The Phillies have almost finalized their Spring Training roster, but it is still bitterly cold outside. Spring Training feels so close, yet this next month will take an eon to get through. Hunker down.
No prospect spotlight this week, but there were baby Phillies in town:
@Matt_Winkelman for your next mailbag - do you think Ben Lively's career is ultimately closer to Kyle Kendrick's or David Buchanan's?— Schmidt's Perm (@bxe1234) January 12, 2017
Let’s get the depressing question (and answer?) out of the way first.
David Buchanan started 35 games for the Phillies, posted a 5.01 ERA and 0.1 bWAR by having two seasons that essentially canceled themselves out. Kendrick pitched in 226 games (185 starts) with a 4.42 ERA and 6.0 bWAR. I think the answer is Buchanan here, because even though Kendrick was bad for long stretches of time, pitching over 1,100 Major League innings is no small feat. Buchanan had kind of a fluky and lucky year where everything worked out fine and then got hung out to dry when his stuff just wasn’t there. I could see Lively running into a hot streak, then getting more starts than he should. He just needs to get moved to the bullpen before he completely flames out and actually ends up in Japan.
@Matt_Winkelman Do Phils have legit power bats in minors? Read that Hoskins and Cozens have big ?s, and Williams still >20 HR Anyone else?— ~~TO (@toglesby27) January 12, 2017
I actually get this question fairly frequently. In Hoskins and Cozens, the Phillies have two of the best power prospects in the minor leagues. They both aren’t sure things, but I can count on a couple fingers the number of prospects in the minors who have big time power and don’t have similar questions. So, neither Hoskins or Cozens are guarantees, but if they are your criteria for narrowing, no one has any power bats. Outside those two, Nick Williams has 20+ home run power, but his swing is not really geared to launch moonshots. Jorge Alfaro has as much power as any catcher in the game. If you want to go farther away, Jhailyn Ortiz is only 18, but he has massive power. Jose Pujols struggles with the whole hitting thing at times and yet still managed to set a Lakewood record with 24 home runs this year. So yes, the Phillies have some power on the way.
@Matt_Winkelman of the 16 NRIs they're bringing in this spring, who is the most likely to win a job out of it?— BC (@babsell_champ) January 12, 2017
It would be exciting to say Crawford or Arano, or another prospect. The answer probably is Sean Burnett or Cesar Ramos. Currently, Joely Rodriguez is the only left-handed reliever on the roster. Even if he is the real deal, I think it is likely that the Phillies want another lefty in the pen. I don’t think either is better than James Russell and he was disaster, but they might as well try.
Right now Daniel Nava is the 5th outfielder and I think I just puked in my mouth a little.
@Matt_Winkelman Years later how do you feel about the Hamels return? (Been thinking about Quintana myself)— Nick Schaefer (@Nick_BPSS) January 12, 2017
I don't think there is any way to be anything but really positive about the return. Right now, all five prospects are on the 40-man roster, and four have appeared in the Majors. The real key is Jerad Eickhoff, who’s now at 5.3 bWAR and just under 250 MLB innings since the trade. He is not Cole Hamels, but he is a good starter for a competitive team. Alec Asher is not great, but they have gotten some value out of him. As for the big names, Thompson struggled in the Majors, but he has the stuff to be a No. 4 starter and maybe a bit more if the slider fully comes back. Williams bombed in August, but he is still a very good prospect and could be an impact player for the Phillies. Alfaro had a bit of a breakout year, and though he still needs work, the fact that he will stick behind the plate makes him a potential cornerstone.
Hey, I get to make a shameless plug! I have started my Top 50 this week and 26-50 are up here. I am going to make this apply outside the Top 25 so I don’t give anything away. I have that power.
There’s a trio of projectable young pitchers that could work here. Kyle Young (#43), Bailey Falter (#29) and Francisco Morales (#38) all seem to fit the mold. Morales already has some velocity, the other two are waiting on it. Falter is the oldest...at 19. They could all stall out in the low minors, but they all have the base to be impact starting pitchers.
The real answer is Jose Pujols (#35). He has plus-plus raw power and room to add more strength. He has a quick and athletic swing, and moves well enough to stick in right field, where his arm is a laser. The problem is there are many evaluators who don’t think he can hit. He struggles with anything that is not a fastball, and even more when it comes from a righty. He made some improvements late in the year, but he has a long way to go.
This is Crawford for me and it isn’t close. This is Alfaro’s last option year, so the Phillies have every incentive for him to get as much minor league time as possible this season. Given his aggressiveness at the plate and shaky-at-times defense, I think it might take a little bit for Alfaro to settle in once he gets to the Majors. I don’t have a lot of confidence in Crawford to hit at an elite level once promoted, but he is going to play good defense and work counts from the minute he is promoted. That is not immediately franchise-saving, but it has solid value.