Organizational Rankings: Current Talent – Phillies

Coming off their second World Series appearance in as many years, the Phillies have a talented group of players on their roster. The Phillies made moves this offseason in an attempt to push themselves over the hump and win another title this year.

Even after making it into November the past couple of seasons, and acquiring some big time talent this offseason, the FanGraphs FANS projections only have the Phillies winning the NL East division 23% of the time, and making the playoffs 34% of the time. CHONE agrees to some degree, placing the Phillies second in the NL East but winning the wild card by a 4-game margin. While I don’t think any casual fan would agree with the FANS or CHONE projections, the fact that multiple systems are agreeing that Philadelphia will fall off of their NL East throne is interesting, if not convincing.

Behind the plate, the Phillies don’t have a big name catcher, but two players with substantial time in the majors. Carlos Ruiz has had at least 370 plate appearances in each of the past three seasons, but never more than 430. Ruiz can draw a walk and was one of the 13 players who walked more than they struck out in 2009. While they may have been able to hand over more at bats to Ruiz, they decided to sign veteran Brian Schneider to help keep “Chooch” healthy. Schneider is below average, so his new backup role should suit him well.

Once you get past the man behind the plate, the rest of the Phillies offense is very familiar, with most players being household names. Ryan Howard will have another 40+ home run season at first base, with a wOBA around .390. While Howard is seen as a big bad power hitter and an one dimensional player, he doesn’t get enough credit for his defense. A half season in 2005 was the only time Howard has posted a below average UZR. Howard will barely be above average once again, but any positive defensive value from a fantastic hitter is great. Chase Utley is one of the most underrated players in the league, posting 8 WAR seasons in 2007 and 2008, and was worth over 7.5 WAR in 2009. After posting 5+ WAR seasons from 2006-2008, Jimmy Rollins was worth only 2.4 WAR last year. While he is on the decline, Rollins will be better in 2010. Acquisition Placido Polanco will be moving over to third base, where his value will still likely hover around 3 wins. The infield is aging, with no starter under the age of 31, but still have a couple of prime years left.

In the outfield, the age problem is still prevalent. Shane Victorino is under-30, but he’ll be joining the “Big 3-0” club a month after the season ends. The other two starters, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez are already in the club. However, like the infield, they will all be successful and worth close to 3 wins apiece. However, Ibanez won’t be helping his team in the field again, barring a minor miracle. Ibanez posted a -38.4 UZR from 2006-2008, but he was 8 runs above average in the field in 2009. There is no reason to expect him to be good again, with the FANS and CHONE have him in the -5 to 0 range.

Compared to the start of last year, the rotation is leaps and bounds better. Compared to the rotation they entered the offseason with, it is barely better. Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton will be worth somewhere around 12.5 WAR, combined. The rest of the rotation is suspect. J.A. Happ will be the fourth starter, but he stranded 85.2% of runners last year and allowed hits on balls in play only 27% of the time. Both rates will go through some regression, but Happ will still be close to league average as a starting pitcher. The fifth starting spot won’t be pretty, with Jamie Moyer slotting into the role barring another injury problem.

The bullpen is going to be a mess that Charlie Manuel needs to figure out, and quick. Brad Lidge won’t be ready to start the season, so the ninth inning job falls to Ryan Madson. Danys Baez could also get a few chances. J.C. Romero, Chad Durbin, and Jose Contreras will all see innings in the bullpen, which is not good news for fans.

The Phillies have some great pieces in place to win this year, but all most of them are aging and getting ready to fall. While some projection systems may like the Braves to win the division, I like the odds of the Phillies repeating as division champs. If the Phillies don’t make the playoffs with their all-star roster, heads will roll.

We hoped you liked reading Organizational Rankings: Current Talent – Phillies by Zach Sanders!

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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.

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Dan
Guest
Dan

oooooohh! Ranking the Phils below the Braves. Very interesting. And very wrong, I can’t help but think….

alex
Guest
alex

Why do you think its wrong? Even if we assume the phils are better this year, which can certainly be debated, the braves have a much younger core group of players with a stronger farm system.

Dan
Guest
Dan

In a word (or three) “Citizen’s Bank Park” which has turned the Phils into a cash machine, and will allow them to suppliment their roster with high riced free agents. I agree that the Braves have a better farm system, although not a better current roster. But overall? I don’t see their payroll being able to match the Phils any time soon.

Maybe that part was left out of the analysis, but if it was it was a huge oversight.

Mark
Guest
Mark

I think the current core group of Phils is better, probably better all the other teams in the NL, and I think better than the current Brave.

They probably on average are older than most teams, and are certainly older than the Braves. Braves do have some older guys – Jones = 38, Glaus = 33, Diaz = 32.

The Phils SP (sans Moyer) is a bit younger than the Braves, and is probably a wash with the Braves, because Halladay makes up a lot of the difference. The bullpens probably favor the Braves, but there is risk there due to age and injury concerns.

The farm systems favor the Braves quite a bit.

The owner ship / payroll favors the Phils quite a bit. I thnk the Phils payroll is about 55% higher than the Braves, and the Phils have already announced they’ve sold 3mm tickets, this is before playing a single game they are in teh top 7 in attendance.

The front office is a push in my opinion.

But I’d have both these teams in front of Minn and the the Rangers. I think that is a joke that Min and the Rangers are infront of the Phils. Braves, not so much, but really Minn?

Brad Johnson
Member

I support the Rangers being ahead of the Phillies. Than Rangers should be 4th in my mind behind the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. Texas’ new ownership group should be able to open up payroll and they have absurd amounts of talent in the pipeline right now. The on field product is maturing into the division-favorite and has only bigger talents on the way.

Minnesota on the other hand is not healthier than the Phillies. I’m not sure that’s even a matter of opinion.

Alex
Guest
Alex

I’ll freely admit that the Phils advantage in payroll certainly gives them a big edge over the Braves. Is it enough to make up for their age and lesser farm system? Its certainly a good debate and I’m not sure there is really a wrong answer. Given the Braves ability to develop home grown talent and the number of young, cheap players it provides, I think its clear that the Braves can compete with teams like the Phils who have a lot more money to spend.

Mark, while some of the points you raise about age are true, you have to consider that none of the guys you are talking about are big parts of the Braves core going forward (its weird to say about Chipper, but true). Glaus will hopefully be replaced by Freeman next season. Same with Diaz and Schafer (with McClouth switching to LF). I’m not quite sure what the Braves plan is with regards to 3B, though I would guess they’re hoping Salcedo will develop into the long term answer there eventually.

As for the rotation, while it is true that its older than the Phillies, that ignores that the Braves have two young impact starters, while at very best the Phils have one in Happ (and I need to see more from him before I consider him more than a #3/#4 type guy). Having 24 year old Jair Jurrjens for the next 4 years and 23 year old Tommy Hanson for the next 6 is a huge advantage for the Braves going forward. The same is true in terms of positional players, where McCann, Escobar, and Prado are all locked up through 2013, with Heyward not being FA eligible until 2015 at the soonest. Those guys and the length their locked up for is what makes the Braves so formidable going forward.

Dan
Guest
Dan

Alex, you mention some good points about the payroll (wish you had mentioned it in the original article), but why not mention the Phils proven history of signing “project” guys who turn out to be big contributors? (Werth and Victorino). And how about their proven ability to build through the draft? (i.e. would you rank them higher as an organization if they had not traded for Halladay but kept the prospects? Why or why not?)

Alex
Guest
Alex

Just because Werth and Victorino turned out to be contributors doesn’t mean that the Phillies will continue to find similar players in the future. That’s almost like me pointing the Tommy Hanson and the fact that he was chosen in the 22nd round and arguing that the Braves are going to find similar guys that late in the draft in the future.

In no way have the Phillies proven that they can build through the draft any better than other teams really. If they were so good at it, wouldn’t you expect them to have a couple solid players under the age of 26? Its also not like their farm system was especially strong before the trades either. Sure they were well above average, but I don’t think they were elite. Considering they don’t have much in the way of young core guys they really needed a strong farm system to keep them competitive.

As for where they would rank if they hadn’t traded for Halladay, probably about the same in my mind. I think the net loss in prospect talent makes up for a significant part of the difference in 1 year of Lee and the money this offseason as opposed to 4 years of Halladay.

Mark
Guest
Mark

“In no way have the Phillies proven that they can build through the draft any better than other teams really”

Howard, Hamels, Utley, Rollins, Ruiz, Victorino, Madson, Happ where all drafted by the Phils in some form or another (Note: Victorino is a rule 5 guy). They delt/let go M.Bourn, P.Burrell, G. Floyd, Myers each drafted by the Phils. That is quite a bit of talent. They clearly have misses, but that is a lot of talent.

Prior to the Halladay/Lee trades they had a number of guys that would have shown up on every top 100 list: Drabeck, Brown, Knapp, Taylor.

Alex you are clearly very biased Braves fan and that is ok, but the above statement is completely false. The phils have proven to be better at drafting high ceiling players than many teams, clearly the Phils are better at drafting than a team like the Pirates. They completely traded away all but Brown in terms of frontline talent which really hurts the farm system, but the reason they were able to make those trades was because they had the assets in the first place. You can question the logic used by the front office, but the talent at one point was in place.

Alex
Guest
Alex

I’m just a biased Braves fan huh? I think I’ve been very balanced in my assessment of the Phils here and I have not bashed them once. I didn’t say they were bad at drafting or anything, I just said that they haven’t proven themselves to be any better than other teams. Look at the list you just made and when those guys were drafted.

Howard – 2001
Hamels – 2002
Utley – 2000
Rollins – 1996
Ruiz – 1998
Victorino – Not a rule 4 draft pick, not what I was talking about
Madson – 1998
Happ – 2004
M.Bourn – 2003
P.Burrell – 1998
G. Floyd – 2001
Myers – 1999

Only 6 of the 11 guys you named were drafted in the past decade and none were drafted in the last 5 years. The last true impact talent was Hamels in 2002. You consider that as proof that Phils are well above average at building through the draft currently? I just don’t see how you can say that without being a biased Phillies fan. And seriously, the fact that they are better than the worst drafting team in recent memory does nothing to make your case that they’ve been better than average.

As for having 4 consensus guys top 100 guys (I think Knapp may have been left off one or two lists but that doesn’t really matter), is that supposed to be especially impressive? We’re talking about 100 guys and 30 teams. Any team that doesn’t have at least 3 top 100 guys is probably doing something wrong (or happened to graduate a bunch at once). 10 teams had 4 top 100 guys, while 2 had 5, and the Rays had 7. And before you say it, I know not all those guys were draft picks, but the Phils lack of IFA prospects has to count against them doesn’t it?

Reuben
Guest

isn’t the guy who drafted the core of talent for the phillies working for the rangers now?

bsizzle
Member
bsizzle

@Alex
Considering how guys like Michael Bourn, Josh Outman, and Gavin Floyd are doing in the majors now, and depending on how Michael Taylor, Kyle Drabek, Travis D’arnaud, Jason Knapp, Adrian Cardenas turn out for other teams, and players like Dom Brown turn out for the Phils, it’s very possible to say in a couple years that yes, the Phils are above average at building through the draft. Of course, the rub is had we kept all those players, we might not have won a World Series. But I wouldn’t have traded the title to be able to claim that 90% of our roster is homegrown.

Ben George
Guest
Ben George

Screw bellow the Braves, but below the Mariners as well.

The same team that has gone to back to back WS is behind the Mariners who have a poor farm as well and has not proven anything

JH
Guest
JH

BA ranked the Mariners farm #11 in baseball. You know not of which you speak.

Brad Johnson
Member

Wasn’t that pre-Lee trade?

JH
Guest
JH

The player capsules were, I don’t believe the organizational rankings were. Even so, they were ranked for their depth and their strong top-3. They didn’t give up a huge amount of talent for Lee.

Mark
Guest
Mark

Hey JH — where are those rankings? Are they subscriber only?

Ivdown
Guest
Ivdown

The Mariners farm is not as good as 11th best. It has nothing big near the majors except for Ackley, but if one player is the reason why you would get such a high ranking the Nationals must be closing in on that number 1 spot really soon.