Friday, November 6, 2015

Should Be An Interesting Mix Next Season!


Young Core Commitment – General manager Matt Klentak has spent his first 10 days with the Phillies meeting as many people as possible and learning as much as he can about the organization he hopes to return to World Series contention. Klentak said he feels pretty good about things heading into next week's GM Meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. "It has been a very busy 10 days, but it has been a super, super valuable 10 days," Klentak said Thursday. So what's the plan? "We really want to raise the floor and add some depth," Klentak said. "Kind of at every turn, that's what we're going to be focused on. And in the pitching department, I think we really need to work on just -- again, I say raise the floor -- but kind of establish sort of a firm foundation of pitching. That's not going to end when we break camp at the end of Spring Training. That's something we're going to be committed to for a long time." How it happens remains to be seen, but do not expect the Phillies to be the "mystery team" that swoops in to sign an ace to a $100 million contract at the last minute. Phillies president Andy MacPhail said in September that the club does not plan to pursue the biggest names in free agency this offseason. "There is some talent that we think is viable talent, but it needs to come percolate and demonstrate that it's real," MacPhail said of the young players in the organization. "And after that period, you might go forward. But do you really want to commit after you've just been in that pool and suffered from it? Do you really want to commit at this stage?" Phillies part-owner John Middleton reiterated that point during Klentak's introductory news conference Oct. 26. "I don't think you can buy a winner," Middleton said. "I think this will not come as any great shock, I don't view free agency as the way to build your club," Klentak added Thursday. "Good clubs, we just saw it in the playoffs this year, in the World Series this year. The core of the best clubs are built internally through the Draft, through savvy international signings, through signing key players to contract extensions and extending the club control. "Free agency is very useful to augment or supplement that core, but you know that is not where you're going to get the best bang for your buck from a value perspective. Sometimes circumstances dictate that's where you're going to go to get your players. Sometimes that will dictate where you want to shy away from. But if you want to fish in the deep end of the pond in free agency, you know that there's going to be more risk there. The burn factor is going to be higher. So you have to enter into free agency knowing that. It doesn't mean you shouldn't play in free agency or you should shy away from it at all times. You just have to go in knowing the realities." Klentak prefers not to trade any of the Phillies' young core to take a larger step forward in a couple years -- closer Ken Giles could fetch some talent, for example -- but he also will not completely dismiss the idea, either. "I try not to operate in absolutes if at all possible, because you never know," Klentak said. But first, Klentak has to know what he has. That is why he is asking a lot of questions and listening. That is why he is reading through player reports on his weekend cross-country flights from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, where his family lives at the moment. "We all have to know about our players," Klentak said. "It's really an important thing as we embark on trade discussions and free-agent discussions. We have to know what we have first, before we know what we need."

Haunted By 2008 – The Phillies admittedly turned the page too slowly on 2008, but the turnover is nearly complete. The only players remaining from their World Series championship team are Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz. Howard will make $25 million next season, which does not include a $10 million buyout on a 2017 club option. Ruiz will make $8.5 million, which does not include a $500,000 buyout on a 2017 club option. But will Howard and Ruiz be back, just because they are under contract? The Phillies have tried to trade Howard, but found no takers despite agreeing to pay almost the entirety of his contract. "They definitely fit into our plans for '16," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Thursday. "That's not a concern for me. But I never say never. I'm open to anything. I have so much respect for what Ryan and Chooch have done, and what they have meant to this city and franchise. At some point, frankly it could be next week, I'm going to sit down with their agents and talk to them. I don't know them as people. I want to understand sort of what their motivations are. But the question about, 'Can they exist on our roster next year?' Absolutely." Phillies manager Pete Mackanin turned Howard into a platoon player this past season, splitting his time at first base with Darin Ruf. Howard hit .229 with 29 doubles, one triple, 23 home runs, 77 RBIs and a .720 OPS in 129 games. He posted an .802 OPS against right-handed pitchers, which ranked 55th out of 140 qualified hitters in baseball. Howard posted a .418 OPS against left-handers, which is the ninth-lowest mark in baseball in the past 20 seasons (minimum 100 plate appearances against lefties). Ruf's 1.107 OPS against left-handers tied Nelson Cruz for the best in baseball (minimum 100 plate appearances against lefties). "I spent quite a bit of time with Pete last week [at the organizational meetings], and we talked about that among many other things," Klentak said about a Howard-Ruf platoon. "We will seek the best combination of players to find results. The strengths and the skill sets of the players will dictate how we utilize them." Klentak said he believes Howard can still hit effectively in the middle of the Phillies' lineup. He said Howard has earned the benefit of the doubt. "I'm a big believer in providing opportunities for players," Klentak said. "The players will let us know. We're not going to draw a conclusion over a couple of games or an at-bat, but if the circumstances of the performance dictate we make an adjustment, we will. I go into this with some degree of optimism ... and let's give players opportunities and if they fail to achieve, we'll adjust. But let's not adjust before we have to." But Klentak also has to prepare for the possibility that those players don't perform, or that they are unhappy in their future roles. Ruiz said late in the season he still views himself as the No. 1 catcher, although he acknowledged Cameron Rupp outplayed him. "If we're doing our jobs and communicating with players throughout the process, I think that goes a long way towards minimizing issues," Klentak said. "If everybody understands where each party is coming from -- that doesn't mean everybody has to agree with it -- but as long as people understand and are open and honest about it, I think that is probably the biggest thing I've learned over time. "You can't fool the players -- they know. You can't fool the media -- they know. You can't fool the fans. So being open and honest with the plans and what the intentions are, I think, is often the best medicine."

Fall Star Game Preview – On any given day this fall, fans can head to an Arizona Fall League game and see some of the best talent Minor League Baseball has to offer. On Saturday, the AFL gives everyone the chance to do some one-stop shopping, courtesy of the 10th annual Fall Stars Game. The game, which starts at 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on MLB Network and streamed live on, features the best of the best in the prospect world. With seven members of's Top 100 Prospects list and a total of 37 players on their team's Top 30 lists, it's the Fall League version of the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. "It'll be a whole lot of fun," said Mets first baseman Dominic Smith, the Mets' No. 5 prospect (No. 92 overall) who was one of two first basemen named on Monday to the East Division squad. "This league is so good. Every day I step on the field, it's like an All-Star Game. You see the most elite Minor Leaguers every game. I feel like the Fall Stars Game will be a lot of fun. I'm excited to play in it." Mariners’ first baseman D.J. Peterson, who is on the West Division team, will be playing in his second straight Fall Stars Game. The M's No. 3 prospect is very much looking forward to another chance to show what he can do on a national stage. "I'm very excited to represent the Mariners," said Peterson, who went 0-for-2 in last year's contest. "Doing it two years in a row, I'm hoping I can get something more out of it. It's great to get to interact with all the guys from other teams." Cardinals right-hander Alex Reyes is the highest-ranked player in this year's game, and the No. 16 prospect has peformed well, striking out 14 batters over 15 innings, despite a shaky outing that pushed his ERA on the season to 3.60 over four starts. Pirates outfielder Austin Meadows is the highest-ranked hitter (No. 22) in the game, followed by fellow Georgia high school 2013 first-round pick Clint Frazier (No. 35) of the Indians. Smith, Daniel Robertson of the Rays (No. 79) and the Rockies' Raimel Tapia (No. 99) round out the Top 100 representatives. As part of the Arizona Fall League's Final Two Fan Vote, Cubs No. 20 prospect Jeimer Candelario and Brewers No. 18 prospect Yadiel Rivera were added to the rosters. For the first time, fans were able to select a 26th player for each Fall Stars team. This year's rosters are chock full of former first-round picks, with eight taken in the opening round of the Draft. The list, which doesn't include supplemental first-rounders or those taken under the new rules in the Competitive Balance Rounds, is led by six selections from the first round of the 2013 Draft. Last year's game not only featured top-level talent, but it served as a crystal ball into who some of the impact rookies in the big leagues this past season would be. The Dodgers' Corey Seager, the Indians' Francisco Lindor, the Braves' Jace Peterson, the Twins' Eddie Rosario, the Yankees' Greg Bird (the AFL MVP a year ago), the D-backs' Archie Bradley and the Cubs' C.J. Edwards all played in the 2014 edition of the Fall Stars and all made contributions -- some larger than others -- to their parent club during this past regular season. "I'm sure this year's roster will have guys who'll make that jump and play in the big leagues next year," Smith said. "It tells me what's possible. If you keep playing hard, anything is possible." Smith has been one of the better performers in the AFL this season, hitting .400/.542/.571 over his first 35 at-bats. While Smith won't be one of those guys who jumps from the Fall Stars Game right to the big leagues, this experience is clearly getting him ready for the jump out of Class A ball to the upper levels. "I'm just trying to keep it pretty simple," Smith said. "Work counts, swing at good pitches. When you swing at good pitches, good things happen. I'm trying to show I can perform at this level. "This experience is definitely preparing me for Double-A and beyond. A lot of guys in this league will be in the big leagues next year and beyond. I'll be facing these guys in the future for sure. Playing against the competition of the future, getting to compete with them now, it's making me a lot more comfortable going into next season." D.J. Peterson also feels more comfortable, especially compared to a year ago, when he struggled in the AFL. More energized this fall, Peterson has rediscovered his joy for the game. Like Smith, he's trying to keep things simple -- something he hopes will help him in the Fall Stars Game, when the natural inclination might be to try to do something special. "I feel like this year, the mindset is completely different," Peterson said. "I just want to go out and have fun. That's what I've been doing every day here. "I think you keep your same approach in the Fall Stars Game -- try to see something [over the] middle part of the plate and put a good swing on it and do some damage. The guys in this game are really good, so if you miss that pitch, they're going to get you."

The Phillies finally put an end to the season finishing in last place in the NL East with a record of 63-99. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances, this has ended up being one of the worst seasons in franchise history! However, at least Ryan Madson got another ring this year.

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