Archive for Phillies

Sunday Notes: Red Sox Prospect Mike Shawaryn Bebops, Blows Away Hitters

Mike Shawaryn hadn’t put much thought into it. Finger pressure is instrumental in his success, both as a pitcher and as a musician, but how the two intertwine isn’t a subject he’d addressed. Not until I broached the subject this winter.

A 22-year-old right-hander out of the University of Maryland, Shawaryn is one of the top prospects in the Red Sox system (Baseball America has him No. 8; Eric Longenagen expects to rank him similarly when he puts together his forthcoming Red Sox list). Displaying a power arsenal, he fanned 169 batters in 134-and-two-thirds innings last year between low-A Greenville and high-A Salem.

When he’s not blowing away hitters, Shawaryn is playing the piano and the saxophone — and he’s a neophyte with neither. Boston’s pick in the fifth round of the 2016 draft has been tickling the ivories and blowing on a sax ever since his elementary school days in South Jersey.

Both instruments require dexterous fingers. Ditto pitching, where you’re gripping and releasing an object whose movement is influenced by the placement of digits on seams. Is there a direct correlation?

“I’ve never really thought about it like that, but the feel of the ball in your hand is obviously important,” Shawaryn said after first contemplating the idea. “Now, kind of connecting the dots, I’d say it’s the piano more so than the saxophone. The pressure you put on the keys determines the sound of it, the shape of the music. That’s probably helped me develop a type of feel in my fingers for the seams on the ball — what fingers I need to put pressure on to influence the shape of a pitch.”

And then there are rhythm and tempo. Pitchers change speeds within an at bat, and musicians change speeds within a song. Read the rest of this entry »


Job Posting: Phillies Affiliates Video Coaching Representatives and TrackMan Operators

The Phillies are currently hiring Video Coaching Representatives and TrackMan Operators across multiple affiliate locations.

Position: Video Coaching Representative

Position Overview
Oversee the daily Video Coaching operations at assigned minor league affiliate. Duties will include, but not be limited to, filming and logging home and road games and assisting in daily instructional film sessions with coaches, players, and staff. Representative will also be asked to take part in daily IT assistance within the Video Coaching department and may have the opportunity to contribute in other operational areas including sports science, advance scouting, and analytics as needed.

Essential Duties

  • Open and oversee operations of Video Coaching room on a daily basis
  • Be able to operate, troubleshoot, and support IP cameras, computer networks, and hard drives Film and accurately log all home and road games using BATS video system
  • Upload all logged games to the Phillies Video FTP server in Philadelphia
  • Assist with daily video viewing sessions between Phillies coaching staff and players
  • Film bullpens, batting practices, and workouts based on requests by Phillies coaches and staff Provide regular status reports to Video Coaching staff in Philadelphia and Clearwater
  • Assist with sports science, advance scouting, and analytics initiatives as needed

Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s Degree or currently enrolled college student
  • Must be technology savvy and possess strong knowledge of computers, computer networking, and storage
  • Previous experience working with BATS video system is preferred
  • Previous experience working in a baseball clubhouse is preferred
  • Must possess strong knowledge of the game of baseball
  • Must be detail-oriented and well-organized
  • Must be able to interact professionally with players, coaches, front office personnel and medical/training staff
  • Must be able to work flexible hours, including nights, weekends and holidays
  • Must possess strong work ethic
  • Must be a team player with strong oral and written communication skills
  • Must be active, quick-thinking, and a good technology troubleshooter

Physical Demands and Working Conditions
Must be able to stand and walk in hot conditions for long periods of time.

Position: TrackMan Operator

Position Overview
Log all home games at assigned minor league affiliate using the TrackMan Baseball Analysis software. Operator may have the opportunity to contribute in other operational areas as needed, including sports science equipment maintenance and management.

Essential Duties

  • Accurately log all home games of assigned affiliate using TrackMan Baseball Analysis software
  • Operate and troubleshoot computer networks
  • Upload all logged games to the Phillies TrackMan server in Philadelphia
  • Assist with daily analysis between Phillies coaching staff and players
  • Assist with special requests from Phillies Minor League Video Coordinator/Phillies Baseball Operations Offices
  • Provide regular status reports to Minor League Video Coordinator in Clearwater

Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s Degree or currently enrolled college student
  • Must be technology savvy and possess strong knowledge of computers, computer networking, and storage
  • Previous experience working with TrackMan software is preferred
  • Previous experience working in a baseball clubhouse is preferred
  • Must possess strong knowledge of the game of baseball
  • Must be detail-oriented and well-organized
  • Must be able to interact professionally with players, coaches, front office personnel, and medical/training staff
  • Must be able to work flexible hours including nights, weekends and holidays
  • Must possess strong work ethic
  • Must be a team player with strong oral and written communication skills

Location Information
The Phillies intend to hire one Video Coaching Representative and one TrackMan Operator for each of the following locations, with the exception of the GCL teams in Clearwater, where they will hire two Video Coaching Representatives (one for each GCL team):

  • Allentown, PA (AAA)
  • Reading, PA (AA)
  • Clearwater, FL (Class A Advanced)
  • Lakewood, NJ (Class A)
  • Williamsport, PA (Short Season)
  • Clearwater, FL (Rookie)

All positions run from mid-March through the end of their respective minor league season, with the exception of Williamsport, which will begin in mid-June, and the Clearwater TrackMan position, which begins in late February.

To Apply
To apply, candidates should send their resume and cover letter to JLipman@Phillies.com with either “Video Coaching Representative” or “TrackMan Operator” in the subject line, along with their affiliate preference if they have one. The team will begin reviewing applications immediately.

The Phillies is an Equal Opportunity Employer.


Let’s Find a Home for Mike Moustakas

In this slowest of markets, one of the players who might be most adversely affected is Mike Moustakas.

Some thought it was possible, as the offseason began, that Moustakas might receive a $100-million deal this winter. Not only was he a third baseman who’d just authored a 38-homer season, but he was also still on the right side of 30. Of course, that sort of deal hasn’t emerged. It seems increasingly unlikely to emerge with each day.

Dave predicted a five-year, $95-million pact for Moustakas. The crowd predicted a five-year deal, as well, for $10 million fewer overall. Neither option seems probable at the moment: no free agent to date has secured more than a three-year contract, and there hasn’t been much reported interested in Moustakas.

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POLL: What Kind of Team Do You Want to Root For?

I noticed an underlying theme in both pieces I’ve written since coming back, along with many others written this offseason at FanGraphs. If you are a fan of a small- or medium-market team that will never spend to the luxury-tax line and thus always be at a disadvantage, do you want your team to try to always be .500 or better, or do you want them push all the chips in the middle for a smaller competitive window? In my stats vs. scouting article I referenced a progressive vs. traditional divide, which was broadly defined by design, but there are often noticeable differences in team-building strategies from the two overarching philosophies, which I will again illustrate broadly to show the two contrasting viewpoints.

The traditional clubs tend favor prospects with pedigree (bonus or draft position, mostly), with big tools/upside and the process of team-building is often to not push the chips into the middle (spending in free agency, trading prospects) until the core talents (best prospects and young MLB assets) have arrived in the big leagues and have established themselves. When that window opens, you do whatever you can afford to do within reason to make those 3-5 years the best you can and, in practice, it’s usually 2-3 years of a peak, often followed directly by a tear-down rebuild. The Royals appear to have just passed the peak stage of this plan, the Braves hope their core is established in 2019 and the Padres may be just behind the Braves (you could also argue the old-school Marlins have done this multiple times and are about to try again now).

On the progressive side, you have a more conservative, corporate approach where the club’s goal is to almost always have a 78-92 win team entering Spring Training, with a chance to make the playoffs every year, never with a bottom-ten ranked farm system, so they are flexible and can go where the breaks lead them. The valuation techniques emphasize the analytic more often, which can sometimes seem superior and sometimes seem foolish, depending on the execution. When a rare group of talent and a potential World Series contender emerges, the progressive team will push some chips in depending on how big the payroll is. The Rays have a bottom-five payroll and can only cash in some chips without mortgaging multiple future years, whereas the Indians and Astros are higher up the food chain and can do a little more when the time comes, and have done just that.

What we just saw in Pittsburgh (and may see soon in Tampa Bay) is what happens when a very low-payroll team sees a dip coming (controllable talent becoming uncontrolled soon) and doesn’t think there’s a World Series contender core, so they slide down toward the bottom end of that win range so that in a couple years they can have a sustainable core with a chance to slide near the top of it, rather than just tread water. Ideally, you can slash payroll in the down years, then reinvest it in the competing years (the Rays has done this in the past) to match the competitive cycle and not waste free-agent money on veterans in years when they are less needed. You could argue many teams are in this bucket, with varying payroll/margin for error: the D’Backs, Brewers, Phillies, A’s and Twins, along with the aforementioned Rays, Pirates, Indians and Astros.

Eleven clubs were over $175 million in payroll for the 2017 season (Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, Giants, Nationals, Rangers, Orioles, Cubs, Angels), so let’s toss those teams out and ask fans of the other 19 clubs: if forced to pick one or the other, which of these overarching philosophies would you prefer to root for?


Are the Phillies Spending Wisely?

Carlos Santana could have a good season for a weak Phillies club in 2018. (Photo: Keith Allison)

As Craig Edwards noted closer to the start of this offseason, the Phillies have a lot of money to spend. Edwards estimated that Philadelphia entered the winter with approximately $70 million in payroll space, trailing only a rebuilding Tigers club that is unlikely to invest as much in its major-league roster as in recent years. While the Phillies have also been in a rebuilding period in recent years, they believe they are on the ascent.

Earlier this offseason, I attempted to better understand when the Phillies might begin to spend and what type of spending might make sense in free agency for the club. While the Phillies are likely to keep significant spending power in reserve until next offseason to court the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, I thought some buying might make sense this offseason. Namely, this author thought it would behoove the club to target either some of the top free agents under 30 years old (like Tyler Chatwood, for example) and/or to explore two-year deals for talented arms like Michael Pineda and Drew Smyly — that is, pitchers coming off injury who wouldn’t benefit the club much in 2018 but could provide returns in 2019.

I closed with this:

The Phillies likely have their eye on spending next offseason, but there could be some opportunity this winter, too, for a team with about as much spending power as any club. At some point, they’ll need to use it.

Indeed, Philadelphia has started to use it considerable payroll space. They’ve just done it in a curious way.

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Carlos Santana Makes It a Crowd in Philly

Santana’s combination of power and patience are likely to age well over the next three years.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

Carlos Santana is trading Polish Boys for cheesesteaks, looks like, agreeing this afternoon on a three-year, $60 million deal (with an option for a fourth, at $17.5 million) to join the Phillies. The deal probably makes sense from a money standpoint, and Santana is a really good switch-hitting slugger with power and patience, but… does it make sense from the Phillies’ perspective?

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Phillies Add Carlos Santana, Strange Fit

Well, this is unexpected.

I’ve argued all winter that Santana was going to do a lot better than the 3/$45M the crowd projected for him, and put him at #1 on my Free Agent Bargains post, as I thought the expectations of what he would sign for were just too low. And obviously the Phillies agreed, pushing up to the same deal the Indians gave Edwin Encarnacion last winter. 3/$60M is a perfectly fair price for what Santana is, and might still actually be a good deal.

But there’s no way around this; the fit in Philly is weird and doesn’t really make sense. Santana is a short-term value, a guy who can help a team win right now, but probably won’t age extremely well. We currently have the Phillies projected for 74 wins. Santana doesn’t push them into playoff position.

And given that they already have Rhys Hoskins at first base and a crowded outfield, it’s not actually clear where Santana is going to play, or if the redistribution of talent to get him in their line-up will be a significant improvement. They could stick Santana at third, I guess, but he was horrible there, and Cleveland pulling the plug on that experiment should be a red flag if that’s the plan.

If it’s not the plan, then Hoskins is probably headed back to the outfield, a position they didn’t think he could play last year, which is why he spent four months in Triple-A destroying minor league pitching. And while he might be better than expected out there, he’s probably not going to be good, and he’d displace either Aaron Altherr or Nick Williams, both of whom look somewhat interesting.

So, yeah, I don’t know. Carlos Santana is good. This price is fine, and maybe even a bargain. Every contender with an opening at first base should have been in on this. The Phillies aren’t a contender and didn’t have a need at first base, so now this is going to force other things to happen, and unless those other things are turning one of their OFs into a super valuable pitcher, I’m not sure this actually makes them much better.

It’s impossible to judge this until we know the plan. But that we don’t know the plan makes this a little bit weird right now.


2018 ZiPS Projections – Philadelphia Phillies

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Philadelphia Phillies. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
Last year at this time, corner type Rhys Hoskins (641 PA, 3.6 zWAR) was assessed a 45 FV (the future-value grade of a platoon or utility type) in Eric Longenhagen’s audit of the organization and was omitted entirely from the top-10 lists published by Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. Following impressive performances at both Triple-A and in the majors, however, he now receives the top WAR projection among position players in the organization.

Hoskins is the only hitter forecast to record an above-average batting line (125 wRC+) for Philadelphia in 2018. That said, ZiPS calls for Maikel Franco (615 PA, 1.9 zWAR), Freddy Galvis (621, 2.0), Cesar Hernandez (579, 1.7), and Odubel Herrera (612, 2.9) all to produce a sufficient combination of offensive and defensive value to record wins at a roughly average rate.

The club’s greatest weakness appears to be at catcher, where Andrew Knapp (380, 0.7) and Cameron Rupp (340, 0.8) both fail to clear the one-win threshold. Prospect Jorge Alfaro (448, 0.1) was productive in 100-plus plate appearances and has no options remaining, both of which make him a candidate for the 25-man roster. His total lack of plate discipline, however — he’s projected for walk and strikeout rates of 3.8% and 34.2%, respectively — puts a lot of pressure on the other aspects of his game.

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New Phillie Tommy Hunter Got Raysed

I get it — many relievers aren’t that exciting. There’s the highest tier, and then there’s all the rest, and it can be hard to tell which among the rest are really and truly good. This time of year, seemingly dozens of adequate relievers find new teams, and they always have their various upsides. They all seem okay, which means few of them stand out. No one pays close attention to the winter meetings to see who’ll get a new option for the seventh or eighth inning.

But, look. According to reports, Tommy Hunter is signing a two-year contract with the Phillies. Now, one notable thing is that the Phillies are not good. They’re not good, and yet they’re signing Hunter, to go with their signing of Pat Neshek. Might as well do something. Nobody wants a terrible bullpen. Hunter isn’t in the Kenley Jansen tier, and he’s not thought of as being close to Wade Davis. It’s very possible you didn’t even realize Hunter just appeared in 61 major-league games with the Rays. It was quiet. But Hunter brought his game up to a new level. As a reliever in 2017, Tommy Hunter was legitimately great.

This gets to the core of what I mean. Behold Hunter’s career year-by-year walk and strikeout rates.

Hunter has always thrown hard. His fastball rides in around 96, and, if you can believe it, he throws something resembling a cutter that averages 94. Hunter has never before been on the major-league disabled list with an arm injury. His arm has always been good, and this past season, Hunter best put it to use. Among relievers, he ranked in the 89th percentile in wOBA allowed, by names like Brad Hand and Raisel Iglesias. Even better, by Baseball Savant’s expected wOBA allowed, he ranked in the 97th percentile. Behind Roberto Osuna, and in front of Mike Minor. Hunter, you could say, broke out, and from the sounds of things, he went and got Raysed.

One thing the Rays did was have Hunter throw fewer and fewer four-seam fastballs.

Hunter leaned more often on his cutter, especially against lefties, and partially as a consequence, you can see a distinct change in Hunter’s overall pitch pattern. Below, on the left, you see where Hunter threw his pitches from 2014 through 2016. On the right, you have 2017.

Hunter stayed away against righties, and he stayed in against lefties. Armed with good command, Hunter was able to use his curveball off of that arm-side cutter, and lefties slugged just .261. Righties didn’t fare a whole lot better, so, when you combine everything, Hunter was a hard-throwing strikeout reliever who could retire opponents on both sides of the plate.

What Brandon Morrow had going for him, Hunter basically had, too, and Hunter is younger, with a better record of health. It’s a little strange, therefore, to see Hunter sign with a team unlikely to feature in the race, but then, every team wants late-inning stability, and obviously there’s the trade consideration down the road. It’s possible Hunter was met with some industry skepticism; teams might not have known whether Hunter could stay so successful as part of another, non-Rays organization. Now the Phillies will give him some dozens of innings, if everything goes well, and then if Hunter looks more or less the same, he’ll be in great July demand. Power pitchers who throw strikes in big situations are limited in number, and every team at the deadline wants a deeper bullpen.

There’s nothing unique here about the Phillies’ approach. Bad teams have long looked to flip relievers midseason. Hunter is the real story, looking like a potential shutdown setup guy a year after settling for a minor-league contract. All he needed was a handful of pointers from his handlers in Tampa Bay. The rest of it was all up to him.


Pat Neshek Returns to the Phillies

Last fall, the Phillies purchased Pat Neshek from the Astros and exercised his $6.5 million option. He was easily their best reliever, and then he netted the team three prospects at the trade deadline. Now he’s back — for two years and $16.5 million (and a $500k trade kicker this time!) as Ken Rosenthal is reporting — and the Phillies hope he can continue his good work for the team.

Last year’s production was a high water mark for the pitcher, thanks to a change in philosophy against lefties, perhaps. He had his best career numbers against southpaws last year, thanks to a shift in his use of the slider. He not only used it more against lefties than he had since his first full year in the league, but he also varied its location better.

Take a look at his slider locations to lefties in 2016 (left), when they hit for a .379 wOBA against him, and then those locations in 2017 (right), when they hit for a .261 wOBA against him.

Wait a second. The bad year is the one where he located the slider to two spots and mixed it up. Last year he was awesome against lefties, and he basically threw it a ton and down the middle against them. Weird.

No matter. Against righties, Neshek has been consistently great. He has the sixth-best wOBA against right-handed hitters over the last five years.

Maybe he’ll only be dominant against righties, and then be traded again. That’ll be just fine.


Which Team Can Keep Shohei Ohtani the Healthiest?

When Travis Sawchick asked you which question was most important on Shohei Ohtani‘s questionnaire, you answered overwhelmingly that the team capable of keeping him healthy — or of convincing Ohtani that they’d keep him healthy — would win out. Travis went on to use a metric, Roster Resource’s “Roster Effect” rating, to get a sense of which team that might be. The Brewers, Cubs, Pirates, and Tigers performed best by that measure.

Of course, that’s just one way of answering the question. Health is a tough thing to nail down. To figure out which team is capable of keeping Ohtani the healthiest, it’s worth considering the possible implications of health in baseball. Roster Effect, for example, considers the quality of the player and seems to be asking: which rosters were affected the most by poor health? That’s one way of approaching it. Let’s try a few others and see who comes out on top.

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When Will the Phillies Spend?

Few teams could add Giancarlo Stanton as easily as the Phillies. (Photo: Corn Farmer)

Last week at the site, Craig Edwards attempted to estimate each club’s free-agent spending power for the offseason. The task is a difficult one. Because major-league clubs aren’t tax-funded public institutions, one can’t simply file a Freedom of Information Act request to view each team’s finances. It’s necessary, therefore, to use a club’s past payroll figures as a guide to the future.

One of the most interesting results from Edwards’ exercise concerns the Phillies. By Edwards’ methodology, Philadelphia has about $70 million available to spend this offseason, trailing only the rebuilding Tigers in that regard. They might even have more potential spending power than that: despite residing in one of the largest markets in the country, the Phillies have only an estimated $37 million in projected salary after arbitration.

The Phillies, like a host of teams, have been connected to Giancarlo Stanton this offseason. That makes some sense, as they could easily take on Stanton’s contract. The Phillies could add Stanton and still have another $40-plus million to add additional help and try and accelerate their return to competitiveness.

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Hoskins, Castillo, and Quantity vs Quality in Awards Voting

Last night, the Rookie of the Year awards were announced, with Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge getting every first place vote in their respective league, as expected. The rest of the ballots were more interesting, with plenty of options for second and third place in both leagues. Eno posted his NL ROY ballot last night, explaining why he went with Rhys Hoskins and Paul Dejong as his post-Bellinger votes.

I also had an NL ROY ballot this year, but it differed from what Eno turned in, and in fact, differed from what everyone else turned in too. I was the only voter to include Reds RHP Luis Castillo on a ballot, as I put him third behind Bellinger and Dejong, leaving off Hoskins, among others. And while I know down-ballot Rookie of the Year voting isn’t the most exciting thing going on right now, I think it is useful to use that vote as a way to think about how we balance quantity and quality when determining past value.

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A National League Rookie of the Year Ballot

Congratulations to Cody Bellinger for winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award! While I’m actually writing this post before the award is announced, the case for Bellinger is pretty clear — no National League rookie had a bat like his while playing in so many games. As a bonus, Bellinger also recorded strong numbers on the basepaths and became one of 12 first basemen to add four or more games in center field since free agency began in 1974. Using a swing that the Dodgers helped him build, he hit the third-most home runs in a rookie season, ever. Bellinger had a top-20 rookie season over that time span in the National League and deserves his award for regular-season excellence.

But, as a member of the Baseball Writers Association, I had the benefit and honor of fulling out a full ballot for this award, not just one name. It’s down the ballot where things got difficult. It’s down the ballot where I began to wonder how much the future matters when believing the past. It’s down the ballot where I hemmed and hawed, considering the qualities of players as differently excellent as Luis Castillo, Paul DeJong, and Rhys Hoskins.

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What I Loved About Roy Halladay

When a baseball player dies, as Roy Halladay did yesterday, it can be difficult to know what to say. I never met Roy Halladay. I don’t have any personal anecdotes to share or any insight into who he was as a person. I don’t know his family. I only knew him through the television, when I watched him work. And you can’t really know a person that way.

The people that really did know Roy Halladay seemed enamored of him. In awe of him, not just as a player, but as a person. In the last 24 hours, the universal reaction within the baseball community has been that the game lost not just a guy who was great at pitching, but an ambassador for the sport. The stories that have emerged are both heartbreaking and inspiring. Stories like Jayson Werth‘s:

“For a guy that was very serious, quiet and reserved, I can remember it like it was yesterday, the look on his face to see us waiting for him to celebrate together,” Werth said. “He loved the game but played for his teammates, for us to love him back like that you could tell it meant a lot. I’d never seen him so genuinely happy. I’ll never forget the expression on his face.”

I never got to see that Roy Halladay. Most of us probably don’t have that kind of connection with him, but yet, there is still the natural desire to mourn. For most of us, Roy Halladay wasn’t really part of our lives anymore, but it still feels like we lost something. So, today, while acknowledging that our loss cannot compare to the sort endured by those who knew him in a more personal way, I’d like to honor the Roy Halladay I did know.

This guy.

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Sunday Notes: Tigers Prospect Isaac Paredes Loves to Hit

The Detroit Tigers are in full rebuild mode, and Isaac Paredes projects as a big part of their future. His bat is the primary reason why. Despite an August swoon that caused his numbers to plummet, the 18-year-old shortstop finished the season with a .725 OPS. Given that he was one of the youngest players in the Midwest League, that’s not exactly chicken soup.

Paredes was acquired by the Tigers, along with Jeimer Candelario, in the trade-deadline deal that sent Alex Avila and Justin Wilson to the Cubs, and the news threw him for a loop. When I talked a him a week and a half later, the Hermosillo, Mexico native admitted to having been shocked and not particularly pleased. His initial thought was “this is something bad.”

Once his head stopped spinning, his attitude shifted to “this is a good thing.” Paredes realized he was going to an organization that would be relying heavily on players just like himself. Read the rest of this entry »


Clayton Kershaw Allowed a Grand Slam

Give it enough chances and baseball will make you look bad, because at the end of the day, baseball’s a fair game, sufficiently fair that everyone is bound to think it isn’t every once in a while. Baseball can be mean to players at the bottom of the roster, sure, but baseball can also be mean to, say, Miguel Cabrera. It can be mean to Mike Trout! And it can be mean to Clayton Kershaw. Monday evening, it made Kershaw look bad in the blink of an eye.

In his career, when the bases have been loaded, Kershaw hasn’t been perfect. Baseball makes it impossible to be perfect. Kershaw had allowed bases-loaded hits. He’d allowed a bases-loaded double, five times. He’d issued a bases-loaded walk, six times. Once, Kershaw was responsible for a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch. Another time, he was responsible for a bases-loaded balk. For good measure, there was also once a bases-loaded wild pitch. Even before Monday, with the bases loaded, Kershaw had made mistakes. But he’d never allowed a home run. When Kershaw woke up Monday morning, he didn’t know how it felt to give up a big-league grand slam. When he went to bed, it was probably all he could think about.

Aaron Altherr. Officially, Aaron Altherr is the reason Kershaw can’t ever catch up to Jim Palmer.

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Rhys Hoskins Looks All Kinds Of Awesome

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about why Rhys Hoskins‘ early process should give Phillies fans a reason for real excitement. His combination of frequently hitting the ball in the air while still making above-average contact is the foundation for high-level offensive production.

At that point, though, Hoskins had just 47 plate appearances in the Majors. Anyone can have a good 47 plate appearances, so I tried to emphasize that the results of his first 10 or so games shouldn’t have changed your opinion of Hoskins much. There were encouraging signs in the approach, and other hitters with similar skillsets also got overlooked by prospect rankings on their way to stardom, but I tried to avoid making a big deal about Hoskins running a 159 wRC+ for a couple of weeks.

Well, it’s been three weeks since that post went up, and now the results themselves are worth paying attention to.

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How to Sign Shohei Ohtani

The Shohei Ohtani show has unofficially begun. After missing over a month with a thigh issue, Ohtani returned to the mound two weeks ago, with scouts from half of the Major League teams reportedly in attendance. For his start on Tuesday night, both Andrew Friedman and Jerry Dipoto were known to be in the stands to watch in person, a start in which Ohtani was clocked at 101 mph and allowed just one hit over 5.2 innings. And after that start, reports from Japan have begun to suggest that there’s an agreement in place for Nippon to post Ohtani this winter, clearing him to come to the Majors for the 2018 season.

Yahoo’s Jeff Passan has a good breakdown of the situation.

It isn’t about the money. Athletes reflexively say this, and sports fans roll their eyes, because of course it’s about the money. It’s always about the money. Then along comes Shohei Ohtani, 23 years old, the finest baseball player Japan has produced in years, maybe decades, a once-in-a-generation sort who can throw 102 mph and hit tape-measure home runs, a player whose free-market value would start at $200 million if Major League Baseball didn’t restrict the signings of international players under 25 to barely $10 million.

Only Ohtani, it seems, does not mind the prospect of giving up literally hundreds of millions of dollars to play in the greatest league in the world. Multiple reports out of Japan on Wednesday morning there said the same thing: Ohtani, who has been called the Japanese Babe Ruth, will enter the posting system this winter and play for a major league team in 2018. This came as no surprise to the general managers and scouts who have flocked in recent weeks to watch him pitch for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. It also didn’t lessen their excitement any.

“It’s really happening,” one GM said, half-mocking, half-giddy at the prospect of the 23-year-old spicing up the free agent market this winter. And fascinating as his courtship would be in normal circumstances, the prospect of the best player available signing one of the most piddling contracts makes it unlike any free agency sports has seen: One where it literally isn’t about the money.

Because last year’s CBA raised the age of international prospects covered by the bonus-pool system to 25, Ohtani isn’t eligible for true unrestricted free agency for two more years. Rather than wait that long — and as a pitcher, two more years of good health is no guarantee — Ohtani will reportedly be posted this winter and then sign under the same rules by which 16-year-olds are bound. He’ll receive a signing bonus of some size (up to about $10 million) depending on which club he ultimately joins and then sign a standard uniform player contract that binds him to the arbitration system until he accrues six years of service time.

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D-backs Prospect Daulton Varsho Is a Name to Know

Daulton Varsho is a Cheesehead at heart. He hails from Chili, Wisconsin, attended high school in nearby Marshfield, and played collegiately at UW-Milwaukee. Summer ball also found him close to home. The 21-year-old catcher strapped on his gear for the Eau Claire Express, in the wood-bat Northwoods League.

He’s currently hanging his hat in the Pacific Northwest. Selected in the second round of this year’s draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Varsho is beginning his career with the short-season Hillsboro (Oregon) Hops. The environs have been to his liking. With the Northwest League playoffs set to begin, Varsho’s left-handed stroke has produced a .311/.368/.534 slash line.

His rooting interests have largely been geographic, but there is a notable — and perfectly plausible — exception. Varsho is a Packers fan, and he went to Badgers games growing up, but he didn’t root for the Brewers. His baseball allegiances were with the Philadelphia Phillies, with whom his father — former big-league outfielder Gary Varsho — was the bench coach during his childhood.

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