Thursday, December 31, 2009

What is Happening with the Bullpen

The 2009 Phillies had a good season as they won the National League for the second year in a row, even though it seemed that a few aspects of the team performed under their capabilities. There is no question that Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, and Brad Lidge had less than stellar seasons. I expect all three to rebound from their 2009 seasons and based on their career numbers, they should have no problem returning to form. Rollins puts up consistent numbers when comparing seasons as a whole, Hamels never really had a bad season until 2009, and Lidge has always followed up a bad season with a career year. With an improved Rollins, the already potent lineup becomes a wrecking machine. With an improved Hamels, the Phillies rotation boasts 2 bonafide aces with the potential for a third, in Happ. With an improved Lidge, the back of the bullpen becomes solidified, but the bullpen in general still has to be viewed as the weakest part of the team.

Going into the offseason, the Phillies weaknesses were pretty easy to identify. These weaknesses were the bench, thirdbase, and most importantly, the bullpen. The Phillies significantly improved their bench with the additions of Gload, Schneider, and Castro. Even without the additions of these three players, the Phillies improved their bench dramatically just by discarding Eric Bruntlett. If that isn’t the definition of addition by subtraction, I don’t know what is. The Phillies also improved the thirdbase position as they refused to pick up the option on Pedro Feliz and then acquired Placido Polanco to replace him. That would be a classic addition by addition move. With all the moves that the Phillies have made this offseason, it seems as if they have avoided their biggest need, bullpen help. Granted there were more valuable players at other positions, but the bullpen needed the most improvement. The Phillies have officially lost Park and Myers, and the return of Eyre is still in question.

The Phillies have been rumored to be in talks with many different relievers this offseason including, Brandon Lyon, Fernando Rodney, Ron Mahay, and the latest being Mike Macdougal and Danys Baez. Lyon and Rodney could have been high on the Phillies priority list in the beginning of the offseason, but they quickly became out of the Phillies price range after devoting $18 million to Placido Polanco. This then limited the Phillies to go after a few mid-level relievers. It really is unfortunate that this free agent class is the worst class this decade. As more and more players are being signed, it seems that the Phillies are content on their current bullpen options. At first glance, this appears as a horrible decision because the Phillies bullpen was horrendous last year and they could potentially lose 4 pitchers in Myers, Park, Eyre, and Condrey. How could this be viewed as an improvement, if anything, the porous bullpen has digressed. So how can the Phillies be content on their current bullpen options? Who are these options?

These options are 47-year old Jamie Moyer and a collection of pitchers from the Phillies farm system. If you take a look at the Phillies prospects, they are bullpen heavy, and outfield heavy. Many times the relief pitching prospects will not get much attention because they will be viewed as having limited ceilings. Generally they are older prospects as they are either converted starters or were college closers. The way the Phillies have drafted in recent years, they seem to draft high potential toolsy type position players early, and then alternate between high school and college pitchers in the later rounds. Because of this, the Phillies have a smorgasbord of good relief pitchers in their farm system.

The minor league pitchers that could find themselves with a legitimate opportunity to pitch in the Phillies bullpen in 2010 are almost unlimited. There are 2 starters in Lehigh Valley that could find time in Andrew Carpenter and Joe Savery. There are 3 more starters in Reading that could see Philadelphia in Yohan Flande, Vance Worley, and Michael Stutes. And there are 4 relievers in Reading that could be given a shot in Scott Mathieson, B.J. Rosenberg, Michael “not David” Schwimmer, and Sergio Escalona. That is 11 different pitching prospects in just 2 levels, and that is not even including Antonio Bastardo who finished the season on the major league squad. All of the aforementioned pitchers have major league talent and many of them will be major league ready in 2010. The pitchers that have the best chance of appearing in the Phillies bullpen in 2010 are Mathieson, Bastardo, Escalona, Carpenter, and as a long shot, Vance Worley.

Mathieson originally was destined to start the 2010 season in triple-A but with the lack of movement by the Phillies front office, it appears that Mathieson is all but guaranteed a bullpen spot out of spring training. Mathieson, once he makes it back to the majors, will be an amazing story. Mathieson was originally a starting pitcher in the Phillies farm system and was promoted to the Phillies starting rotation in 2006. Mathieson didn’t do stellar as he fell off towards the end of the season but he showed a lot of promise in his fastball and slider. It became apparent on why Mathieson fell off during the end of the 2006 season, as he had severe elbow issues and had to be shut down due to injury. Since the end of the 2006 season, Mathieson has undergone 3 elbow surgeries, 2 of which were Tommy John surgeries. Even before the array of elbow injuries, Mathieson was projected as a future closer based on his over powering fastball and hard biting slider. After his 3 elbow surgeries it made the decision much easier to change him from starter to reliever. Mathieson made it back on the mound towards the end of this year for the first time in over 3 years and showed that the surgeries didn’t affect his ability to pitch at all. In 22 games, through 3 different levels, Mathieson was 4-0 with a 0.84 era while striking out 34 compared to only 17 hits allowed. I mentioned before that he has an overpowering fastball and that could stand as an understatement. I have witnessed on multiple occasions his fastball reaching 102 mph. With a 102 mph fastball and a good slider, it hurts to say but Billy Wagner would be a great comparison to Mathieson. Lucky for the Phillies, Mathieson is actually liked by teammates and doesn’t possess facial features or personality traits that resemble disease carrying rodents.

Antonio Bastardo is a very interesting prospect as he has been a starter in the Phillies farm system for his entire career and was thrust into the Phillies rotation in 2009 but will be expected to be a major part of the Phillies bullpen in 2010. If the Phillies do not bring Scott Eyre back, Bastardo will be the primary left-handed reliever in the Phillies bullpen, at least for the beginning portion of the 2010 season. This exists because J.C. Romero will be recovering from off-season elbow surgery and is not expected to be ready by the opening of the season. Bastardo has starting ability, there is no question about that, but currently provides more value to the Phillies as a reliever. Bastardo is 23-years old and throws a low 90s fastball, a filthy changeup, and slider. Bastardo doesn’t get much attention in terms of a young player coming up through the system. This surprises me because he has absolutely embarrassed batters in his 3 seasons in the minors. First of all, it is extremely rare for a non collegiate player to go through the farm system in less than 3 years. In Bastardo’s first full season in the Phillies system, he went 10-0 with a 2.14 era. Overall, Bastardo is 19-9 with a 2.58 era in 271 innings. What makes Bastardo such an incredible prospect is that he strikes out batters at a very good rate and he refuses to allow batters to get contact on his pitches. In his 3 seasons in the minors, Bastardo has struck out 10 batters per 9 innings and only allowed 6.7 hits per 9 innings. Bastardo appears to be very deceiving as he consistently blows batters away with his 90 mph fastball and makes them then look silly on his changeup. As a reliever, Bastardo appears almost identical to J.C. Romero, as they are both left-handed, throw the same exact pitches with almost identical throwing motions, are the same size, and are both Caribbean born. With both of these players on the team and in the same exact role, it should really benefit Bastardo as he can really learn a lot from Romero.

As long Romero is injured, Escalona will be on the major league squad as he is the next best left-handed option in the Phillies system. Escalona is a good minor league reliever as he has posted a 3.40 era in 306 innings, he has struck out 309 batters, and allowed only 294 hits. Escalona does not have electric stuff as his fastball sits at about 88-89 but he changes speeds affectively enough to get batters out. Escalona is a solid option as the second left-hander out of the pen. He wouldn’t do any worse than Jack Taschner last year.

Carpenter is also interesting because he has made a few spot starts for the Phillies in the past and will be involved in the competition for the 5th starter’s spot in spring training. Carpenter has been a good starter in the Phillies farm system for a few years even though he doesn’t appear to have dominating stuff. In 2009, Carpenter was one of the better pitchers in the International League as he was 11-6 with a 3.35 era. Carpenter usually sits in the low 90s with his fastball and throws an average slider and changeup. He projects as a decent middle reliever and could take Clay Condrey’s previous position.

A long shot to make an appearance in the Phillies bullpen would be double-A starter, Vance Worley. Worley was just drafted last year so he still is very inexperienced but the Phillies front office seems to really like Worley. Worley was being scouted by advanced scouts including Ruben Amaro Jr., during the time of Bastardo’s promotion and then again during the trade deadline. The Phillies would rather take time and develop Worley as a starter but if the other bullpen options fail, Worley could get a look.

It seems like a risky move for a championship contending team to go with a handful of unknown pitchers in the bullpen but talent usually wins out over experience. The Phillies took a similar risk in 2003 on minor league starter Ryan Madson. That year, Madson was undeniably the best reliever the Phillies had and would not have found themselves in a playoff race without him. The current options that the Phillies possess are talented enough to not be concerned about their lack of experience.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hitting Prosect #8: Zach Collier

I said a while ago that I would be working on a prospect list, but with everything that has gone on in the past few weeks, I have gotten away from that. Worry not, I am back to the prospect list. I left off with Steven Susdorf as my #9 hitting prospect. With my eighth selection, I continue with another outfield prospect from the 2008 draft, Zach Collier.

Collier was drafted by the Phillies in the first round, 34th overall, in the 2008 draft out of Chino Hills HS in California. Collier is a classic Phillies draft choice as he is a raw but toolsy player. Collier could become an all-star caliber outfielder or just aspire to publish a book titled “another guy’s life in the minor leagues.” Collier is a very athletic outfielder who projects to have plus speed, plus power, a plus arm, a plus bat, and a plus glove. Collier is 6’2” and 185 lbs, but is only 19 years old so he should fill out more as he matures. This will add to his power potential down the road.

As Collier is extremely raw, his production in the low minors has been very poor as he has appeared overmatched by single-A pitching in 2009. Collier did fair pretty well in 2008 as he hit .271 in rookie ball but hit only .221 with 1 homerun after being promoted to Williamsport and Lakewood in 2009. Collier did show good speed though, as he swiped 20 bases in 2009. Promoting 18-year olds to single-A is definitely an aggressive promotion, so having a disappointing season is no reason to give up on them as they usually are about 2-3 years younger than their competition. A main reason that high school batters usually don’t fair too well in single-A the first time around is the adjustment to wooden bats, and of course the increased competition from high school. Many batters find it a little bit easier to hit 75 mph fastballs in high school compared to 80 mph curveballs in the minors.

A good comparison for Collier would be Shane Victorino, as they have a very similar skill set. If Collier develops like expected, he will develop 20 homerun ability which is a little better than Victorino. Similar to Collier, Victorino struggled mightily as a 19 year old in single-A, as he only hit .246 at a lower level. Collier played rightfield for Lakewood in 2009 even though he has centerfielder skills. This is because Lakewood had another prospect that is a bit faster, about 56 steals faster. Yes, you heard that correct, Anthony Gose stole 76 bases in 2009. It is tough to compete with that type of speed as another outfielder.

Collier should not be expected to reach the majors anytime soon, but this is not based on lack of talent. Collier has plenty of talent, and almost unlimited potential, but is incredibly raw. It will take a good amount of time for Collier to develop his skills, but as he gains more experience, a severe increase in production should be expected. It is fortunate for Collier and the Phillies that he was drafted so high because it will force the organization to be more patient with him. Organizations that invest high draft picks and money to young players are willing to dedicate more time for them to develop. There is no true need for the Phillies to rush Collier as Domonic Brown, Tyson Gillies, and Anthony Gose are all ahead of him in the organizational depth chart. Due to Collier’s poor performance in 2009 and the Phillies lack of pressure to push him along, he should repeat single-A at Lakewood in 2010.

Collier is going to be a hit or miss type of player. He could be an all-star or never make it to the majors. If Collier has a breakout season in 2010, he could wind up being a top 3 prospect for the Phillies. Collier could also drop out of my top 10 prospects if he repeats his 2009 performance. It is important to understand that Collier could continue to have the on the field production of Eric “the modern day Mario Mendoza” Bruntlett, but if the Phillies are patient with him, Collier should be a successful outfielder for the Phillies down the line.

Hitting Prospects
8.) Zach Collier
9.) Stephen Susdorf
10.) Kyrell Hudson

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Is Happ the Next Kendrick?

Can a player's public perception be affected solely by another player's performance? In sports, athletes like to believe that they have control over how they perform and how the public views them. Philadelphian's beg to differ.

J.A. Happ put together an impressive performance in 2008, as he took over the starting duties of the failing Kyle Kendrick. Without Happ and his 2.32 era over those 4 starts, the Phillies might have never had the opportunity to breeze through the 2008 playoffs. Happ then continued to fight for a full time rotational spot in 2009, but was unfortunately inserted into the bullpen where he posted a 2.59 era. The Phillies finally realized their mistake on May 23rd, and put Happ in the rotation where he finished the season with a 2.92 era. It has been 17 seasons since a Phillies starting pitcher has posted an era that low. One would think that the public perception of a pitcher with those numbers early in his career would be unanimously high. Wrong?

Due to the recent performance of Kyle Kendrick, all successful rookie pitchers for the Phillies will be continually questioned until the day that they officially retire. If Kendrick was not part of the Phillies organization, Philadelphia would probably be praising Happ as the next Cy Young. That is not the case, instead, fans will continue to wait until he falters. They will continue to say "the league will adjust to him," or, "there's no book on him yet." Happ has pitched over 200 innings in his major league career. The MLB isn't that slow to adjust to players. Happ has appeared in 44 career games. There is more than enough game tape developed on Happ for batters to figure out what exactly he's doing out there.

The comparisons between the two pitchers are just ridiculous as they almost have nothing in common. When attempting to initially compare Happ and Kendrick, they pitch from completely different sides of the plate, and they share only one pitch. When comparing their rookie seasons, Happ had a better era, more innings, less hits per inning, more strikeouts per inning, less walks per inning, do I need to go on. How about PRAR, the measure of total value a pitcher provides, is the best utility when comparing pitchers. Happ's 2009 PRAR (41)was almost double that of Kendrick's 2007 PRAR (21).

It is true about how rookies can appear as if they are overachieving based on the league's lack of familiarity to the player. But that has to be viewed as the exception to the rule, not the rule itself. With more and more information available to players and coaches such as advanced statistics, scouting reports, and game film, it doesn't take long for the league to catch up to young players. It took the league less than 150 innings to catch up to Kendrick. If the league were to catch up to Happ, it would have happened already.

Kendrick failed in his second season because he didn't have enough reliable pitches to throw. Because of this, batters were able to sit on his sinker which allowed them to consistently hit Kendrick hard. Happ does not have this issue at all. Happ throws 4 quality pitches; a 4-seam fastball, cutter, changeup, and curveball. Happ also has the ability to throw all of these pitches for strikes. Like most pitchers he works off of his fastball, but what makes Happ so effective is that he throws two separate fastballs that have two separate motions. This does not allow hitters to square up on the ball, even if they are able to recognize fastball. Happ has shown the ability to work every area of the strikezone which makes him even harder to anticipate by batters. The way Happ pitches and approaches the game makes him very easy to compare to another Phillies ace. I mean Mariners ace. Yup, that's a Cliff Lee comparison. They both are lefthanded, throw the same exact pitches, and utilize all areas of the strikezone. If Happ had been in the starting rotation the entire season, Happ and Lee would have possessed the same 2009 VORP. The only reason that Lee holds a higher VORP over Happ is the difference in innings pitched. When Lee and Happ were at the same amount of innings, 166, they shared the same exact 2009 VORP of 46.7.

Another perception of Happ is that he possesses a low ceiling and is not going to improve from where he currently is. First of all, does Happ really need to improve any more from what he currently is? A 2.93 era is exactly Pedro Martinez's career era. I'd be o.k. with a Pedro Martinez era in the Phillies rotation. Obviously I am not comparing the two, just displaying how affective he's been.

Kyle Drabek was widely acknowledged as the best pitching prospect and had the highest ceiling in the Phillies' farm system. I am not disagreeing that he was the best pitching prospect in the Phillies' farm system. Fans and sportswriters all around the Philadelphia area will claim that Drabek is the better of the two down the road. I beg to differ, again. Drabek has an overpowering fastball and an amazing curveball, but that is about it as his changeup is a mediocre pitch at best. I do believe that Drabek will be a very good major league pitcher, but if you compare his minor league numbers to Happ's, they don't appear as impressive as many would think. Up to this point in Drabek's career, he has posted a 3.70 era, 8.1 H/9, 3.2 BB/9, and 7.6 SO/9. Throughout Happ's minorleague career, he posted a 3.34 era, 7.5 H/9, 3.5 BB/9, and 9.3 SO/9. As you can see, Happ has outperformed Drabek in almost every possible pitching statistic. Drabek could have a better career than Happ in the end, but based on their minorleague careers, it shouldn't be concluded that Drabek was the better long-term option.

Obviously not all Philadelphia fans have these opinions of Happ, but the beliefs do exist and I felt the need to address it, and shut them down.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Future of Jayson Werth

I am here to regrettably admit that I was wrong on the contract statuses of Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino. I originally stated that Rollins and Victorino would become free agent eligible after 2010. Rollins signed a contract extension with the Phillies in 2005 that expires at the end of 2010 but I failed to acknowledge the 2011 club option attached to the end of that. There is no reason to discuss what the Phillies will be doing with that option, as the Phillies have already exercised the 2011 option which is worth $8.5 million. Shane Victorino, on the other hand, has an additional year of arbitration, past this year.

With Victorino still being arbitration eligible for 2011, it makes the decision to lose Werth to free agency, look easier. It would seem to be a simple decision, tender Victorino, and replace Werth with highly touted prospect, Domonic Brown. If the Phillies were to go this route, it would make very good business sense but not necessarily great baseball sense. Tendering Victorino in 2011 would probably cost the Phillies about $7-8 million but it really comes down to how valuable the arbitrators view him.

Jayson Werth was one of the best corner outfielders in the league last year and is currently being severely underpaid. Werth got paid only $2.5 million in 2009 while posting the highest VORP of any rightfielder in the National League. When compared to Alex Rodriguez and his $32 million 2009 salary, Werth had 6 more homeruns, 1 less RBI, and 20 more runs. Werth is one of the most valuable players on the Phillies due to his offensive production and defensive skills. But what makes Werth so valuable to the Phillies is that he brings a much needed right-handed bat to the middle of the batting order. It is generally accepted that top prospect, Domonic Brown, will be replacing Werth if he leaves after 2010. It makes sense because Brown is a very similar player to Werth and has shown all the tools necessary to become an all-star at the major league level. Even though Brown is by far the best outfield prospect the Phillies have had since Pat “the bait” Burrell, and should be ready to replace Werth in 2011, he is not the correct replacement for Jayson Werth. This has nothing to do Brown’s abilities or the type of player he is, it is solely on the fact that replacing the Phillies’ only right-handed power bat with a left-handed rookie would dismantle the balance of the lineup.

There is no telling what the 2011 free agent market is going to hold or what type of contract Werth could expect, if and when he gets there. Jason Bay, a corner outfielder at a similar age and with similar 2009 numbers, is rumored to have been offered a $75 million contract over 5 years from the New York Mets. For the mathematically challenged, that is $15 million per year which is about double whatever Victorino can expect in arbitration. This isn’t the greatest comparison ever because the Metropolitans historically overpay for their free agents and are incredibly desperate after the embarrassing 2007, 2008, and 2009 seasons. If Werth does become a free agent in 2011 and repeats his 2009 success, a $75 million contract would not be out of the question. Aaron Rowand got $80 million in 2007, albeit that was in a better economy and is one of the worst contracts in baseball. If Werth has any inkling that he can obtain a contract of that size, then there is no way that he will be sharing a locker room with a 7 foot fuzzy green “thing,” past 2010.

When it comes down to it, the Phillies will have to decide long-term between Victorino and Werth and who fits better into the organization. The departure of Victorino seems to be a radical idea as he is an all-star, a gold glove winner, a world champion, and is under team control at a moderate price tag. Victorino was one of the building blocks for the Phillies when they turned their franchise around in 2007, but if you look at the moves that the Phillies have made in the past month, Victorino stands as the most expendable position player. Victorino has already allegedly lost his spot in the batting order due to the Placido Polanco signing. The Phillies also traded away the perfect 2011 replacement to Jayson Werth, in Michael Taylor. And after all the trades were completed, only one position player was returned to Philadelphia, a centerfielder in Tyson Gillies.

There is no questioning the value that Jayson Werth brings to the 2-time reigning National League Champions, and there is no questioning that the Phillies would love to continue with Werth past 2010. Based on how the Phillies’ major league and minor league teams are currently setup, Werth holds significantly more value than Victorino and should be kept long-term over him. I am not na├»ve, I understand that there can only be so many $10+ million players on one team. If the Phillies feel they can lock Werth up long-term without getting financial warnings from their accountants, then they must do this. By resigning Werth, Victorino then could not be offered arbitration in 2011 and would be pushed to free agency. Brown represents a much better replacement for Victorino than he does for Werth. The Phillies should start making an attempt to resign Werth now, at least at a preliminary level. If it gets to the end of the 2010 season and Werth is still playing under his original contract, then Werth will hit the free agent market and will be lost forever.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Who Else Does The Halladay/Lee Trades Affect

On Wednesday, the Phillies officially welcomed Roy Halladay to the “City of Brotherly Love.” That’s a severely questionable motto considering Philadelphia has murders in the stadium parking lot over lost girls and spilled beer while other fans are shooting lasers in the eyes of Albert Pujols. Murdering is a bit extreme but who doesn’t get a little heated over losing $7.00 of spilled alcohol. The welcoming of Roy Halladay is great and will undeniably make the Phillies better over the length of his contract, but with his addition the Phillies have definitely complicated their future decision making. In no way am I insinuating that this will present future problems and make the Phillies worse in the future, more that they need to rethink their future offseason plans.

The issue that I am addressing is the retention of current players during the 2011 offseason. It is clear to everyone that a significant reason behind the Cliff Lee trade was to save money. This can be perceived as ownership being cheap, but in all reality, saving money this offseason is very crucial to the future success of the Phillies organization. Next year, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Jayson Werth, will all become free agent eligible. Because of this, the Phillies will need a significant amount of money to keep these players as none of them will come cheap. In a perfect world, we would resign all three of these players and keep the Phillies roster completely intact. Unfortunately, unless recent billionaire Elin Woods buys the Phillies, the Phillies will only be able to resign 2 of those players due to financial constraints.

Before last year, the Phillies rarely made blockbuster type trades to impact their major league roster. Due to this, the farm system has been particularly strong in recent years, as the Phillies minorleague system was ranked #4 at the end of 2009. This allows the Phillies some flexibility with their major league roster. A loss of an impact player on the major league squad wouldn’t necessarily affect the team too much when they have good young talent to replace them with. Due to the Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee trades, the Phillies farm system doesn’t appear as it did a week ago. This isn’t necessarily bad as they lost a few elite prospects to Toronto, but at the same time, brought in a few elite prospects from Seattle. The Phillies made an attempt to replace the players lost in the Halladay trade, but they brought in a collection of prospects that differ in style to the ones departing. This relates mostly to the departing right fielder, Michael Taylor, as he was the most major league ready and the Phillies replaced him with a younger, smaller, centerfielder, in Tyson Gillies.

As I previously stated, the Phillies are looking to retain Rollins, Victorino, and Werth after next season, but it remains unrealistic that they will be able to resign all 3. Due to this, the Phillies will have to decide on whom to let go. It is obvious that they will resign Rollins. This makes it clear that the Phillies will either lose Victorino or Werth to free agency in 2011. The decision on resigning a player comes down to multiple factors; total value brought to a team, financial demands, and the ability to be replaced.

Previous to the Lee and Halladay trades, it appeared inevitable that Werth would no longer be the Phillies starting right fielder after next season. This would in turn lead to the resigning of Victorino. The key factor in allowing Werth to walk was his ability to be replaced. The Phillies had Michael Taylor who is already major league ready, and is waiting to take over Werth’s position in 2011. It would have been an incredibly easy transition for the Phillies, as Taylor is right handed and is expected to be a great fielder while being a monster at the plate. Assuming that Taylor is as good as expected, the Phillies would lose little to nothing in terms of on field production, and they would continue with their current lineup balance in the middle of the batting order.

That was before the Phillies included Michael Taylor in the Roy Halladay deal. The departure of Taylor means that top prospect, Domonic Brown, will be expected to fill that 3rd outfield position. Brown is currently in Reading but is expected to be major league ready by next season. Brown is an incredible athlete and can play all 3 outfield positions very successfully while being able to hit anywhere in the lineup. Brown started his professional career as a leadoff centerfielder but as his power and arm have developed, the Phillies have moved him to right field and in the middle of the lineup. The most unfortunate part of losing Taylor is that he was a right handed batter that fit right into the middle of the Phillies lineup. Even though Brown is viewed as the better prospect, he is a left-handed batter. The Phillies lineup is already lefty heavy, and replacing the right handed Werth with the left handed Brown would not be an intelligent move. Phillies management is smart enough to realize this, which makes Werth’s ability to be replaced go down, and in turn increases his value to the team. Due to the ability of both Werth and Brown to play centerfield successfully, the ability to replace Victorino increases dramatically. The signing of Placido Polanco adds to that effect, as Polanco is already expected to take Victorino’s spot in the batting lineup.

The minor league player that the Phillies are theoretically replacing Taylor with is centerfielder Tyson Gillies. If you have read my previous posts, you know that I believe Gillies is going to be an incredible player and is about as good as Taylor in terms of overall prospect value. Even though Gillies is an elite prospect, he is very far from Taylor in terms of the type of player he is and his current distance from the major leagues. Taylor is a middle of the lineup type player as he is a great overall hitter and projects as someone with legitimate power, where Gillies is a leadoff type hitter who will probably never develop much power at all. As I previously stated, Taylor is major league ready right now as he finished the 2008 season in Lehigh Valley, he is likely to start for the Oakland Athletics out of spring training. Gillies, on the other hand, is only 20 years old and finished the 2009 season at high A-ball. He does appear to be a very mature baseball player for his age as he was very young for his league and performed exceptionally well. Another thing to note on Gillies is that he also is left handed so he should fit right into the left handed hitting fraternity that is the Philadelphia Phillies offense. Gillies is expected to start the season at Reading and will probably stay there the entire season. With the resigning of one of our outfielders and Brown starting his major league career, an outfield spot will not need to be filled until Ibanez leaves after the 2011 season. Assuming Gillies develops like he is expected to, he should be major league ready at that time and can take over centerfield responsibilities.

With how these trades affected the Phillies minorleague system, it appears that Werth’s value has increased whereas Victorino’s value has decreased. If the Phillies lose Werth, they will have to replace him with another right handed bat, and they would have to find that bat through free agency as no options exist internally. If you go past Domonic Brown in the Phillies farm system, the next group of outfield prospects are all centerfielders. If you line up all the key factors, Victorino appears to be the odd man out, not Werth. When it comes down to it though, money will probably hold the most weight in resigning either of these two players. Both players present great value to the Phillies but if Werth continues be bombsquad material, the Phillies may find Werth a bit too expensive.

On second thought, I don't know if I want my right fielder looking like that. Now that was a questionable decision and I immediately want Michael Taylor back in the Phillies organization.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Newly Added Prospects from Halladay Trade

As I said on my previous post I am now going to go in depth on the prospects that the Phillies received in the Roy Halladay/Cliff Lee trade. The Phillies received three of the top 10 prospects in the Seattle Mariners farm system which is a fair return for Cliff Lee. It is important to note that the Mariners farm system is one of the top farm systems in the league as they have many prospects that project as successful to all-star caliber major league players. The players that the Phillies received in return are centerfielder Tyson Gillies, and pitchers Phillippe Aumont and Juan Ramirez.

In this trade the Phillies were amazingly able to acquire Jimmy McGinty, the deaf tight end from the Replacements. OK, really I am talking about Tyson Gillies, as Gillies is legally deaf, he is 30% deaf in one ear and 60% in the other. Gillies appears to be by far the most impressive of the prospects that the Phillies received. He is a 20 year old centerfielder who was drafted in the 25th round in the 2006 draft out of a Vancouver high school. At first glance he appears to be an elite top of the lineup prospect with an incredibly high ceiling. In 2009 he played in the advanced A-ball league where he absolutely dominated. In 124 games he hit .341 with a .430 on-base percentage while hitting 9 homeruns and 14 triples. Gillies also stole 44 bases and had a .916 OPS. A .916 OPS is incredible for a batter at the top of the order and shows that he has the potential to be a leadoff hitter with some serious pop. Gillies has shown the ability to play great defense in centerfield as he only committed 2 errors compared to an amazing 18 outfield assists in 2009. It is important to note that at the single-A level, most leagues are considered pitcher friendly leagues. Posting the numbers that Gillies had in 2009 is extremely rare and very promising. It is very difficult to not get excited with the possibility of Gillies in the future Phillies lineup. At this point in his minor league career, Gillies appears to be an amazing leadoff hitter as he has incredible speed and a good knowledge of the strikezone as he has posted a .420 obp in his 3 years in the minors. Based on what I have seen thus far, Gillies could potentially become a 5-tool player if he develops a little more power. This isn’t a major need as he is a leadoff hitter, but it’s always nice to have homerun hitting ability. Gillies does not seem to vary too much compared to top Phillies prospect, Domonic Brown. The only difference is that Brown projects to have more power down the line. I guess we’ll see in due time. As Gillies is added to the Phillies farm system, he immediately becomes the Phillies best centerfield prospect, and as I see it, the second best position player prospect only behind Brown. Gillies will start the 2010 season in Reading and could be expected to see Philadelphia by 2012 depending on the needs of the major league squad.

Phillippe Aumont was the most highly touted prospect that the Phillies received as he was the Mariners first round draft pick in 2007 and the 11th overall pick in that draft. He is currently a 6’7” 20 year old righthanded relief pitcher who projects as a potential closer. He throws a mid-90s fastball and has been very impressive in his two years in the minors. He has posted a 3.29 ERA through 2 full seasons since being drafted and has pitched 102 innings while only giving up 91 hits compared to 109 strikeouts. Aumont finished the 2009 season at advanced-A ball as well and should start the season at Reading along with Gillies. Aumont appears to be very polished for his very young age and could be promoted very quickly. The only thing that may hold Aumont back from a quick promotion is that the Phillies’ system boasts multiple quality relief pitching prospects at the AAA and AA level. I can’t see that as an issue from the Phillies perspective, just for Aumont as he could get bored pitching to lesser talent. An interesting situation could occur in the development of Aumont as he did start his minorleague career as a starter but was converted to a reliever half way through the 2008 season. It is very possible that the Phillies have thoughts on converting him back to a starter. It will be interesting to see what happens with Aumont.

The third prospect that the Phillies received in the Halladay trade is 20 year old righthanded pitcher, Juan Ramirez, who was signed out of Nicaragua. Ramirez is the pure definition of a power arm as he throws a hard fastball that sits around 97 mph, a hard slider, and an improving changeup. Ramirez can be erratic at times, but he is 20 years old, most 20 year old pitchers are erratic. He hasn’t quite put it all together as a pitcher because he is still very raw. In his 4 years in the minors, Ramirez has posted a 4.12 era in 406 innings. Even though Ramirez is a bit erratic, batters still have a difficult time hitting him as he has only given up 369 hits in those 406 innings. Ramirez is currently a starter in advanced single-A, but with his power fastball he projects as a good reliever down the road. Ramirez is likely to start in Clearwater and could see a promotion to Reading if he develops his pitches well, especially his slider and changeup.

I was fairly distraught when I became aware that Michael Taylor, Kyle Drabek, and Travis D’Arnaud were traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, but after carefully researching the prospects that the Phillies received in return, I am not quite as devastated. As much as I loved Taylor, Gillies appears to be just as good of an outfield prospect even though he is a different type of prospect as his game is more concentrated on speed than power. Between the loss of Taylor and the addition of Gillies, it appears to be a wash and has no real affect on the farm system in terms of value of prospects. When comparing Drabek to Aumont, both seem to have produced about the same in terms of era, hits per 9 innings, and strikeouts per 9 innings. Drabek possesses much better off speed pitches as he might have the best curveball in the minors, but Aumont has a great fastball and is an intimidating presence on the mound as a 6’7” closer. Both have great abilities but Drabek probably holds slightly more value as he is starting pitcher. Comparing Ramirez to D’Arnaud is pretty pointless as one is a pitcher while the other one being a catcher. Anyways, both have not quite produced to their capabilities but both also have high ceilings and are very raw. Overall, the Phillies lost a marginal amount of value in their farm system, but it was equivalent to the difference in quality between Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. So all in all, the Phillies stayed about the same but get to keep their ace pitcher for a much longer period.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Halladay Trade Complete. Finally

THE PHILLIES ACQUIRE GILLIES. I just wanted to be the only person to not start their trade article with the introduction of “Happy Halladays.” The trade cannot be made official until all players pass their physicals, but the trade in principal has been agreed upon and all players that are involved are finally known. This was an incredibly weird trade as it was incorrectly reported as a three team trade. In fact this is not a three team trade; it is the Phillies making two separate trades. When it is all said and done the outcome will appear like this.

Phillies Get:

Harry Halladay. Oh you didn’t know that was his name huh
Tyson Gillies. Centerfield prospect from the Mariners
Phillippe Aumont. Pitching prospect from the Mariners
Juan Ramirez. Pitching prospect from the Mariners
$6 million from Blue Jays to pay Roy Halladay’s contract

Mariners Get:

Cliff Lee

Blue Jays Get:

Kyle Drabek. Pitching prospect from the Phillies
Michael Taylor. Outfield prospect from the Phillies
Travis D’Arnaud. Catching prospect from the Phillies.

This trade started off so simple and it grew right in front of our eyes almost as quickly as Robin Williams in the movie Jack. Originally, the Phillies were giving up only Cliff Lee and receiving only Roy Halladay. This seemed fair and benefitted the Phillies because as great as Lee is, Halladay does represent a marginal improvement. On the other end of the table, the Jays would receive whatever prospects the Phillies were given for Cliff Lee. That all seemed simple enough but the Jays felt that they were not receiving enough in return for Halladay, and I can’t disagree with that at all. The trade really took off from there as the Jays were not satisfied on the collection of prospects the Mariners were delivering. From here, the Jays started to demand certain prospects from the Phillies organization. The Phillies were originally hesitant to release some of their elite prospects but were committed to complete this deal, so they eventually let their top pitching and catching prospects go in Drabek and D’Arnaud. The Phillies were also asked to give up outfielder Domonic Brown as well, who is their top overall prospect. The Phillies were never willing to allow Brown to leave so they decided to trade outfielder Michael Taylor instead. This truly hurts and it took a lot of time for me to get over the loss of Michael Taylor, but I held it together and did not cry. I eventually accepted this, it helps that the Phillies still have Brown and many other good outfield prospects. At this point in the trade it was apparent that the Jays were more than satisfied in their return but the Phillies were giving up way too much for only one player. This then led to the Phillies renegotiating with the Mariners for more prospects just as the Jays were doing before. The Phillies ended up receiving 3 of the Mariners’ top 10 prospects in Tyson Gillies, Phillippe Aumont, and Juan Ramirez.

In the end, these seemed to be fair trades for all teams involved. The Jays received a good amount of the Phillies’ elite prospects for Roy Halladay, the Phillies received Roy Halladay, the Mariners received Cliff Lee, and the Phillies received a good amount of the Mariners’ elite prospects.
It is funny because none of this insanity would have ever been created if Cliff Lee was willing to resign with the Phillies without going into free agency. Halladay, on the other hand, has already agreed to a 3 year extension worth $60 million which is much less than he would receive on the open market. Lee was an amazing pitcher for the Phillies, especially during the postseason. There are only a few pitchers in this league that are better than Lee, fortunately Halladay is one of those few and there are absolutely no questions that come with Halladay. I feel no need to validate that comment with statistics as I feel my readers are intelligent enough to know this. You’re welcome.

Once I became aware that this was not a three team trade and the Phillies were trading away Lee because of salary restrictions, I became infuriated with Phillies ownership. I understand the purpose of a budget and that it needs to be obeyed but it’s just not nice to acknowledge as a fan. After seeing how this trade finally ended up, I understand that trading away Lee was imperative. If the Lee trade did not occur, the Phillies would have lost too much of their farm system and the Phillies’ window of success would be seriously limited. It could have been possible that the Desi Relaford days would be revisited. Just kidding, the Phillies farm system is incredibly deep and the future remains strong.

All in all, this trade is about as fair as can be in terms of value given up and value received. It is obvious that swapping Lee with Halladay is a marginal increase. Lee has been incredible but Halladay has proven to be a cy young candidate every year. In terms of the minorleague players that were turned over throughout this trade, the Phillies gave some great prospects to the Jays but received some great prospects from the Mariners. It appears at initial glance that the Phillies farm system declined marginally. Actually, the difference that the Phillies farm system declined, seems to be the exact difference between Halladay and Lee. With almost no difference in the value received compared to value lost, the Phillies still come out significantly better because they have Halladay under control for at least three more years than they would have had Lee.

I would like to state that after a little over one season of Ruben Amaro Jr. as general manager, he has done an immaculate job. Very little was known about him and the expectations weren’t necessarily too high as he didn’t have any previous general managing experience. I can say that after being hired after the 2008 season, Amaro is questionably the best general manager in all of baseball. Yes, I did just make that claim and don’t believe it to be sensationalistic at all. Some moves that he has made were questioned but ever single move that he has made has worked out. He resigned Werth, Howard, Hamels, Eyre, Madsen, and Lidge to very reasonable contracts. Yes, even though Lidge and Hamels had subpar 2009 seasons, their contracts are still reasonable based on their career numbers. The Ibanez signing was immediately put into question but he clearly outperformed his contract, at least through the first year of it. The addition of Park and Pedro proved to be extremely valuable come the end of 2009. No words can even describe how great the original Lee deal was. This current deal cannot truly be evaluated for sometime but I can’t forecast a realistic situation where the Phillies end up losing. I feel that based on Amaro’s very brief career as the Phillies general manager, he has made great decisions and Phillies fans should be overjoyed that he is taking the Phillies far past their inferior competitors.

In my next post I will go in depth with the minor league players that the Phillies received.

Poll Closed: Phillies MVP

Poll Closed:

Who is the most valuable Phillie?

Ryan Howard - 0
Chase Utley - 8
Jimmy Rollins - 1
Cliff Lee - 0
Antonio Bastardo - 5

Not a big surprise. That Bastardo was so high as he is pretty much the best player ever. But seriously, Utley is one of the best players in this league and is clearly the most popular player in the city. There is no question that Utley is the best second baseman in the league today. If he wasn't before, the World Series definitely clinched that thought.

It is good to see that Cliff Lee didn't receive any votes because he is now taking a physical in Seattle.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Roy Halladay why are doing this to us?

Roy Halladay has finally been traded to the Phillies. Really, has he? What did they give up? What is the total package they got in return? Will he shave the ginger beard now that he doesn't play in Canada? Not one of those questions can be answered. It does seem inevitable that Halladay will be traded to the Phillies but what it takes to bring him to Philadelphia is still up in the air. Not only is it currently up in the air, but it seems to be changing by the second.

As it is currently being reported, this is a three team trade involving the Phillies, Jays, and Mariners. The Phillies are expected to receive Roy Halladay from the Jays and two prospects from the Mariners. The Jays are expected to receive top pitching prospect, Phillippe Aumont, from the Mariners, along with catching prospect, Travis D'Arnaud, and outfield prospect, Michael Taylor, both of which will be coming from the Phillies organization. The Mariners, in return for their prospects, will receive Clifford Lee from the Phillies.

This story was originally released at about 2 p.m. on Monday. At that time the Phillies were trading away Lee and getting Halladay in return. A few hours later, Taylor was reportedly added. A few hours later, D'Arnaud was added to the imaginary list. I am now hearing that the Phillies top pitching prospect, Kyle Drabek, is being added to this novel of rumors. Below is the list of players I have heard that were involved in this potential trade. Cliff Lee, JA Happ, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, Kyle Drabek, Antononio Bastardo, Domonic Brown, Michael Taylor, Travis D'Arnaud. I am soon expecting to see the entire Reading Phillies on this list.

The reason that the Phillies are looking to replace Lee with Halladay, is that Halladay is willing to sign a long-term deal past this season where Lee has stated he is going to test the free agent market. This trade will not be officially announced until both parties agree in terms to a contract extension. At this point it appears that Halladay will sign an extension for 3 years at $60 million with a mutual option for at least one more year. This is a fair contract as Halladay is in his prime and is one of the best pitchers in this league.

This trade should be finalized sometime tomorrow. The current holdup is deciding on what prospects to involve. For this reason I am going to wait on assessing the trade until it is determined which team is officially getting what. It does concern me on how long it is taking to finalize, as it seems every time this trade is updated, the Phillies are giving up more and more minorleague talent.

It should also be worth noting that J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton, and Domonic Brown, were all in Philadelphia today to take physicals. None of them appear to be involved in the current trade but it this could still take off in any direction, so who knows.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

More on Halladay

The Halladay trade rumors have delivered yet another scenario. Even though at the same time, Phillies management has denied any involvement in the trade talks. Take that for what you will, but I believe that anything an organization states publicly means nothing. Philadelphia's current front office seems to be very successful at deceiving the media which is a great thing. Not necessarily for the devoted readers of, but for the success of the organization. If the Phillies didn't do this last year, Cliff Lee would probably be donning Dodger Blue. Last year, the Phillies were associated with Halladay trade talks for weeks but only associated with Lee trade talks for about 64 minutes. I would count that as a win for Phillies management as it seemed to work out.

My opinion remains unchanged on whether or not the Phillies should trade for Halladay. As I originally said, the base package of the rumored trade includes J.A. Happ and Domonic Brown, but if the trade is to be completed, more prospects will be included. Based on Philadelphia radio speculation, those additional prospects are Antonio Bastardo and Anthony Hewitt.

After a full season of Ruben Amaro Jr. as general manager, I have faith that Amaro will not be desperate or stupid enough to make this trade. If the Phillies refused to pull the trigger on the Halladay trade last year, then there is no way that the Phillies will complete this trade. Last year, the Phillies organization approached the Halladay trade intelligently and conservatively. Obviously Roy Halladay is one of the best pitchers in this league and would be a great addition to any team, but trading away too much future talent for any one player for a short-term period is irresponsible. During last year's trade rumors, the Phillies were reported to have 3 players that were "untouchable." Those 3 players were Kyle Drabek, Domonic Brown, and Antonio Bastardo. With the midseason addition of Lee, it would make no sense for the Phillies to all of a sudden release the "untouchable" label for 2 of those players.

I have already made it clear on my opinions of Happ and why he should be kept. Brown, even though he is an elite 5-tool prospect, could be made available for a trade because Michael Taylor plays the same position and is more major league ready at this point in his career. Bastardo, is an amazing talent and will be counted on this year as a lefthanded reliever. I honestly don't understand why Bastardo isn't valued as highly as Drabek, as he is 24 years old and has embarrassed batters ever since he entered the Phillies organization. This article would be much more effective if I finished my prospect lists already but I have not. I don't want to ruin the suspense but Bastardo will be ranked lower than Drabek but not lower than any other pitcher in the Phillies' farm system. You figure it out. I hope you can. Anthony Hewitt was a first round round draft pick in 2008 but has been very disappointing. Hewitt is a very raw high school prospect and was viewed as a long-term project. Hewitt was probably the most athletically talented player in the 2008 draft but has still been disappointing enough that he is not viewed as valuable as other first round talents.

I understand that many baseball followers will disagree with my trade opinions. I will be the first to acknowledge that trading proven talent for unproven minor league prospects is risky in both directions. Maybe this statement will help you better understand my views on baseball management. A single short-term rental of great baseball talent rarely rewards a team with a World Series. If the Phillies trade for Halladay and fail to win the World Series, then that trade has to be considered a bust as the Phillies have officially lost out on the futures of so many talents. If the Phillies feel they have the ability to extend Halladay for more than two years, then his acquisition is more than worth it. It would be great to have Halladay on the Phillies for multiple years, but it seems unrealistic that the Phillies would be able to sign another marquee player to a long-term deal. The Phillies will be concentrating on resigning Rollins, Victorino, and Werth after the 2010 season and it is even unrealistic to expect the Phillies to be able to resign all 3 of those players.

Adding Halladay to the Phillies should not happen. The Phillies have always been a conservative organization when it comes to prospects and payroll. The Phillies do not appear to be willing to let their elite prospects go, and the Phillies are also about to hit their reported budget limit which is $140 million. The Phillies are a legitimate World Series contender without Halladay. The ultimate goal is to get better every year but completing a trade such as this would damage the organization's future too much.

A full season of Lee, a full season of Happ as a starter, a non-crap season of Colbert Hamels, the always reliable Blanton, and the late season appearance of Drabek. The addition of Halladay would be a little too much for the National League to handle as the Phillies havn't lost more than one playoff game in any National League playoff series in the past 2 years. It's the holiday season, let's leave some hope for others.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Halladay. Worth it?

As we all know, the Phillies are being linked to trade rumors involving Roy Halladay, again. Halladay said that he will refuse a trade once the season begins, so if a trade does occur it should happen fairly soon. The Phillies have been widely acknowledged as the front runner to land Halladay. The other teams that have been reportedly involved in trade talks are the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels. The Jays are naturally reluctant to trade Halladay to division rivals such as the Yankees and Red Sox. The Angels are refusing to part ways with Eric Aybar who the Jays are demanding in return.

During the original trade talks between the Phillies and Jays, prior to the July 31st trade deadline, neither team was willing to yield in their demands. This inevitably led to the acquisition of Cliff Lee for the Phillies, and the termination of J.P. Ricciardi as the Jays GM. The trade stalled when the Jays were demanding both Happ and top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek, along with minorleague outfielders Domonic Brown and Anthony Gose. The Phillies, wisely, rejected that offer as they felt the demands were too steep.

Now that it is officially the offseason, teams will have less time with Halladay under their control, compared to last year's trade deadline. Because of this, the value of Halladay has gone down significantly and the Jays demands are expected to be much less. As of Thursday, the Phillies were rumored to be offering a base package of James Andrew Happ, and one of either Domonic "I need a better nickname than Brownie" Brown, or Michael "The Mountain" Taylor. Assuming this is the offer that "allegedly" exists, I am sure that the Phillies will throw in a few more lesser valued prospects.

For those that mainly pay attention to the major league roster and aren't concerned about the minor league players, Brown and Taylor are the best non-pitcher prospects in the Phillies farm system. Taylor would be playing in Philadelphia right now if Werth didn't have a career 2009 campaign, and Brown is only a year away at the same position. The issue at hand is how much better Halladay is than Happ right now, and is that difference large enough to forego success past the 2010 season.

If Toronto's tourism industry hadn't exploded like it had in the past decade, then nobody would have seen the great Roy Halladay. Thank goodness for maple syrup and the appropriately low drinking age. Wait, that didn't happen. So why is everybody now making Roy Halladay out to be this incredible pitcher. Halladay went from a great pitcher to a hall of fame level pitcher just because he is on the trade block. I am not here to bash Halladay, he is a great pitcher, but it seems that people are making him out to be much more than he is.

2009 was one of Halladay's best seasons as he won 17 games while posting a 2.78 ERA in 239 innings, and he struck out 208 batters compared to only 35 walks. That is a great season for a pitcher, and if there is any current pitcher that can improve upon those numbers it is... well, Zach Greinke, but Halladay would be a good second guess. In all reality, the Philles will have Halladay for just one season if they acquire him before spring training. When trading away future talent for somebody that you are only going to have for one season, it is important that the player is dependable and durable as you are risking alot for a small period of time. In regards to durability, I couldnt name a pitcher that is more consistent and more durable than Halladay. Halladay has pitched well over 200 innings in 6 of the last 8 seasons and has had a sub-3.00 ERA in half of those seasons.

On the other side of this trade, stands J.A. Happ. You have got to feel bad for this guy, in a little over one year with the Phillies he has gone through trade rumors, bullpen demotion, and minor league demotion. Through all of this, Happ has succeeded on the mound while presenting a competitive but professional manor.

If Happ had not been in the Phillies organization in 2008, then there would have been no reason for 97% of Philadelphia's work force to be mysteriously missing on October 23rd of last year. Yes, the Phillies would not have won the World Series last year if Happ hadn't stepped in and produced like he did. Last year, Happ had 4 very crucial starts at the end of the year due to Kyle Kendrick's ability to make contact with every bat manufactured by the Louisville Bat Corporation. In those starts, Happ went 1-0 with a 2.32 ERA, the Phillies as a team won every game and didn't yield more than 2 runs in any game. The Phillies won the NL East by 2 games in 2008, without Happ it is very likely that the Phillies demolition of the 2008 playoffs would have never existed.

We all know the story of what happened with Happ throughout the season. That timeline has been told too many times. The organization's handling of Happ is exactly how to not handle a rookie pitcher. But through all of that he still posted a pitching line that is more impressive than people are acknowledging.

In 2009, as a rookie, Happ went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA in 166 innings, he struck out 119 batters while only allowing 149 hits. Happ was among the national league ranks in most pitching categories. He ranked 1st in road ERA, 2nd in winning percentage, 8th in ERA, and 13th in WHIP. There are people that are going to compare Happ's rookie season to Kyle Kendrick's rookie season. If you are one of those people, please press the button on your computer that has a circle on it because this article is too advanced for you to comprehend. To compare those 2 pitchers and their rookie seasons would take too long, so for now I will just leave you with this. 17 seasons. That is how long it has been since a Phillies pitcher, not a rookie, but pitcher, posted a sub 2.95 ERA in over 150 innings.

Sometimes pitching statistics can be deceiving as not all batters faced are the same, along with defenses, and parks being pitched in. Because of this it is better to use more advanced statistics such as PRAR or DERA. This is also more relevant in this discussion as these pitchers come from separate leagues so many of the external factors are not the same. PRAR is defined as pitching runs above replacement. This basically shows how many runs a particular pitcher saves compared to a replacement level pitcher, 20 usually represents a good pitcher. DERA is a representation of ERA if a league average defense was placed behind that pitcher.

For better comparisons I am going to compare the averages of Halladay's career after the point in which he became a fulltime starter, to Happ's 2009 season. In the 11 seasons that Halladay has been a fulltime starter, he has averaged a 36.72 PRAR and a 3.61 DERA. In 2009, Happ posted a 41 PRAR and a 3.03 DERA. These statistics show that Halladay doesn't necessarily overpower Happ by comparison.

I am not going to claim that Happ is a better pitcher than Halladay as it is clear that Halladay has shown the ability to be an elite pitcher in this league for a long time. Happ had a great 2009 season and there is little reason to believe that he can't improve or duplicate that in the future. After analyzing the pitching statistics more thoroughly, it appears that the one year improvement between Halladay and Happ is not worth forfeiting multiple years of Happ and Brown/Taylor in the future.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pitching Prosect #8: Matt Way

Matt Way is the only college player drafted this year that I have decided to put into my top 10 lists. I am a little hesitant to highly rate first year players from college. This is because most rookie pitchers that come from college seem to succeed in their first minorleague season. The lower level minor leagues are generally pitcher friendly leagues. The reason for this is that many batters need to make the transition from aluminum bats to wood bats. For this reason, I try and wait on college pitchers for at least a full year.

I decided to rate Way this high due to his immediate success, and impressive college statistics. Immediately after being drafted, Way was inserted into the New York Penn League where he did very well. In 8 starts, he pitched 37 innings, while posting an ERA of 1.67, and struck out 43 batters. After showing that the New York Penn League batters were no match for him, Way was promoted to Lakewood and continued to do well. There, Way went 4-1 in 6 starts, while posting a 3.11 ERA, and he struck out 42 batters compared to only 4 walks in 37 innings. Way, was the game 1 pitcher on the staff that led the Lakewood Blueclaws to becoming the South Atlantic League Champions. In his game 1 start, he went 7 innings while allowing only 1 run and striking out 7 on his way to the win.

Way was drafted in the 5th round of the 2009 draft out of Washington State University, where they finished second in the PAC-10 conference. The PAC-10 is undeniably the most dominant college baseball conference, therefore the competition is incredibly steep. As a senior, Way went 8-4 in 107 innings, while posting a 2.43 ERA, and striking out 124 batters. In 2009, within the PAC-10, Way ranked 3rd in ERA, 3rd in strikeouts, and 2nd in innings.

Way is not an overpowering pitcher as his fastball sits in the low 90s but places it very well on the outer half of the plate. As he is lefthanded, Way appears to be much faster then reported, this allows him to work off his fastball successfully. Way also throws a changeup which is probably his best pitch as he has the ability to locate it on both sides of the plate. He tends to rely on those 2 pitches the most but also throws a slider. The slider is an improving pitch and once he can gain control and bite, he will develop into a successful starter in the majors. It is very important to develop a reliable 3rd pitch before pitching at the major league level (It turns out Colbert Hamels failed to get that memo). Way has good control and strikeout numbers and if he can continue to improve, the Phillies will move him fairly quickly. He will probably start the season in Clearwater and should be promoted to Reading shortly after the season starts. In a worse organization, Way could probably find himself in the rotation at the end of 2011. The Phillies have more than an ample amount of pitching prospects so Way may find himself waiting longer than usual. In any case, Way should develop nicely as a major league pitcher and could potentially succeed in either the rotation or bullpen.

Phillies Sign Ross Gload

Late Tuesday night, the Phillies signed outfielder Ross Gload to a 2-year contract. Gload is primarily used as a lefthanded pinch hitter but can play the outfield and firstbase. As a Phillie, Gload will be taking on the duties of Matt Stairs as a late inning lefthanded bat off the bench. Stairs will probably still be in spring training as a minor league free agent, but it would be a surprise if he won one of the final roster spots.

Gload is 33 years old and has played 8 majorleague seasons with the Cubs, Rockies, White Sox, Royals and Marlins. He is a career .283 hitter with 28 career homeruns. Gload is a good contact hitter with decent power coming off the bench. This completes the Phillies offseason quest to fill their bench as Gload will be the 5th outfielder behind Ben Francisco.

The only thing left to address is the bullpen and possibly a 5th starter. I doubt the Phillies are really willing to spend money on a starter so the bullpen is the last and possibly most important need.

As I stated previously, Lyon would be a great addition but it is reported that he could be priced too high for the Phillies. With Romero and Eyre both being uncertain pitchers in 2010, the Phillies could pursue a lefthanded relief pitcher. Charlie Manuel did say he is fine with Bastardo and Escalona to begin the season, but I would still be surprised if the Phillies didn't get any insurance for those 2 pitchers. Ron Mahay is a possible lefty reliever that could attract attention, he is a 38 year old lefthanded relief pitcher with a career 3.8 ERA.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hitting Prospect #9: Steve Susdorf

Outfielder Steve Susdorf is a lefthanded hitting prospect who is very similar to pitching prospect Michael Cisco. Like Cisco, he is not highly touted based on his perceived limited ceiling, but he has performed very well in his short minorleague career. Susdorf was drafted in the 19th round in 2008 out of Fresno State. The knock on Susdorf is that since he played four seasons at Fresno State, he began his professional career at an older age. Susdorf is currently 23 years old and finished the 2009 season at Reading.

Susdorf is a great contact hitter but does not hit for much power and has average skills in the outfield. In fact, after being promoted to Reading later in the season, Susdorf split time between LF and DH. This does not mean that he is a bad outfielder though, as Reading had a very good defensive outfield with Domonic Brown, Quintin Berry, and Mike Spidale.

Susdorf has hit .313 in his 2 years in the minors and has been promoted very quickly throughout the system due to his success and maturity. He played exceptionally well in 2008 especially in the beginning of the season where he played in Lakewood and Clearwater and hit .333 and .371 respectively. Towards the end of the season he was promoted to Reading and his success tailed off quite a bit and only hit .221 in 24 games. This drop off in production could have been due to the increase in competition or a player hitting the late season wall. I believe that it was a little bit of both in Susdorf's case as this was his first full season in the minors and has never played this late into the baseball season.

To give a little bit more background on Susdorf, he had an incredible career at Fresno State, most notably as a senior. In his last season as a Bulldog, Susdorf hit an amazing .343 with 13 homeruns, 88RBIs, and 32 doubles. The overall statistics may not seem very impressive but keep in mind that the college season is much shorter and he played in only 77 games. To develop a better comparison, if Susdorf's 2007 season was projected out to a 162 game season, his statistics would increase by a significant margin. He would have hit .342 with 27 homeruns, 185 RBIs, and 67 doubles.

Even though Susdorf is an older prospect and doesn't appear to possess great long-term potential, one cannot ignore his success up to this point in his baseball career. The thing that goes against Susdorf the most is that he plays the corner outfield which doesn't bode well for him as both Michael Taylor and Domonic Brown are currently blocking his way to the majors. In all likelihood, Susdorf will make it to the majors in a different organization. I believe that Susdorf has the ability to have a successful major league career and if he develops well he could become an average Major League starter. If Susdorf stalls in his development I believe he will project as a Greg Dobbs type player. Susdorf will start the 2010 season in Reading and will be given the opportunity to be promoted to Lehigh Valley towards the end of the season. Susdorf played at three different levels in 2008, so the Phillies organization does not seem to be concerned with challenging him.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

How Polanco Affects the Lineup

.266, .249, .246, .211, and .248. Those are the batting averages of the Phillies third basemen over the past 5 years. With the signing of Placido Polanco the Phillies finally have brought some form of legitimacy to the thirdbase position since Scott Rolen. Fortunately for the Phillies, this third baseman will not flee to Canada in efforts to acquire national health care. But in Rolen's defense, he clearly needed that as he hasn't played an injury free season since 2006. Polanco is a career .303 hitter and is one of the most consistent hitters in the majors. He is also one of the toughest players to strikeout as he rarely strikes out more than 40 times in a season. Based on his style of hitting, Polanco is suited perfectly for the second position in the lineup which presents an interesting dilemma for Charlie Manuel.

Going into the offseason, the Phillies appeared satisfied with the top of their lineup. Rollins and Victorino have been igniting the potent Phillies lineup the past 3 seasons. The acquisition of Polanco means that these three players will occupy the 1, 2, and 7 positions in the lineup.

Typically, the 7 hitter in the lineup will have a lower batting average but will display good power. The Phillies do not have a great need to fill the 7 hole with a power hitter as they had 4 players hit over 30 homeruns in 2009 and are guaranteed to pace the NL in homeruns, again. The Phillies have never been an organization to build their team in typical fashion so why start now.

The most probable scenario on how the lineup will be setup is Jimmy Rollins leading off, followed by Polanco, and Victorino will be moved down to the 7th spot. In the end, it won't matter where these three players hit as all three are good professional hitters that can generally be inserted anywhere throughout the lineup.

When carefully analyzing these three players it would make sense theoretically for the Phillies to remove Jimmy Rollins from the leadoff position. It is imperative that the top 2 hitters in a lineup have high on-base percentages while placing players with better power numbers lower in the lineup. While taking this into effect, Victorino and Polanco should be placed first and second in the lineup and Rollins should be dropped to 7th. Rollins historically owns low on-base percentages but has improved his power numbers significantly in the past 3 seasons.

Jimmy Rollins may be the hardest player on the Phillies roster to analyze as he can be the best player one week and the worst player the next. Many people will acknowledge that Rollins had a disappointing 2009 season. Whether Rollins can revisit his 2007 MVP season is unknown. If Rollins 2009 season does not prove to be an anomaly, then he he presents the best fit for the 7th spot in the Phillies lineup. Rollins had a sub .300 OBP while hitting an impressive 21 homeruns and 43 doubles in 2009.

As Rollins statistically proves to be the best fit for the 7th spot in the lineup, moving Rollins to that position should and never will happen. Of all major American sports, baseball is the most statistically analyzed sport. In this scenario, statistically comparing these players is the incorrect approach. Removing Rollins from the leadoff position would adversely affect the Phillies offense. Even though it makes sense based on Rollins statistics to drop him in the lineup, Rollins performs worse along with the Phillies offense, when he is removed from the leadoff position. This can be easily compared to the Yankees scenario when they acquired Alex Rodriguez in 2004. I promise this will be the last time I compare these two organizations. In any matter, it would have made sense for the Yankees to place A-Roid at the SS position as he is a much better defensive SS than Derek Jeter, but they couldn't do this because it would affect the organization too much as Jeter was the leader of the Yankees.

This is one of the rare situations where batting statistics should be ignored. Rollins needs to be the leadoff hitter for the Phillies because when he succeeds as a leadoff hitter, the Phillies are almost an unbeatable team. In 2009, the Phillies were an astounding 61-19 when Rollins scored a run. Whether you are J-Roll fan or not, you cannot disagree that he is the leader of the team and demoting him in any fashion would hurt the Phillies offense. This is why I believe the Phillies never seriously considered Chone Figgins, irrelevant of his reported high price tag.

With the lack mobility of Rollins throughout the lineup, Polanco deserves the 2nd position because he posts a higher batting average while Victorino can hit with significantly more power. Victorino hit only 10 homeruns in 2009 but being placed lower in the lineup should change his approach to hitting. If Victorino is asked to place an emphasis on power over batting average, I believe he has the ability to be a 20 homerun hitter. There are certain hitters that have the ability to hit with more power in this league but choose not to because it benefits the team more when they place an emphasis on their on-base percentage. Victorino is one of those players and when placing him in the 7th hole for 162 games, fans should see a surprising rise in his power numbers.

After everything is taken into account, the Phillies will appear a little different offensively but will be much better for it. Now just imagine if Carlos Ruiz could play the regular season like he plays the postseason. The Phillies would then be too good for the National League and should be allowed to start their own league called the "Let Me Know When the World Series Starts League."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Phillies Sign Placido Polanco

In the shadows of the 76ers bringing back Allen Iverson, the Phillies felt it necessary to continue the Philadelphia trend by reacquiring Placido Polanco. It is being announced that the Phillies have signed Placido Polanco, 34, to a 3 year, $18 million contract with a mutual option for a fourth year. Polanco will not bring as much hype as the addition of Iverson but also won't be bringing enough domestic violence charges to fill Citizens Bank Park. Nonetheless, Polanco will be a welcome addition to the Phillies as he is good fielder, a good hitter, and is a popular teammate.

As many fans will remember, Polanco was a fan favorite in Philadelphia for all of 4 seasons as he was a welcome replacement to Scott "that's not in my contract" Rolen. Polanco is a career .303 hitter but doesn't hit with great power as he averages less than 10 homeruns a season. It is promising that Polanco's two best power seasons were in 2003 and 2004 as a part of the Phillies. During those two season, Polanco blasted 14 and 17 homeruns respectively.

Polanco was by far the safest free agent within the thirdbase class as he is a model of consistency in terms of hitting. As previously stated, he is a career .303 hitter, and in 2009 he hit .285 which was his lowest batting average since hitting .277 in 1999. Even though Polanco is a very good player, the signing isn't without question, as Polanco has been a second baseman his entire career but will be expected to play exclusively at third in 2010. Polanco has only played 1 game at thirdbase since being traded to the Tigers in 2005. Polanco has played a total of 321 games at thirdbase, but that was primarily at the beginning of his career, in St. Louis. While at secondbase, Polanco has won the AL gold glove two of the previous three years. Defensively speaking, Polanco is very quick, has great range, and has a very accurate arm. The only aspect of Polanco's abilities that can be put into question is his arm strength as he is moving across the diamond and will have to throw much further. With how quickly Polanco signed and both parties understanding the defensive situation, it doesn't seem that anybody is having any doubts about Polanco's ability to play thirdbase in 2010.

The Phillies organization seems to be really turning a corner in their management style. Maybe it has something to do with Ruben Amaro, but this is two consecutive offseasons where they have signed players, in their mid-30's, to long-term deals. In the past the Phillies have avoided taking risks on such players, but in Polanco's case, he does not appear to be as risky as most 34-year old baseball players. Polanco is a professional hitter who does not hit for high power numbers, instead he relies on the ability to make contact with the ball on a consistent basis. That is a skill that rarely deteriorates as a player becomes older. This is relevant in his statistics as last year he posted a career high in RBIs, 72, while only striking out 42 times. In the next three years I would find myself in shock if Polanco has declined much at all.

Overall, I believe everybody is going to be pleased about this signing as he will provide good defense at third and bring a well above average bat to the plate. There is something to say about bringing players back to an organization. Philadelphia seems to be saying that a lot, nowadays. Who knows, maybe the Eagles will be signing Randall Cunningham.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Poll Closed: 5th Rotation Spot

The 5th rotation spot poll is complete and Jamie Moyer predictably won with Drabek coming in a close second.

Jamie Moyer - 5
Kyle Kendrick - 2
Andrew Carpenter - 2
Kyle Drabek - 4
Pedro Martinez - 0
Other - 2

Jamie was hospitalized recently due to ailments related to his groin surgery and will undergoe minor knee surgery next month. Based on these events, Jamie Moyer will not be able to return by the beginning of spring training. Due to this it is rumored that the Phillies may pursue a cheap starting option such as John Smoltz.

I personally don't understand these rumors because nothing makes sense about it. I just hope that the Phillies organization has a strong legal team as Smoltz will be taking legal action against the leftfield wall more times than Ryan Howard strikes out in a season. It also can't be overlooked that the Phillies are trying to add players that can compete at a higher level than Adam Eaton. Unfortunately, team Smoltz has decided to put themselves in the Adam Eaton league of pitchers after not retiring 3 years and 5 surgeries ago.

If the Phillies do not make any moves in regards to their starting rotation, Kyle Kendrick should find himself pitching every 5th day in Philadelphia. Well, at least until the Phillies feel Moyer is healthy or Drabek is developed enough.

Phillies Sign Brian Schneider

On Tuesday, the Phillies signed catcher Brian Schneider, to a 2-year deal worth $2.75 million. Schneider is currently 33 years old and is a career .251 hitter with 59 career homeruns. Schneider will serve as the Phillies backup catcher and is a clear improvement over what the Phillies have had in the past. I think this is a great move on the Phillies part and am actually quite surprised by it. Based on the minimal salary that the Phillies offered Juan Castro, I am shocked the Phillies would give almost $3 million to a backup catcher. Not that I believe this is too much money for Schneider, or a backup catcher, I was just expecting the Phillies to pursue a cheaper option. I was also surprised that Schneider signed with the Phillies knowing he would be used only as a backup. Schneider has been a starting catcher for basically his entire career. Excluding last years injury plagued season, Schneider has averaged 430 plate appearances since 2003.

Having a backup catcher who is not anemic at the plate is very rare. This is rare because catchers in general are poor hitters and backup catchers are valued based on their defensive and game calling abilities. Throughout Schneider's career, he has shown the ability to be incredibly durable and has superior defensive skills behind the plate. Over his 10 year career, Schneider averages an FRAR of 21.3 which is incredibly impressive. To give a comparison, Carlos Ruiz who is praised for his defensive abilities, has averaged an FRAR of 22 over the past 3 seasons. For those who are unfamiliar with FRAR, it is Fielding Runs Above Replacement. This represents how many additional runs a player saves or gives up defensively, compared to a replacement player at the same position. Any number above 5 usually represents a solid defensive player at that position.

After this signing, it is likely that the Phillies will move their search onto the bullpen and thirdbase. It is also worth noting that Schneider should ease some concerns about the Phillies' willingness to spend this offseason. Also, the Detroit Tigers did not offer salary arbitration to Placido Polanco, this makes the signing of Polanco more probable as the Phillies would not be forced to lose a draft choice.

Pitching Prosect #9: Michael Cisco

Michael Cisco is a different prospect than many that I have evaluated and will continue to evaluate. When you see prospect lists by such publications as or baseball America, long-term potential is valued more than actual production. This isn’t necessarily wrong as that is how one is supposed to scout young baseball players. Cisco is a pitcher that has had very good success in his two years in the minors. I will be the first to admit that I am much higher on Cisco than most. He does not have the most electric stuff compared to other minorleague pitchers, but he has much better control than most.

Cisco was drafted in the 36th round in the 2008 MLB draft out of the University of South Carolina. He is the grandson of Galen Cisco, who was a pitching coach for the Phillies in the late 90s, which probably was a reason why the Phillies gave him enough attention to draft him. After being drafted in 2008, he pitched for Williamsport and Lakewood and did nothing but impress. He pitched in 17 games, 7 starts, while posting an incredible ERA of 0.99. As impressive as his sub 1.00 ERA was, he possessed even more impressive control statistics as he only walked 5 batters in over 52 innings. After being promoted to Lakewood, Cisco pitched 35 innings without issuing a walk. The thing to pay attention to when evaluating college prospects is that most college rookies perform well in their first season as many times they are competing against younger high school prospects. Still, his success cannot be ignored.

2009 was a bit more of a struggle for Cisco even though he still performed well. Cisco started the season on the DL as he had an elbow injury even though he did not have surgery. After a few weeks sitting out, Cisco pitched in Clearwater and continued to show the organization that he was well worth being drafted. While in Clearwater he was 7-3 and posted a 3.31 ERA in 73 innings. He also continued his more than impressive control statistics as he only walked 15 batters. These numbers are especially impressive considering he was coming off an injury, as control is always the last thing to come back to a pitcher after being injured. Cisco was eventually promoted to Reading and had some initial difficulties due to the increased competition. The jump from single-A to double-A is the largest jump in the minors and it is very common to see a dip in overall production. Cisco still posted a respectable 4.5 ERA but showed improvement towards the end of the season as he started to feel more comfortable within the Eastern League. I personally saw Cisco multiple times and was originally disappointed when I discovered he was not a Black R&B artist with silver hair while performing to the Thong Song. Nonetheless, Cisco still showed that he consistently attacks the strike zone while being able to throw multiple pitches for strikes.

Cisco will never be defined as a power pitcher but that doesn’t mean he can’t possess the ability to be a successful Major League starter. He is a prototypical sinkerball pitcher as his fastball has good sinking motion and sits in the low 90s, he also consistently throws a good changeup and slider. I hate to throw out overly impressive comparisons for pitchers without incredible stuff but if Cisco continues to show the ability to control multiple pitches while not getting hit on a consistent basis, he could develop into a Brandon Webb type pitcher. If he stalls at all in his pitching development I can’t believe he would be any worse than what Kyle Kendrick currently is. If you have followed my previous posts, Kendrick as a worst case scenario, is nothing to be ashamed of. Cisco will start the year in Reading and will most likely be promoted to Lehigh Valley by year’s end, assuming he continues to develop on his current track.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hitting Prosect #10: Kyrell Hudson

Kyrell Hudson is a classic Phillies draft choice as he is a high risk, high reward type prospect. This is always a risky approach to drafting, but the Phillies are known to use this approach early on in the draft. Hudson was drafted this year in the 3rd round out of Evergreen HS in Washington state. Hudson is an incredibly athletic outfielder and possesses all the tools to be an all-star at the major league level. At the same time, he is clearly viewed as a project and is not expected to see Philadelphia anytime soon. As is the question with all toolsy type HS prospects, if he develops the ability to make consistent contact, he will become an incredible player.

Due to the signing of Raul Ibanez, the Phillies forfeited their first pick this year. This is why the Phillies went for a more high ceiling type player in Hudson early on in the draft. Most high school players rarely play much, if at all, during the year they are drafted. This was the case for Kyrell, as he only played in 10 games, so it would be pointless to analyze how he performed. If Hudson develops successfully in the minors, he could project into a Bossman Junior type of player as he is incredibly raw but is also a potential 5-tool player. At the same time, he could be a repeat of Greg Golson. Golson was the Phillies 1st round draft pick in 2004 who never developed a consistent bat and is in AAA for the Rangers organization. Hudson was ranked the #1 baseball prospect and the #2 football prospect in the state of Washington. Based on those numbers alone is why I felt the need to put him into the top 10. In 1-2 years time, Hudson could be the top prospect in the organization, or completely off my radar.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Phillies Sign Juan Castro

It is reported that the Phillies have agreed in principal to a 1-year deal with utility infielder, Juan Castro. Castro was appealing to the Phillies based on his versatility and minimal price tag. Castro will be taking over Eric Bruntlett's responsibilities. The Phillies have said that they would like to give Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins more time off than they have in the past. Because of this, the Phillies were emphasizing an infielder who could successfully field both second and short.

Castro does fit the bill of that type of player as he can play the middle infield positions. Castro represents almost no increase over Bruntlett offensively or defensively. Castro did hit .277 last year, but in only 112 at bats, and is a career .230 hitter. It is sad to admit but Bruntlett is a career .231 hitter.

It was clear going into the offseason that the Phillies were not willing to invest too much money into this position. Still, the signing of a 38 year old infielder who scrapes to hit .230 isn't incredibly inspiring, especially for the first signing of the offseason. I was hoping for Jamie Carroll and still would rather have had Miguel Cairo. Juan Castro could have been quite possibly the cheapest option that existed. If this signing represents anything, it could be that the Phillies are more concerned about increasing payroll than previously thought. Hopefully this just means that the Phillies are saving money so they can invest more in other areas.

I was happy to see Bruntlett leave Philadelphia as he was an embarrassment to all professional and amateur athletes alike. I am almost equally as disappointed though, as we basically got the same player to replace him.

A note on the Phillies payroll. The 2009 payroll was $132 Million. The Phillies will not be losing much payroll as basically everyone is returning. Adam Eaton and Geoff Jenkins will not be getting paid by the Phillies anymore but the standard raises of the current players offsets the amount saved. If the Phillies don't add anymore payroll they will have about the same payroll as 2009. This represents a minor issue as the Phillies still need to address the bullpen and thirdbase and I can't see the Phillies willing to go much past $135 Million.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pitching Prosect #10: Jesus Sanchez

In my Arizona Fall League post I said that I would go into further detail on the prospects that are participating. Well, I am officially reneging on that idea as the AFL is over and I thought it would be a better idea to report on the top overall prospects throughout the Phillies system. I do not like how Baseball America and other such publications combine both pitchers and position players together in prospect rankings. As you can read in my Happ/Coughlan post, it is almost impossible to compare pitchers and position players. So in order to solve my own issues I will create two separate top 10 lists. I will do a player profile for each prospect in descending order and alternate between the pitcher and position player lists in order to build the suspense on who will be number one.

I have decided to rate righthanded starter, Jesus Sanchez, as the 10th best pitcher in the Phillies minorleague system. Jesus Sanchez is quite possible the most intriguing prospect in all of the Phillies system, he started his professional career as a catcher and switched over to pitching only one season ago. Jesus Sanchez came over to the Phillies from the Yankees as part of the Bobby Abreu trade. Honestly, Sanchez is the only player that has a legitimate shot at making a Major League roster of all the players involved in that deal.

Sanchez was born in Valencia, Venezuela, so he started his professional career fairly young. He came to the Phillies organization at the age of 18 and played catcher full-time until 2008. During the 2008 season while playing for the Lakewood BlueClaws, Sanchez made the decision to give up his catching duties in an effort to become a pitcher. The decision was very radical but as he was only hitting .220 with 1 homerun over his career, it appeared highly unlikely that Sanchez would find himself in the organization much longer. Sanchez played 35 games in 2008 as a catcher and after deciding to change his position he was removed from everyday competition and trained at the spring training facility in Clearwater to hone his skills as a pitcher.

2009 was Sanchez's first season as a professional pitcher and was immediately thrown into Lakewood's starting rotation. The move to insert Sanchez into the starting rotation was a shocking decision but proved to be a successful one. Sanchez led the Lakewood pitching staff in every single statistical category among pitchers with enough innings to qualify. In 2009, Sanchez was 4th in the South Atlantic League in wins with 10, while posting an impressive 3.44 ERA in 136 innings. Sanchez's 2009 season was astounding when you consider that this was his first season pitching as a professional. As you could imagine Sanchez did have some adjustment issues in the beginning of the season but finished the season in tremendous fashion as he was 7-2 with a 2.59 ERA, after the all-star break.

Sanchez became a workhorse towards the end of 2009 going past the 6th inning on a consistent basis. Sanchez is not an overpowering pitcher but has the ability to throw multiple pitches for strikes. His fastball usually comes in between 90-93 mph, he possesses an above average changeup, and an improving slider. The most impressive aspect of Sanchez's abilities is his command of multiple pitches along with his pitching efficiency as he pitches deep into ballgames. It is very likely that Sanchez will start the 2010 season in Clearwater and will be promoted to Reading sometime around midseason assuming he continues his success.

Current Pitching Rankings

10. Jesus Sanchez