Wednesday, January 31, 2007

State of the Minor League System

Everybody has their own take on their favorite team's farm system, so I figured I'd join in on the fun. This is a quick draft of a very preliminary list. As you can see, I'm not all that worried about Scott Mathieson's upcoming TJ surgery (if you're gonna have it done, get it done young), very optimistic about Mike Costanzo's upcoming AA season (more of a hunch than anything – a hunch based heavily on statistics [i.e. his monthly splits in A+], but a bit of a scouting hunch as well), and not quite sold that Jason Jaramillo's future is anything more than that of a backup catcher (there is still value there, but he's not the upper crust prospect that many Phillies fans opinion is closer to John Sickels with regards to JJ, but I still think he absolutely deserves a spot on any Phillies prospect list).

As with any system, outside of the few consensus top guys (of which the Phils have very, very few) the list gets very muddled. The majority of guys picked 20-30 were younger players that earned spots on the list more for their tools than performance (i.e. Henry, Marson, and Baez).

I slotted in players that will have a role on the '07 Phillies in parenthesis...Ruiz and Smith are assured of spots, while Castro will either start the season in the big league pen or in the high minors starting. My own quirkiness prefers to see them separate from the true minor leaguers on the's probably dumb, but it makes it easier for me to organize.

1. RHSP Carlos Carrasco (top notch A-ball numbers, I'd love to see the Phillies challenge him with a double jump to AA...though skipping levels hasn't worked too well with Carrasco in the past)

Carrasco's 2005 was a disaster as he reportedly tried to overthrow every fastball and, as a result of that, lost all command on it whatsoever. It wasn't as though his walk rate was abnormally high, but his hit rate jumped because hitters knew they could wait on his breaking stuff since that fastball wouldn't be close (an example of the semantical difference of poor command rather than poor control).

In 2006, Carrasco excelled. What changed? Carlos himself has been quoted as saying he learned to slow things down on the mound and realize the importance of fastball location over velocity. That's all well and good, but perhaps more important was the development of another strong secondary pitch - his curveball. In '05, all he threw was a fastball-change combo...easy pickings for professional hitters. By 2006, he was throwing a fastball that sits in the low 90s (92-94 typically, but it can be a bit flat at times), a plus change, and a developing (slowly but surely) power curve.

As of now, Carrasco is a damn fine pitching prospect but now quite among the elite. If he can add just a tick more velocity on his fastball, he could really bust out in A+/AA in 2007. His 6-3, 180 pound frame combined with his youth (he'll be 20 in March) could allow for the heater to be cranked up to mid-90s consistently and if out.

A name that I haven't often heard him compared to, but I'll throw it out there anyway is Ryan Madson. Their minor league numbers are very similar, they have similar builds, and similar repertoires (low 90s fastball, plus change, curve needs work). People may be down on Madson these days, but I still think he'll be a quality big leaguer for a long time. Carrasco has a bit more long-term upside (his fastball has gone up a tick in velocity every year since he signed), but I think it's a decent comp for the time being.

2. RHSP Scott Mathieson (TJ surgery shelves him for all of '07...still a young guy with plus stuff, profiles as either a future starter or relief ace)

3. RHSP Kyle Drabek (as high a ceiling as any other prospect in the system...Rookie ball numbers and lack of maturity are red flags, but his talent is undeniable...Cole Hamels only dropped to the Phillies because of injury/immaturity, Phillies hope lighting strikes twice with Drabek)

4. LHSP J.A. Happ (big jump up in '06, could work his way into Phillies rotation once the inevitable Adam Eaton injury can't really blame Eaton though, those DVDs can be damn tough to open)

5. OF Michael Bourn (old-school prototype leadoff man, would have been an ideal fit playing center field next to Burrell and Abreu...oh well, at least we now have C.J. Henry!...another year in AAA could serve him well as he'll indirectly compete with Shane Victorino to see who will be the Phils CF come 2008)

6. RHSP Edgar Garcia
7. LHSP Josh Outman
8. 3B Michael Costanzo
9. IF Adrian Cardenas
10. OF D'Arby Myers
(LHRP Fabio Castro)
11. RHRP Zack Segovia
12. OF Greg Golson
(C Carlos Ruiz)
13. RHSP Justin Germano
14. LHSP Matt Maloney
(LHRP Matt Smith)
15. C Jason Jaramillo
16. RHRP Joe Bisenius
17. LHSP Daniel Brauer
18. RHSP Kyle Kendrick
19. OF Jeremy Slayden
20. RHSP Jarrod Freeman
21. RHSP Drew Carpenter
22. SS C.J. Henry
23. C Lou Marson
24. C Jesus Sanchez
25. 3B Welinson Baez
26. OF T.J. Warren
27. RHRP Pat Overholt
28. INF Jason Donald
29. INF Brad Harman
30. RHRP Brett Harker

The 2006 draft brought in all kinds of desperately needed talent into the pipeline. Drabek (1), Cardenas (Supp. 1), Myers (4), and Carpenter (2) should make almost any Top 20 list this offseason.

Jason Donald (3) is another player who could draw consideration though I personally fear his high collegiate strikeout totals and inability to impress when hitting with wood as an amateur; he profiles best as a super-utility guy to me rather than a starting shortstop.

The Phillies are notorious for falling in love with toolsy outfielders come draft day (so much so that they loved Greg Golson more than Phil Hughes...but I digress). T.J. Warren (8), Dominic Brown (20), and Darin McDonald (12) are the newest group of tools-laden outfielders added to the system with a chance of maybe developing down the line...Warren is the most advanced of the group, but Brown has the most long-term potential - something about 6'5", 200 pound guys recruited to play football at Miami with pro potential both on the mound or in the outfield appeal to me. Warren and McDonald are both more advanced ballplayers in a traditional sense at this point, but Brown has the most long-term potential due to his freakish athleticism.

The Phils also added a few intriguing relief arms including Andrew Cruse (9), Sam Walls (10), and Will Savage (26). These guys may not have quite the ceiling as other, younger arms in draft have, but if I had to pick one player in the system to make it to the majors fastest I'd probably choose Walls...there's something to be said for that.

The Phillies also have an affinity for collecting big, tall, strapping young righthanded high schoolers. This year's haul included Jarrod Freeman (11) and Robert Roth (19) - two pitchers from baseball hotbeds Utah and Idaho, respectively. Freeman is very highly thought of within the organization and could emerge as a top 15 prospect next year at this time; Roth had a really rough debut in the GCL where he was extremely wild...he's a project, to say the least. Another young arm that has a shot to contribute (though I'm in the minority with this one amongst Phillies prospect mavens) is Michael Dubee (18), son of Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee. Michael comes out of a junior college in Oklahoma and could be far more than just the typical courtesy pick it appears to be.

RHP Ben Pfinsgraff - I wasn't all that high on him coming out of school (only so-so peripherals at Maryland, plus I saw him pitch this past year against BC and came away unimpressed...he's a short righthander with a an average fastball, not exactly my cup of tea), but his results after getting drafted were impressive enough that I can admit I may have been wrong about him. I mostly wanted to mention him because he was just one of the four Phillies draftees I got to see this past NCAA season - C Shawn McGill (BC), RHRP Sam Walls (NC State), and INF Herman Demmink (Clemson) being the others. McGill and Demmink are minor league filler (if either player ever dons an IronPig jersey, I’d be surprised), but Walls and perhaps Pfinsgraff have the potential to someday crack a big league bullpen.

The ones who got away include 15th rounder Riley Cooper (now playing WR for the National Champion Florida Gators), 31st rounder Bruce Billings, and perhaps the most painful of them all, 34th rounder Josh Thrailkill (enrolled as a freshman at Clemson).

Names worth storing away from the Phillies championship VSL squad: IF Redne Fuenmayor (previously mentioned), C Francisco Murillo (.299/.402/.502 in 221 VSL at bats), and pitchers Moises Melendez and Mauricio Romero. The VSL is as far as the majors as can be, but it doesn't hurt to just remember a couple extra names in the back of your mind...especially when the farm system is as bad as the Phillies is.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Spring Training Battles

A while back we took stock of what the Phillies currently have on their roster; today we take a look at which players out there could fill the few remaining needs (OF, bullpen). Publicly, the Phillies say that they are confident going into spring training with six starting pitchers; if they do keep six starters, then the number of relief jobs up for grabs is reduced from two to one. The Phils are also making it clear that Antonio Alfonseca is guaranteed nothing – they claim that a strong spring is a prerequisite for membership on the ’07 staff. I’d be utterly shocked if “El Pulpo” isn’t on the 25-man roster come April. This leaves the Phils with $92.625 million committed to 23 players and two spots up for grabs – reserve outfielder and bullpen arm.

Outfield Candidates

Chris Roberson, Michael Bourn, Karim Garcia, and Greg Dobbs have to be considered the favorites to land the coveted job of fifth outfielder at this point. The thought of a Burrell/Rowand/Victorino everyday outfield still freaks me out quite a bit, so I’d love to see the team find a way to bring in another outfield bat, but we'll see.

Bullpen Candidates

Eude Brito, Fabio Castro, Jim Ed Warden, Alfredo Simon or Anderson Garcia (his name was just officially added to the 40-man roster this past week) all are in line to win jobs as middle relievers entering 2007; I believe the Phillies have given enough of an indication publicly that one of the two Rule 5 guys (Warden or Simon) will make the team out of camp. I think they keep Simon with the big club because they know there is no way they can send him to AAA without Texas wanting to reclaim him. Jim Ed Warden, the pitcher who is most ready to win a job, is the sort of undervalued commodity that could be sent back to the Phillies if they do decide to try and send him down. Cleveland is a pretty sharp organization, so it wouldn’t be too big a shock to see them accept Warden back with open arms. Then again…the Phillies may try to work something out with the Indians so that they can keep him – just a hunch, but it’s been what I’ve been hearing...

Longer shots at this point appear to be Joe Bisenius (only 23.1 innings above A+), Kane Davis, Justin Germano (could be sixth starter in-waiting at AAA Ottawa if/when Jon Lieber is dealt), Brian Sanches (long a personal favorite of mine), and Zack Segovia. An even longer shot to make the team is soon-to-be 27-year old righthander Yoel Hernandez – a darkhorse candidate if there ever was one considering he is coming off an injury shortened season that only had him pitch in 10.1 innings in all of ’06. All in all, I think the battle for the last job in the bullpen will be lots of fun – I give Pat Gillick a lot of grief for all of the bad moves he makes (luckily for PG, his terrible signing of Rod Barajas and his recent crappy add of Antonio Alfonseca occurred during my mini-vacation, so I let him off the hook there), but he has assembled a collection of pretty interesting arms and, assuming he allows them to duke it out in spring training, has done a fine job of putting his club in the best position to add cheap, useful bullpen help.

Friday, January 26, 2007

New Aaron Rowand Trade Rumor

Buster Olney of is reporting that the Phillies and Padres are engaged in trade talks centering around Phillies CF Aaron Rowand. Hmm...interesting. (Oh, in case anybody ever follows the links, this rumor is Olney's but because it is behind the ESPN Insider wall I linked back to where it was mentioned on MLB Trade Rumors)

This rumor appears to have some legs to it for a couple of reasons: 1) Rowand's name has been tied to many a trade rumor this offseason...sometimes where there is smoke, there is fire, 2) it makes some sense for San Diego to be interested in obtaining another outfielder considering they go into spring training with only two sure-fire starting outfielders - CF Mike Cameron and RF Brian Giles, 3) the Phillies are rumored to want a relief pitcher in return...they've been hot after relief help for months now, and 4) Phillies management has gone out of their way to discuss their positive feelings about all things Jayson Werth over the past few weeks...Pat Gillick especially seems really, really confident that Werth is ready to contribute something substantial in 2007.

The rumored bullpen arm coming back to the Phillies is where things get dicey - the Padres have a pretty good pen, chock full of interesting arms, but it is hard to say how much they value Rowand at this point in time. Scott Linebrink would undoubtedly be the Phils top target, but he would almost certainly be too steep a price for the Padres to pay...right? Same probably goes for Cla Meredith, though he is far less of a known quantity than Linebrink at this point. Assuming the Phillies will be denied both Meredith and Linebrink, is there a fit? Potentially...random names to consider include RHPs Andrew Brown, Heath Bell, and Scott Cassidy. Any of those names would work (I've long been a fan of Bell, a former Met prospect), but the Phillies may want a bit more to sweeten the deal.

Deal I'd Like to See:

OF Aaron Rowand for OF Paul McAnulty and RHRP Heath Bell/Andrew Brown

Bell or Brown would help out in the bullpen in '07 and beyond and McAnulty could serve as a potential platoon mate with Jayson Werth in right (McAnulty destroyed righties in AAA last year - he hit .330/.416/.580 in 348 at bats while Werth has a slight advantage against lefties in his big league career).

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Why Our Hometown Columnists Suck

The boys over at Fire Joe Morgan are at it again, this time completely annihilating Bill Conlin's recent wretched offering. I don't have a single positive thing to say about Conlin's article, so I won't say a word...except for that as bad as Conlin's article is, it is no worse than Phil Sheridan's article from last Wednesday. Check this out:

If there is a lesson in all this, it is that numbers don't tell the whole story. This galls the sabermetricians and Money Ballers. It is completely lost on those who worry only about their fantasy teams. Nevertheless it is true that there are some things you just can't quantify, no matter what Bill James or Billy Beane say.

This issue is best understood by looking at last year's trade of Abreu to the New York Yankees. Well into October, many e-mailers complained that the Phillies would have won the extra couple games needed to reach the playoffs if they hadn't foolishly given Abreu away. But the fact is, the team didn't really start playing well together and winning until Abreu was gone.

You want numbers? The Phillies' record before the deal: 49-54. After the deal: 36-23.

Abreu is, by any measure, a very talented and productive player. He's a perfectly decent guy. And yet the Phillies were a better team without him (or Bell or Cory Lidle) on the roster.

In Victorino, the Phillies get a totally different kind of rightfielder. He said he expects to hit .300, score 100 runs and make a serious jump by stealing 30 to 40 bases.

On the first bold point: Post hoc ergo propter hoc is Latin for "after this, therefore because of this." Something happens, something else happens, therefore the original something is the cause of the something else. Correlation does not equal causation. If the Abreu trade is what Phil Sheridan wants to point at as the sole reason why the Phillies turned their season around, that's his business. I just happen to think that it is one of many, many other more logical reasons (say, the vast improvement of the pitching staff and the monstrous offensive output of Ryan Howard down the stretch).

On the second bold point: Here are Abreu's numbers in the categories Sheridan mentioned in his last eight big league seasons -

1999: .335 BA, 118 R, 19 SB
2000: .316 BA, 103 R, 27 SB
2001: .289 BA, 118 R, 36 SB
2002: .308 BA, 102 R, 31 SB
2003: .300 BA, 99 R, 22 SB
2004: .301 BA, 118 R, 40 SB
2005: .286 BA, 104 R, 31 SB
2006: .297 BA, 98 R, 30 SB

Abreu is a totally different player than a guy who hits .300, scores 100 runs, and steals 30-40 bases? Abreu's 162 Game Averages are as follows: .302 BA, 104 R, 30 SB. True, Victorino is a different player in that he'll play a much better right field than Abreu ever did. It's also true that Bobby Abreu has walked over 100 times in 8 of his 9 full big league seasons with a total of 205 career homers. I understand the vast differences in salary between the two players, but when discussing their respective abilities between the's not even close.

What was the point of this post? Honestly, I couldn't tell you. Just an excuse to rant and rave against the local media (and maybe to continue to obsess about the Abreu deal...I know it's not healthy to still be so upset by it, but here we are). Anyway, I feel a lot better now, thanks.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Utley Deal Revisited

Lots of good stuff to come, but for now we have more on the Chase Utley signing. The more I think about it, the more I like it - Tom Tango broke it down in numbers:

Utley: 7/85, paying for 4.5 WAR.

Is Utley crazy? What and incredibly stupid signing by Utley, and a brilliant signing by the Phillies.

Where to begin? Utley is an excellent hitter. Not the top end, but the set right below that. He’s +3 wins above average.

As for his fielding, the Fans love him, Dewan loves him. He’s got to be +1 win above the average 2B.

I’m also harsh on 2B compared to others, and I treat it as a neutral position (like 3B). No bonus points for being able to play 2B.

Overall, he’s +4 wins above average, meaning +6 wins above replacement. The Phillies paid him like he’s +4.5 WAR (or +2.5 wins above average).

Chase Utley deserved a 7/135 deal, including an arbitration discount for the 1st three years. (Otherwise, he would have warranted a 7/164 deal.) He accepted 85 million, meaning he left 50 million$ on the table. Which Carlos Lee somehow managed to take.

By the numbers, the Phillies risky re-signing of Chase Utley doesn't look so risky after all. I can't really put into words how positive I am that this was a good move by the Phillies, but trust me on this one - it was a stroke of genius.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Utley Signs 7-Year Deal

This is a huge deal -

Chase Utley exchanged marriage vows with his fiancée on Saturday afternoon in San Francisco.

A day later, the All-Star second baseman made a similar long-term commitment to the Phillies, agreeing to a seven-year, $85 million contract that will keep him in Philadelphia through the 2013 season. Though Utley will make less annually up front and more toward the end, this deal averages a little more than $12 million a season.

My initial reaction is simple - this is a great deal for Chase Utley, the Phillies organization, and the fans of Philadelphia. Although, for Utley's sake, I hope that he signed a know, just in case.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Links to the Past

This Friday's edition of Phillies Baseball = random linkage
  1. Vote Phillies in 2008! - I love it...too bad I'm not clever enough to come up with a joke to add, but I think the novelty of getting a "Phillies in '08" bumper sticker is enough. I'd prefer to see the local nine take care of business in '07, come to think of it...
  2. Trust Buster? - Read this...and then read every single other post on the site. Fire Joe Morgan is one of my absolute favorite sites on the web - it's one of the handful of sites that I check every day without fail. It's a special treat whenever they write about a subject I'm sure anybody reading this site right now is quite interested in. Ken Tremendous (my favorite writer from FJM) tears apart Buster Olney's recent blog entry through his usual blend of logic, stats, and snark.
  3. The Phillies might lower the tall three-sided sign in the parking lot beyond the centerfield wall that obstructs the view from the ballpark to the city skyline. They also might make it a two-sided sign, affording even a better view of the city. Work on the alterations appears to already be under way - Figures. I've had season tickets in either section 420 or 421 (behind home plate) since the new ballpark opened...up until the upcoming season, of course. This year, we've finally decided to change things up and move down by the first line...figures. Anyway, it's still a good idea to lower the sign...especially for those lucky enough to be sitting in my old sections.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Brian Lawrence?

Consider the source, but John Hickey of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports the following:

Brian Lawrence, a free-agent starter the Mariners had some interest in signing, seems to be leaning toward signing with Philadelphia.

This is a report that comes out of left field, so to speak, but it is a pleasant surprise to hear all the same. I wrote this about Lawrence waaaaaay back in November of '05:

Lawrence will be 30 in April, so what you see is what you get with him by now. His first two years in the league were good, but they were in 2001 and 2002. Lawrence has been a below average starter the past three seasons (ERA+ of 94 in 2003, 97 in 2004, and bottoming out at 80 in 2005), but he does still have value. He has thrown at least 195 innings the last 4 seasons and fits in nicely at the back end (4th or 5th guy) of a rotation.

Not particularly insightful baseball commentary on my part, but I'd like to think the general sentiment (Lawrence works as a guy you take a flier on for the back of the rotation) hit home. Unfortunately, since November of 2005 this has happened:

Washington Nationals right-hander Brian Lawrence appears done for the season after undergoing surgery yesterday to repair what the team called "extensive" tears of both the labrum and rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder.

I can not imagine that "extensive" tears of both the labrum and rotator cuff in one's throwing shoulder are fun injuries to bounce back from, but Lawrence claims he is fit and ready to go heading into spring training. Without breaking down Lawrence's career in too much detail (that would come after he signs here...which is far from a sure bet, as you'll come to realize if you read on), I do think that there are four reasons why adding Brian Lawrence to the 2007 Philadelphia Phillies is a fine idea:
  1. The Price is Right - There is no way that Lawrence will command a 2007 salary in excess of the deal that Antonio Alfonseca (1-year, $550,000 base, $550,000 more in innings-based incentives) is set to sign with the Phillies. There have been rumblings that a few of the teams in on Lawrence have only gone so far as to offer him a minor league deal - the demand for pitching may be sky high, but teams are only willing to go so far when the pitcher in question is coming off "extensive" tears of both the labrum and rotator cuff.
  2. The Time is Right - The Phillies currently have six quality major league starters on their staff; if they signed Lawrence, it would be as the seventh starter/swing man in the bullpen. Coming off such an "extensive" injury, it would be foolish for a contending team to rely on Lawrence in any kind of meaningful way (say as a 4th or 5th starter). If the Phils signed Lawrence, they could use him out of the pen to exploit particular matchups rather than expect him to take the ball every fifth day and run with it; this would also allow the Phillies to closely monitor Lawrence's innings early on in the season. A Lawrence signing would also free up the Phillies to really get serious about dealing one of their excess starting pitchers, if that is the route they decide to take.
  3. He is the Anti-Ryan Franklin - This should be reason enough to sign the guy. Brian Lawrence may actually be the Bizarro World version of Franklin - the Franklin signing looked like a disaster from the start last year for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which being the fact he was an extreme flyball pitcher. Lawrence has a career GO/AO ratio of 1.70 and had numbers at the top of the league in the category in both 2001 and 2002 (2.01 and 2.21 respectively). When going well, Lawrence is capable of throwing both a plus slider and a plus sinking fastball for consistent strikes. From the Phillies perspective, adding a guy capable of inducing a rally killing double play groundball to the bullpen is a giant plus. Lawrence's slider/sinker combo would make him an effective big league pitcher if used properly out of the pen. Enough about Lawrence's crazy groundball tendencies, let's not lose sight of what is really important here - the opportunity to bash Ryan Franklin any chance we can get. It never gets old!
  4. Brian Lawrence: Potential ROOGY? - In his career, Lawrence has had all kinds of trouble getting out lefties (career 1.57 WHIP against portsiders). This stat makes it hard for any team to justify giving him another chance as a starter in the big leagues. Fortunately, if used properly, Lawrence could never have to see a southpaw at the plate ever again. Instead, he could be deployed as a RighthandedOneOutGuY (see the ROOGY?). Lawrence has a career WHIP of 1.12 in 511.1 innings pitched against righties; to put that in perspective, only 4 starters had lower overall WHIPs last season (Johan Santana, Chris Carpenter, Roy Halliday, and Mike Mussina). The conversion to the pen, specifically as a ROOGY, could tack on years to the end of Lawrence's career.
One last note of caution concerning Lawrence: For a guy so reliant on throwing sliders of varying velocities, the shoulder injury represents a major, major concern. If for some reason Lawrence can not throw the same set of pitches he did pre-injury, he could become a terribly ineffective pitcher very quickly. If as many teams are as interested as the newspapers say, then it would not be a stretch to say that Lawrence has been given a clean bill of health and is throwing pain-free. However, nobody will really know how his slider will feel until after he starts dialing it up in game-time situations.

Of course, this entire discussion could all be a moot point as this whole rumor could be based on a misunderstanding by Hickey. The Pittsburgh Pirates have been the team hottest on Lawrence's tail for a long time now, so it is not a stretch to imagine that Hickey simply confused the two Pennsylvania baseball teams.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Arbitration Figures and More

Phillies arbitration figures are out. Here is what the player requested and what the team offered:

Chase Utley – offered $4.5 million/requested $6.25 million
Brett Myers – offered $5.0 million/requested $5.90 million
Geoff Geary – offered $0.750 million/requested $0.925 million

Aaron Rowand already accepted a $4.350 million offer. Ryan Madson accepted a $1.100 million offer. Once Utley, Myers, and Geary agree to terms then all players expected to be on the 25-man roster this spring will have their salaries set at a fixed price. It is more than likely that Carlos Ruiz and Matt Smith will get the major league minimum ($380,000) in their first full seasons. Ryan Howard, Chris Coste, and Shane Victorino all could conceivably get paid the minimum, but are expected to get some bump in their salaries (Howard to keep the reigning MVP happy, Victorino as an acknowledgement that he’ll play a lot in ’07, and Coste as a reward for his years of minor league servitude).

In other news, Marcus Hayes drops a good bit of information in his most recent offering:

Madson hopes to regain that rhythm. He won't start throwing until next month, about a month later than when he prepares to be in a starting rotation. He also will abandon his potentially devastating curveball, a pitch that requires frequent use and better serves starters, and instead refine the slider that he tinkered with last year.

It’s a shame to lose the curve, but the reasoning is sound – hopefully the slider progresses nicely this spring.

A lefthanded hitter [Greg Dobbs] who plays first base and third base, if he has a big spring it could entice the Phillies to shelve Coste, who plays the same positions. Dobbs would be a second lefty bat, along with Karim Garcia or Randall Simon, who agreed to minor league deals.

Rod Barajas, Abraham Nunez, and Jayson Werth are guaranteed roster spots (assuming good health). This leaves two open bench jobs – presumably a backup outfielder and a backup infielder/utility guy. The recent signing of Greg Dobbs complicates the filling out of the bench. I still think a fifth outfielder will materialize one way or another (whether it be Karim Garcia [the current favorite], Chris Roberson, or a to-be-determined acquisition remains to be seen) and, as of this moment, I’d think the last job on the bench will come down to Dobbs and Chris Coste. Randall Simon is also in the mix, but his chances of making the team will be greatly hindered by the fact he can only play first base – the lack of positional flexibility is something the Phillies frown upon.

I’m not one for getting emotion and sentiment getting in the way of the bottom line when building a ballclub, but even I would have to admit that it would be somewhat tragic to see C/1B/3B Chris Coste get squeezed off the roster with another last minute addition to the team. Last year it was the acquisition of David Dellucci that kept Coste in AAA and this year it looks like the late additions of C Rod Barajas and 1B/3B Greg Dobbs could make Coste’s presence on the roster appear superfluous to the Phillies decision-makers. Dobbs ability to at least play semi-competently in the corner outfield spots could allow the Phillies to keep both Dobbs and Coste with Garcia, Roberson, and the other OF candidates heading to Ottawa.

And then the team made it known that they wanted a better backup to Ruiz. Why? " 'Lack of experience,' " said Coste, putting air quotes around the phrase. He understands that the Phillies are uncomfortable with his unorthodox catching style and the fact that he is a converted pitcher and infielder. "It's a mirage. Because they don't see me as a top-line catcher, I must be bad."

The fact that Coste put air quotes around “lack of experience” cracks me up. How is it that a ballplayer understands the many fallacies of inherently found in making oneself a slave to the “veteran presence” and “proven” commodities while the powers that run the team from the front office can seem to grasp similar ideas? Coste gets it, the Phillies don't. There is a serious problem with that. Rod Barajas has plenty of big league experience; he is inarguably a “proven” player. The only problem is that all he has “proven” to this point is that he is a pretty lousy major league baseball player. That said, Barajas was not born a “proven” player – at one point in his life he was just a minor leaguer waiting on his own opportunity to reach the majors and get a chance to “prove” his worth. I know I harp on this all the time and it may seem like I’m borderline obsessive about it all, but the inability of Phillies management in recent years to improve upon the periphery of their spectacular core has been the reason why this team has not reached the postseason in over a decade. Even the most casual observer can identify the very best players in the league (and in some cases, the very worst as well), but it is hard to distinguish between the large number of guys that fall somewhere in the middle of the player performance spectrum. Signing Rod Barajas for $2.5 million with Chris Coste and Carlos Ruiz already on the roster just goes to show the difficulties the Phillies still have with this concept.

Hayes also dispels the notion that Fabio Castro is definitely ticketed to Ottawa or Reading to make up for some of the innings lost last season and to prepare himself for a starting role; Mike Arbuckle himself says that Castro has a very good chance of winning a bullpen job out of spring training. If this were to happen, the pen would sure look a lot like it did at the end of last season, no? If Jon Lieber is kept (and that plot thickens as Adam Eaton recently said that he'd be a "good soldier" and pitch out of the bullpen without complaint), there is only one remaining spot in the bullpen open for competition. If Castro wins it, the Phillies would go into 2007 with a staff made up of Brett Myers, Freddy Garcia, Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Jon Lieber, Adam Eaton, Tom Gordon, Ryan Madson, Geoff Geary, Antonio Alfonseca, Matt Smith, and Fabio Castro.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

2007 Phillies (As of 1/16)

An unannounced (and quite frankly unplanned) month off from the site did me some good. That said, it’s nice to be back and hopefully posting will resume on at least a semi-regular schedule for the foreseeable future. Without further ado, here's a quick look at the 2007 Phillies as currently assembled (salary figures in parentheses are arbitration estimates and ages are as of August 1, 2007):


Rod Barajas – (C) – Age 31 – 2.500 million
Carlos Ruiz – (C) – Age 27 – 0.380 million
Chris Coste – (C/1B/3B) – Age 34 – 0.380 million


Ryan Howard – (1B) – Age 27 – (.500 million)
Chase Utley – (2B) – Age 28 – (4.500 million)
Jimmy Rollins – (SS) – Age 28 – 8.000 million
Wes Helms – (3B) – Age 31 – 2.550 million (includes .500 million signing bonus)
Abraham Nunez – (IF) – Age 31 – 2.100 million


Pat Burrell – (LF) – Age 30 – 13.000 million
Aaron Rowand – (CF) – Age 29 – 4.350 million
Shane Victorino – (RF) – Age 26 – 0.380 million
Jayson Werth – (OF) – Age 28 – 0.850 million (extra .150 million in incentives)

Starting Pitchers:

Brett Myers – (SP) – Age 26 – (5.000 million)
Freddy Garcia – (SP) – Age 31 – 10.000 million
Cole Hamels – (SP) – Age 23 – 0.380 million
Adam Eaton – (SP) – Age 29 – 7.875 million (includes 1.000 million signing bonus, can earn .250 each for 200 and 220 IP)
Jamie Moyer – (SP) – Age 44 – 7.000 million (includes 1.000 million signing bonus)
Jon Lieber – (SP) – Age 37 – 7.500 million

Relief Pitchers:

Tom Gordon – (RP) – Age 39 – 7.000 million
Antonio Alfonseca – (RP) – Age 35 – 0.550 million (extra .550 in incentives)
Ryan Madson – (RP) – Age 26 – 1.100 million
Geoff Geary – (RP) – Age 30 – (1.200 million)
Matt Smith – (RP) – Age 28 – 0.380 million

What does it all mean from a roster construction/dollars and cents standpoint? The roster as currently stands includes the above 23 players at a cost of 87.475 million dollars. The Phillies owe Jim Thome 5.500 million dollars, thus pushing the total payroll cost to 92.625 million bucks. The roster as currently composed has a need of one outfielder and two relief pitchers; it also has a surplus of one starting pitcher. How these needs will be meet (and, perhaps more importantly, how the surplus of starting pitching is dealt with) should make for an interesting topic of discussion as spring training approaches.

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