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Phillies Love College

belushiThe Phillies are wild for college baseball players this year.

They have said it is a coincidence, but through the 25th round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft they have selected 24 college players (96 percent). That is way above the average for the Phillies over the previous 10 drafts. Here is a look at those drafts with information provided by Baseball Reference:

  • 2004: 32 of 50 players drafted were four-year, junior or community college players (64 percent)
  • 2005: 27 of 49 (55.1 percent)
  • 2006: 30 of 51 (58.8 percent)
  • 2007: 26 of 52 (50 percent)
  • 2008: 26 of 53 (49.1 percent)
  • 2009: 30 of 49 (61.2 percent)
  • 2010: 35 of 50 (70 percent)
  • 2011: 27 of 51 (52.9 percent)
  • 2012: 21 of 42 (50 percent)
  • 2013: 26 of 41 (63.4 percent)

College players represented 280 of 488 (57.4 percent) of Phillies draft picks over the previous 10 years.

Phillies Take Lefty in 2nd Round

imhofThe Phillies took another arm tonight to finish the first day of the First-Year Player Draft.

They selected Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo left-hander Matt Imhof with the 47th overall pick in the second round. Imhof, who is 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, is considered a late bloomer, having not been drafted out of high school.

“Big left-hander with a plus fastball, average to above breaking ball and a lot deception in his delivery,” Marti Wolever said. “We’ve seen a lot of him. From USA team last summer and again this spring. And certainly a rotation guy we think. We think middle to the back of the rotation.”

MLB.com’s scouting report says Imhof, “pitches downhill with natural cutting movement on his fastball. His short, sharp slider is an out pitch at times. He has solid feel for a changeup, though it’s still a work in progress. Imhof is generally around the plate with all of his pitches and has been one of the nation’s top strikeout pitchers. There’s still some upside to Imhof as he continues to fill out, giving him the chance to be in a big league rotation in the future.”

Imhof went 10-4 with a 2.45 ERA in 15 starts this season. He allowed 65 hits, 43 walks and struck out 124 batters in 99 1/3 innings.

“He’s got a chance to go through (the farm system) a little quicker,” Wolever said. “Not as quickly as (first-round pick Aaron) Nola, but he throws strikes and he commands the strike zone so that certainly works to his advantage.”

The draft continues with the third round tomorrow. The Phillies most certainly will start taking some position players on the second day.

“Some of the bats that we kind of focused on were gone at that point and we thought he was the best option at that point in time,” Wolever said of their second-round pick.

Phillies Take Nola With No. 7 Pick

nolaThe Phillies hinted last week they preferred a polished baseball player, not just an athlete with the proverbial “high ceiling” with the seventh overall pick in tonight’s First-Year Player Draft.

They followed through and selected LSU right-hander Aaron Nola.

“We would hope that in a couple of years he could be here pitching here in the organization with the Major League team,” Phillies assistant general manager of amateur scouting Marti Wolever said. “It’s hard to say, but within a couple of years, I think that’s a pretty safe estimate.”

MLB.com considered Nola the sixth-best player available in the Draft, and most scouts project him to be the first starting pitcher to appear in the big leagues. He is 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, so he is not imposing on the mound. But Nola has excellent command of his pitches, which includes a two-seam and four-seam fastball, a changeup and a breaking ball. His fastball sits in the 92-94 mph range, although Wolever said he has seen him touch 97 mph.

“A name that was mentioned upstairs (in the Phillies front office) quite frequently was Tim Hudson,” Wolever said, when asked for a comparable big-league pitcher. “I hate to put it on these kids because now all of a sudden they’ve got to live up to that. But that was tossed around quite a bit with our group. Just the command and the life on his fastball. … There’s something to say about having ‘now’ stuff. And that’s what Aaron Nola has. Aaron Nola has ‘now’ stuff. We don’t really have to project a lot because it’s already here.”

Nola, 21, is eager to get started.

“I kind of want to get going,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday night. “I look forward to getting up there.”

It sounds like that should not be a problem. Wolever said he thinks they are “very close” to signing Nola. Once he signs, it would not be a surprise to see him begin his professional career with Class A Clearwater, but because he threw 116 1/3 inning this season the Phillies plan to bring him along slowly.

Read more about Nola here.

Fire Sale Looming

Chase UtleyOn the train to DC this morning I crunched some numbers and came up with a few thoughts about the Phillies, who seem to be headed nowhere fast following a 4-7 homestand, which included their first no-hit loss since 1978 and four losses in five games to the Mets.

The Phillies are 9-17 since they were 15-14 on May 4. It’s the worst record in the National League in that span.

They are 24-31 overall. They were 26-29 at this point last year, when they were on their way to 89 losses.

I’m typically one to preach patience during a 162-game season because it is difficult to draw concrete conclusions about a team a little more than two months into it. I often remind people about the deficits the 2007 and 2008 Phillies overcame to win the National League East: seven down with 17 to play in 2007 and 3 ½ back with 16 to play in 2008. But those teams did at least one thing very, very well. Those teams had the best offense in the National League. They hit the cover off the ball. They also had a very good bullpen down the stretch in 2007 and a great one throughout 2008. They also played good defense.

But the 2014 Phillies don’t do anything well. You can’t say, “This team has fantastic starting pitching, so if they can just add a bullpen arm and get Domonic Brown going they should be OK.”

There are holes everywhere.

*

Brown is hitting .206 with six doubles, one triple, four home runs, 27 RBIs, 15 walks, 36 strikeouts and a .557 OPS through the team’s first 55 games. It reminds me of Pat Burrell’s 2003 season. Burrell’s struggles were a huge story that year. Fans wanted him sent to Triple-A, like Brown. I got emails from people asking about Burrell’s eyesight or other ailments that might be affecting him at the plate. But through 55 games in 2003, Burrell was hitting .204 with 13 doubles, one triple, 10 home runs, 25 RBIs, 31 walks, 64 strikeouts and a .751 OPS. Amazing. Burrell’s OPS was nearly 200 points higher than Brown’s is today.

(more…)

Marquis Signed to Minor League Deal

Jason MarquisThe Phillies hope to have added depth to the organization today when they announced they signed right-hander Jason Marquis to a Minor League contract.

He will report tomorrow to Clearwater, Fla., for extended Spring Training.

Marquis went 9-5 with a 4.05 ERA in 20 starts last season with the Padres before having Tommy John surgery in July. He is 121-114 with a 4.56 ERA in 368 appearances (309 starts) over a 14-year big-league career.

The Phillies are short on starting pitching depth with Cliff Lee, Jonathan Pettibone and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez each on the disabled list.

Your 2014 Phillies?

Ryne SandbergIt took 20 hours, 36 minutes to play a five-game series against the Mets.

It felt much longer.

The Phillies dropped four of five to the Mets, who entered the series tied with the Phillies for fourth place in the NL East. The Phillies, who have the third-highest payroll in baseball, now stand alone in last place, three games behind the third-place Nationals and Mets. The Phillies went 4-7 on their just completed homestand, which included their first no-hit loss since 1978 and one other shutout loss.

Are the Phillies worried this is who they are?

“I’m not a negative person, so, no,” Chase Utley said.

Does this team have the talent to win?

“We’ve showed better baseball before this series,” Ryne Sandberg said. “We’ve showed better baseball than we’ve played overall and I believe that the core group is there.”

But the evidence suggests otherwise. The Phillies are 24-31, two games worse than they were at this point last season when they lost 89 games. They can’t hit consistently. They can’t pitch consistently. There are fundamental mistakes every night. There is nothing right now to suggest this team can get on a hot streak.

“I’ll say that we’ve showed signs of fundamental baseball,” Sandberg said. “We’ve played better defense than we’ve played in this series. It’s just putting together the pitching, the defense, executing throughout the game and having some timely hits and some better support. Putting it all together or more of the parts of the game together to put together a game.”

Lee Still Feels Discomfort in Elbow

Cliff LeeThe Phillies had hoped Cliff Lee could begin his throwing program as early as last week, but the wait continues.

“It’s still there a little bit,” Lee said today about the discomfort in his left elbow. “It’s getting better.”

Lee has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 19 with a strained elbow. He said he plans to join the team on its upcoming six-game road trip to Washington and Cincinnati, which begins Tuesday night against the Nationals at Nationals Park. He is hopeful he can begin his throwing program on the road.

“There’s a chance that could happen on this road trip,” Ryne Sandberg said.

Your Latest Music Update

Jimmy RollinsHere is the latest update on the Phillies’ at-bat and warmup tunes. Selections are through May 30.

If you do not see somebody listed it means they have not chosen a song:

AT BAT:

  • Cody Asche: Dat New New – Kid Cudi
  • Reid Brignac: Drop Tha Top – Boss Hogg Outlawz
  • Domonic Brown: In Da Wind – Trick Daddy and Move That Dope – Future
  • A.J. Burnett: Walking Dead Theme – Bear McCreary
  • Marlon Byrd: Get Like Me – David Banner and Work – DJ Smoke f/Gangstarr
  • Tony Gwynn Jr.: So Fresh So Clean – Outkast
  • Ryan Howard: They Don’t Love You No More – DJ Khaled
  • John Mayberry Jr.: Look Ahead – Future
  • Wil Nieves: No Soy Yo – Tony Vega
  • Ben Revere: Turn Down For What – DJ Snake & Lil Jon
  • Jimmy Rollins: Walk Thru – Rich Homie Quan
  • Darin Ruf: Awake and Alive – Skillet
  • Carlos Ruiz: In The Air Tonight – Phil Collins
  • Chase Utley: Kashmir – Led Zeppelin

WARM UP

  • Mike Adams: Intro – DMX
  • David Buchanan: Agnus Dei / Worthy – Third Day
  • A.J. Burnett: Black Skinhead – Kanye West
  • Cole Hamels: Thunderstruck – AC/DC
  • Kyle Kendrick: The Outsiders – Eric Church
  • Cliff Lee: Stranglehold – Ted Nugent
  • Jonathan Papelbon: Bout That Life – Meek Mill

Last 10 Drafts Haven’t Delivered for Phillies

Darin RufThe Phillies have the seventh overall pick in next week’s draft, their highest selection since they picked right-hander Gavin Floyd with the fourth pick in 2001. They took Cole Hamels with the No. 17 pick in 2002, but since then the best thing that can be said about the organization’s first-round picks is that two of them (Kyle Drabek and Travis d’Arnaud) helped them acquire Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays in Dec. 2009.

The list includes Greg Golson, Joe Savery, Adrian Cardenas, Zach Collier, Anthony Hewitt and Larry Greene.

“Circumstances are a little different,” assistant general manager of amateur scouting Marti Wolever said. “Seven or eight years ago, you had to have an opportunity to play here. If you were a first baseman or a second baseman or a shortstop or a catcher, guess what, you weren’t going to play here for a while. … You reach out and you take Golsons and Saverys and you roll the dice on Anthony Hewitt and you hope that you hit based on their tools and their athletic ability. Some do, some don’t and some of them haven’t and we need to do a better job in that regard, but it’s based on a lot of factors that come into play.”

Forty-six Phillies draft picks have reached the big leagues over the previous 10 drafts (2004-13), which ties the A’s and Rangers for seventh-best in baseball. The average in that span is 41.8 players per organization. But the quality of the Phillies’ picks ranks last. According to Baseball Reference, the combined WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of Phillies draft picks over the past 10 years is 20.7, which is a remarkable 24.6 points lower than the 29th ranked Blue Jays (45.3).

The Red Sox (142.7), Braves (133.3), Angels (124.4), Yankees (120.5) and Diamondacks (120.1) are in the top five. The Phillies, Blue Jays, Mets (49.5), Twins (49.6) and Marlins (51.8) are in the bottom five.

The big-league average is 82.7.

There are things to consider with those rankings:

  • Recent draft picks do not figure into the equation as much, if at all, because they are still coming through the farm system or just beginning their big-league careers. Class A Lakewood shortstop J.P. Crawford, who the Phillies selected in the first round last year, could be a superstar, but he nets the Phillies nothing today. The same can be said for former draft picks Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton, who are with the Astros. Of course, the same came be said for the other 29 teams, too.
  • Second, the Phillies have not selected higher than 16th overall in the past 10 years. There is a big difference drafting high in the first round compared to low in the first round. Still, there are gems to be found everywhere.
  • Third, the rankings consider players drafted, whether or not they signed with the organization. So the Angels get credit for selecting Buster Posey in the 50th round in 2005 and Matt Harvey in the third round in 2007, even though neither signed. Then again, the Phillies got 6.2 points for Vance Worley, whom they drafted twice.
  • Fourth and certainly not least, how much is the player development side involved?

But generally speaking the Phillies have not fared well in the past 10 drafts. Their top three performers based on WAR are J.A. Happ (5.6, third round pick in 2004), A.J. Griffin (4.4, 34th round in 2009, but did not sign) and Worley (3.6, 20th round in 2005 and third round in 2008).

That is something that must change.

Revere’s Ride Can’t Save Phillies

Rockies Phillies Baseball

A few thoughts about last night’s 6-2 loss to the Rockies:

  • Will we ever seen Ben Revere homer again? He finally homered in the 1,466th at-bat of his career. It was the longest homerless stretch to start a career since Frank Taveras went 1,594 at-bats without a homer from 1972-77.
  • Darin Ruf isn’t a savior, but he has warranted additional playing time. Not because he hit a home run last night, but because the Phillies need to try something different in left field and possibly at first base while Domonic Brown is struggling overall and Ryan Howard is struggling against lefties. Brown’s .567 OPS is the sixth lowest out of 169 qualifying hitters in baseball. Putting some historical perspective into it, Brown’s .582 OPS as a left fielder — his overall OPS is lower — would be the fifth lowest out of 558 qualifying left fielders in baseball from 1990-2014. The White Sox’s Alejandro De Aza (.533 OPS in 2014), Seattle’s Mike Felder (.545 in 1993), Seattle’s Brian Hunter (.571 in 1999) and Kansas City’s Chuck Knoblauch (.582 in 2002) are lower. Even if Ruf posts an OPS 50 points lower than his career average of .838, it would still be 221 points higher than what Brown is giving the Phillies right now.
  • The Phillies raved about Jeff Manship‘s performance in Spring Training. But Manship still had a 6.42 ERA in 52 appearances over parts of five big-league seasons, which seemed like a pretty good predictor of the future. Manship has a 7.53 ERA in 15 appearances this season. He has made just two appearances with the Phillies holding a lead, which is not a surprise. He joined the bullpen as a long man/mop-up guy. But he has made nine appearances with the game either tied or the Phillies’ in a deficit of three runs or less. In other words, winnable games. Manship has allowed at least a run in five of those appearances, posting a 13.50 ERA in those games.
  • Ken Giles is 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA in eight appearances with Triple-A. He has allowed five hits, one run, five walks and has struck out seven in 10 1/3 innings. His strikeout rate has plummeted since the promotion from Double-A (17.4 per nine innings to 5.9), while his walks rate has inched upward (3.0 to 4.2). That is not a recipe for success, but Triple-A hitters aren’t squaring up the ball, either. That should tell you something, too. Give the kid a shot. The Phillies have nothing to lose at this point.
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