Friday, February 26, 2016

Darin Ruf Likely Getting His Final Shot With Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies have a number of players who have been around for a few years, and appear to be running out of time with the ball club.

After the 2015 season ended it was disappointing outfielder Domonic Brown to whom the Phillies said goodbye. 
At some point either during or after the coming 2016 season, the club will say their goodbyes to former champs and longtime starters Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz.
Another player who is at or near the end of the line with the team is first baseman/outfielder Darin Ruf
Not a kid, Ruf will turn 30-years old this coming summer. There is no way that the big righty can be considered as a piece of the rebuilding plan to which the team is committed.
Usually in pieces having to do with the potential of a first base platoon, I have written on Ruf here previously. Just as Howard’s miserable numbers against left-handed pitching do not lie, neither do Ruf’s against righties.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Nick Williams Could Make or Break the Phillies Rebuild

The Philadelphia Phillies organization is home to one of the top outfield prospects in all of baseball.

That prospect is 22-year old Nick Williams, a 6’3″, 195 pound left-handed star in the making who Baseball America recently ranked as the 27th best prospect in the game today, and baseball’s 7th best outfield prospect.
Williams was originally selected by the Texas Rangers in the 2nd round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of Ball High School in his hometown of Galveston, Texas.
He came over to the Phillies as part of the Hamels trade deadline deal last season. 
Just over a week ago, the staff at TBOH named Williams as the Phils’ #2 prospect, behind only universally acclaimed top prospect J.P. Crawford and just ahead of pitcher Jake Thompson, another piece in that Hamels deal.
Williams is a significant talent, again, arguably the second best in the entire system. No outfielder in the system has a higher power ceiling, and in the modern game, your lineup must contain a power threat. 
The Phillies need Williams to come through, and not turn into a Dom Brown-like disappointment.
In their Top 100 Prospects issue, BA graded Williams as above average in his Hit (60) and Power (60) tools, above average in Fielding (55), and average for his Speed (50) and Arm (50), stating that they feel his ETA at Citizens Bank Park is next year, in the 2017 season.
For most skilled observers who follow the game, the jury is still out on Williams’ ultimate actual value to the Phillies for the long run. 
There are legitimate concerns that he could turn out to be another Dominic Brown, a supremely talented athlete whose shortcomings are exploited at the Major League Baseball level.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ryan Howard Holds Spring Training Press Conference

The Philadelphia Phillies longtime first baseman delivered what is likely to be his final spring training press conference this afternoon.

On a beautiful afternoon in Clearwater, Florida on which the temperatures rose to a warm and comfortable 78 degrees, rains fell in Philly and the temperatures barely reached to the 40 mark.
The beat reporters and broadcasters covering the Phillies gathered at Bright House Field, while fans of the team were glued to their TV sets up north. 
Both groups were watching as Ryan Howard took a seat to deliver what is sure to be his final “State of the Piece” address, and then field questions during a press conference.
Howard was covered from a number of different angles over this off-season. But the bottom line in each of those discussions has basically been the same: the former National League Most Valuable Player can still be a valuable bat, but only if used smartly as the lefty part of a near-strict platoon at first base with the righty swinging Darin Ruf.
Howard addressed that possibility of a platoon during the press conference. 
Do I think it’s fair? Me, personally, probably not. But it is what it is. The situation is the situation. You just go out there and play.”
“I’ve always been a guy that’s been a team player, and I’m always going to be a competitor. I’m always going to want to be able to go out there, and it doesn’t matter righty or lefty, I know I can get the job done.

Cliff Lee to Retire

Another former Philadelphia Phillies ace pitcher is reportedly set to announce his retirement as a player.

The agent for left-hander Cliff Lee, who last pitched in a big league game on the exact date of the MLB trade deadline in 2014, commented to MLB insider Ken Rosenthal on Tuesday that the career of the former AL Cy Young Award winner is at an end.
Lee pitched for the Phillies over the final four seasons of his 13-year career in Major League Baseball. 
In 2011, Lee made up part of the “Four Aces” rotation with Roy HalladayRoy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, a group that led the team to a Phillies franchise-record 102 regular season victories.
In his time with the Phils, Lee compiled a 48-34 record with a 2.94 ERA and a 1.089 WHIP. He allowed 777 hits in 827.1 innings, with an 813/124 K:BB ratio. He was an NL All-Star with the team in both 2011 and 2013. 
Lee finished 3rd in the 2011 NL Cy Young Award race, with Halladay finishing 2nd and Hamels finishing 5th. Lee also finished 6th in the 2013 Cy Young voting.
The lefty first came to the Phillies in a big 2009 trade deadline deal with the Cleveland Indians along with outfielder Ben Francisco in which the Phils sent four prospects to the Tribe, one of whom, pitcher Carlos Carrasco, remains in the big leagues. 
He helped the club win a 2nd straight NL pennant, but the team lost the World Series in six games to the New York Yankees.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Jimmy Rollins Signs With Chicago White Sox

A former Philadelphia Phillies iconic player from their recent championship run finally signed to play in the 2016 season.

Shortstop Jimmy Rollins signed a minor league contract today with the Chicago White Sox, and will compete in spring training for their starting role at the position.
While the deal is a minor league one, it comes with that invitation to spring training, where Rollins will compete with Tyler Saladino and Leury Garcia
The White Sox allowed their starting shortstop for the last eight seasons, Alexei Ramirez, to leave via free agency in the off-season. Ramirez signed last month with the San Diego Padres.
Per Colleen Kane with the Chicago Tribune, the White Sox’ general manager Rich Hahn sees Rollins’ talent and status as a veteran leader of equal value to their ball club.
We envision Jimmy contributing both on and off the field,” Hahn said in a statement, per Kane. “He provides us with another quality infield option with the potential to play a variety of roles, as well as another significant positive presence inside our clubhouse.
The Chisox hope to contend in the American League Central Division after beefing up their offense with the signing of free agent left fielder Melky Cabrera, and the addition of both 3rd basemanTodd Frazier and 2nd baseman Brett Lawrie via trade.
They and Rollins will join an offense that already included Cuban 1st baseman Jose Abreu, speedy center fielder Adam Eaton, and DH Adam LaRoche.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Phillies Infield: What's on 2nd?

The Philadelphia Phillies rebuilding plan continues in 2016, and coming up with the next great 2nd baseman is proving a real challenge.

For the better part of a dozen seasons, Phillies managers Larry BowaCharlie ManuelRyne Sandberg, and Pete Mackanin filled out their lineup card with the same name at the 2nd base position.
In many of those dozen seasons, Chase Utley was one of the best players in the game at the position. 
An NL All-Star for five straight years, and in six seasons overall. Votes in the NL MVP race for five straight seasons, including three top 10 finishes in that balloting.
Utley was an all-around player. Five seasons of 20 or more home runs, including three 30-homer seasons. 
Four straight years with over 100 RBI. Eight seasons with double-digit stolen bases. Four seasons of 100 or more runs scored, including an NL-high 131 in 2006.
Never a Gold Glover, Utley was nonetheless a reliable defender at the difficult Keystone position, teaming with shortstop Jimmy Rollins to make up an outstanding and reliable doubleplay combination for over a decade.
But as fans of those glory days are finally coming to realize, those days are over. Rollins and Utley have moved into their upper-30’s, with both having been dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers over the 15 months. 
In fact, Rollins is now out of a job and still searching for a team to take him as spring training gets underway.
Now the Phillies are moving into a new generation with a rebuilding plan under a new ownership and management regime. 

Philography: Phillies Bios Series History to Date

After joining the TBOH staff at Fansided back in the summer of 2014, I decided that with a personal interest in history in general and now in my fifth decade of following Phillies baseball, that a regular series on the history of the team would be right up my alley.
I came up with the idea of running a regular series of Phillies mini-biographies. It would feature key figures, mostly players but also front office, ownership, broadcasters, and others of interest and importance in club history.
While the series would cover some items of interest in the personal lives and backgrounds of the individuals featured, I was looking mostly to focus on their involvement in baseball in general, and with the Phillies organization in particular.
And thus, “Philography” was born. 
Since the first piece in the series published back in the fall of 2014 there have been 13 released to this point. It is my intention to produce about a half-dozen over the course of each off-season as we move forward.
So far in the series, I have tried to avoid the obvious greatest players in franchise history from the last half-century or so. 
You won’t find a piece on Mike SchmidtRichie AshburnSteve CarltonRobin Roberts, or Jim Bunning – the five Phillies players who have their individual numbers retired based on service with the team, all of whom are Baseball Hall of Famers. 
At least not yet.
What you will find is something that will continue to be a goal as the series moves forward – individuals from all across team history. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Freddy Galvis is a Placeholder as Phillies Shortstop

In 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies will be going with a placeholder as their starting shortstop for a 2nd straight season.

Bridging the gap between longtime icon and World Series champion Jimmy Rollins and the future at shortstop, #1 prospect J.P. Crawford, the key position will once again this season be held down by Freddy Galvis.
After Rollins was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in December of 2014, and with Crawford emerging as the clear future choice but not yet ready, the position was handed to Galvis a year ago.
The now 26-year old had spent three years as an infield backup, appearing in 41 games during the 2012-14 seasons at shortstop. 
This included 25 games as the primary backup to Rollins in 2014 during what was JRoll’s last of 14 mostly spectacular seasons as the Phillies’ shortstop.
No one expected Galvis to be what Rollins had been: a league MVP, postseason hero, three-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glover. It was simply hoped that he could field the position well, and toss in the odd clutch hit.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Jerad Eickhoff Potential Injury Ramifications

The Philadelphia Phillies pitchers and catchers just reported to spring training, and already there are questions regarding a member of the starting rotation.

At last season’s trade deadline, the Phillies sent veteran starting pitcher Cole Hamels and hard-throwing lefty reliever Jake Diekman to the Texas Rangers. In return the Phils received a 6-player package that included a number of top prospects.
One of the prospects coming to Philly in that deal was right-handed pitcher Jerad Eickhoff
Not much was expected of the 25-year old at the time. In his evaluation in December of 2014, respected analyst John Sickels had not ranked Eickhoff among Texas’ top 20 prospects.
During the 2015 minor league season, Eickhoff had performed well prior to the deal, fashioning a 10-4 record mostly at AAA Round Rock. He had allowed just 102 hits in 111.2 innings, with a 107/36 K:BB ratio. 
The Phillies liked what they saw, liked that he was close to big league ready, and had him included in the trade.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Phillies Abandon AM Radio

The Philadelphia Phillies will have no AM radio broadcasts in the 2016 season for the first time since the introduction of the medium.

Under the terms of a new contract reached with CBS Radio earlier this week, any 2016 Philadelphia Phillies games over radio, whether from spring training, during the regular season, or any possible postseason action, will be broadcast by sports talk station WIP at 94.1 FM.
Phillies games began broadcasting over the radio in 1936, and in those early days it was only road games that were heard by local fans. 
Those early owners, not only with the Phillies but all around baseball, were concerned that radio broadcasts of home games would reduce attendance.
The Phillies actually took part in the first Major League Baseball game ever broadcast over the radio, as the visiting team. 
That game took place on August 5th, 1921 when the Phils dropped an 8-5 decision to the host Pirates in Pittsburgh. The game was broadcast over KDKA and featured announcer Harold Arlin.
That fall, Grantland Rice and Tommy Cowan called the first-ever World Series broadcast over radio. 

Brett Oberholtzer Favored in Phillies 5th Starter Battle

The Philadelphia Phillies will have an interesting, competitive battle in spring training for the 5th starter role in the pitching rotation.

As pitchers and catchers begin their first workouts this morning, the working assumption among all of the experts and insiders that follow the team closely is that the first four spots in the 2016 starting pitching rotation are already set.
Newcomer Jeremy Hellickson from Arizona, newcomer Charlie Morton from Pittsburgh, and returning sophomores Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff are pretty much penned into those first four rotation slots in some order.
That leaves the fifth starter role still to be decided. This is a spot that is frequently skipped over early in the season. 
If manager Pete Mackanin wants to go with his four best as often as possible, giving them a normal four days of rest, then the fifth starter would only be needed twice in April.
The Phillies have three off-days built into the schedule during that first month of the 2016 regular season already. 
Assuming no cancellations for inclement weather or other circumstances, a fifth starter would only be needed on April 13th at home vs. the San Diego Padres, and again on April 18th at home vs. the New York Mets.
Of course, the skipper may decide to spread his starters out a bit the first few weeks, giving them more rest early in the season. 
In any event, as the calendar flips into May the need for a fifth starter will come on a much more consistent basis.
The fight for that fifth starter role is likely to come down to four pitchers:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Phillies 2016 Spring Roster Primer

The Philadelphia Phillies pitchers and catchers are reporting to Bright House Field today for the start of 2016 Spring Training in Florda.

After a long winter of rest for most, recuperation for some, the hurlers and backstops were scheduled to check-in at Bright House Field on Wednesday. 
Workouts are scheduled to begin on Thursday, though some informal work has already begun.
The full squad of position players will join the pitchers and catchers next week, with the first full squad workout scheduled for next Tuesday, February 23rd. 
The first game, which will mostly feature Phillies minor leaguers, is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, February 28th at 1:05pm against the University of Tampa.
So we’re finally here, Spring Training has arrived. 
The sound of balls thumping into mitts and gloves, and bats striking balls, will be heard all across Florida and Arizona for the next six weeks as the Phils and the other 29 Major League Baseball teams prepare for the 2016 regular season.
To help get Phillies fans caught up with what happened over the off-season, and prepare for some of the more interesting story lines as the Grapefruit League unfurls, let’s present a little primer to get the ball rolling.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Matt Harrison Will Not Pitch in 2016

The Philadelphia Phillies have announced that a pitcher received in their big trade with Texas last year will miss the entire 2016 season.

In dealing Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman to the Texas Rangers at the 2015 trade deadline, the Phillies received a package of major prospects that included pitchers Jake ThompsonJerad Eickhoff, and Alec Asher, outfielder Nick Williams, and catcher Jorge Alfaro.
Also received in that package was veteran left-handed starting pitcher named Matt Harrison
The Phillies have now announced that Harrison has been excused from spring training, and will miss the entire 2016 season. 
In fact, it has to be presumed that his career is now in jeopardy. Because of various back ailments, the now 30-year old Harrison has appeared in just nine games over the last three seasons.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Philography: Edith Houghton

The Phillies have a rich historical tradition that includes being the North American pro sports franchise with the longest-running, continuous use full name (Philadelphia Phillies), the losingest franchise in Major League Baseball history, and the first team to wear pinstripe uniforms.
On February 15th, 1946 the Phillies added to that historical legacy by hiring the first solo female scout, in fact one of the very first female game-related employees, in the history of baseball.
Edith Houghton was a native of the city, born and raised in North Philly into a typically large family at the time, the youngest of ten children. Her father had been a semi-pro ballplayer, and began to teach young Edith the game as a child.
As Shawn Selby wrote in his piece that appeared with SABR, “She would play games with neighborhood kids whenever she had the chance and from her parents’ bedroom window on the second floor she would watch night games on the field outside her house.”
“So enamored with baseball was she that by the time she was 8 she was the on-field mascot for the local police league teams,” wrote Selby. “The job even allowed her to sit next to the mayor at games from time to time. At 9, young Edith was already doing hitting and fielding displays on the field before games.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Phillies 2016 Promotions and Giveaways

The Philadelphia Phillies have announced special promotions and giveaway items for the 2016 season.

With the scheduled opponents, dates, and times already released earlier in the off-season, the Phils began to fill-in the rest of their schedule with the always highly anticipated list of giveaways and special promotions for the upcoming season.
One highlight will be the 32 scheduled “Theme Nights”, for which special tickets will be required aside from the usual game tickets in order to be a part of the festivities. 
The first two will be held during the weekend of April 1st and 2nd, when the Phillies play a pair of exhibitions prior to the official regular season opening.
On those two dates, the Phillies will hold a “Scouts Parade” at Citizens Bank Park. Friday is a 6:05pm start time vs. the Baltimore Orioles, and Saturday will be a 1:05pm Futures Game featuring the club’s top minor league prospects. 
These events will feature a pregame on-field parade of the scouts in full uniform, with special Phillies patches distributed on the field for those scouts who participate.
Friday April 15th at 7:05pm vs. the Washington Nationals will be a “Jackie Robinson Salute” with the club honoring the baseball barrier-breaker and Hall of Famer. 
The first 500 fans who purchase the special tickets through this promotion will receive coupons for a Philadelphia Stars t-shirt. 
The Stars were a Negro League baseball team from Philadelphia (1933-1952), members of the Negro National League (1934-1948) who won their only championship in their first year.

Five Phillies Prospects in Baseball America Top 100

The Philadelphia Phillies have received more respect from yet another major prospect talent evaluation source.

On Friday evening, Baseball America released their 2016 Top 100 Prospects list, and the Phillies were honored to have five players named to those ranks.
For the few uneducated, Baseball America is a decades-old publication in both print and web media well-respected and widely recognized as one of the game’s best authorities and resources on minor league, prospect, and amateur coverage.
If you do the math, there are 30 Major League Baseball organizations. In order to at least be representative on any Top 100 list, a club would need to place at least three and preferably four players on that list.
Placing five names in the Top 100 also helps to highlight the reason that Baseball America has lifted the Phillies to #8 in their organizational rankings. 
The Phils not only have those five prospects on the way, but have depth down through the system, with a number of others who were certainly under consideration.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Hard to See Why Phillies Traded for Taylor Featherston

The Philadelphia Phillies added more depth to their infield options in a minor trade with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Coming to the Phils is 26-year old infielder Taylor Featherston, who filled a utility infielder role with the Halos during his rookie season in Major League Baseball a year ago.

During that 2015 campaign, Featherston appeared in 39 games at 3rd base, 33 games at 2nd base, and another 22 games at shortstop. 
He hit for just a .162/.212/.247 slash line over 169 plate appearances in 101 total games while producing a pair of home runs. He drove in nine runs, scored 23 times, and stole four bases in six attempts.
The Phillies didn’t pay anything to acquire his services – yet. The deal calls for the Phils to send a player to be named later, or cash considerations, to the Angels at some point.