – Schmidt, Ashburn, Bowa, and Jimmy Rollins – have played more games in a Phillies uniform.

Born Antonio Nemesio Taylor Sánchez on December 19, 1935 in Central Alava in the Matanzas province on the island of Cuba, Taylor was raised there and began playing baseball as a young boy. He would eventually get to enjoy the game alongside his younger brother, Jorge.

Central Alava was “a quiet place,” Taylor said in 1970 per a more detailed bio piece on him by Rory Costello and Jose Ramirez for SABR. “Nothing to do but play ball or swim in the river. As a boy I went to school and worked in my cousin’s butcher shop. I liked chemistry. If I didn’t go into baseball, I would have become a chemist for a sugar company.

During the mid-late 1950’s, Taylor turned professional. He was officially a member of the San Francisco Giants beginning in 1954, and played the next few years in both the Cuban professional league and in the U.S. minor leagues, building a reputation as a slick-fielding shortstop.

After playing with Dallas in the Texas League during the 1957 season, the Chicago Cubs selected Taylor from the Giants in the December Rule 5 minor league draft. He was then immediately installed as the Cub’s starting second baseman and leadoff hitter at just age 22.

Taylor’s glove proved far more advanced than his bat during his rookie 1958 season in the Windy City. But that glove was good enough to keep him in the starting lineup. The following year, Taylor’s offensive production took a step forward. His average jumped 55 points to the .280 mark and his slugging percentage rose nearly 80 points, with Taylor nearly doubling his number of extra-base hits.

He opened the 1960 season still as the starter at second base with the Cubs, but that wouldn’t last long. On May 13, 1960, Taylor was dealt to the Phillies along with catcher Cal Neeman, with the Phils sending their starting first baseman, Ed Bouchee and young starting pitcher Don Cardwell to Chicago.

Taylor quickly became a fan favorite at Connie Mack Stadium. He hit .310 over his first 56 games as new manager Gene Mauch‘s starting second baseman with 16 extra-base hits , 17 RBIs, 31 runs scored, and a dozen stolen bases. That performance earned Taylor his lone career National League All-Star nod.

The young Phillies won just 59 games in that 1960 season, finishing in last place in the National League. But over the next few seasons they slowly built a contender under Mauch.

A core group of players that included outfielders Johnny Callison, Tony Gonzalez, and Wes Covington, catcher Clay Dalrymple, shortstop Bobby Wine, and pitchers Chris Short and Art Mahaffey all grew up together during the early 1960’s with the Phillies.

In 1962 the club finished 81-80, their first winning season in nearly a decade. The following year they upped it to 87 wins and a fourth-place finish. Then two big moves set the Phillies up to become legitimate contenders.

A big trade with Detroit in December 1963 brought in the veteran ace starting pitcher that the team needed in right-hander Jim Bunning. And a 22-year-old Dick Allen was handed the starting third base job as a rookie.

The addition of that big arm and bat to the maturing, talented, tight-knit core proved to be an exciting and winning mix and they led the National League for much of that summer. On Father’s Day, Bunning tossed the first Perfect Game in Phillies history as the Phillies downed the Mets by 6-0. An incredible play at second base by Taylor with one out in the bottom of the 8th inning helped make that historic gem at Shea Stadium possible.

Holding a 6 1/2 game lead with just a dozen left on the schedule, the Phillies organization printed up tickets for their first World Series appearance since 1950.

As even Phillies fans who weren’t around to experience the disaster are well aware, that Fall Classic appearance wasn’t meant to be. The team suffered through an infamous collapse, losing 10 straight games and 13 of 15. Though they won their final two games, the 1964 Phillies would finish a tantalizing one game out, in second place.

That group would never win a pennant, but they were a winning ball club. The Phillies enjoyed a winning record for six consecutive seasons from 1962 through 1967. Taylor was a starter during that entire period. As the 1960’s came to a close, that winning core began to age and was traded away, the club’s performance deteriorated on the field, and Taylor slid over to third base. In 1969 the Phillies would win just 69 games.

During spring training in 1970, the SABR bio describes what Taylor called “the biggest moment in my whole life.” His mother and sister, and his sister’s husband and children, arrived in Miami from Cuba. Taylor had been trying to get them out since 1962. “They led a difficult life. They did not believe in the Communists and were not given food and clothing. They had to buy things in the black market.

In that 1970 season the Phillies played their final year at old Connie Mack Stadium. The former Shibe Park had been the club’s home since 1938, and had been the home of the American League’s Philadelphia Athletics from 1909-54. But the brand new Veteran’s Stadium was being built in South Philadelphia and would become the Phillies new home for the 1971 season.

Taylor spent that final year at Connie Mack serving as a utility player at age 34 on a rebuilding Phillies ball club, with youngsters Denny Doyle and Bowa taking over the starting roles in the middle infield.

On a Sunday afternoon in that final summer at the old ballpark, Taylor enjoyed a moment that would live on in Phillies history. It was August 2 and there were just over 10,000 fans at the start. Most were no longer there as the Phillies came to bat in the bottom of the 9th inning, trailing the San Francisco Giants by 6-3.

Larry Hisle led off with a double off Giants starter Ron Bryant and Doc Edwards followed with a base hit, moving Hisle to third base. When pinch-hitter Terry Harmon worked Bryant for a walk, the bases were suddenly loaded.

Giants skipper Charlie Fox went to his bullpen, calling in southpaw Mike Davison as Taylor stepped to the plate. In his 13th big-league season, Taylor had just 60 career home runs at that point. This moment would produce number 61 as Taylor blasted the first-ever walkoff grand slam in Philadelphia Phillies franchise history.

Taylor would open the first 1971 season at The Vet still with the Phillies, but would not finish the year with the team. On June 12 he was dealt to the contending Detroit Tigers for a pair of minor league prospects, neither of whom would ever reach the big-leagues. He would serve as the backup to Dick McAuliffe at second base with Detroit over the next three years.

It was with those Tigers where he would make his lone playoff appearances, starting and playing the full Games 2-5 in Detroit’s heartbreaking loss to the eventual World Series champion Oakland A’s. Taylor was just 2-15 in that 1972 ALCS, and went 0-4, striking out twice, in the decisive 2-1 victory for Oakland. In fact, he flew out to center field against Vida Blue for the final out with the tying run on base in the bottom of the 9th inning for the final game at Tiger Stadium.

In December 1973, Taylor returned to the Phillies, signing as a free agent at age 38. He would close out his playing career as a utility player and pinch-hitter over three final seasons in Philadelphia as the club finally returned to contending status in the mid-1970’s. This was when I saw Taylor play in person, in that twilight of his career.

Per the SABR bio, a July 1974 AP account included the following: “All Tony Taylor has to do is stick his head out of the Phillies’ dugout and the fans go wild.” This feeling too was mutual. “I love those people,” said Taylor of the Veterans Stadium fans. “If a guy gives one hundred per cent they cheer for you. They know baseball, and they know whether a player is playing hard or not.”

During an early 1976 slugfest at Wrigley Field, Schmidt drilled home runs in four consecutive at-bats during an 18-16 victory for the Phillies over the host Cubs. Per Larry Shenk, the Phillies Hall of Famer and all-time greatest player used one of Taylor’s bats to blast what proved to the the final game-winner in the top of the 10th inning.

As the 1976 Phillies captured the club’s first National League East Division crown, Taylor missed much of the season’s first three months injured, returning for the stretch run. Between games of a doubleheader in Montreal after the Phillies had clinched the division, Allen gave manager Danny Ozark an ultimatum – include Taylor on the postseason roster or Allen wouldn’t play. The skipper forged a compromise, naming Taylor as a coach for the NLCS in which the Phillies were swept out by Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine.

Following that season, Taylor formally retired as a player and became the Phillies first base coach from 1977 through 1979. Over the winter in 1978-79, Taylor managed the Águilas del Zulia club to a spot in the Venezuelan Winter League finals.

During the 1980 and 1981 seasons, Taylor served as a roving infield instructor. He won the first of three career World Series rings as a member of the organization when the Phillies captured the first championship in franchise history in that 1980 season.

Through most of the 1980’s he bounced around the organization, serving as a minor league manager and a roving instructor. Per the SABR bio, his personal life suffered a setback during this period when Taylor went through a divorce from wife Nilda during this period. He then returned to the big club in the role of first base coach with the 1988 and 1989 Phillies.

Taylor moved on to become a coach with the San Francisco Giants and the expansion Florida Marlins during the 1990’s. In 1999, the Marlins brought him back to the big-leagues where he served in the role of first base and infield coach. During this period he earned a second World Series ring when the Marlins captured the 1997 title. He would get a third when the Fish again won the championship in 2003.

In April 2004, Taylor was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame. Following one final season as the Marlins bullpen coach in 2004, Taylor officially and finally retired from baseball. Since that time he has enjoyed his retirement living in Miami, a home for many in the Cuban-American community.

This past August, Taylor attended the Phillies Wall of Fame ceremony at Citizens Bank Park when his friend Abreu was inducted. While in Philly for those Alumni Weekend celebrations, Taylor suffered a series of strokes.

Per a report by Matt Breen in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the 83-year-old Taylor wanted to return to Miami, and was transported from Jefferson Hospital to the airport. The Phillies paid for a team of nurses to accompany him and his second wife, Clara, on a private flight home.

The Phillies have done great,” Clara said per Breen. “They were wonderful. He’s doing therapy and progressing really slow but hopefully well.” Numerous former Phillies teammates and club officials, including owner John Middleton, stayed in close touch on his return home. “It was overwhelming…He’s aware of everyone who has been calling,” said Clara per Breen.

That caring and concern from the Phillies organization and fan base is a reflection on the decades of good will built up between themselves and Tony Taylor. Here is to hoping that he is able to recover and continue to enjoy life, again returning one day to walk out onto the field in Philadelphia and continue this long-time genuine love affair.

 

PHILOGRAPHY SERIES

Click on the “date” in order to read the Philography piece. Click on the individual name to view their stats page at Baseball Reference

10.17.2014 – Greg Luzinski

10.24.2014 – Mitch Williams

10.31.2014 – Chris Short

11.07.2014 – Von Hayes

11.14.2014 – Placido Polanco

11.21.2014 – Jim Konstanty

11.28.2014 – Dick Allen

12.06.2014 – Dick Ruthven

12.12.2014 – Grover Cleveland  Alexander

12.20.2014 – Darren Daulton

12.13.2015 – Larry Bowa

1.09.2016 – Sherry Magee

1.26.2016 – Kevin Stocker

2.10.2016 – Granny Hamner

2.15.2016 – Edith Houghton

12.27.2016 – Bob Boone

1.19.2017 – Mike Lieberthal

2.02.2017 – Red Dooin

11.29.2018 – Richie Ashburn

2.03.2019 – Jim Bunning

2.10.2019 – Mike Schmidt

12.09.19Steve Carlton

Oddsmakers list Phillies among 2020 World Series favorites

So, you’re a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and you feel as if general manager Matt Klentak has not done enough this off-season to elevate your favorite .500 ball club to 2020 contender status?

Well, the folks who set the odds on such things, people not known to make their evaluations through rose-colored glasses, do not rate the team’s potential quite as poorly as some of you.

Oddsmakers at Sports Betting Dime (SBD) currently show the Phillies as having the seventh-highest odds in all of Major League Baseball. This is in line with numerous other sources rating the Phillies as having anywhere from the fifth to eighth best odds to finish the upcoming season as world champions.

While consistently receiving odds placing them within the top  eight teams in the game by betting sites during this off-season, there remains some sobering news for the Fightin’ Phils chances to not only capture the 2020 Fall Classic, but to even win the division or reach the postseason as an NL Wildcard team.

The two-time defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves have the fourth-best odds at the moment, placing them second overall in the National League behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers. The defending world champion Washington Nationals odds place them just ahead of the Phillies as well.

A third division-rival, the New York Mets, slipped past the Phillies to finish in third place in the NL East standings a year ago. The Mets current odds place them right on the Phillies heels for the upcoming season.

Keep in mind that odds in Las Vegas and at some online sites reflect not only actual talent, but also where the money is flowing. In any event, it appears obvious as we prepare to open spring training that the Phillies are being looked upon as legitimate contenders by the professional gambling community.

Where do I think Joe Girardi, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and the Phillies will finish in 2020? I won’t be making that prediction until some time in mid-March.

But those fans of the Philadelphia Phillies who remain skeptical regarding the team’s ability to contend in 2020 should draw some comfort that the smart money and the oddsmakers currently like their chances.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

NL East Division position comparison: bullpens

My evaluation of the National League East Division teams has moved on from the position players to a ranking of the pitching staffs of each ball club. I began earlier today with a look at the projected starting rotations. Now, the bullpens will undergo that same evaluation and ranking.

The performance and even the make up of Major League Baseball bullpens are extremely difficult to evaluate at this time of year. Many teams enter spring training with as many as half of their projected relief pitcher spots up for grabs. Injuries will also take their toll on the relievers, both in the spring and then during the season.

As I evaluate each club, I will list the handful of arms that I feel are most likely to be impactful for that team during the season. This will include the projected closer as well as any quality setup and match-up arms.

I will give mention during the team write-up to any pitchers who could begin the season in the bullpen, but who may ultimately end up impacting the rotation as starting pitchers due to injuries. In parentheses after their names you will find a designation for whether they are left- or right-handed.

Combine the starting pitching rankings from earlier today with these bullpen rankings, add them to the examinations of each of the other positions around the diamond which took place over the previous ten days, and you will get a good idea of where each team stands entering spring training.

Early next week, I will take a look at the managers, giving them that same evaluation and ranking treatment. Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Florida on February 11, just 10 days from now, for the opening of Phillies spring training.

NL EAST – 2020 BULLPEN RANKINGS

  1. Atlanta Braves: Mark Melancon (R), Will Smith (L), Shane Greene (R), Sean Newcomb (L), Darren O’Day (R), Luke Jackson (R), Chris Martin (R), A.J. Minter (L), Touki Toussaint (R), Jacob Webb (R)

The two-time defending NL East Division champion Braves possess an embarrassment of pitching riches. That extends to their bullpen group. Smith is an especially solid addition as a southpaw, signing as  free agent back in November after two strong seasons in San Francisco, including an NL All-Star season a year ago. Right-hander Patrick Weigel could emerge from the minors this season to help out if needed. The Braves also have veteran Felix Hernandez and youngsters Kyle Wright Bryse Wilson competing for the fifth-starter job. Any or all of them could impact the bullpen if not being used in the rotation at the majors or at Triple-A. There is still more pitching depth nearly ready among their top prospect group. Atlanta appears to be well-insulated from any type of pitching injury issues.

2) New York Mets: Edwin Diaz (R), Dellin Betances (R), Seth Lugo (R), Jeurys Familia (R), Justin Wilson (L), Robert Gsellman (R), Paul Sewald (L)

It would be hard for me to believe that young closer Diaz, who turns 26 during spring training, won’t bounce back from a somewhat down season in 2019. Even during a year where his ERA ballooned to 5.59 and his WHIP to 1.379, Diaz had a 15.4 K/9 rate and a 99/22 K/BB ratio across 58 innings. If he cannot beat out Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello for a starting rotation nod, Steven Matz will contribute out of the pen as well. Betances, Lugo, and Familia all have closer stuff. Wilson is leaned on heavily as a southpaw arm. He could get help in that regard from prospect David Peterson during the season. The health of former Yankees stud Betances, who turns 29 during spring training, will go a long way towards the New York pen maintaining this ranking during the season.

3) Philadelphia Phillies: Hector Neris (R), Seranthony Dominguez (R), Jose Alvarez (L), Francisco Liriano (L), Adam Morgan (L), Bud Norris (R), Victor Arano (R), Ranger Suarez (L), Robert Stock (R)

The Phillies bullpen has the potential to finish anywhere from second to fourth on this list by the end of the 2020 season, which can also be said for the Mets and Nationals relief group. If I had more confidence in Dominguez being and remaining healthy for the full season, I might even have ranked them ahead of New York already. New skipper Joe Girardi has a ton of arms with which to work and to sort out during spring training. Those could ultimately include arms like Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Cole Irvin, and Enyel De Los Santos, all of whom will try to win the fifth starter job at the outset. The Phillies might have  the deepest selection of lefty relievers in the division. If only they had a strong starting southpaw for their rotation. If the team can stay in contention, they just might finally get some value out of David Robertson late in the season. They also bought a lottery ticket in former Nats closer Drew Storen this winter.

4) Washington Nationals: Sean Doolittle (L), Will Harris (R), Daniel Hudson (R), Roenis Elias (L), Wander Suero (R), Tanner Rainey (R), Hunter Strickland (R), Ryne Harper (R), Javy Guerra (R)

The bullpen was a problem, perhaps the only real problem, for Washington during much of the 2019 season. Recognizing that fact and not wishing to go down that road again they inked free agent righty Will Harris. The Nats also re-signed free agent Daniel Hudson, who was outstanding after coming over in an early-August trade from Toronto last year. Hudson is forever etched in Nationals history after recording the final out in their World Series victory. A trio of youngsters vying for the fifth starter job – Joe Ross, Erick Fedde, and Austin Voth – could also impact the bullpen. If they use Doolittle as the closer, the rest of the pen lacks an impact southpaw, where Elias is likely to be asked to handle the load, at least initially. Prospect arm Seth Romero could ultimately be the answer in that role.

5) Miami Marlins: Brandon Kintzler (R), Drew Steckenrider (R), Jose Urena (R), Jarlin Garcia (L), Ryne Stanek (R), Tayron Guerrero (R), Yimi Garcia (R), Adam Conley (L), Jose Quijada (L)

The Fish signed the 35-year-old Kintzler last week to serve as the closer, allowing a talented group of young arms more time to develop in the setup and match-up roles earlier in games. This is indeed a talented, albeit largely inexperienced, bullpen crew. When top prospect Sixto Sanchez is ready it will bump someone, likely either Elieser Hernandez or Pablo Lopez, to the pen. If enough of these pitchers take a step forward, the Miami bullpen could quickly become a legitimate strength and begin to shoot up these rankings.

 

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