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MLB Division Series 2019 preview and predictions

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Washington Nationals celebrate their victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2019 National League Wildcard Game

 

With a pair of wildcard playoff games in the books, the 2019 Major League Baseball postseason is now fully underway.

The host Washington Nationals rallied in dramatic fashion, scoring three times in the bottom of the 8th inning for a 4-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wildcard Game on Tuesday night.

Then last night, the visiting Tampa Bay Rays scored four times over the first three innings and coasted to a 5-1 victory over the host Oakland Athletics.

With those opening salvos in the books, the drama will only ratchet up a notch as the weather turns cooler across the nation over the coming weeks of October baseball.

The match-ups are now set for a pair of Division Series in both the National and American Leagues. Those best-of-five series will get underway in New York, Houston, Los Angeles, and Atlanta over the next two days.

Having predicted victories by Washington and Oakland in the Wildcard games, I am 1-1 thus far in this postseason.

The following are my picks for each of the four Division Series. I have also listed the scheduled dates, times, location, and TV network for each game in the series as well as the likely pitching match-ups for the first three contests. TBA means that no time has been set as yet.

The numbers in parentheses are where each team finished in my final 2019 MLB Power Rankings of all 30 big-league ball clubs.

ALDS: New York Yankees  (10 ) vs. Minnesota Twins (5)

  1. Friday, 10/04, 7:07 PM EDT at Yankee Stadium on MLBN: James Paxton (NYY) vs Jose Berrios (Min)
  2. Saturday, 10/05, 5:07 PM EDT at Yankee Stadium on FS1: Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) vs Jake Odorizzi (Min)
  3. Monday, 10/07, TBA at Target Field on FS1: Luis Severino (NYY) vs Kyle Gibson/as primary with possible “opener” used (Min)
  4. Tuesday, 10/08, TBA at Target Field on FS1: if necessary
  5. Thursday, 10/10, TBA at Yankee Stadium on FS1: if necessary

PREDICTION: Yankees in three

ALDS: Houston Astros (2) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (4)

  1. Friday, 10/04, 2:05 PM EDT at Minute Maid Park on FS1, TBS: Justin Verlander (Hou) vs Tyler Glasnow (TB)
  2. Saturday, 10/05, 9:07 PM EDT at Minute Main Park on FS1: Gerrit Cole (Hou) vs Blake Snell (TB)
  3. Monday, 10/07, TBA at Tropicana Field on MLBN: Zack Greinke (Hou) vs Charlie Morton (TB)
  4. Tuesday, 10/08, TBA at Tropicana Field on FS1: if necessary
  5. Thursday, 10/10, TBA at Minute Maid Park on FS1: if necessary

PREDICTION: Astros in five

 

NLDS: Atlanta Braves (11) vs. Saint Louis Cardinals (6)

  1. Thursday, 10/03, 5:02 PM EDT at SunTrust Park on TBS: Dallas Keuchel (Atl) vs Miles Mikolas (StL)
  2. Friday, 10/04, 4:37 PM EDT at SunTrust Park on TBS: Mike Foltynewicz (Atl) vs Jack Flaherty (StL)
  3. Sunday, 10/06, 4:10 PM EDT at Busch Stadium on TBS: Mike Soroka (Atl) vs Adam Wainwright (StL)
  4. Monday, 10/07, TBA at Busch Stadium on TBS: if necessary
  5. Wednesday, 10/09, TBA at SunTrust Park on TBS: if necessary

PREDICTION: Cardinals in four

 

NLDS: Los Angeles Dodgers (3) vs. Washington Nationals (9)

  1. Thursday, 10/03, 8:37 PM EDT at Dodger Stadium on TBS: Walker Buehler (LAD) vs Patrick Corbin (Was)
  2. Friday, 10/04, 9:37 PM EDT at Dodger Stadium on TBS: Clayton Kershaw (LAD) vs Stephen Strasburg (Was)
  3. Sunday, 10/06, 7:45 PM EDT at Nationals Park on TBS: Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) vs Max Scherzer (Was)
  4. Monday, 10/07, TBA at Nationals Park on TBS: if necessary
  5. Wednesday, 10/09, TBA at Dodger Stadium on TBS: if necessary

PREDICTION: Dodgers in five

 

Once these series have fully ended and the match-ups have been set for each League Championship Series, I will come back with a preview and prediction for each of those.

Phillies honor Bobby Abreu with place on the Wall of Fame

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Bobby Abreu joins the immortals on the Phillies Wall of Fame

The Phillies are honoring 1998-2006 outfielder Bobby Abreu prior to the game on Saturday night against the Chicago White Sox by enshrining him on the franchise Wall of Fame.

In a special pre-game ceremony, numerous past Wall of Fame honorees are expected to be on hand, including the franchise’ all-time greatest player, Mike Schmidt.
Abreu played in parts of nine seasons with the Phillies from 1998-2006. He is currently 2nd in walks, 4th in doubles, 7th in extra-base hits and stolen bases, 10th in runs scored, 11th in home runs and RBIs, and 14th in hits on the Phillies all-time leader boards.
His .303 career batting average across 1,353 games with the Phillies is the second-highest of any player who has performed with the team over more than half a century, trailing only the .309 mark produced by fellow Wall of Famer John Kruk. His .416 on-base percentage is the fourth-best of any player during their Phillies career, and Abreu’s .928 career OPS with the Phillies is second in franchise history only to the great Hall of Famer and Wall of Famer, Chuck Klein.
Abreu is a native of Venezuela who was signed by the Houston Astros as a 16-year-old amateur free agent in August 1990. He received his first big-league promotion for a 15-game cup of coffee in September 1996.
He appeared twice against the Phillies that month, lining out to center fielder Ricky Otero as a pinch-hitter for Billy Wagner in a 10-8 Phillies victory at the Astrodome on September 11 in his first game against them.
In 1997, Abreu made the team out of spring training, and stayed with Houston through May. He returned for five games in July, and then was called up again in September, appearing in another 14 games. Against the Phillies he went 4-17 with two runs and two RBIs over five games. He would also pinch-hit, going 1-3, in all three games of the Astros sweept at the hands of the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.

Abreu as a 24-year-old in his first season with the Phillies in 1998.(Roger H. Rangel)
That fall, Major League Baseball expanded to include a pair of new teams, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now just “Rays”) and an Expansion Draft was held. Abreu, left unprotected by the Astros, became the sixth player chosen overall, the third by Tampa Bay.
Abreu would never play a single game with those original Devil Rays. In fact, he would never get to the Sunshine State at all. On the same day that he was selected in that draft process, the Phillies traded away shortstop Kevin Stocker to acquire Abreu from Tampa.
Stepping into what was a rebuilding Phillies lineup in the 1998 season, the 24-year-old Abreu made an immediate impact by slashing .312/.409/.497 with 17 home runs, 52 extra-base hits, 74 RBIs, 68 runs scored, and 19 steals.
The following year he received NL MVP votes after leading all of baseball with 11 triples. Abreu slashed .335/.446/.549 with 66 extra-base hits, 118 runs scored, and 27 stolen bases in that 1999 campaign, finishing third in the National League batting race. In 2000, Abreu became the first Phillies outfielder since Greg Luzinski in 1979-80 to produce back-to-back 20-homer seasons.
Abreu remained an impact player over the next few years as the Phillies slowly began to build a contending roster around him. He produced a 30-30 season in 2001 (31 HR/36 SB), led the National League in doubles in 2002, and would drive in over 100 runs in four of five seasons between 2001-05. He would also score 100 or more runs in all but one year between 1999-2005, crossing the plate “only” 99 times in the 2003 season.
In both 2004 and 2005, Abreu was recognized as a National League All-Star. He was awarded the NL Silver Slugger for right fielders following the 2004 season when he banged 30 home runs and 78 extra-base hits, drove in 105 runs, scored 118, and stole 40 bases. On April 12, 2004, Abreu left his mark on Phillies history when he clubbed the first-ever home run at brand new Citizens Bank Park.
At the National League All-Star Game held at Comerica Park in Detroit, Abreu was entered in the Home Run Derby, becoming just the second Phillies player ever selected to participate, following teammate Jim Thome the previous year.
Not only did Abreu participate in that 2005 Home Run Derby, he put on a legendary show, setting what were then records of 24 homers in a single round and 41 overall. Following that 2005 season, Abreu was awarded the National League Gold Glove Award for defensive excellence in right field.
Turning age 32 and with the Phillies looking to get more playing time for emerging 25-year-old outfielder Shane Victorino, Abreu was sent along with pitcher Cory Lidle to the New York Yankees for a package of four prospects at the 2006 MLB trade deadline.
Abreu get to play with the five straight National League East Division champions. And, of course, he wouldn’t be a part of the 2008 Phillies team that won the World Series. But still living in the area in Marlton, New Jersey when Brad Lidge sank to his knees and was piled upon by a number of Abreu’s former teammates on that glorious October night, he and his wife popped a bottle of champagne in celebration all the same.
I know how hard they worked,” Abreu said per Michael McGarry of the Press of Atlanta City. “I was a part of it. I have Phillies in my heart. I wasn’t there at that moment. But I was at my house celebrating.
None of the prospects received by the Phillies in that deal ever amounted to anything. Lidle would tragically die in a private plane crash just months later. But Abreu kept on hitting, driving in over 100 runs in that 2006 season, and then again for the Yankees in 2007 and 2008, receiving AL MVP votes in each of those last two seasons.
Just as he wasn’t with the ’08 Phillies champs, Abreu would not be part of the Yankees team that downed the Phillies in the 2009 World Series either. He became a free agent following the 2008 season and signed with the Los Angeles Angels. There, Abreu enjoyed one final 100 RBI season in 2009, and a final 20 homer season in 2010.
While with the Yankees and Angels, Abreu did finally got a lengthy taste of postseason play. He appeared in all eight Yankees ALDS games in both 2007-08, blasting his only-ever playoff home run against Cleveland on October 8. 2007.

Abreu enjoyed his final productive big-league seasons with the Angels from 2009-12. (Keith Allison)
With the Angels he appeared in all three of their 2009 ALDS sweep of the Boston Red Sox, rapping out three hits in the clincher. He then faced his former Yankees team in the ALCS, going just 4-25 with two RBI and falling two wins shy of meeting the Phillies in that 2009 Fall Classic. It would be Abreu’s last appearance in the postseason.
The Angels released him at age 38 in April of 2012. A week later he caught on with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he was a teammate of Victorino’s on a team that finished in second place in the NL West, two games shy of an NL Wildcard berth.
Abreu sat out the entire 2013 season as he contemplated retirement. But back home he participated in the Venezuelan Winter League and enjoyed success, hitting .322 with Caracas. In January 2014, Abreu signed with the Phillies and went to spring training in Clearwater with his old organization.
The Phillies reunion wouldn’t last. Abreu was released at the end of Grapefruit League play. However, just days later he caught on with the New York Mets. He would appear in just 78 games with the Mets in a final big-league season at age 40, after which Abreu finally hung up the spikes.
In a last hurrah, it would all come full circle for Abreu. His final career at-bat would come against the team that had signed him more than two decades earlier, the Houston Astros. With two outs in the bottom of the 5th inning on Sunday September 28 at Citi Field, Abreu lined a base hit to left off Nick Tropeano. He was pinch-run for by Eric Young, and road off into the baseball sunset.
Abreu becomes the 41st individual enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame. He joins former teammates already enshrined on the Wall in Mike Lieberthal (1998-2006), Pat Burrell (2000-06), Curt Schilling (1998-2000) and Thome (2003-05), as well as Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel, who were two of Abreu’s managers in Philadelphia.
Abreu’s career in a Phillies uniform also overlapped with a number of the 2008 World Series champion Phillies, including Jimmy Rollins (2000-06), Chase Utley (2003-06), Ryan Howard(2004-06) and Cole Hamels (2006), all of whom will one day find themselves enshrined.
There is a chance that Victorino (2005-06), Carlos Ruiz (2006), Ryan Madson (2003-06), Brett Myers (2002-06) or Randy Wolf (1999-2006), all of whom played with Abreu in Philadelphia, could also one day wind up honored on the Wall of Fame.
Bobby Abreu was a key offensive performer during the late-1990’s when the Phillies were a rebuilding National League doormat. He became an All-Star player as the club built a winning roster through the early-mid 2000’s, but was dealt away just as the club was prepared for a long run of division titles.
Abreu should be remembered as the dynamic power-speed combo player that he was in those early years with the Phillies, and for his performance during those tremendous years he is a worthy Wall of Fame enshrinee.

MLB Power Rankings: Dodgers back on top to open August

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The Philadelphia Phillies are as high as they have been all season in the latest 2019 MLB Power Rankings. As the month of August opens, that still only leaves them at 14th overall in Major League Baseball.

However, while they rank as middle-of-the-pack in all of baseball, they are the sixth-highest ranked ball club in the National League. That means they statistically come out right about where they are in the standings, as a legitimate NL Wildcard contender.
In taking a look at the landscape of contenders over the final eight weeks of the regular season, the Phillies are likely going to have to beat out the division-rival Washington Nationals and whichever team finishes as runners-up in the NL Central Division, the Chicago Cubs or Saint Louis Cardinals.
The Nationals made a series of moves to shore up their one glaring weakness – the bullpen – at yesterday’s MLB trade deadline. The Cubs added a big bat in Nicholas Castellanos.
In looking ahead at the schedule, the Phillies have just four games left head-to-head with the Nationals. Those will take place in Washington at the end of September in the club’s final road series of the year. Having met 14 times already, the Nationals have taken nine games from the Phillies, who would need a sweep of that final series to gain a 9-9 split.
The Cubs will come to Citizens Bank Park for three games in the middle of August. The Phillies and Cubs have already split four games at 2-2 this season. The Phillies are done with the Cardinals, having won four of six games between the two teams.
My own personal feelings never have anything to do with the MLB Power Rankings published here at Phillies Nation. Instead, the rank is all about actual team performance: results in the standings and statistical breakdowns.
I take what I have found to be key statistical categories and rank each of the 30 teams in Major League baseball on their ability to win ball games and perform on offense, the pitching mound, and in the field. There is never any subjectivity on my part.

The MLB Power Rankings are updated here at Phillies Nation on roughly the 1st and 15th of the month for the remainder of the regular season using the following methodology.

RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

Introduced and then upgraded during the course of last season, my formula for compiling the rankings is always being researched to see if it can be improved upon.
That formula carried two categories over from the 2018 season: winning percentage and OPS against. The first is simple, reflecting each team’s ability to actually win ball games. The second reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control the game and limit damage.
As of my first ranking for the 2019 season, runs-per-game replaced last year’s “runs scored” in order to get the offensive component. This was an acknowledgement of the fact that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games.
Also this summer, the defensive component was changed. The defensive metric beginning with the July 15 rankings was switched to “Defensive runs saved” as measured at Fangraphs, replacing the previous “fielding percentage” to gauge a team’s defensive effectiveness.
I then assign each of those four component category team rankings a 1-30 numerical value, and simply add those values up to determine an overall final ratings score. Where there is a tie, it is broken by win-loss percentage since, in the end, winning is what it’s all about.

2019 AUGUST 1 –  MLB RANKINGS

Returning to the top of the rankings for the first time since June 1 are the Los Angeles Dodgers. The National League’s top ball club in each of the previous 2019 Power Rankings, the Dodgers are one of just two teams ranked among the top three each time around this season.
Coming in as the August 1 runners-up and the top team in the American League are the previous rankings leaders, the Minnesota Twins. They are the other team to finish among the top three in each of the prior MLB Power Rankings this season.
The Cleveland Indians were the hot risers in the last rankings, and they remain scorching as August opens. But hotter than the summer sun during the month of July were the San Francisco Giants. At 11 games under .500 when the month began and ranked next-to-last back on June 1, the Giants have vaulted into the top 20 and NL Wildcard contention.
An enigmatic team would be the Arizona Diamondbacks. For the fifth consecutive period, the formula pushes the Dbacks out as a top 10 ball club. Yet Arizona has fallen below .500 in the standings at this point, sitting four games back in the loss column in the NL Wildcard race.
In parentheses are each team’s position in the June 1, June 15 , July 1 and July 15 rankings, shown in that order from left to right.
  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (1-3-2-2)
  2. Minnesota Twins (2-2-3-1)
  3. Houston Astros (3-1-1-5)
  4. Oakland Athletics (8-12-5-3)
  5. Tampa Bay Rays (4-4-4-4)
  6. Cleveland Indians (18-18-15-10)
  7. Arizona Diamondbacks (9-5-6-9)
  8. Boston Red Sox (6-6-10-8)
  9. Chicago Cubs (10-13-11-7)
  10. New York Yankees (5-8-9-6)
  11. Los Angeles Angels (19-17-19-11)
  12. Atlanta Braves (12-9-7-12)
  13. Washington Nationals (24-19-13-13)
  14. Philadelphia Phillies (15-14-18-16)
  15. Saint Louis Cardinals (14-15-14-14)
  16. Milwaukee Brewers (7-10-16-19)
  17. Cincinnati Reds (13-16-17-18)
  18. San Francisco Giants (29-27-25-21)
  19. Texas Rangers (16-11-8-15)
  20. San Diego Padres (17-20-20-17)
  21. Colorado Rockies (11-7-12-20)
  22. Kansas City Royals (21-21-22-22)
  23. Miami Marlins (23-26-21-23)
  24. New York Mets (22-23-24-25)
  25. Pittsburgh Pirates (20-25-23-24)
  26. Seattle Mariners (26-22-27-26)
  27. Toronto Blue Jays (28-28-26-28)
  28. Chicago White Sox (25-24-28-27)
  29. Baltimore Orioles (30-30-30-30)
  30. Detroit Tigers (27-29-29-29)

SPOTLIGHT TEAM: TAMPA BAY RAYS

Previous spotlight teams: Minnesota (6/1), Atlanta (6/15), Texas (7/1), Oakland (7/15)
It’s fair to ask, how are these guys doing it? The Rays are 14 games over the .500 mark while playing in a division with the behemoth Yankees and defending world champion Red Sox. They are tied with Oakland for the second AL Wildcard, two games up on those Bosox and four clear of both the Angels and Rangers.
Kevin Cash is now in his fifth season at the helm in Tampa. After three losing campaigns, he guided the Rays to a 90-win season a year ago. That was the sixth-best record in the AL, but still seven games back of Oakland for a Wildcard playoff spot.
The Rays get by with no one superstar. But they have nine batters who are in double-digits for home runs. 24-year-old, second year outfielder Austin Meadows is a potential star. Splitting his time between DH and the corner outfield spots, he has 16 homers, 40 extra-base hits, and 51 RBIs.
On the mound, Tampa has somehow survived to this point despite losing their two most talented starting pitchers. 25-year-old Tyler Glasnow has been on the IL since May with a strained right forearm. A recent MRI came back clean, but he is not likely to see a big-league mound again until September, if then.
26-year-old southpaw Blake Snell was the 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner. But after he struggled over 20 starts this season it was found that he had ‘loose bodies’ in his pitching elbow, requiring surgery. The surgery was successful, and the Rays hope to get him back for the final few weeks of the season.
It is questionable how long Tampa can stay in the race without those two big horses on the mound every four-to-five days. But if they can, and those two can return healthy in September, you would be foolish to count the Rays out.
It is also questionable how long Tampa can maintain a team in Major League Baseball, at least a competitive one over the long haul considering their current stadium situation. The idea had been floated to play half their games in Tampa, and half in Montreal. As the video above will reveal, that idea appears to be nothing more than a pipe dream for some old Expos fans.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as MLB Power Ranking: August 1

Pirates outfielder Corey Dickerson moving across state to Phillies

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Outfielder Corey Dickerson moving across the state

In a deal first reported by ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan, the Philadelphia Phillies have acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In exchange, the Phillies will be sending international slot money to Pittsburgh.

Dickerson is a 30-year-old left-handed hitter (fields right-handed) who was the eighth round choice of the Colorado Rockies in the 2010 MLB Draft out of Meridian Community College in his native Mississippi.
He debuted with the Rockies in the 2013 season, becoming their starting left fielder the following season. In January 2016, Dickerson was dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays along with a prospect for pitcher German Marquez and Jake McGee.
With the Rays, Dickerson became the starting left fielder and a 2017 American League All-Star, blasting 51 home runs over the 2016-17 campaigns.
In February 2018, Dickerson was dealt to the Pirates for Daniel Hudson and a prospect. Last season in Pittsburgh, Dickerson won the National League Gold Glove Award for left fielders.
have acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for international signing bonus money and a player to be named later.

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This year, Dickerson injured his should in the first week and ending up spending more than two months on the Injured List. He returned and had put together a .317/.376/.556 slash line with four home runs, 18 doubles, 25 RBIs, and 20 runs scored over 141 plate appearances.
He left the Pirates series opener with the New York Mets this past Friday with a groin injury. But returning to the lineup on Tuesday night in Cincinnati, Dickerson blasted two home runs and drove in five during the Pirates brawl-filled victory over the Reds.
It has also been reported that the Phillies may send a player to be named later to Pittsburgh to complete the deal at a later date. In order to make room on the 40-man roster for Dickerson, the Phillies have DFA’d outfielder Dylan Cozens, who was out for the season after foot surgery back in May. Cozens will not likely be back with the Phillies next year.
Assuming he is fully healthy, Dickerson could start nearly every day for the Phillies in left field for the rest of this season. A free agent when the season ends, he is likely a two-month rental as the club tries to bolster their overall depth for a postseason run.

Phillies take a flyer on lefty starting pitcher Drew Smyly

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Drew Smyly still has not returned to form after TJ surgery

The Philadelphia Phillies have reached a contract agreement with 30-year-old free agent starting pitcher Drew Smyly, according to numerous reliable sources.

Smyly is expected to step into the club’s starting rotation quickly. That could mean as soon as this weekend in Pittsburgh, though it is unknown exactly how ready he will be to go deep into an outing at this point.
The left-hander pitched in 13 games this season, nine of those as a starter, for the Texas Rangers. He was 1-5 with an 8.42 ERA, 8.05 FIP, and 1.909 WHIP. Smyly allowed 64 hits over 51.1 innings with a 52/34 K:BB ratio.
Those are some ugly numbers. Any casual fan who simply looks at such a “back of the baseball card” line and wonders why this signing is anything to get excited about would be absolutely correct in their reaction. Smyly has a lot to prove, and is certainly not to be considered “the answer” to the Phillies present rotation troubles.
However, what the team has to be hoping is that they will ultimately get more professional, big-league caliber performances from Smyly at the back-end of their rotation than have been delivered by Nick PivettaVince Velasquez and Zach Eflin. Also, with Jake Arrieta battling bone spurs in his pitching elbow, there is no telling how long the veteran will hold up.
Smyly has tasted success in Major League Baseball. A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, he was the second round choice of the Detroit Tigers at 68th overall in the 2010 MLB Draft out of the University of Arkansas.
Smyly broke into the big-leagues with Detroit, appearing as both a starter and reliever in the 2012-14 seasons. He also made 10 appearances out of the bullpen with the Tigers in the 2012-13 postseason, including a pair of appearances in the 2012 World Series against the San Francisco Giants.
Smyly was dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays in a big three-team swap at the 2014 MLB trade deadline. The Tigers landed David Price from Tampa Bay in that deal in what would prove a failed attempt by Detroit to reach a fourth straight ALCS.
With the Rays, Smyly immediately stepped into the starting rotation and was outstanding. He went 3-1 with a 1.70 ERA, allowing just 25 hits over 47.2 innings across seven starts with a 44/11 K:BB ratio, establishing himself at age 25 as key piece of the Rays future.
Unfortunately, left shoulder problems derailed his 2015 season, limiting him to just a dozen starts. Following an outstanding effort at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox on May 5, Smyly was shut down for what was expected to be the remainder of the season. But he was able to return in mid-August to make another nine mostly effective starts.
I just got a lot of shoulder care, rehab, strengthening program,” Smyly said prior to the 2016 season per Bill Chastain for MLB.com. “… I just stuck to that. Tried to get my core strong and focused on making my shoulder as healthy as it can be and just try to come into spring healthy and ready to go.
It was apparent that he had lost something during that 2016 campaign. He made 30 starts, striking out 167 batters and allowing 174 hits over 175.1 innings for the Rays. However, he was hit hard over his last five starts to the tune of a .294 batting average against with a 5.33 ERA during that season-ending stretch.
Smyly would not pitch again in Major League Baseball until this year. In January 2017, Smyly was dealt by the Rays to the Seattle Mariners. He would never pitch in big-league game for Seattle.
After looking good while pitching with the first-ever U.S. team to win the World Baseball Classic early that spring, he was shut down with elbow discomfort. He would ultimately require Tommy John surgery and miss the entirety of the 2017 season.
A free agent at age 29, rather than his hoped-for big career payday, Smyly had to settle for a two-year, $10 million deal from the Chicago Cubs, who took a flyer on his recovery. The lefty would be able to make just one start in the Cubbies minor league system in the 2018 season, and was dealt to Texas last November.
After his less than stellar performances for them, the Rangers gave Smyly his release just over three weeks ago. He had a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, but decided to opt out of that deal. The Phillies believe there are signs pointing to the possibility that there is still something to squeeze out of him.
Per Joe Giglio with NJ.com: “Smyly is generating swings and misses at a high rate. During his stint in Texas, Smyly struck out 52 batters in 51.1 innings. During two Triple-A starts with the Brewers, Smyly racked up 18 strikeouts in 12 innings.

Arrieta will make the start in tonight’s (Friday) series opener at PNC Park against the host Pittsburgh Pirates. Eflin is scheduled to go on Saturday and Velasquez on Sunday.