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The Leadoff, Vol. 5: The Logical Journey of the New Phillies

In which I gleefully compare baseball players to cartoon characters from a 25-year-old computer game

Building a roster is a lot like building the perfect pizza
The Learning Company

Pitchers and catchers have reported! Wowowowowowow we did it, everyone! Now, for a month-and-a-half of exhibition baseball action before the games that count!

We still haven’t had a new addition to the pitching staff over the past few weeks. In fact, the only real roster movement was the retirement announcement of non-roster invitee catcher Eric Fryer. Yu Darvish signed with the Cubs, but lots of other starting pitching options are still unsigned, and no one has any idea if the Phillies will actually make another significant move! This winter was great, really.

As always, shoot your questions over to us on Twitter, or by dropping a line to our inbox at TheGoodPhightTV@gmail.

Just as a rule and matter of principle, I have a hard time including a guy who hasn’t made his Major League debut yet as part of a core group. I really want to like Scott Kingery and think he could be an exciting player, but we just need to be aware of what he is right now: A prospect in progress with things to work on before he gets the call. I can’t say this enough.

Okay, with that wet blanket tossed in the dryer, let’s look at the rest of this picture. This is a question that does warrant asking, on some level, because the eras have fully transitioned and we now have flag-bearers for the next age at positions that used to be held by franchise legends. I get it! And at the same time, I don’t think there’s going to be much similarity between any of these guys and the future Wall-of-Famers they’re succeeding.

You ever hear of or play the old computer game Zoombinis Logical Journey? It’s a logic puzzle game where you guide this race of blue, globe-shaped munchkins through a variety of obstacles and challenging ciphers to get them away from a bad life and on to a better one. It’s a kid’s game with some fairly dark undertones, but anyway; all of the Zoombinis are differentiated by their facial features and mode of transport, from springs to roller skates. They all do the same things, but with their own combination of style and flair that makes them unique: No two Zoombinis can have the same mix of characteristics.

Now, picture our two “core” groups of players as Zoombinis, exchanging facial features for baseball abilities.

  • Rhys Hoskins has a tick more athleticism, and his everyday plate discipline is twice that of Ryan Howard’s, but Rhys simply can’t match the raw power Howard had at his peak, especially when going the opposite way.
  • J.P. Crawford and Jimmy Rollins both look like really adept fielders with strong arms. They diverge pretty strongly at the plate, with Rollins keeping an edge in contact and game power, while Crawford could stand in the box and work a count for an hour if he could.
  • Jorge Alfaro and Carlos Ruiz are very different players. The former has a long way to go to match the latter’s defensive ability, but Jorge has more raw power (and speed!) than Chooch could have ever dreamed of having.
  • Aaron Nola and Cole Hamels are also just too different to compare, from the way they were drafted, to their signature pitch, all the way down to their actual throwing hand. The interesting thing to watch as Nola’s time here progresses will be the help he eventually gets. Hamels won a World Series when he was Nola’s current age without a whole lot of help behind him on the staff, but was later reinforced by guys a level above him. He went from pack leader to supporting cast member, all while really being steadily good the entire time, save for 2009. Will Nola get the same kind of reinforcements? This has nothing to do with their respective abilities, but it’s a curiosity.

They’re unique groups. It’s a tall order for early-to-mid-20-somethings to try and be the next group of franchise legends, but that’s something every single group will have to live up to until they win one for themselves. This group just might be getting there on a spring instead of a roller skate.

Yayyyy bargain hunting! This is basically what we’re working with now, and while it’s felt kind of inevitable - I’ve thought for weeks Jaime Garcia would end up being the play - it still hurts to watch Yu Darvish go to the Cubs and feel like there’s no longer any serious interest in Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, or any other rotational difference-maker. Camp is opening, and while the Phillies seem rumored to be loath to go beyond three years for a pitcher, even the guys who were expected to top out around three years (Cobb and Lynn) are unsigned. It just feels like they’re content to avoid making another multi-year commitment.

If they’re not Going For It, then they’d surely be amenable to trying the low-risk/potential-reward thing they’ve done with Charlie Morton and Clay Buchholz and, yes, Jeremy Hellickson in recent years. They also have another impending 40-man roster crunch looking for next offseason, so a fringe player could get traded for an expiring deal (a la Morton and Buchholz), but that feels slightly less likely at this point than a one-year deal for the likes of Garcia or Chris Tillman.

Tim Lincecum, though? What a fascinating guy. For obvious reasons, his name brings a bad taste to all our tongues for what happened in 2010, but he’s a guy who fits this pillow contract mindset we presume the Phillies are in now. Lincecum, 34 in June, hasn’t pitched in the Majors (or pro ball at any level) since 2016, and that was an ugly stint with the Angels.

The Phillies will reportedly have a representative present at Lincecum’s showcase, which is scheduled for Thursday this week. The Giants, Braves, Brewers, Yankees, Dodgers, and Padres are also reportedly set to be in attendance. Although Lincecum showed up for private training having clearly put in some time with weights, there’s obviously no certainty about what kind of workload he can handle this year, or how he’d best be deployed. If the Phillies are going to lean on eight relievers, maybe they won’t ask too much of him as a starter? Who knows? I’m uncomfortable with how much of what remains of this offseason has been limited to conjecture and speculation, despite the clear outstanding team need and still-available supply of players who fit said need.

What a keeper Terry is.

Speaking of keepers, there’s just one more thing I’d like to point out before we wrap for this week.

Yep, our manager can probably crack coconuts in his armpits.

Welcome back, baseball. We’ve missed you so. Stay tuned to TGP for forthcoming player previews, position battle analysis, and (potentially) new and exciting media offerings!