Friday, March 28, 2014

Ready for 2014? Well, it's almost "do-or-die time"!

The Phillies have finished their work in Florida and are set to take on the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park today (7:05 PM) and tomorrow (1:05 PM). I encourage you to go since there are many promotions/ give-a-ways and you can preview the ballpark’s revamped menu, primarily seen at Harry the K’s. At these games, the Phillies will audition two pitchers for the role of “April’s 5th Starter” (to commence on the 13th) and will be #6 on the depth chart when Hamels returns between April 20 & May 10, probably in April. Before I project the roster, let’s start with the end of Spring Training.

The Phillies did poorly overall in the Spring counting wins & losses, but Spring stats need to be taken with a grain of salt, especially for the veterans. There was improvement at the end of camp – 2-10-2 in 1st 14 games, 7-7-1 in last 15 – but the over-30-YO infielders, key pieces in 2014, showed little signs of improvement. What will be more telling is what happens in the first two weeks, and thanks to injuries, it’d be wise to wait until the end of the month before hitting the panic button. My thinking, however, is that the Phillies are not contenders in 2014 and will need to start unloading contracts in July, but let’s not unload too many players. I don’t want to see the Phillies join the Sixers in mediocrity.

Before I dive into the roster, there is one key component to 2014 that is different than 2013: coaching. We have a new manager in Sandberg who took Charlie Manuel’s guys and won half of their last 40 games played in 2013; now, he’s in control and doing a lot in the clubhouse and on the field (“Fundamentals!”). And he has two coaches new to the Phillies org. (John Mizerock (assist. hitting) & Bob McClure (pitching)). He also has a new tool to keep officiating in check – expanded instant replay. These factors are probably worth 3-6 “wins above replacement” (WAR - a replacement-level team wins 45-50 games) if evaluated like players. And with that said, it is time to preview the 2014 roster & an abbreviated depth chart.

Starting Line-Up (and age) – in fielding order (2-9): C Carlos Ruiz (34), 1B Ryan Howard (33), 2B Chase Utley (34), SS Jimmy Rollins (34), 3B Cody Asche (23), LF Dom Brown (25), CF Ben Revere (25), RF Marlon Byrd (35) - Avg. Age: 30.4

Starting Rotation: LHP Cliff Lee (34), RHP A.J. Burnett (37), LHP Cole Hamels (30) – DL, RHP Kyle Kendrick (28), RHP Roberto Hernandez (32) - Avg. Age: 32.2

Other Starters: Jeff Manship (invitee), Dave Buchannan (invitee), Jon Pettibone (DL), Ethan Martin (Long-Man – on DL), Miguel Gonzalez (60-Day DL), B.J. Rosenberg (Long-Man – on 40-Man), Jesse Biddle (Top Prospect), Adam Morgan (Prospect – Minor League DL)

Bullpen: RHP J. Papelbon (32, CL), LHP Antonio Bastardo (27), RHP Justin De Fratus (25), LHP Jake Deikman (26), RHP Brad Lincoln (28) - Avg. Age: 28.6 (incl. Adams)

Other Bullpen: RHP Mike Adams (34, DL), RHP Ken Giles (100-mph Prospect), RHP Phillipe Aumont, LHP Jeremy Horst, RHP Luis Garcia

Bench: C Wil Nieves (35); IF Cesar Hernandez (23); OF-1B John Mayberry, Jr. (29); OF Tony Gwynn Jr. (30) - Avg. Age: 26.5 (incl. DL & Franco)

Other Bench: IF Freddy Galvis (23, DL), LF-1B Darin Ruf (26, DL), IF Maikel Franco (20, Top Prospect); Catching Depth: Rupp, Joseph, Valle

Disabled List:
  • Cole Hamels (offseason shoulder tendinitis, late April)
  • Jon Pettibone (shoulder, mid-late April)
  • Ethan Martin (shoulder)
  • Miguel Gonzalez (shoulder, 60-Day)
  • Adam Morgan (shoulder surgery, minor league 60-Day DL)
  • Mike Adams (recovery from July shoulder surgery, mid-April)
  • Freddy Galvis (recovery from MRSA, late April)
  • Darin Ruf (oblique, mid-late April)

When Hamels, Adams, Ruf, and Galvis return, the whole team will see a boost. Hamels is our No. 1 starter; Adams was signed to be our RHP set-up man; Ruf provides the power off the bench; and Galvis provides the defense. Furthermore, Ruf can relieve Howard at 1B, and Galvis can relieve Rollins at SS later on in the season… something necessary but a task Manuel was unable/ unwilling to do.

Projected Payroll (season): $189MM – right up against the luxury tax threshold. So, it’s either stand pat (contenders) or sell (non-conteders) at the trade deadline.

My Projected W-L Record: slightly below .500 at ASG; near 81-81 (±7 wins)

Enjoy the season and go Phillies (hopefully)!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring Training Update: Start of Week Five

Good Monday morning to you & Happy St. Patrick's Day to those who celebrate! Here is this week's Phillies Spring Training Report and we have mostly good news to share regarding the offense & injured players. The good news does come with a few caveats, so be warned.

The Phillies have a 4-4-1 record since the win over the Astros on 3/8, but there's plenty of work to be done as the team's 5-12-2 spring record & yesterday's 5-0 shutout loss to the Pirates show. In that loss, only Brown, Byrd & Lee had solid performances. The recent success is welcome relief (pun not intended) and a lot of it can be attributed to Sandberg's tight camp. Besides ordering after-games drills, a big story last week is the riff between he and Jimmy Rollins.

After Rollins responded to a reporter's question about his & his team's poor offense this spring, Jimmy said "Who cares?" and goes onto say that Spring games don't really matter when the regular season starts. Well, that remark may have led to his benching for four games last week w/ his position at SS being filled by Galvis, who certainly seems to have the inside track to a bench job. What's notable in this case is the lack of communication between manager and shortstop... Sandberg didn't talk to Jimmy for three days. While this "bench-then-talk" approach is unusual but not uncommon, Manuel - who has benched J-Roll for lackluster efforts running to 1B - would have gone right to his players without hesitation. Sandberg is certainly showing that he won't be as lenient as Manuel, so those players better watch themselves even more so than during the 2nd half of last year.

A big story in my last post was the injuries to the starting rotation, which now includes Miguel Gonzalez... in addition to Hamels, Martin, & Pettibone. All injured players, including set-up man Mike Adams, have made nice progress last week with their throwing sessions. Unless these players have a[nother] set-back, they all seem to be headed for a return sometime in April, early May at the latest. Let's hope this doesn't change for the worst.

And one last item to mention is the start of minor league camp, with C Tommy Joseph; LHPs Jesse Biddle, Jeremy Horst & Cesar Jimenez; OFs Zach Collier & Tyson Gillies; RHP Ken Giles; and SS Andres Blanco joining Stutes, Garcia, Castro, Alther, & Dugan across the way in Carpenter Complex. Additional moves include releasing C Lou Marlson & bringing C Sebastian Valle back to major-league camp.

Well, that's all for now. Enjoy the rest of the week and I'll have another update for you circa this weekend.

Schedule of Games:
  • 1:05 PM Today vs. O's - green jerseys
  • 1:05 PM Wed @ Blue Jays
  • 1:05 PM Thursday (Split-squad) @ Astros & vs. Blue Jays
  • 1:05 PM Friday vs. Red Sox
  • 1:05 PM Saturday @ Pirates
  • 1:05 PM Sunday vs. Twins
  • 1:05 PM Monday @ Blue Jays
Please ncatcher Tommy Joseph, LHP Jeremy Horst, and outfielders Zach Collier and Tyson Gillies while re-assigning LHP Cesar Jimenez, RHP Ken Giles, and shortstop Andres Blanco. - See more at:
catcher Tommy Joseph, LHP Jeremy Horst, and outfielders Zach Collier and Tyson Gillies while re-assigning LHP Cesar Jimenez, RHP Ken Giles, and shortstop Andres Blanco. - See more at:
catcher Tommy Joseph, LHP Jeremy Horst, and outfielders Zach Collier and Tyson Gillies while re-assigning LHP Cesar Jimenez, RHP Ken Giles, and shortstop Andres Blanco. - See more at:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Spring Training Report I: 1st round of cuts and bad signs

We are halfway through Spring Training and we begin with the cuts as minor league camp opens up):
  • Optioned: RHPs Mike Stutes (recovery from shoulder injuries) & Luis Garcia
  • Non-roster invitees: OF Leandro Castro & C Sebastian Valle
  • 40-Man Roster: OFs Aaron Alther & Kelly Dugan
  • Potential DL Stints: Cole Hamels (tendinitis) & Mike Adams (surgery) due to shoulder injuries
Cole suffered a set-back in his recovery from off-season tendinitis preventing him from progressing to batting practice from bullpen sessions. He will be shut down (again) for about a week and a DL stint is all but certain for the $144MM lefty. This, of course, is not welcomed news, as the starting pitching depth has depleted; however, if Cole is able to make one or two Spring Training starts (minor or major league) without further set-backs, he should be on the team in mid-April. This leaves a rotation of Lee-Burnett-Kendrick-Hernandez out of camp until 4/13, when a five-man rotation is required (typical early-season off days). Then, if Hamels can't return, it will be three non-roster invitees competing for the 5th man, unless the Phillies sign someone else. Biddle will need to play in AAA even though I'd like to see him up here. Miguel Gonzalez is not doing well in games and will open the season in the minors. Let's hope Cole is back in mid-April.

These cuts, injuries, and development notes leave the Phillies with 48 in spring training (33 from the 40-man & 15 invitees) competing for 25 active spots although there are only about 7 spots open for the taking (1 starting pitcher for 4/13, 2-4 bullpen, & 2-3 bench). Fourteen are locks to make the 25-man and another 14 or so are competing for those ~7 spots. Should be an interesting three weeks.

Things are not off to a great start as far as Spring Training records go - only 1-2 wins in 6-8 games played. Now, a loosing record in ST is not always a bad omen for the regular season, but this team can ill-afford many bad signs given their age.

Right now, let's take the wait-and-see approach: perhaps things will be much brighter toward the end of March. But, I have a feeling my off-season predictions will be revised for worse come late March.

Have a great week everyone and Go Phillies!!!