Welcome to a new year of mailbags, and me forgetting to write them and ask for questions until Thursday afternoon.
No singular prospect spotlight this week. Instead, two plugs. The first is that the prospect team here has been pushing out our positional rankings, so if you have not read those, go read them: Catcher, First Base, Second Base, Shortstop, Third Base, Outfield, and Right Handed Starting Pitchers. The second is a bit more personal, as on Monday I will be kicking off my Phillies Top 50 prospects on my own site. It is a gigantic amount of work and selfishly it makes me feel better when people read it.
@Matt_Winkelman Where do the following outfielders start next season (majors, AAA, AA): Altherr, Quinn, Williams, Cozens, Goeddel, Pullin?— Dan M (@dannmaal) January 5, 2017
As much as there has been talk all week about acquiring an impact outfielder, I think the Phillies acquire someone who is more of platoon bat. That opens up the everyday right field job for Roman Quinn, pushing Altherr to the bench, where he needs to show that he is healthy and good to go. The Triple-A group is easy, as Cozens needs the promotion, Williams is already there and Goeddel conquered Double-A before the Rule 5 draft. It would be reasonable for Pullin to start in Triple-A, but given playing time shortages, a trip back to Reading to start the year seems most reasonable.
@Matt_Winkelman who are prime candidates for the Phillies to trade midseason?— Jeff Wiser (@OutfieldGrass24) January 5, 2017
Part 1 of 2 questions from Jeff. At this point, the list has to be topped by Jeremy Hellickson and Clay Buchholz. The Phillies can’t QO Hellickson again, so if he is good and healthy they need to move him. The Phillies can QO Buchholz, but if he is that good then moving him also makes more sense. The other rentals, like Joaquin Benoit, Pat Neshek, and Howie Kendrick, also make sense to move, but I suspect none of them bring back anything significant. As for non-rentals, Hector Neris could theoretically get moved (more on that in a second), and I think Freddy Galvis or Cesar Hernandez are available if a team goes crazy. As much as it would help in the short term with Crawford, I don’t see Hernandez or Galvis being a big midseason trade candidate unless they have another level of breakout, just because they won’t represent a huge upgrade for many teams (as opposed to during an offseason when teams have holes). The last guy is Cameron Rupp, who had a decent 2016, but is not a good defender, doesn’t draw walks and can’t really hit RHPs. He was also really bad down the stretch.
@Matt_Winkelman if the team decided to trade Hector Neris, what kind of return would they expect?— Jeff Wiser (@OutfieldGrass24) January 5, 2017
Hector Neris turns 28 this year, making him older than someone like Ken Giles, while also lacking the elite stuff of some of the closers that have been traded. Luckily, there are two trades that do set the market, both by the Brewers.
Trade 1: Will Smith (27) to San Francisco for Phil Bickford and Andrew Susac
Trade 2: Tyler Thornburg (28) to Boston for Mauricio Dubon, Josh Pennington, and Travis Shaw
In Trade 1, the Brewers got a top-100 prospect and a former top prospect who lost some shine. In the second deal, they got an organizational top-10 prospect, a lottery ticket, and a cheap bench bat. Now Smith had the advantage of being left-handed and having two years of high-level work. Thornburg was a bit of a more recent breakout with a jump in strikeouts. Both are free agents after 2020, whereas Neris is a free agent after 2022. If Neris can repeat his 2016 season, his value is probably closer to Smith, where you are looking for a fringe T100 prospect and nice secondary piece that has the upside to be a regular, but a chunk of risk. Is that enough for the Phillies to move on from Neris if he is that dominant? I am not sure.
@Matt_Winkelman Say we succeed on one of our sign-and-flips. What's a mid-tier prospect on a contender that you would be interested in?— Chris Vanni (@Fantusta) January 5, 2017
It is still too early to target specific players given that we have four months of season to play before the deadline. Given the structure of the Phillies farm system with a large amount of players hitting the 40-man roster right now, I would be targeting upside far away. You aren’t going to get elite, high minors prospects for what the Phillies have, so getting lottery tickets in low-A or short season that can grow into being future pieces seems most logical. They don’t need to be things that will help you in the Majors soon because, in many ways, you are looking for pieces to put in your own trades next offseason or at the 2018 deadline to help improve your big league club.
@Matt_Winkelman Who is next up on the Phillies 40 man roster to get DFA'd when and if the Phillies sign a free agent or make a trade?— Dan M (@dannmaal) January 5, 2017
We are finally getting thin on cuttable names, but we still have some obvious ones left. Luis Garcia is out of options, but has survived because he throws up to 100, although that might not keep him around much longer. Severino Gonzalez is not good, but he has an option and they don’t have many relievers with options. I personally am down on Alec Asher and Adam Morgan, but I would chuck the relievers first.
@Matt_Winkelman will you make it to any games this year?— Tyler Smith (@TylerSmithEtown) January 6, 2017
It is always up in the air based on work and family, I unfortunately don’t get the luxury to commit ahead of time.
@Matt_Winkelman Mauricio Llovera had eye-catching numbers in 2016. Did he or anyone else almost make the cut for righty starters piece?— Paul Socolar (@PaulSocolar) January 6, 2017
Llovera was one player to get votes who did not make the Honorable Mention section. I think there is a decent drop-off after him where the arms become even riskier and more reliever-like. Llovera looked like a reliever most of the year due to his size and the effort in his delivery. He got a bit looser late in the year and was still able to hold his mid-90s velocity deep into games while showing good secondary pitches. He is a bit older than some of the other GCL arms, but he has the stuff to warrant attention.
@Matt_Winkelman what would you like the lineup to look like at the start and end of the season?— John Wetzel (@John___Wetzel) January 6, 2017
I am going to do Opening Day, August 1, and end of season hypotheticals here. I will say before I jump into this that my philosophy differs from the Phillies because my job isn’t on the line if they lose and I don’t make money on ticket sales. What a lot of this comes down to is youth vs. age. I tend to lean towards youth, which in the case of the Phillies means guys who can field, but can’t hit yet. I would rather bank the defense and see if they can hit than go with guys who can hit but I know won’t field.
SP Hellickson, Nola, Eickhoff, Velasquez, Buchholz
SP Nola, Eickhoff, Velasquez, Thompson, Eflin
End of Year:
SP Nola, Eickhoff, Velasquez, Thompson, Eflin
I am just not a believer in Rupp, who faded down the stretch. I think Knapp takes the job from him until Alfaro arrives. I like Crawford as a No. 2-type hitter long-term, but I think his glove will need work. In September I would also be resting players aggressively and working in players like Valentin, Cozens, Goeddel and possibly Hoskins. Somebody will inevitably get hurt and take a stick of dynamite to this.
@Matt_Winkelman You just wrote about appel. What are the chances we see him in the big league bullpen this year?— Hooagie (@Hooagie) January 6, 2017
Low. Maybe September. The Phillies have a large investment in Appel and while I don’t think that they are going to ignore failures, I think they are going to take their time with him and really give him a chance in the rotation. They have the pitching to take it slow, so no reason to rush.
@Matt_Winkelman is it worth giving up a 40 man spot and playing time to an OF prospect for another veteran bat in the OF?— Cheesus (@theotherguysmom) January 6, 2017
Depends on the bat. I think the ideal player is a left handed bat that can play a corner and first base. That allows you to use them to spell Joseph against tough lefties, as well as play left field while Kendrick plays some 2B or 3B to give Hernandez and Franco days off. I think they want to see what they have in Altherr, and even if Quinn is the everyday right fielder, it is probably best to give him regular time off to make sure he stays healthy. As for the 40-man spot, I discussed Luis Garcia and Severino Gonzalez earlier, as neither are worth preventing a move. I just don’t entirely see the point in spending on an everyday veteran bat that forces Quinn to Triple-A where there is already a roster crunch. It is time they see what they have in some of these players.
@Matt_Winkelman with a plethora of SP throughout majors and minors name 3 you forsee likely to be transformed into relievers— Robert Dalton (@RobertDalton52) January 6, 2017
I don’t think these are the three most likely or the three highest upside. They are the three I wanted to write about, honestly.
- Alberto Tirado: Tirado’s velocity is unmatched in the system and his slider gives him a second impact weapon. The Phillies have no reason to move Tirado out of the rotation yet, but there is near universal agreement that he is a reliever long-term.
- Jose Tavares: The Phillies already started to convert Tavares this year before he joined the Lakewood rotation. Tavares has good deception and decent control, but lacks impact pitches, shortening him up could give him a better chance of having impact.
- Ricardo Pinto: Pinto still cannot find a good breaking ball, which has stalled his success as a starter. There is a chance his fastball plays up even better in short stints which should help his changeup miss more bats.