Friday, April 1, 2016

The Future Takes A Beating

EXHIBITION GAME RECAP: Phillies Pound Prospects 19-4

The Phillies looked like a Major League baseball team last night… at least when playing against their top prospects. While there wasn’t much to note about the pitching performances across the board, the offense definitely put on a show in Reading with the major leaguers hitting 8 homeruns while the prospects notching a respectable 3 bombs (including a long ball from top prospect JP Crawford). In all the MLB players had 21 hits including 9 extra base hits. It should definitely be an interesting season for both teams.

  • The Phillies are 15-10-3 this spring with one game left against a Major League opponent. And while manager Pete Mackanin recognizes that Spring Training results don't count for much, he thinks having a winning record was important for a team that lost 99 games in 2015. "For the Philadelphia Phillies, I think it was very important," he said. "Spring Training, it doesn't always matter. But for us it's important to carry that positive attitude into the regular season."
  • The Phillies wore caps on Thursday with patches commemorating the 50th anniversary of Reading being affiliated with the franchise.

The Phillies return to Citizens Bank Park for the first time this season to play an exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles. This will be the last major league matchup before the regular season begins on Monday night and the final chance for many to make the roster.


What Does The Future Hold? – One of the most popular questions for Phillies executives this spring is how quickly they can rebuild. They will find out this year, and they will be happy with what they see. "What we're going to find out this year more than anything is what kind of track we're on," Phillies president Andy MacPhail said earlier this spring. "Are we on a fast track? Are we on a medium track? Are we on a slow track?" Here is a bold prediction for the Phillies: They will finish the season on the fast track, putting themselves on the cusp of the postseason, much like the Cubs and Astros in 2014 prior to those clubs making the playoffs last season. Maikel Franco will play like one of the best third basemen in baseball, becoming a trendy pick for the 2017 National League MVP Award. Odubel Herrera will hit better than .300, making the former Rule 5 Draft pick the envy of every team in need of a No. 2 hitter. Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez might not be Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, but they will prove capable of challenge the throne. But the Phils know they need more than the young players on their Opening Day roster to get back. They need their prospects to play well, too. They will. The Phillies have seven of the top 100 prospects in baseball, according to, which is more than any other team: shortstop J.P. Crawford (fifth), right-hander Jake Thompson (55th), outfielder Nick Williams (64th), right-hander Mark Appel (70th), outfielder Cornelius Randolph (84th), catcher Jorge Alfaro (96th) and outfielder Roman Quinn (99th). A skeptical fan will point to any top 100 list and recall that Domonic Brown was once the top prospect in baseball. OK, so what? Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell and Scott Rolen appeared on Baseball America's top 100 lists, too. Much like the Phils' prospects of the late 1990s and early 2000s, most of their current top prospects will hit. Thompson and Williams will be the first two in the big leagues. Crawford and Quinn will be there before the end of the season. "There's a lot of talent in this organization," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. "Not all of it is polished and going to impact the team on Opening Day this year, but there's a lot of good players in the big leagues and in the upper levels of our system and some exciting players in the lower levels. I'm encouraged that so much that I have heard about prior to my arrival and then this offseason really does appear to be true."

Is Part Of The Future In The Past? – On a weekend when the Phillies are showcasing the best and the brightest of their farm system, Tommy Joseph is a blast from the past. You remember Joseph. The guy who was acquired, with considerable fanfare, from the Giants as part of the Hunter Pence trade at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in 2012. The guy who was expected to be the catcher of the future. The guy who then suffered a series of concussions, was taken off the big league roster and largely dropped out of sight. Joseph entered Thursday night's exhibition game at first base in the top of the sixth and walked in his only at-bat of the Phillies' 19-4 win over the Futures Team at FirstEnergy Stadium. But the fact that Joseph was included on the Futures roster says a lot. And player development director Joe Jordan said even more before the game when asked about his most pleasant surprise of the spring. "If you could have seen Tommy Joseph the last two weeks of Spring Training, it's the first time we've really been able to see him healthy," Jordan said. "He's just been really good offensively. He had some vision deficits due to the concussion stuff he went through that was addressed last fall and over the winter. Offensively, he looks like the guy we traded for three years ago. So he's been a big surprise." Joseph has averaged just 40 games played each of the past three seasons. He said the biggest key to his renewed success is simply that he's been healthy. "I think that's definitely got a lot to do with it," Joseph said. "Last year, I came into camp pretty heavy, too, so I tried to take care of myself a little better this winter. Lost a few pounds, put myself in a better position. And just came in with a positive mindset." Joseph said the transition to first base has gone well, although he still misses catching. But all the concussions -- Joseph thinks there were five, but he can't recall exactly -- and the wrist surgery dictated a change of positions. And that could turn out to be for the best. Two of the Phillies' better prospects, Andrew Knapp and Jorge Alfaro, are now catchers. Meanwhile, Ryan Howard's contract is set to expire at the end of the season and there is no heir apparent waiting in line. "Really, just being able to play every day is the opportunity I'm looking for," Joseph said. "Obviously we've got [Darin Ruf] and he's a pretty good ballplayer, too. He's done a lot of damage over the past few years. So I wouldn't say the job is completely up for grabs. And Howie's still here and he's a great player, too. So until that comes around…" Joseph, 24, may have turned a corner. But he knows he's not all the way back yet. "I've still got a lot left to prove," he said. "I haven't played that much over the last few years. I've got to get out on the field and get back to playing every day. And I'm excited about that this year."
Did You See That? - Ben Revere and the Phillies entered the annals of baseball history when they were involved in the first use of expanded replay. Almost as unbelievable was the productivity that the Phillies got from Rico Brogna following his debut with the team in 1997. 

The Phillies have an impressive record this spring… 15-10-3 (17-10-3 if you include the exhibition games against Reading and the University of Tampa). With the Phillies having finished the 2015 season with a spectacularly awful record of 63-99 it will be interesting to see what kind of team new President Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak put on the field. At the same time I am definitely looking forward to the games against Boston with former GM Ruben Amaro on the field. Given the departures, lingering contracts, a history of injuries, bipolar performances, and unproven talent, it should, at the very least, be an interesting season for the Phillies. Who knows, maybe they can avoid 100 losses... hopefully by more than one game!

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