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Mailbag #26: All About Brock

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Don’t stay classy, stay Stassi

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at Detroit Tigers Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Before answering your Phillies questions, I am going to tell you why you should watch the World Baseball Classic.

  • The Atmosphere is Amazing - Other countries treat baseball games as giant parties, not drunken, trashy ones but complete expressions of joy. The electricity in the stadium for the Dominican Republic vs. Canada game is like nothing I have seen because it takes the stakes of the MLB postseason and World Series and adds nationalistic pride.
  • The Top Teams are All-Star Teams - The Dominicans, Venezuelans and United States all have teams that would be the best in baseball over a 162-game season. Puerto Rico has an infield with Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa, plus they have veterans in Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran. The Japanese team lacks in big names, but is still a formidable force.
  • Weird Things Happen - The World Baseball Classic is not about definitively finding the best baseball nation, although it is a tournament. Based on the rosters they brought, Israel’s wins are not really a surprise, nor are Korea’s losses. What is a surprise is Italy scoring 5 runs in the bottom of the 9th off of Mexico to set that pool up for a wild ride. Canada even managed to hang with the Dominican for 5 innings before you realized they were using Triple-A middle relievers.
  • The Talent is Diverse - Outside of the top teams, much of the players in the WBC are not Major Leaguers. What this means is you have a lot of players doing non-Major League things. Not every defensive play is automatic, which leads to craziness. Then you have pitchers throwing in the 80s with junk; and by “junk” I mean gorgeous slow curveballs and changeups that just go run away and hide. On the hitting side this means Quad-A players are suddenly viable again. Even good pitchers make mistakes, and there are a lot of guys in this tournament that feast on mistakes.

Have You Met Our Lord and Savior Brock Stassi?

I get a ton of questions about Stassi both for the mailbag for just general curiosity, but I have yet to have someone say he should be starting, let along be a part of the future core. For the most part, the lack of spots up for competition in camp have highlighted one of the few races happening. This week for my own site, I outlined the options for finishing the roster for the Phillies.

But enough about me and more about Mr. Stassi.

Let’s start with the idea of whether Stassi has to make the 25-man roster.

It is not a lock. With the 40-man crunch and opt-outs elsewhere, Stassi can be sent to Lehigh without consequence. Right now, is he one of the 13 best hitters? Probably, but that is not the only factor. I don’t think he will make the Phillies keep him over Coghlan which means the Phillies need to justify a DFA to keep him. Right now I see him as the leader to take that spot and force someone like a Morgan, Asher, or Goeddel off of the 40-man roster, but he is not a lock. If he does make the team, he will be occupying the first-to-be-cut position, and with three minor league options remaining the Phillies could send him down if they are bringing up a 40-man player.

As for performance, I think he will have the same kind of leash that Cedric Hunter and David Lough had a year ago; essentially he will need to perform to stay because his future isn’t precious. That said, the Phillies are not going to bring up prospects to sit them on the bench, so if Stassi can be a good bench player he may be able to survive the first promotions. As for his affect on Knapp, I don’t see any scenario where Knapp was making more than a start at first every 1-2 weeks, so let’s split the difference and call that 3 PAs a week, and maybe he pinch hits twice a week (and probably starts twice a week). Stassi would take all of those 1B PAs and maybe 1 PH a week, but maybe even not that much.

Mailbag:

So first: A problem I have with defensive metrics and positional value. In theory, if all defensive skills translate (which they should between outfield positions), a player should have the same value regardless of which outfield position they play. If they don’t, then it means the positional adjustment is off. That means the question is more about whether you want your team to emphasize offense or defense. This is a deeper question for a different day because defense is contextual and you need runs to win the game, but theoretically a run is a run.

So what does Quinn have to do to unseat Herrera in center field? The first is that he has to prove that he can hit enough to be an everyday Major Leaguer and probably at the level that is passable in an outfield corner. The second is that he needs to prove not that he is an equal defender to Herrera, but that he is so overwhelmingly better that it is painfully obvious to everyone. Given that Herrera was a finalist for a Gold Glove and rated out as one of the better defenders in the majors last year, Quinn essentially needs to prove that he is one of the best defensive center fielders in the Majors.

Brock Stassi!

No, actually, people are fairly rational about his future. Right now I still have to go Joseph, but really only because he wins the tiebreaker by already having the job. Joseph did a lot of things in 2016 that were beyond what he had shown in the past, but we also had never seem him fully healthy or at first base full-time in said past. He profiles as a guy who can hit .260-.270 with 30-plus home runs if given a full year of plate appearances. The big question is which walk rate is true: The one that produces a .290 OBP or a .350 OBP?

I think Hoskins might be a better hitter, but that might just be because he has the longer track record of making contact and working good counts. His power is a little behind Joseph so maybe it is more 25-30 home runs. So in other words I think in the end they have similar upside as above average first basemen, even if they might end up getting there slightly differently.

Quinn. He is pretty much Major League-ready and he has the flexibility to fill any outfield hole. Williams and Cozens both need Triple-A time so that puts them behind Quinn. I could see Crawford getting the call if Galvis gets hurt, but that is the only way until maybe June or July. Alfaro is likely to spend most of the year in Triple-A; even if Rupp is injured it is likely that Knapp slides into primary role with a veteran backup. Probably a similar situation with Hoskins, too, where a Joseph injury likely means more Stassi and then Blanco/Coghlan/Kendrick.

Crawford has looked like Crawford, for better or for worse. His defense looks really good, especially at the turn on double plays. He continues to work counts and get himself in good hitting positions. He has yet to drive the baseball, which is concerning in that is the issue he was having last year (though he looks less hacky than he did last year in those situations). That said I am writing this on March 9, and the season is a month away, so I am not worried at all.

Whoever will sign. If both will sign, I think Harper. Machado is the more consistent performer and his defense at third base gives him a very high floor. The difference here is upside. Harper is the only player in baseball who has the talent to challenge Mike Trout for the title of best player in baseball. It is unlikely, but Harper could put up a 50 home run season at some point and he is always going to get on base at a high level. If I were the Phillies I would pursue both, plus any of the other top free agents. The real danger of the free agent bonanza is getting left with nothing, and if you lock yourself into a single player you risk another team outbidding you and leaving you with nothing. If the Phillies got either, it would be amazing and I wouldn’t worry too much about which one it was.