Tag Archives: Shane Robinson

Phillies need to play Nick Williams regularly or send him to the minors

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Nick Williams has been wasting away on the Phillies bench

The Philadelphia Phillies did much over the last off-season to upgrade their starting lineup and overall roster. All of the free agent signings and trades have been covered here many times. But a pair of moves and the way in which the club has chosen to handle their fallout seems highly questionable.

On December 12, 2018 the Phillies signed free agent outfielder Andrew McCutchen with the stated purpose of playing him every day as the starting left fielder. The 32-year-old McCutchen is a former National League Most Valuable Player and perennial All-Star who was given a three-year deal taking him through the 2021 season with a team option for the 2022 campaign.
Then on March 2, 2019 the Phillies made the big move which was anticipated for the entire off-season when they signed 26-year-old Bryce Harper to a free agent contract. The massive 13-year deal made another former National League Most Valuable Player and perennial All-Star the everyday right fielder for the foreseeable future.
The bottom-line result of these two signings is that, given health, the corner outfield positions are locked up in the Phillies lineup for the next three seasons, possibly more. Primarily affected by the moves were the present and future of incumbent outfielders Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr.
The signings are not as damaging to Altherr for a few reasons. The two biggest are that his upside potential is not as great as Williams. And he also has the athletic ability and experience to play center field, meaning Altherr provides some value to the Phillies on the bench as a player who can cover the entire outfield as a defensive substitute.
For the 25-year-old Williams, however, the signings of the two veterans clearly threw up a roadblock to his playing time with the Phillies. The club was faced with a choice as the 2019 season opened: keep Williams for their bench at the big-league level or send him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to play every day.
The Phillies brain trust made the decision to keep Williams. It was the wrong choice. To this point in the season, a player who still has the potential to become a starter in Major League Baseball is wasting away.
Williams has received just 21 plate appearances scattered across 20 games. He has not started a single game and has appeared in the field just twice. The second of those came in Tuesday night’s 9-0 drubbing at the hands of the New York Mets.
Aaron Altherr has been impacted by the new signings as well. But his situation is different than the younger, higher-upside Williams. (Ian D’Andrea)
To this point, manager Gabe Kapler has called upon the left-handed bat of Williams as a pinch-hitter on 18 occasions. He has just two hits and one walk in that role.
Williams has just two productive hits on the season. With the team trailing 10-1 in the 9th inning at Miami on April 13, his lone extra-base hit of the year plated two runs. That did not come as a pinch-hitter, as he had entered the game the prior inning and flew out in his official pinch-hit appearance.
Back on April 3 in Washington, Williams delivered an RBI pinch-hit single in the top of the 4th inning. His only other hit all year has been a pinch-hit single in the bottom of the 4th inning on April 15. All three of his hits have come in Phillies losses.
As a 23-year-old rookie in 2017, Williams hit .288 with 12 homers, 30 extra-base hits, and 55 RBIs in just 343 plate appearances. Last year he spent mostly as the lefty-hitting half of a right field platoon with the righty bat of Altherr. In 448 plate appearances, Williams provided 17 homers, 32 extra-base hits, and 50 RBIs.
Williams is now snared in the proverbial catch-22 situation where he would likely play more if he could produce more but cannot produce more because he is not getting enough opportunities to get into a groove.
It has already been determined by the organization that Williams is not a center field option. He simply doesn’t have the range or instincts to cover that position. So they are not going to make a major defensive sacrifice at the pivotal position by putting him there over, say, Roman Quinn.
The Phillies are also not going to move McCutchen to center, where he once won a 2012 NL Gold Glove, and let Williams play left. The veteran is on record as not wanting to play center field on a regular basis at this point in his career, and made that known before the club signed him.
The problem with all of this is that Williams, given a shot to become a full-time starter, could easily become a 25 homer, 80 RBI corner outfielder for some team. That has some value. The Phillies could use him as a trade chip later in the summer, especially if he were to get hot and look like even more than that to another club.
But Williams, sitting on the bench in a Phillies uniform and getting a few pinch-hit appearances each week, is never going to show any value to anyone. He is also not going to be developing his own game further, improving under the experience of facing various types of pitching in varied situations and handling a defensive position under a variety of circumstances.
Even if the Phillies have no intention of putting Williams on the trade market at any point, he could be valuable to them as a player capable of stepping in and playing every day should some major injury strike either McCutchen or Harper, knocking one of the starters from the lineup for a length of time.
The best way for Williams to continue developing as a player, show value to other organizations as a potential trade chip, and be ready to step right in to replace McCutchen or Harper should an injury strike would be for him to play every day. The only way for that to happen is for the Phillies to send him down to the minor leagues.
The Phillies have players with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs who could come up and fill the current deep bench role of Williams. Those options include veterans Shane Robinson and Sean Rodriguez, and the lefty bat of Dylan Cozens. None has the upside of Williams. They’re development would not be stunted by sitting on the Phillies bench.
Williams has two minor league options remaining. He needs to be sent to Triple-A immediately. That is clearly what is best for both the player and the Phillies organization. There is absolutely no reason for the move to not be made today. It makes no sense to continue grossly neglecting such an asset.

Phillies have used 11 center fielders in this Graperfuit League season

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Adam Haseley has seen center field action this spring

The announced starting lineup for the Philadelphia Phillies for the Saturday afternoon March 16 game at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida against the visiting Houston Astros included 24-year-old Dylan Cozens in center field.

The start for Cozens is his second of spring training in center field, the last coming back on March 6 in Dunedin against the host Toronto Blue Jays.
For these tune-up games down in Florida the Phillies have utilized 11 different players at the crucial center field position. None of them has been named Odubel Herrera. The starter at the position for the last four years has been sidelined by injury. He will make his first start today, serving as the Designated Hitter.
Herrera had entered the spring in a head-to-head competition for the starting center field job with 25-year-old Roman Quinn. However, the speedy Quinn suffered yet another in a series of injuries which have repeatedly set his career back. He got to make just one start, in the Grapefruit League opener against the Tampa Bay Rays.
With both Herrera and Quinn out of commission the Phillies have leaned heavily on three players. Aaron Altherr has received nine starts in center and is the only player to start out there on back-to-back days, having done so on both February 27th and 28th.
The other two players who have seen stead action in center field are a pair of prospects. 22-year-old Adam Haseley has made four starts and come on as a substitute in three others. 20-year-old Mickey Moniak made one start and came on as a sub a half-dozen times.
Haseley is one of just two who have played a full game in center field all spring. He did so for the split-squad game on the road against the Detroit Tigers on March 7.
The other player to go a full game in center was Lane Adams. The 29-year-old who has three years of big-league experience is here as a non-roster invitee. He also played a full split-squad road game, that one on March 14 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. That was Adams lone start. He has also appeared in three more games out in center as a substitute.

McCutchen was a center field fixture and former Gold Glover with Pittsburgh but did not play the position at all in 2018. (TonyTheTiger/WikiCommons)
Andrew McCutchen (2) and Scott Kingery (3) have made the remaining starts out in center field thus far for the Phillies. Veteran non-roster invitee Shane Robinson has come on as a substitute three times while prospects Matt Vierling and Simon Muzziotti have done so twice each.
Quinn began running again this past week as he begins to recover from an oblique strain. The Phillies are likely to be cautious with him. You can probably expect that Quinn will begin the season on the Injured List or at extended spring training.
Assuming that Herrera has no setbacks in his recovery from a hamstring strain, he is likely to begin seeing the bulk of the starts in center field in preparation for the March 28 regular season opener. As long as he can continue to get regular plate appearances from this point, fans should expect to see him on Opening Day.
The injuries to Herrera and Quinn combined with Friday’s loss, at least temporarily, of right fielder Bryce Harper are opening up playing time opportunities others. Altherr, Kingery and Cozens would likely become the primary options if any or all of those injuries linger into or re-surface during the early parts of the regular season.
Fans have wondered about giving Nick Williams, who made 16 appearances back in 2017 out in center field, some of the playing time there. Phillies coaches have evaluated Williams now for more than three years, and the decision has been made that he is not an acceptable option at the position. Perhaps that would change in an absolute emergency where multiple others were injured, but for now he will remain as only a corner outfielder.
Harper has played 184 games during his career in center field, 63 of those just last year. He is certainly athletic enough to slide over in an emergency as well but is already on record as saying that right field is by far his best and most comfortable position. Early last week, Harper was quoted by Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia:
“I know I was terrible last year in center field. I feel like if I can stay out of center field, that’d be great. Wherever they need me to play, I’ll play, whether it’s center or left. But for me, leg-wise, keeping my legs and body fresh, right field is hopefully gonna be the spot.”
McCutchen was a Gold Glove Award winning center fielder during his younger NL MVP years in Pittsburgh. However, he did not play in center at all last season. He is another who could do it in a pinch for a short time, but the Phillies signed him to be their everyday left fielder.
Todd Zolecki of MLB.com quoted Kapler on his outfield situation following the Harper signing:
Assuming everybody was healthy, the expectation would be that Quinn and Altherr and Nick Williams would start on our roster, but that may not be possible given the current construction and the addition of Harper. It’s kind of a wait-and-see thing at this point.
That “wait-and-see” has been particularly true in center field Herrera returns now and Quinn will eventually rehab and recover. Those two are still likely to see the bulk of time for the Phillies in the coming season with Altherr as a primary backup option.
The thought that either Haseley or Moniak will ultimately reach or exceed their potential and one day develop into the long-term starting center fielder may be the current long-term Plan A. The unspoken ‘Plan B’ could involve a man from Millville, New Jersey who currently plays on the west coast.

The Phillies lose Roman Quinn to injury once again

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Perennially injured outfielder Roman Quinn goes down again

This is not a repeat. Roman Quinn is injured. The Phillies outfielder has suffered what has been called a mild right oblique strain, will have an MRI on Thursday, and will miss an undetermined amount of time.

An oblique injury is potentially debilitating for a baseball player as this core muscle is activated during both hitting and throwing. Should the MRI reveal a mild strain, Quinn could return to action after the weekend. If severe, we could be talking about months.
He’s very disappointed, and I’m disappointed for him,” said Phillies manager Gabe Kapler per Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic.
Kapler and Quinn are not the only two individuals now disappointed with this latest development. All of Phillies Nation is rightfully disappointed. The 25-year-old had a real opportunity with fellow outfielder Odubel Herrera also lost to injury to take a clear lead in the battle for the 2019 Phillies starting center field job.
Drafted in the second round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft by the Phillies out of a Florida high school as the 66th player chosen overall, Quinn was ranked by MLB Pipeline as a Top 10 Phillies prospect every year from 2013-16.

Over parts of seven minor league seasons, Quinn hit .278 with a .353 on-base percentage and 183 stolen bases over 429 games. He has appeared in 65 games with the Phillies split between the 2016 and 2018 seasons, hitting .266 with a .340 OBP, 15 steals and 23 runs scored.
Quinn’s dynamic impact at the top of the Phillies lineup when healthy has been undeniable. It was just last August in an interview with the local Philly SportsRadio 94 WIP morning showthat Kapler said that Quinn was “as talented and physically gifted as anyone on our roster.
But that entire “when healthy” part has become the more relevant when evaluating his potential contributions. The fact is that the team simply cannot rely on Quinn remaining healthy for any length of time. Certainly not enough to depend on him as a starting option.
Quinn said he was actually getting the MRI at 12:30 today. “I’ve lost the words. … I do pretty much everything that I possibly can to play this game and go out there and play. I keep having setback after setback after setback. It’s frustrating, man. It’s really frustrating.”

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Quinn has missed large swaths of time over the years with a variety of injuries: torn Achilles tendon, torn left quadriceps, concussion, strained elbow ligament, torn right middle finger ligament, broken toe. Now a right oblique strain.
I’ve been a vocal supporter of Quinn in both written pieces and on social media. I’m on record as saying previously that, if healthy, he is a better all-around player than Herrera and should be the Phillies starting center fielder. This latest injury is yet another sign that we simply cannot depend on him to remain healthy long enough to be relied upon as an everyday starter.
With the loss of both Herrera and Quinn, the Phillies starting outfield would now feature Andrew McCutchen in left, Aaron Altherr in center, and Nick Williams in right, with Dylan Cozens and Shane Robinson as the only experienced back-ups. The injuries could spur ownership and management to push even harder to sign Bryce Harper as a free agent.

Trio of anonymous players get the start in Phillies 2019 spring opener

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Austin Listi won the 2018 Paul Owens Award

It happens every year at this time. Major League Baseball teams open spring training camps and there are a number of players on hand about whom many fans have never heard.

The Philadelphia Phillies are no exception. So when the club announced the starting lineup for Friday afternoon’s first game of the 2019 Grapefruit League schedule, it was really no surprise to find that it contained a trio of such names.
The players trotting out onto the field at Charlotte Sports Park for the 1:30pm opener against the host Tampa Bay Rays will include first baseman Austin Listi, second baseman Andrew Romine and right fielder Shane Robinson.
Listi was the 2018 Paul Owens Award winner as the Phillies top performing minor league position player. The 25-year-old Texas native was the club’s 17th round choice in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft out of Dallas Baptist University.
Splitting last season almost evenly between High-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading, Listi slashed .312/.412/.502 with 18 home runs, 84 RBI and a .915 OPS. He appeared in 34 games at first base and 31 games as a corner outfielder combined at the two levels, and even saw three games at third base with Reading. Listi went on to play in the Arizona Fall League where he slashed just .250/.321/.303 with Scottsdale.

Romine is a 33-year-old who has managed to appear in parts of nine big-league seasons despite just a .235/.291/.301 career slash line across 1,323 plate appearances.
The brother of New York Yankees backup catcher Austin Romine, Andrew has built his career on defensive versatility. He has appeared at every position on the diamond in Major League Baseball, including one game behind the plate and seven appearances on the mound.
Robinson is a 34-year-old who, like Romine, also has seen action in nine big-league seasons despite poor offensive numbers. The Florida native has a career .221/.288/.292 slash line with 18 games of postseason experience coming off the bench for the Saint Louis Cardinals in 2012 and 2013.
Winner of the 2005 College Baseball National Player of the Year award at Florida State University, Robinson is known for his outfield defense. Baseball America rated him the top defensive outfielder in the Cardinals organization in both 2009 and 2010.

All three can be considered extreme longshots to actually break camp at the end of March and head north to Philadelphia. But two of them have already enjoyed long tastes of the big-league life, and Listi is hungry for his own first experience at first-class living. Their fight to stand out and earn a 2019 spot with the Phillies or some other team begins today.

Sean Rodriguez signs with Phillies and could bring veteran versatility to club

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The Phillies signed Sean Rodriguez and invited him to spring training

The Philadelphia Phillies announced the signing of another free agent on Friday morning. Unfortunately, he once again is not the name that fans are hoping to hear.

Sean Rodriguez is a 33-year-old (turns 34 in late April) multi-positional player with 11 years of big-league experience. The Miami, Florida native was originally drafted by the Anaheim (now Los Angeles) Angels in the third round of the 2003 MLB Amateur Draft out of a Miami high school.
Rodriguez rose through the Angels minor league system before finally making his Major League Baseball debut during the 2008 campaign. After appearing in 71 games for the Angels over the 2008-09 seasons he was dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays in December 2009 as the player-to-be-named-later in a trade in August of that year in which the Angels had landed pitcher Scott Kazmir.
Rodriguez would play five seasons with Tampa Bay, becoming a versatile piece for manager Joe Maddon, who used Rodriguez at every position other than pitcher or catcher during that time. He also appeared in a dozen postseason games with the Rays between 2010-13, with seven of those coming as a starter.

In December 2014, Tampa Bay shipped Rodriguez to the Pittsburgh Pirates where he would help the Bucs reach their third consecutive NL Wildcard Game. After two years in the Steel City, Rodriguez signed with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent. The Braves dealt him back to the Pirates in August 2017, and Rodriguez again played last season in Pittsburgh.
Over his 11-year career, Rodriguez has slashed .226/.300/.380 with 77 home runs and 119 doubles over 2,761 plate appearances. His best season came in 2016 with Pittsburgh when he produced career highs of 18 homers and 56 RBI, slashing .270/.349/.510 over 140 games.
How many players in the history of baseball have played 7 positions (not even including DH) in 3 straight seasons? Sean Rodriguez has.

And he’s now played 6+ positions (not counting DH) in 6 straight seasons.

Anyone want to research that one? America needs to know!

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Particularly known for his versatility, Rodriguez has played the following positions, with total games in parentheses: first base (212), second base (335), shortstop (176), third base (130), left field (116), center field (25), right field (65), with no career appearances on the mound or behind the plate.

Rodriguez may be the best of a number of long shot veterans who the Phillies have signed and invited to spring training in Clearwater, Florida. That list includes catcher Rob Brantly, infielders Andrew Romine and Gregorio Petit, outfielder Shane Robinson, and lefty pitchers Edward Paredes and Jeremy Bleich.