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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Jumping in as late suitors, Padres will make a pitch to Bryce Harper

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San Diego Padres GM A.J. Preller will make a late pitch for Bryce Harper

Last week’s big news on the Manny Machado free agency front came when it was revealed that the San Diego Padres were the previously rumored ‘mystery team’ to enter the race for the young superstar free agent infielder.
Now today comes word from perhaps the most reliable MLB insider in the business that the Padres are tossing their hats into the ring for Bryce Harper as well.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweeted out the following message this morning:
Early in the off-season, San Diego was considered a long-shot to land either of the big names. The logic behind that thinking was that the Padres were probably at least a couple of years away from contending status in the National League West Division.
However, as this off-season has developed their organizational strategy has clarified. The Padres selling point is that they are considered to have one of the top, if not the very top, group of minor league prospects in the game today.
Harper or Machado would theoretically be signing long-term, possibly as long as a decade. So the superstar(s) would be part of an incremental improvement right away, and then become the centerpiece of a genuine long-term contender that would emerge over the next couple of years.
Just yesterday, Jack Dickey at Sports Illustrated described that San Diego system as follows: “The farm system is as flush as any in recent memory; just days ago, MLB.com ranked 10 Padres prospects among the game’s top 100, with five of them, including No. 2 overall prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr., expected to contribute as major leaguers in 2019.
Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler, president of baseball operations Erik Greupner, and executive vice-president/general manager A.J. Preller are now exploring every avenue to turn around the fortunes of a franchise that hasn’t won the division since back-to-back NL West crowns in 2005-06.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

State of the Phillies address given by GM Matt Klentak during radio interview

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Matt Klentak answered numerous questions today on 97.5 FM The Fanatic

It was just shy of three months ago now that I wrote here at Phillies Nation that general manager Matt Klentak should be considered as being on the proverbial ‘hot seat’ during this current ‘hot stove’ off-season.
My principle argument could be summed up at that time in one paragraph from that November piece: “Phillies fans have waited through those six losing years. Klentak has not done a single thing to this point to elicit their confidence. His statements so far this off-season, and those of club president Andy MacPhail, have done nothing to excite them.
Since that time, the GM has made a handful of moves that could be pushing the club further along in their attempt to return to consistent contending status.
On December 3, Klentak shipped away the horrible Carlos Santana contract to the Seattle Mariners, correcting a misstep of his from a year earlier, along with perennially disappointing shortstop J.P. Crawford. In exchange he brought back a legitimate big-league shortstop in Jean Segura, as well as a pair of veteran relievers in righty Juan Nicasio and lefty James Pazos.
Just three days later he dumped righty reliever Luis Garcia, who had fashioned an ERA north of the 6.00 mark in two of the last three years, to the Los Angeles Angels. In return the Phillies GM brought back experienced southpaw reliever Jose Alvarez, who at age 29 is coming off the best season of his six-year big-league career.
Less than a week after that deal, Klentak signed free agent outfielder Andrew McCutchen to a three-year, $50 million contract. The 32-year-old former National League Most Valuable Player is certainly not the player that he once was during his 2011-17 peak with the Pittsburgh Pirates. But he will definitely improve the team’s left field defense, if nothing else.


Klentak started off the new year of 2019 strong when he inked veteran right-handed reliever David Robertson to a two-year, $23 million free agent contract. Robertson has been one of the best relief pitchers in the game for a decade, and further strengthens a bullpen that appears to be a strong suit heading into spring training.
That was a busy month for the GM, with two solid trades and two nice free agent signings between December 3 and January 3. But while he was making those moves, his counterparts in the NL East Division were not sitting on their hands.

NL EAST RIVALS ALSO MAKING MOVES

The Atlanta Braves, who won the division a year ago, added third baseman Josh Donaldson and catcher Brian McCann and re-signed outfielder Nick Markakis, all as free agents.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

False rumors of Bryce Harper to the Phillies, and how they began

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Strong rumors had Bryce Harper to the Phillies today - they were unfounded

Phillies Nation woke on Tuesday morning, January 29 to the exciting news spreading like wildfire across the internet that Bryce Harper had chosen a team to sign with as one of baseball’s biggest free agents in years.
But as the day dragged on and no formal announcement came and no press conference was announced, that excitement dissolved into an even deeper level of frustration.
It was lunch time when Jim Salisbury, the Phillies insider at NBC Sports Philadelphia, made an appearance on local sports radio station 97.5 FM ‘The Fanatic’ and stated “I’ve been hearing the same hysteria all morning as you have. I’m not feeling anything coming down today.”


Salisbury then expounded on his knowledge of the current situation involving the Phillies and both Harper and Manny Machado:
"I have seen that they have made an offer to Machado, but I have not seen that they have made an offer for Harper. I still think they want to see what happens with Machado and then spend aggressively with Harper." - @JSalisburyNBCS

That statement by someone believed to be intimately close to the organization had the effect of an army of firefighters shooting water and dropping vast amounts of fire-retardant foam to extinguish the early wildfire of rumors
So what happened? Just two days ago, things were so quiet of late on the Harper situation that I actually wrote a piece here at Phillies Nation on that silence having taking on such a deafening quality that it could mean we were near a resolution. What suddenly changed to set off such a rumble of gossip and hearsay?
The spark that lit the fire came not from the speculation of a baseball insider. Instead it came from a pair of unlikely sources: the gaming and gambling industries.
First, the video game “MLB The Show” sent out the following cryptic message from their Twitter account yesterday afternoon:

Monday, January 28, 2019

Carlos Ruiz is the fan choice to become the next Phillies Wall of Famer

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'Chooch' is the clear favorite of fans for Wall of Fame enshrinement

A couple of weeks ago here at Phillies Nation, I published a piece speculating on which non-2008 players might be worth of a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame. Fans responded by tossing out a number of their own choices as commentary, either directly at the website or via social media.
Names not mentioned in my piece but suggested by fans included 1960’s-era players Rick WiseTony Gonzalez, and Cookie Rojas. The National League Most Valuable Player in 1950 and a key pitcher with the NL champions that year, Jim Konstanty was also mentioned. There was even someone who brought up some early-1900’s names such as Dave BancroftJack Clements, and Jimmie Wilson.
As a result of the comments, I decided to actually reach out and poll the fan base to see who their favorite might be to become the next Phillies Wall of Famer.
I decided to run the polling in a two-phase process. I would run a pair of four-player semi-final polls to kick things off. Then would take those receiving the most support and put them into a three-player finals poll. This was a simple Twitter poll, so I am claiming no special scientific method used.
As criteria, I left out most of the early-1900’s players. Fact is, those players historically receive little to no support from modern fans in such polls. Though this recency factor working against them is unfair, it is also a genuine phenomenon. However, I’ve always been a big supporter for 1910’s first baseman Fred Luderus, so put him into one of the semis polls.
The results in those semis with 241 total fans responding were as follows:
Poll #1: Carlos Ruiz 55%, Pete Rose 35%, Bobby Abreu 8%, Fred Luderus 2%
Poll #2: Shane Victorino 39%, Dan Baker 27%, Cliff Lee 18%, Manny Trillo 16%
As you can see, the two 2008 players received the greatest support, something that I anticipated. I decided to move Chooch and The Flyin’ Hawaiian into the final poll.


As the third choice, I made it public address announcer Dan Baker, who now has nearly 50 years with the organization and whose voice is recognizable to generations of Phillies fans. I also factored in that the club is not likely to actually consider Rose again any time soon, if at all.
That final poll resulted in tremendous response as 2,107 individuals cast ballots. The final voting result was a little more lopsided than I had anticipated:

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Is Bryce Harper on the verge of announcing his long-term home?

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A decision on Harper's future might be coming very soon

It has been roughly ten days since I last wrote anything regarding the Phillies pursuit of free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. I said that I wasn’t going to write something every time some new rumor popped up, and I’m sticking to that here.

What has me back writing on the topic is not some new rumor that we’re hearing. Instead, it’s what we are not hearing that has me back on the topic.
Regarding the Harper situation, I am finding that the silence is deafening.
When is the last time that you heard or read any rumors regarding Harper from any legitimate, reliable source? It’s been awhile. The usual insiders and talking heads were reporting on claims of some unnamed “source” on a regular basis. Now, those reports appear to have dried up.


Contrast that with the Machado situation, where just this past week it become public knowledge that a new team, the San Diego Padres, had aggressively jumped into the hunt for the young superstar infielder.
It was Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune who first broke the story on Friday that the Padres were the “mystery team” in on Machado, something that had been widely speculated for days prior:
“According to multiple sources aware of talks between the sides but not authorized to speak publicly, the Padres are pursuing the 26-year-old superstar with the intention of playing him at third base.”
A.J. Cassavell at MLB.com followed up on Saturday by logically presenting how the 26-year-old would slot into the San Diego present and future, stating “Machado’s fit with the Padres is probably better than it is almost anywhere else.
Dennis Lin at The Athletic tweeted on Saturday that the Padres were actively seeking a face-to-face meeting with Machado and his representatives.

Friday, January 25, 2019

For three decades the Phillies have largely been unable to develop a top prospect

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Pat Burrell has been the Phillies best high draftee to develop into a top prospect

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece on the current standing of the Phillies best minor league players on recently released top prospect lists. For nearly three decades, one of the most respected of the resources tracking and producing such lists has been Baseball America.
The same day as my Phillies Nation article was released, Baseball America was publishing their own piece on the history of their top prospect coverage. Specifically, the BA staff was re-visiting every prospect ranked either #1 or #2 on their annual Top 100 Prospects list.
Before even bothering to look down the entire list, which covered every top prospect and runner-up since 1990, a thought popped into my head – have the Phillies ever had someone finish in either spot? I follow the prospect game pretty closely and couldn’t recall the team ever having a prospect ranked that highly.
Sure enough, the list revealed that no Phillies prospect has been ranked as the best in all of baseball on the annual Top 100 list. Only one of the club’s prospects has ever found themselves in the #2 spot. That would be Pat Burrell back in 2000.


A look around the National League East Division reveals that the Atlanta Braves have seen five of their prospects ranked as the best in the game: Steve Avery (1990), Chipper Jones (93), Andruw Jones (96-97), Jason Heyward (2010), and Ronald Acuna just last year. Jones was also the #2 prospect of 1994.
The Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos organization has produced a pair of top prospects: Cliff Floyd (94) and Bryce Harper in both 2011 and 2012. While still in Montreal, Vladimir Guerrero was the #2 prospect in 1997. After the franchise had moved to D.C., Stephen Strasburg finished in the runner-up slot for 2010.
Two of those divisional rivals, the New York Mets and Florida/Miami Marlins, have fared even worse than the Phillies in placing prospects at the top of the ranking lists.
The Mets had Paul Wilson rank #2 in 1996. Wilson pitched just one disappointing season in the Big Apple at age 23 in 1996 before his career was derailed for four years by injuries. He finally recovered enough to appear in parts of three seasons with Tampa Bay and three more in Cincinnati.
The Marlins, established as an expansion organization in 1993, have never placed a prospect in either of the top two slots on the Baseball America rankings. But despite not joining Major League Baseball until the 1998 season, the best at producing top prospects has been another expansion club, the Tampa Bay Rays.
There have been a pair of Rays at the top: Josh Hamilton in 2001 and Delmon Young in 2006. Five Rays prospects have finished in the runner-up slot: Rocco Baldelli (03), B.J. Upton (04), Evan Longoria (08), David Price (09), and Matt Moore in 2012.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Phillies lefty pitching prospect Cole Irvin appears ready for his shot

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Irvin has risen through the minors and is knocking on the big-league door

We’re now less than three weeks before Phillies pitchers and catchers are due to report for the start of spring training in Clearwater, Florida. Most of Phillies Nation is waiting, now impatiently, for the sudden lightning bolt of an announcement on the Bryce Harper and Manny Machado free agent situations.
However, many sources have reported that the club is also still considering options to improve the starting pitching rotation. Specifically, a proven veteran left-handed winner would be a perfect fit for a club hoping to contend in what appears to be a tough NL East Division in the 2019 season.
The primary name floating around has been that of free agent Dallas Keuchel. The lefty could still return to the only team for whom he has ever pitched, the Houston Astros. However, the Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers also would appear to be good matches.
While there are other veteran left-handers available, including former Phillies pitcher Gio Gonzalez, there is also an option available from inside the organization, one that might be as good an option as any other than Keuchel.
That option is California native Cole Irvin, the club’s #10-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline. Irvin, who turns 25-years-old on January 31, was the Phillies fifth round choice in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Oregon.
Irvin signed quickly that summer and was sent straight to Low-A Williamsport. There he made a strong impression, going 5-1 with a 1.97 ERA and 0.964 WHIP over 10 games, seven of those starts. He allowed just 36 hits over 45.2 innings while striking out 37 opposition batters.
In the following 2017 campaign, Irvin split the year between High-A Clearwater where he made 11 starts and AA-Reading, for whom he made another 13 starts. Over 25 games at the two levels, 24 of those starts, Irvin went 9-9 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.176 WHIP. He surrendered 140 hits over 151.1 innings with an excellent 118/38 K:BB ratio.


Irvin pitched the entirety of last season at the highest level of the minor leagues. For the Phillies Triple A-Lehigh Valleyaffiliates he made 26 appearances, 25 of those as a starter. He went 14-4 with a 2.57 ERA, 1.054 WHIP, and allowed just 135 hits over 161.1 innings with a 131/35 K:BB ratio.
For that performance, Irvin was named as the International League Pitcher of the Year. Back in October here at Phillies Nation we named Irvin as our Lehigh Valley IronPigs Player of the Year.
Overall in his three-year professional career, Irvin has pitched in 61 games, 56 of those as a starting pitcher. He has put together a 28-14 record with a 2.84 ERA and 1.094 WHIP over 358.1 innings. The southpaw has yielded just 311 hits, including just 27 home runs, and has a strong 286/81 K:BB ratio.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Respected evaluators place four Phillies minor leaguers on top prospect lists

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Adonis Medina is becoming one of baseball's top pitching prospects

With just three more weeks to go before pitchers and catchers begin to report for Phillies 2019 spring training in Clearwater, Florida and still no resolution to the Bryce Harper or Manny Machado free agency situations, baseball is moving on – for now.
It is around this time each year that some of the most respected resources begin to release their top prospect lists for the upcoming season. Baseball Prospectus has now joined MLB Pipeline and Baseball America in releasing their lists here at the start of 2019.
The Philadelphia Phillies organization placed four prospects across the three lists Top 100 Prospects rankings (101 in BP’s case), but only one of those was unanimous in appearing on all three lists.
Last August we released our own Phillies Top 20 Prospects list here at Phillies Nation. Finishing at the top of that list was pitcher Sixto Sanchez. Nearly six months later the 20-year-old Dominican right-hander remains the crown jewel of the minor league system.
Sanchez was ranked as baseball’s #13 overall prospect by Baseball America, #21 at MLB Pipeline, and is sitting at #23 on the Baseball Prospectus list.
Two different players, pitcher Adonis Medina and third baseman Alec Bohm, each make an appearance on two of the three lists. Bohm placed second and Medina fourth in our PN rankings last summer. I wrote just last week of Bohm’s upcoming campaign to prove that he is the Phillies third baseman of the future.
Medina is ranked at #57 overall in baseball by Baseball Prospectus and #64 by MLB Pipeline, but does not appear on the Baseball America rankings. Bohm comes in at #50 for MLB Pipeline and #65 with Baseball America but is unranked by Baseball Prospectus.



The final Phillies prospect to show up on one of the major ranking lists is shortstop Luis Garcia, who Baseball America placed as the #88 prospect in all of baseball in their rankings. We had the 18-year-old from the Dominican Republic at #14 in the organization as of last August. Back in October, Baseball America named Garcia the top prospect in the Gulf Coast League.
Frankly, not much happens in a Major League Baseball off-season that would impact genuine change to prospect rankings. The few exceptions would be for trades, career-threatening injuries, or tremendous breakouts in the Arizona Fall League or Caribbean winter leagues.
Here at Phillies Nation, we don’t want to be publishing lists just for their own sake. So, you’ll see our updated rankings towards the end of the upcoming 2019 minor league season in August. Thus, the most recent full on-field performances are factored in with the 2019 MLB Draft results and in-season trades.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as "Four Phillies prospects land on respected 2019 Top 100 lists"