Tag Archives: Player of the Year

Phillies Fall 2016 Top Ten Prospects: #1 – Jorge Alfaro

For the last week, I’ve been counting down the Philadelphia Phillies current top ten prospects. Now we’ve reached the top spot in this vastly improved organization.
Jorge Alfaro came to the Phillies organization as one of the centerpieces in the big package received from the Texas Rangers for Cole Hamels at the July 2015 trade deadline.
Texas had originally signed Alfaro as a 16-year old amateur free agent out of his native Sincelejo, Colombia back in January of 2010.
He advanced incrementally through the Rangers farm system, first popping up on prospect rankings at #101 by Baseball Prospectus in 2012. 
By the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Alfaro was a top 75 prospect with all of the major evaluation services.


This year, Alfaro got his first opportunity to play a full season at one stop in the minors. In 435 plate appearances at AA Reading he hit for a .285 average with 15 homers, 21 doubles, 67 RBI, and was an Eastern League All-Star.
Alfaro actually received his first big league promotion near the end of August. But this was just a one game emergency call-up after the Phils had dealt Carlos Ruiz to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and were still awaiting A.J. Ellis arrival.
He helped the Reading club reach the postseason this year, but a couple of misplays by Alfaro cost the club dearly in their playoff opener against Trenton. One was on a wild pitch that he probably should have blocked, another on a throw that was a case of being overly aggressive.
“He’s always aggressive with his arm,” said Reading manager Dusty Wathan, a former catcher, per Philly.com’s Matt Gelb“If he makes a good throw, he probably gets him. So it’s hard to fault him for trying to throw him out there.”
The youngster was less forgiving of himself: “I should have just kept the ball in my hand,” Alfaro said per Gelb. “I was too aggressive with the throw. We’re humans. We’re here to learn. I hope I learn from that and it won’t happen again.”
Once Reading was eliminated from the Eastern League playoffs, the Phillies liked enough of what they had seen from the 23-year old in both production and maturity to give him more of a taste of the big leagues.


Alfaro appeared in a half-dozen games with the Phillies in his cup of coffee audition. He had two hits and a walk over the first 17 plate appearances over what is sure to be a lengthy big league career.
He made four starts, catching a full game three different times. In three of those starts he handled 24-year old Alec Asher, who he was familiar with from both the Rangers and Phillies minor leagues.
In a fourth start, Alfaro handled 22-year old Jake Thompson, again a pitcher with whom he had familiarity from both organizations.
MLB Pipeline currently ranks Alfaro as the Phillies #4 prospect behind J.P. CrawfordMickey Moniak, and Nick Williams. Those players ranked 2nd, 3rd, and 5th in my current Fall 2016 Phillies Top Ten.


The MLB scouting report on him reads as follows:
“Alfaro has two plus tools as his calling cards: his power bat and his power arm. He has a ton of raw pop from the right side, but he has yet to refine his approach and strike-zone judgement in order to tap into it consistently. Alfaro has as strong an arm as just about any catching prospect in the game, but the rest of his defensive tools remain a work in progress. Injuries have certainly stunted his development. Alfaro has played some first base in games and done some work in the outfield, and he is athletic enough to handle such a move if it’s necessary.
The Phils got their first real look at Alfaro in 2016, and they had to like what they saw. There’s time for him to still develop into a big league regular behind the plate. A full, healthy season would help him receive the needed reps to get there.”


In early November, Baseball Prospectus released the Top Phillies Prospects for 2017. They had Alfaro at #2 on their list, behind only Crawford. Their “good” and “bad” report on him reads as follows:
“The Good: His throwing arm is as good as anyone in the game. His raw power is legendary, going back to whispers from Jason Parks (R.I.P.) on Arizona backfields shortly after he signed. His overall hitting ability plays well given the position, and he’s specifically improved his ability to hit the ball to all fields. He’s unusually athletic for a catcher, and possesses average-to-above speed. Notice that there’s no caveat there, because he runs well in general, not just for a catcher.
The Bad: Alfaro’s elite raw power hasn’t yet translated well into game power. While that can come late, especially for catchers, his power output in Reading was dwarfed by lesser prospects like Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins. His defensive game has improved greatly since Philadelphia acquired him, but he’s not Jonathan Lucroy yet either, and it’s still a little up in the air if he ultimately lands at a new position.”


After the MLB season ended, Alfaro headed down south to play in the Venezuelan Winter League. In 57 at-bats with Tiburones de La Guaira he is hitting .263 with a pair of homers, five doubles, 10 runs scored and 10 RBI.
Putting Alfaro into the #1 overall Phillies prospect slot ahead of Crawford is a nod from me that I believe he can stick in that premium position behind the plate.
However, Alfaro has enough athletic ability, power potential, and a strong enough arm to play right field. He also could develop enough of a bat to profile as a first baseman.
Looking back through Phillies recent history at the better catchers who have been regulars with the club, the likelihood is that we won’t see Alfaro become the starting catcher for a while yet.
Bob Boone and Mike Lieberthal, both Phillies Wall of Famers, were 25 years old when each became a regular in 1973 and 1997 respectively. Carlos Ruiz didn’t take over as the regular catcher until he was 28 years old in 2007.
Alfaro won’t turn 24 years old until next June. I can easily see him beginning the season as the starting catcher with AAA Lehigh Valley, then receiving a promotion once again to Philly at some point during the summer.

Assuming he isn’t traded, Cameron Rupp will enter spring training as the Phillies starting catcher. Depending upon Alfaro’s defensive development, it may be the last season that Rupp holds that status.

Phillies Fall 2016 Top Ten Prospects: #2 – J.P. Crawford

The Philadelphia Phillies minor league organization has enjoyed a welcome resurgence over the last two seasons. 
A handful of astute trades have built up the quality and depth, particularly at the upper levels.
But a big piece of the organizational improvement has come via the draft process. 
Because the big league club has deteriorated, the Phillies have been selecting at or near the top of the MLB Amateur Draft for the last four seasons, and have largely made those picks count.
In 2014 it was starting pitcher Aaron Nola, who joined the rotation a year later. That draft also produced first baseman Rhys Hoskins in the fifth round. He shared the organizational Paul Owens Award this year.
In 2015, the Phillies selected outfielder Cornelius Randolph at 10th overall, and then chose second baseman Scott Kingery in the second round. Both now rank within this Phillies Fall 2016 Top Ten Prospects countdown.
Two more players on the current countdown were produced in this year’s 2016 MLB Amateur Draft. Outfielder Mickey Moniak is ranked third, and pitcher Kevin Gowdy is now ranked at #9 on my Fall 2016 list of the Phillies top prospects.


Selected at 16th overall back in the 2013 draft, J.P. Crawford quickly rose to become the Phillies top prospect. He held that position for most of the last couple of seasons. Now in this Fall 2016 countdown, the shortstop finishes ranked second among this improved group.
Crawford is a 6’2″, 180 pounder out of Lakewood High School in California. He will turn 22 years old in January, and is on the verge of making his big league debut.
Having risen incrementally through the Phillies farm system, Crawford has now received 1,817 minor league plate appearances. He has produced a cumulative .278 average with a .372 on-base percentage in his first 406 professional games.


I had the pleasure of briefly interviewing Crawford back in April 2015. At that time he was recuperating from an oblique injury that would keep him out until May.
In the interview, Crawford said that his older sister had first introduced him to the game. He talked of his experiences with the Urban Youth Academy and MLB RBIprograms, crediting his youth coach, Lisa Beato, with much of his early development.
Crawford went on to talk about his biggest influences among modern players. These included his uncle, big leaguer Carl Crawford, as well as a pair of shortstop icons, the Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins and the Yankees’ Derek Jeter.


After hearing his name for the last couple of years, I have begun to sense some Phillies fans growing impatient. He has been considered a key to the rebuilding program, and fans rightfully are interested in when he will arrive to help push that rebuild forward.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak addressed Crawford’s development and immediate future at the GM meetings earlier this month.
“He will start the year in Triple-A and his performance will dictate his timeline from there,” Klentak said per Kyle Glaser at Baseball America.
“Obviously J.P. has a unique ability to control the strike zone, which is something offensively we’re very proud of and happy about. His defense is really coming along and we really expect him to be a plus defender at shortstop. He had half a year at Triple-A and had to make some adjustments and we’re hopeful that as he begins the year there this year he’ll get off to a hot start and then we’ll see how the season is playing out.”


To see Crawford in a Phillies uniform and playing with the team, all you will need to do is watch and follow the club in spring training. For a second straight season he will join the team there, continuing to ready himself for the inevitable promotion.
That promotion won’t come right away in 2017. But there is no reason that we should not see Crawford at Citizens Bank Park at some point next year.
Now it is all about his production, performance, and maturity fully catching up to the scouting reports and expectations with AAA Lehigh Valley.
It has been said that the most difficult leap for any professional athlete to make in any sport is that from the minor leagues to Major League Baseball. That is the leap that J.P. Crawford will now prepare to make.

Phillies 2016 POY: Odubel Herrera

The rebuilding program continued for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2016 season. The club moved up to fourth place in the NL East Division with a 71-91 record.
That left the Fightin’ Phils a distant 24 games behind the division-leading Washington Nationals. They were also 16 in back of an NL Wildcard berth. But it also marked an eight game improvement over their worst in baseball finish of a year earlier.
The overall record and standings finish wasn’t so much a problem for manager Pete Mackanin‘s troops. Perhaps a more worrisome issue was the 11-21 mark over the final five weeks.
As that rebuild continues, the 2017 campaign will be especially important. For a couple of the young position players it will be time to step up and show that they can be legitimate impact bats.
For the pitching, there are a couple of young arms that have physical questions to answer. A few others will be looking to step forward and begin to show that they can be long-term pieces.


One of the biggest blows to the Phillies season was the loss of 23-year old Aaron Nola to injury. Nola got off to a fast start. But by the middle of June there was obviously something wrong.
He wasn’t finally shut down for good until the end of July with what was eventually described as “low-grade damage” to his UCL. There were understandable fears of Tommy John surgery, and the loss of the talented right-hander for all of the 2017 season as well.
For now anyway, Nola has dodged that procedure. It is hoped he will be healthy for spring training. Nola completed a throwing program in October after more than two months of rest. He finished 2016 with a 6-9 record, allowing 116 hits over 111 innings in 20 starts with a 121/29 K:BB ratio.


Vince Velasquez forced his way into the rotation in spring training and was dominant at times. He finished 8-6 with a 4.12 ERA, allowing 129 hits over 131 innings in 24 starts with a 152/45 K:BB ratio. Velasquez was shut down by the club in early September.
Jeremy Hellickson was signed for one year to prop up the youngsters by pitching quality innings. The 29-year old veteran did just that, going 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA and 1.153 WHIP. He allowed 173 hits over 189 innings with a 154/45 K:BB ratio.
The surprising leader of the staff was 25-year old righty Jerad Eickhoff, who tossed a rotation-high 33 starts. He allowed 187 hits over 197.1 innings with a 167/42 K:BB ratio. Eickhoff also produced a 3.65 ERA and 1.160 WHIP.
Jeanmar Gomez registered 37 Saves while pitching in 70 games. He was excellent for five months until falling apart in September. Hector Neris was the best overall reliever, allowing just 59 hits over 80.1 innings with a 102/30 K:BB ratio.


The Phillies offense was once again one of the least productive in the game. This is an issue that will have to be addressed before any real progress can be claimed.
As his championship career in Philly came to an end, Ryan Howard tied for the team lead with 25 home runs in just 362 plate appearances. For ‘The Big Piece’, that power aspect was all that remained of his former MVP glory.
Tommy Joseph stepped up in May from the minors. He became a surprising righty half of a first base platoon with Howard. Joseph banged 21 homers in just 347 plate appearances.
Third baseman Maikel Franco tied for the club lead with 25 homers and led the team with 88 RBI. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez paced the team with a .294 average and .371 on-base percentage, also stealing 27 bases.
Catcher Cameron Rupp had a solid season as well, clubbing 16 homers with 54 RBI. Freddy Galvis provided 20 homers, 67 RBI, and 17 stolen bases. Galvis was a finalist for the NL Gold Glove Award at shortstop as well.


The Phillies top player this season was center fielder Odubel Herrera. Herrera was also the club’s lone NL All-Star representative and a Gold Glove Awards finalist, with Fangraphs ranking him 5th defensively among all center fielders in baseball.
‘El Torito’ (little bull) followed up his strong rookie season by hitting for a .286/.361/.420 slash line with 15 homers and team-highs of 87 runs scored and 25 steals.
Herrera was selected by the Phillies in the Rule 5 Draft back in December of 2014 from the Texas Rangers organization.
“The Rangers did me a big favor by not including me on the 40-man roster,” Herrera said during the All-Star Game festivities per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury“Thank God Philadelphia was able to find a spot for me.”
There has been some chatter among fans that it might behoove the team to try Herrera back at his original position of second base. And with the debut of Roman Quinn for a September cup of coffee, there was also talk of moving Herrera to left field.
When spring training opens in February, Odubel Herrera will be back in center field for the Philadelphia Phillies. If someone else wants it, they will have try to take that position away from the 2016 Phillies Player of the Year.

Nationals 2016 POY: Max Scherzer

In 2016, the Washington Nationals won the National League East Division crown for the third time in the last five seasons.
There were just four early May days in which the Nationals did not lead the division. Winning 14 of 18 from late May through mid-June, the club opened a healthy lead that it would never relinquish.
In the end, Washington finished at 95-67, eight games ahead of the second place New York Mets. This left them with the second best record in the National League, and gave them home field advantage in their NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In that NLDS, the Nats dropped a tough 4-3 opener, but then captured the next two games to move within a game of advancing.
But then a clutch RBI single by Chase Utley in the bottom of the 8th inning broke up a Game Four tie at Dodger Stadium, giving the Dodgers a narrow 6-5 victory to tie the series.
In the decisive Game Five back at Nationals Park it was another former Phillies star who helped do them in. Carlos Ruiz‘ RBI single in the top of the 7th broke a 1-1 tie. Ruiz then scored on Justin Turner‘s two-run triple.
The Dodgers would go on to a 4-3 win, their third one-run victory, and advance to the NLCS. The Nationals thus again came up short in their drive to reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history.


The Nationals had a half-dozen players with 20+ homers, but no one reached the 30 homer mark this season.
Second baseman Daniel Murphy was the club’s top overall offensive performer. Washington signed the 2015 NLCS MVP as a free agent from the division-rival Mets in January.
Murphy hit for a .347/.390/.595 slash line  with 25 homers and 104 RBI, leading the club in each of those categories. He was an NL All-Star for the second time, won a Silver Slugger, and was runner-up for the NL MVP Award.
Right fielder Bryce Harper had what many considered a down year. Many players would take his .373 on-base percentage, 24 homers, 86 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 21 steals and be more than happy. The 23-year old Harper was also an NL All-Star for the fourth time in his five seasons.
26-year old third baseman Anthony Rendon produced 20 homers, 85 RBI, 91 runs scored, and stole a dozen bases. He also hit .291 after the MLB All-Star break.
Shortstop Danny Espinosa produced 24 homers and 72 RBI, and right fielder Jayson Werth had 21 homers and scored 84 runs.
Catcher Wilson Ramos was an NL All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner. He hit .307 with 22 home runs and 80 RBI.
Trea Turner finished as the NL Rookie of the Year runner-up after hitting for a .342/.370/567 slash line with 13 homers, 40 RBI, 53 runs, and 33 steals in just 324 plate appearances.


Right-hander Tanner Roark has a breakout year at age 29, finishing 10th in NL Cy Young voting. He went 16-10 with a 2.83 ERA and 1.171 WHIP, allowing 173 hits in 210 innings with 172 strikeouts.
Stephen Strasburg once again missed time due to injury issues, making 24 starts. He was fabulous when available, going 15-4 with a 3.60 ERA and 1.104 WHIP, allowing just 119 hits in 147.2 innings with a 183/44 K:BB ratio.
Jonathan Papelbon began the year as the closer, leading the club with 19 Saves. But he lost that job, replaced by trade deadline acquisition Mark Melancon. After coming over from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Melancon registered 17 Saves with a 1.82 ERA and 0.809 WHIP with a 27/3 K:BB ratio over 29.2 innings.
A pair of righties were strong out of the Nats bullpen. Shawn Kelley had seven Saves while pitching in 67 games. He allowed just 41 hits over 58 innings with an 80/11 K:BB ratio. Blake Treinen pitched in a staff-high 73 ball games, allowing 51 hits over 67 innings and registering a 2.28 ERA.


The Nationals best overall performer in the 2016 season was starting pitcher Max Scherzer. In his second season after signing as a free agent, Scherzer became the first pitcher in franchise history to win the National League Cy Young Award.
The 31-year old Scherzer was also an All-Star for the fourth time in his career, and even finished 10th in the NL MVP voting. On May 11, Scherzer tied an MLB record when he struck out 20 batters in facing his former Detroit Tigers club.
Scherzer went 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA and a 0.968 WHIP mark that led all MLB starting pitchers. Those 20 wins as well as his 228.1 innings, 34 starts, and 5.07 K/BB ratio all led the National League. His 284 strikeouts led all of baseball.
Having previously won the Cy Young Award over in the American League back in 2013 with Detroit, Scherzer became just the sixth pitcher and the first in a dozen years to win the honors in both leagues.
“For some reason, this just means so much more to me. It just verifies everything I try to go out there and set out to achieve,” said Scherzer per Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post. ”Winning the second one confirms that everything I tried to do works.”
Everything that Scherzer tried did quite obviously work in the 2016 season. For that he takes home the Nationals Player of the Year Award.

Mets 2016 POY: Noah Syndergaard

The New York Mets rode an improved offensive attack over the final two months and a strong young pitching staff to the 2015 NL East crown and a World Series berth.
Entering the 2016 season, that improved offense and dynamic young pitching had the Mets once again among the favorites in the division and the National League.
The club did win 87 games, giving them back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the mid-2000’s. They also captured an NL Wildcard berth. This made it consecutive postseason appearances for the first time since the 1999-2000 teams each played in the NLCS.
But the 2016 campaign would prove frustrating for the Mets and their fans. New York fell out of a share of the NL East lead in late May and never returned to the top.
They spent much of July and August in third place, and fell below the .500 mark as late as August 20. At that point, the Mets were just 3.5 games ahead of the fourth place Philadelphia Phillies, and had lost 17 of 23 games.
But then, just as they had a year earlier, the Mets suddenly found their game. New York regained their winning consistency. The team exploded to a 27-13 finishing kick, capturing that Wildcard playoff berth.
The Mets were quickly bounced out in the NL Wildcard Game thanks to a four-hit gem by Madison Bumgarner. The loss punctuated a season that, aside from that late six-week push, was largely disappointing.
Now the club faces the prospect of losing key free agents, and will have to hope for positive answers to some serious questions involving the health of some of their young pitchers.


The most key of those likely departing free agents is outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The 30-year old opted out of his contract with New York after a season in which he was an All-Star for the second time.
Cespedes hit for a .280/.354/.530 slash line this year with team highs of 31 homers and 86 RBI. He also was awarded his first Silver Slugger, and finished eighth in NL MVP voting.
Veteran right fielder Curtis Granderson banged 30 homers and 24 doubles at age 35 years, leading the club with 88 runs scored.
Middle infielders Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera each hit well. Walker produced a .282 average with 23 homers, while Cabrera matched that home run total and hit for a .280 average. Both players have now reached 31 years of age.
25-year old Wilmer Flores played all over the infield, producing 16 home runs and 49 RBI in just 335 plate appearances. The Mets will now try to determine his long-term value and role.


On the mound, 43-year old Bartolo Colon was again an age and body makeup defying wonder. He went 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA, tossing 191.2 rotation-saving innings over 33 starts.
Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz were each strong – when they were able to take the mound. Matz won nine games, allowing just 129 hits in 132.1 innings with a 129/31 K:BB ratio. Meanwhile, deGrom won seven games with a 3.04 ERA, allowing 142 hits in 148 innings with a 143/36 K:BB ratio.
Problem was that deGrom was limited to 24 starts and Matz to just 22 by injuries. An elbow injury knocked deGrom out by mid-September. With one Tommy John surgery already in his medical charts, he faces rehab from what, for now, was a less intrusive surgical procedure.
Matz battled a bone spur in his left elbow for much of the season, and then had to be shut down after experiencing shoulder discomfort in mid-August. How either will hold up next season is a big question.
Jeurys Familia had a fantastic All-Star campaign, registering 51 Saves to lead all of baseball. The 26-year old allowed just 63 hits over 77.2 innings with an 84/31 K:BB ratio. He registered a 2.55 ERA, led MLB with 67 games finished, and even received some NL MVP votes.


The top player for New York this season was Thor, the God of thunder. Well, at least the player with the long, flowing blonde hair and Scandinavian surname who seems to throw lightning bolts with his right arm.
Noah Syndergaard is a 24-year old right-hander from Texas who was the Toronto Blue Jays top pick in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft at 38th overall. He came to the Mets in a seven-player deal featuring former Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey going north.
Syndergaard went 14-9 in what was his first full big league season. He registered a 2.60 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, and led all of baseball with 2.29 FIP and 0.5 HR/9 marks.
In 183.2 innings over 31 games, 30 of those starts, he allowed just 168 hits with a 218/43 K:BB ratio. Syndergaard was a first-time NL All-Star, finished eighth in the NL Cy Young voting, and also received NL MVP consideration.


Following the big season, Syndergaard was invited to help lead the U.S. team in next spring’s World Baseball Classic, but has decided to turn down that invitation to prep for the MLB season.
“Noah feels his performance the past two years is in large part due to his offseason and spring workout routines,” his agent Ryan Hamill said in a statement per Mike Puma at The New York Post“After consulting with the Mets, and given the injuries that plagued their rotation last year and his role on the team moving forward, both Noah and the Mets feel it is important to stay in his established routine.
“It is a tremendous honor to be considered to play for Team USA and Noah does not take the prospect of playing in the WBC lightly. But he also feels strongly about his responsibility to the Mets, their fan base, and their quest to win a World Series.”
His decision is a big loss for the hopes of the American squad to finally capture a WBC crown. But as the 2016 New York Mets Player of the Year, Noah Syndergaard’s decision likely sits just fine with fans of the ball club as they hope to return to the postseason once again.