Tag Archives: Texas Rangers

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.

MLB 2019 Power Rankings: Astros, Dodgers remain at the top of each league as July opens

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Texas Rangers have been a surprise AL contender in 2019

This is a Philadelphia Phillies site, and so the team’s place on my MLB Power Rankings always needs to be highlighted. When I debuted the 2019 rankings on June 1, there were fans upset that the first-place club was in the #15 slot.

By the June 15 rankings, the Phillies had moved up a spot to #14, although by then the team had dropped to second place. Still, I heard complaints from fans who believed the club should be ranked higher.
Maybe now they can admit that the rankings were on to something? The Phillies have now slipped to the #18 spot. They have the 12th-best record in MLB overall, and are buoyed by their defense, tied for 8th in the game. But their hitting attack has been mediocre (15th) and they are seriously weighted down by a pitching staff rated just 25th in baseball.
Fans are allowed to be unrealistic about their team based on pure emotion. My own personal feelings have nothing to do with the MLB Power Rankings published here at Phillies Nation. Instead, it’s all about each team’s actual results and statistical performances.
There is never any subjectivity on my part. I take key statistics and rank each of the 30 teams in Major League baseball on their ability to actually win ball games as well as their performance on offense, on the pitching mound, and in the field.
The MLB Power Rankings will be updated here at Phillies Nation on 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 received another tweak to begin this year. By the end of 2018, I was researching each of the 30 MLB teams current position in the four categories of winning percentageruns scoredpitching OPS, and fielding percentage.
This year, runs-per-game has replaced that simple “runs scored” category in order to get the offensive component. I then assign each of those component category team rankings a 1-30 value and simply add those values up to determine an overall final ratings score. Where there was a tie, it is broken by win-loss percentage, then by runs-per-game, followed by pitching OPS.

2019 JULY 1 –  MLB RANKINGS

The Houston Astros repeat at the top of the Power Rankings. But the top four teams remain the same, just with a slight juggling of the order.
The hot risers are the Washington Nationals, who have shot up 11 places since June 1. In the American League, the Texas Rangers are up again, this time from 11 to 8 after going from 16 to 11 in the June 15 rankings. And the Oakland A’s burst up from 12 to 5 this time around.
On the down side, the Milwaukee Brewers have dropped from the top ten down to 16. Meanwhile, the San Diego Padres, who like the Phillies landed a huge off-season free agent in Manny Machado, have been struggling along in the lower half. The Friars are 20th for a second straight ranking.
In parentheses are the team’s positions from the June 1 and June 15 rankings, shown in that order from left to right.
  1. Houston Astros (3-1)
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers (1-3)
  3. Minnesota Twins (2-2)
  4. Tampa Bay Rays (4-4)
  5. Oakland Athletics (8-12)
  6. Arizona Diamondbacks (9-5)
  7. Atlanta Braves (12-9)
  8. Texas Rangers (16-11)
  9. New York Yankees (5-8)
  10. Boston Red Sox (6-6)
  11. Chicago Cubs (10-13)
  12. Colorado Rockies (11-7)
  13. Washington Nationals (24-19)
  14. Saint Louis Cardinals (14-15)
  15. Cleveland Indians (18-18)
  16. Milwaukee Brewers (7-10)
  17. Cincinnati Reds (13-16)
  18. Philadelphia Phillies (15-14)
  19. Los Angeles Angels (19-17)
  20. San Diego Padres (17-20)
  21. Miami Marlins (23-26)
  22. Kansas City Royals (21-21)
  23. Pittsburgh Pirates (20-25)
  24. New York Mets (22-23)
  25. San Francisco Giants (29-27)
  26. Toronto Blue Jays (28-28)
  27. Seattle Mariners (26-22)
  28. Chicago White Sox (25-24)
  29. Detroit Tigers (27-29)
  30. Baltimore Orioles (30-30)

SPOTLIGHT TEAM: TEXAS RANGERS

Few people had the Texas Rangers as a serious contender entering the 2019 Major League Baseball season. But the Rangers have bashed the ball around the yard, ranking 5th in runs-per-game, and have also played solid defensively.
Unfortunately for the Rangers they play in the same division, the American League West, as the top team in our rankings, the Houston Astros. As of today, the Rangers trail their Texas rivals by six games in the loss column. The Rangers are tied with the Cleveland Indians in the loss column in the race for the second AL Wildcard playoff berth.
The big bats in the Texas attack have been a trio of hitters who have rotated the left field and designated hitter positions: Joey GalloShin-Soo Choo, and a rejuvenated Hunter Pence. Shortstop Elvis Andrus is also enjoying a strong first half. Both Gallo and Pence, who is currently on the IL, were selected for the AL squad in the 2019 All-Star Game.
What has held Texas back is their pitching staff, which factored at just 23rd in the rankings category of OPS-against. One bright spot has been AlLAll-Star Mike Minor, a 31-year-old left-hander who could become a big trade chip should Texas fall out of the playoff race later this month.
Credit first-year manager Chris Woodward for keeping the team believing in themselves. Now, does GM Jon Daniels believe enough to go out and try to bolster that rotation for a genuine playoff run? Or will the Rangers actually become sellers as that July 31 trade deadline approaches?
(Previous spotlight teams: June 1 – Minnesota Twins , June 15 – Atlanta Braves)
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “2019 MLB Power Rankings: July 1

With much to prove in 2019, Odubel Herrera already working out in Florida

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‘El Torito’ is coming off a down year and has increased competition in 2019

It is the middle of January here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was seasonably cold this morning as I took my little dog, Kiki, on her morning walk. The high is expected to possibly reach 40 degrees by later this afternoon.

Down in Clearwater, Florida, where the Philadelphia Phillies are scheduled to begin gathering approximately one month from now, the weather is a little bit better. The temps are in the low-50’s this morning, expected to rise to the upper-50’s by later this afternoon.
It is expected to be milder down in Florida than here in Philly at this time of year. But it isn’t quite what it will be down south when spring training opens and unfolds, when lows are generally around 60 degrees and the average high temps get well into the 70’s.
That’s why they call it “spring” training. The weather is mostly perfect for baseball in Florida in late February and March. But again, it’s mid-January. Those spring training days are still a month off.
And yet there was Odubel Herrera, running and throwing at the club’s Carpenter Complex in Clearwater on Tuesday morning. 
Jim Peyton of FuturePhillies.com captured the Phillies outfielder as he worked out on a crisp January morning.

Odubel long tossing on Schmidt Field in 50 degree weather. That’s Jose Alvarez in the background

See jim peyton’s other Tweets

There is good reason for Herrera to be down in Florida early working out in the team facilities. The 27-year-old has much to prove this spring, assuming he is still with the ball club.
Back in mid-December of 2016 the Phillies signed Herrera to a five-year extension at $30.5 million. The deal keeps him under contract through the 2021 season. It also includes club options for $11.5 million in 2022 and $12.5 million in 2023.
At that point he was coming off an age-26 season in which he hit .286 with a .361 on-base percentage. He struck 15 home runs, scored 87 runs, and stole 25 bases and was the Phillies representative on the National League All-Star team.
The Phillies thought they had gotten a steal when they selected him in the December 2014 Rule 5 Draft after the Texas Rangers had left him unprotected. The club was plotting their future and got him to agree to what appeared to be a team-friendly extension.
In 2017, Herrera suddenly seemed to become less aggressive. His stolen base total plummeted to just eight total bags swiped, and his runs scored total dropped to 67. However, he also powered up. His homers dropped by one from the prior season to 14, but that was in 93 fewer plate appearances. He banged out 59 extra-base hits as opposed to just 42 in 2016.
With Texas, Herrera had been a second baseman. But his winter ball manager, Jorge Velandia, also happened to be a Phillies special assistant of player personnel at the time. He saw Herrera’s outfield potential and recommended him to pro scouting director Mike Ondo.
At the time of the extension, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com quoted Ondo on that potential as an outfielder having been of primary interest to the Phillies:
I’ll be honest, we liked the player, but a lot had to do with the outfield and knowing the person, knowing what you were getting in the player. That was a huge assist. We were real fortunate that Jorge was there to give us that information.
Herrera was a colorful addition to what was increasingly becoming a bad and bland Phillies ball club. He made a number of mistakes as he basically tried to learn how to play center field at the big-league level.
He made five errors in the 2015 season and misplayed a number of other balls. The following year his defensive challenges increased. He made 11 errors in the field and the misplays continued to come far too frequently. Incredibly, Herrera was nominated for a Gold Glove Award following that 2016 season, one in which his performance tailed off considerably in the second half.
At that point, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, per a quote from Matt Breen at Philly.com, called Herrera “…one of the best centerfielders — one of the best overall outfielders — in the National League, period.”
Phillies fans were not as sold on Herrera’s skills. On sports talk radio and social media, Herrera was often decried as a player who didn’t always appear to take the game seriously. The most commonly used word to describe him was “bone-headed” by those fans, based on the numerous mistakes that he continued to make in the field.
In 2018, Herrera fell off offensively and continued to suffer from defensive lapses. His slash line dropped to .255/.310/.420, and though his home run and RBI totals both increased, his doubles total dropped by more than half and his stolen base and runs scored totals both dropped again despite an increase in plate appearances.
As the Phillies arrive at spring training over the next month, Herrera will find increased competition for playing time. Andrew McCutchen has been signed as the new left fielder. There now appears to be a strong possibility that Bryce Harper could be coming as the new right fielder.
Herrera may now find himself competing for the starting center field job with 25-year-old Roman Quinn. There is also the presence of returnees Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr to consider. At least one and possibly two from among that four-player group would likely become trade bait should Harper actually sign.
Now four seasons in, I’m frankly still not exactly sure what the Phillies have in Herrera. At his best, he flashes the skills to be an above-average ball player. At other times the fans who call him “bone-headed” are exactly right in their description. At worst, the Phillies have a depth outfielder on an affordable contract for three more years. At age 27, this will be a pivotal season for him.
If Herrera is still here when spring training gets underway, and he begins as the starting center fielder flanked by McCutchen and Harper, then hopefully the focus and determination of those former National League MVP’s will help Herrera to not only rebound but elevate his game. By arriving a month early, he seems to be showing that he knows he has something to prove.

Josh Bonifay will reportedly become the new Phillies farm director

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Bonifay spent two seasons on the Texas Rangers coaching staff in 2016-17

Sources have reportedly told Matt Gelb of The Athletic that the Philadelphia Phillies will name Josh Bonifay as their new farm director.

The likelihood is that a formal announcement will not come until after the World Series has ended. That could come by Sunday but will definitely happen by sometime next week at the latest.
The 40-year-old Bonifay was born in Macon, Georgia, but attended high school and college in North Carolina. He was drafted twice by the Pittsburgh Pirates, first out of high school in 1996 and finally out of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in the 24th round of the 1999 MLB Draft.
Bonifay played for seven seasons in the Bucs minor league system, rising as far as the Double-A level. He then moved on to the Houston Astros organization for one final season as a player with Double-A Corpus Cristi in the 2006 season.
After his retirement as an active player, Bonifay returned to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where he worked towards and received his business degree.
In 2011, Bonifay re-joined the Astros organization, this time as their minor league rookie-level hitting coach in Greenville. He then filled the same role the following season with Houston’s High-A level affiliates at Lexington.
For the 2013 campaign, Bonifay went back to Greenville in order to gain his first managerial challenge. Not only did he gain valuable experience, he took the club to the championship round and was named as the Appalachian League Manager of the Year.
After two years at the helm in Greenville, Bonifay was moved to Low-A Quad Cities to become the manager there. Bonifay then left the Houston organization to take his first big-league opportunity, serving on the Texas Rangers staff during the 2016-17 seasons.
This past season, Bonifay returned to Houston as the Astros minor league field coordinator. Per Gelb, Bonifay comes with a tremendous baseball pedigree:

“Bonifay, 40, comes from a baseball family. His father, Cam Bonifay, was Pittsburgh’s general manager for almost a decade and later the director of player development in Tampa Bay. His grandfather, brother, nephew and cousin were players, scouts or executives in baseball.”

With the Phillies, Bonifay replaces Joe Jordan, who had a falling out with the analytics-driven regime of current GM Matt Klentak. Gelb explained the possible reasons for the Bonifay hiring by the Phillies:
“Bonifay, as a manager at Houston’s lowest levels, was exposed to unorthodox ideas. The Astros wanted to institutionalize the on-field use of information beginning at the lowest levels. That way, when players arrived in the majors and encountered even deeper data-driven ideas, they would be conditioned to understand their value. Houston popularized that systemic approach; other franchises — not just the Phillies — are attempting to replicate it…Under Bonifay, the Phillies could expand how they use information in the minors. That, no doubt, was a major talking point as the Phillies canvassed candidates.”
With this major hole in the organization now filled, the Phillies can get back to focusing fully on the makeup of the 2019 big-league team. Free agency begins within the next week or so, and this will be an extremely important off-season for the club.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Phillies reportedly name Josh Bonifay as their new farm director

Jake Thompson dealt by Phillies to Milwaukee Brewers

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Jake Thompson dealt from Phillies to Milwaukee Brewers

The Philadelphia Phillies “traded” pitcher Jake Thompson to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday. 

In exchange the Phillies received…cash. Not an intriguing prospect named “Cash”, just plain cash, as in money.
In effect, the Phillies sold Thompson to a National League Wildcard playoff rival. There is no other way to color this transaction than the Phillies giving up on Thompson.
Though details on the exact “why” were not announced, the likelihood is that the Brewers claimed Thompson after the Phillies designated him for assignment on Friday. That move was done in order to make room on the roster for the newly acquired Justin Bour.
With the claim, the Phillies would have three choices. Pull him back and DFA someone else. Let him go to the Brewers for nothing. Or cut some type of deal with Milwaukee.
GM Matt Klentak was obviously offered some amount of cash that he felt comfortable receiving back from Brew Crew GM David Stearns in order to surrender Thompson.
All of this begs the question, why Thompson? Why did the Phillies choose to DFA a 24-year-old pitcher who in seven minor league seasons has surrendered fewer hits than innings pitched, has produced a 3.55 ERA over 669 innings, and who just two years ago was the 2016 International League Most Valuable Pitcher?
There were other options. The club could have chosen to DFA someone like Mitch Walding, a soon-to-be 26-year-old. Walding is enjoying a nice season with the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs. However, he is nowhere to be found on any list or discussion of top Phillies prospects. He is an “organizational” guy available for positional depth at best.
The club could have chosen from a number of other similar pitchers rather than Thompson. Right-handers Ben LivelyMark Leiter Jr, Yacksel Rios, and Drew Anderson. Lefties Adam Morgan or Jose Taveras.
These would have been the other candidates. You can make a legitimate argument that none has higher upside than Thompson. It’s hard to see any reason that Taveras was kept over Thompson other than the age-old baseball love for left-handed pitchers of nearly any skill level.
If you’re wondering whether the Phillies could have chosen to DFA catcher Andrew Knapp, the answer is both yes and no. The backup backstop turns 27-years-old in early November and has slashed .217/.310/.354 while demonstrating questionable defensive ability at best behind the plate.
However, with Wilson Ramos still on the DL at the time that the Bour move needed to be made, Knapp and Jorge Alfaro were the lone catchers on the 40-man roster. There is no way that you can play with just one legitimate catcher. So, while results and upside might mean Knapp could go, short-term practicality meant that he could not.
None of this is to say that Thompson didn’t have his own issues, command and control chief among them. With the Phillies, Thompson had allowed 4.7 walks for every nine innings pitched. Over 16.1 innings with the big club this season that BB/9 average was at the unsightly 6.1 mark.
His minor league record reveals just a 3.2 BB/9 figure over 144 games, 118 of those starts. However, this year his 5.0 mark revealed regression. Perhaps the Phillies simply didn’t think that he was fixable.
There is also always the possibility that some situation was going on behind the scenes to which we aren’t privy. Some personal or disciplinary problem. But that would be nothing more than pure speculation.
What we do know is that the Phillies now have given up on half the return which they received from the Texas Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade three years ago.
Thompson was considered a big part of that deal at the time. He had been the Detroit Tigers second round pick in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of a Texas high school. Detroit dealt him along with Corey Knebel at the approach of the 2014 trade deadline to the Rangers in exchange for reliever Joakim Soria.
Almost exactly two years ago at this time, Thompson was making just his second MLB start. In earning his first big league win with a five-inning effort against the Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Park he also made a little Phillies history.
Thompson struck out four Rockies batters in the second inning of that contest. In doing so he became the first Phillies pitcher ever and the 80th in MLB history to accomplish the feat.
Also gone from the Hamels deal is lefty pitcher Matt Harrison, who was never going to pitch for the Phillies. He had career-ending injury issues that the club new about at the time of the trade, and his inclusion was simply the Phillies taking on a contract in order to obtain a better prospect package.
Right-handed pitcher Alec Asher was basically given away to the Baltimore Orioles. He was dealt at the end of spring training in 2017 for cash considerations or a player to be named later who was never named. Odds are that some small amount of cash was passed between the two organizations.
Remaining with the Phillies are the current starting right fielder Nick Williams, starting catcher (for the time being) Jorge Alfaro, and injured pitcher Jerad Eickhoff.
The Phillies are not likely to miss Thompson very much in the long run. That they felt capable of giving up on a talented pitcher who still projects to have some upside says something positive about the state of the organizational pitching options.