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Mailbag #22: As It Turns Out, Jerad Eickhoff is Kind Of Good

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Baseball is almost here! No, really!

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Philadelphia Phillies v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

One last weekend before baseball! I have been spending the last week re-watching some 2016 Phillies games, and I have come to a few conclusions.

  • We all forget just how dominant the good version of Aaron Nola is.
  • Jerad Eickhoff is a really solid pitcher, and probably underrated nationally.
  • ...I miss baseball
  • Tommy Joseph can destroy baseballs
  • The bullpen improvements for 2017 will make for much more enjoyable baseball games

But enough about what I have been doing and more about what you all want to know about. That’s what we’re here for.

Prospect Spotlight: Raul Rivas, INF

So how does a guy who hit .240/.280/.250 as a 19-year-old in the GCL get pushed as a potential top-50 prospect? The answer is his glove. Rivas has a strong arm and great defensive instincts and can handle shortstop at a high level everyday. He played primarily 3B for the GCL Phillies, but also got some time at 2B and SS. The problem is that he is buried behind better prospects who can actually hit, and so he is left filling in the cracks. Now, if you want room for hope, Rivas was sixth in batting average in Liga Paralela this winter in Venezuela with a .346/.438/.462 batting line; that includes seven doubles, a triple and a home run. He also only struck out just 11 times against 11 walks. He was one of the older batters working, so take it with a large grain of salt. He will be 20 for the 2017 season and, if he can find some offense, he could be a utility infielder for many years.

Mailbag:

We have a battle between a thing entirely in a pitcher’s control and one outside of it. Nola only pitched 111 innings last year, so even if he is healthy all year it is unlikely that he gets close in 2017. Then we have the fact that only 15 pitchers reached the 200-inning mark in 2016, leaving even a great Nola season short of a guarantee to reach the 200 mark in the future. So even if it is possible for Nola to reach it, I am going with Eickhoff and 15 wins. He is going to start 30-plus games, will probably reach the 200-inning threshold if he stays healthy, and he has been solid. That combination puts you in line for wins, and an improved Phillies team could get him that soon.

This is a really hard question. It is always difficult to separate team development from individual player development and talent acquisition. The answers is often mixed and the sample size is small. So I am only going to focus on the Phillies.

In my opinion, the club has struggled to develop in the upper minors. Pitchers have stalled out in Double-A and Triple-A not just in terms of results, but also their growth, especially in secondary pitches. We have also seen hitters regress in Triple-A after gains in Double-A (which are of course obscured by the ballpark in Reading).

What I can say is that the Phillies’ development of low minors arms has been spectacular. So far it has only been Latin American arms, but that is also been due partially to drafts that have brought in very few high school arms. The first tests of this were Tyler Viza and Bailey Falter this year, but we will see with Kevin Gowdy and others going forward. In recent years, we have also seen hitters grow in Lakewood, but that could also be due to the first year of full-season ball.

As you can see, this is already getting complicated and I have kept it to simple generalities. It is really hard to isolate an org philosophy and assign it blame without a long track record and sample size to work with.

Herrera is the easy one. Maybe it won't be in center the entire time, but he is really good. I am going write in Crawford now. He is going to be great defensively, so even if the bat doesn't come along he has a role. Pitchers are risky, but I feel comfortable saying that, if healthy, Jared Eickhoff will be a solid pitcher for a while. That is probably it. Nola and Velasquez have the talent, but we don't know about Nola's health and we have yet to see Velasquez pitch a full year. The same could be said of Franco who still has not locked in a long-term role.

I will take the under on 15 starts for Thompson. The Phillies have a ton of pitching depth, so I could see Lively or Eflin leapfrogging Thompson if the Phillies need a starter. I do think he can be an established starter. He has the frame and he has shown the pitches in the path to do it. He is only 23 years old, so he has time. At this point he is probably a back-end starter unless he can really recapture his peak stuff.

For those that don’t stare at PECOTA projections, BP’s PECOTA projection system spit out this line for a 50th percentile outcome for Tommy Joseph’s 2017 season:

589 PA 31 HR .252/.298/.475 0.6 WARP

The 31 home runs look gaudy at first, but Joseph was on pace to hit 35 home runs over a 589 PA sample in 2016. We know the power is real and I do think if given that many plate appearances, 30 home runs is certainly in play for Joseph. As for the plate discipline, everything I saw in 2016 looked real. He worked counts, his swing was simple and quick, he had good plate coverage. The sample size is just really small and it is not a skill he has shown before. He has talked about drawing walks as an important skill, so I have hope, but we will need to see it again.

I don't know how Moore fits into the org anymore. We know that Alfaro will start in Triple-A and it seems that Numata will start in Double-A. The question is whether they want Moore to back up Alfaro and not one of the veterans, or whether they want to send Moore back down to Double-A. Moore can't hit, but he can really field, and maybe he can be a new version of Tuffy Gosewisch. I wouldn't mind if they chose him over a retread to back up Alfaro, but he won't be a loss if he is squeezed out.

It isn’t the most recent book I read, but I highly recommend The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye. It is a graphic novel about a fictional cartoonist. It takes place in Singapore and covers great political change and the reaction to it. You really feel like it is a work of non-fiction as you are reading it. I found it incredibly hard to put down.

No chance, unless there is a plague that comes through and wipes out most of the major league roster. Both could use the Triple-A time, and so Triple-A time they will get.