Utley’s Playing Time to Begin Dwindling?

Chase UtleyChase Utley did not play today at Citizens Bank Park.

It was the fourth time in seven games he had not started at second base, although in two of those games he served as the Phillies’ first baseman and designated hitter. Utley’s playing time is being monitored closely these days because he is hitting .182 with a .539 OPS in 244 plate appearances through June 21.

Utley has a $15 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests if he reaches 500 plate appearances this season.

He has 91 games to attain the remaining 256.

Utley declined to discuss his future with the Phillies or his option this morning at Citizens Bank Park, but Ryne Sandberg said after a 9-2 victory over the Cardinals that he would like to see Cesar Hernandez play more in the future.

“I’ve been trying to get him in there,” Sandberg said. “He does a nice job so going forward … wait and see.”

“I definitely feel like I could be the second baseman of the future and I’m trying to take advantage of the opportunity I am getting right now,” Hernandez said through translator Juan Samuel.

Asked about Utley’s future with the organization, Phillies president Pat Gillick said today, “Chase probably is disappointed in his performance to this point. I think he’s a little bit frustrated with his performance. I think maybe we just have to wait and see. Unfortunately, he got off to a bad start in Spring Training with his sprained ankle. But right now he’s not performing up to his standards and certainly we can’t be satisfied with what he’s doing, either.”

But would it be negligent for the organization to have Utley reach the 500-plate appearance mark if he continues to struggle? Utley is hitting .217 with 19 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs, 70 RBIs and a .617 OPS in 602 plate appearances over 150 games in the last calendar year.

“That’s up to the manager,” Gillick said about Utley’s playing time. “We don’t have anything to say about that.”


Ruben (Amaro Jr.) to my knowledge and myself, we’ve never dictated to any of the managers their lineup,” Gillick insisted. “They’re free to make their lineup and play whomever they wish.”

If that is truly the case, then it seems Sandberg is already on his way to playing Hernandez more in the future.

But like Sandberg and Gillick said, wait and see.

Hamels: I Will Start Wednesday vs. Yankees

Hamels_IGCole Hamels cleaned out his locker yesterday to prank his teammates, but he made no jokes about his health today.

He said he is fine and he will pitch Wednesday against the Yankees in New York.

“I won’t be on the DL,” he said this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies scratched Hamels from Friday night’s start against the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park because of a strained right hamstring. But Hamels said he feels much better, and he said the Phillies scratched his start as “more of a precaution than anything.”

Hamels said he first felt something following Tuesday’s bullpen session.

“It felt like a cramp,” he said. “It was just tight.”

Hamels, who will throw a bullpen session Sunday to test the hamstring, is always in tune with how is body feels, so the fact he wanted to be cautious about his hamstring is no surprise. He certainly did not want to push the issue and tear something. Certainly not now. The July 31 Trade Deadline is just 42 days away. The last thing Hamels need is a serious injury.

But Hamels, who the Phillies are trying to trade, downplayed the proximity of the Trade Deadline to the way he handled the injury.

“My focus is to play on this team and win ballgames, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” he said. “I want to maintain the level of play that I know I’m capable of going out there and doing. And that’s not because of other situations, but it’s because that’s who I am. And what I’ve learned, in the past, with trying to push through certain injuries. There are times when you just want to be smart no matter what the circumstances are. I know they’re a little bit different than previous circumstances in previous years, but I’m not going to change the way I like to play the game and prepare for the game.”

But the Trade Deadline is on his mind. It is why he cleaned out his locker to get teammates and members of the media to think he had been traded during Thursday’s 2-1 victory over the Orioles.

“We’ve kind of bene battling some tough morale, so just something to distract everybody,” he said about the prank. “I think with a lot of them it worked. I think even today they didn’t know what to expect.”

“Cole, glad to see that trade didn’t go through,” closer Jonathan Papelbon said as he walked past Hamels.

Hamels Scratched from Friday’s Start

Cole HamelsThis isn’t the news the Phillies needed.

They announced this afternoon that Cole Hamels has been scratched from tomorrow night’s start against the Cardinals because of a mild right hamstring strain. Triple-A right-hander Phillippe Aumont will start in his place.

Hamels is 5-5 with a 2.96 ERA in 14 starts this season, but his health is critical as the July 31 Trade Deadline approaches. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said yesterday he is hopeful the Phillies can make some trades to speed up the team’s rebuilding process. Hamels is the team’s most valuable piece, so they must hope the injury does not linger and Hamels returns to the rotation shortly.

A roster move will be made prior to Friday’s game to accommodate Aumont on the 25-man and 40-man rosters.

Phillies Sign More Draft Picks

The Phillies have been locking up their Draft picks relatively quickly.

They agreed to terms today with first-round pick Cornelius Randolph. He will receive a $3,231,300 signing bonus, which was the full value for the 10th overall pick. They also signed second-round pick Scott Kingery to a $1,259,600 bonus, which was full value for the 48th pick.

The team has not confirmed any signings, although they have signed at least 21. They have agreements with others

That includes fourth-round pick Kyle Martin ($200,000), seventh-round pick Luke Leftwich ($209,300) and eighth-round pick Greg Pickett ($350,000). Pickett’s bonus was $176,100 more than the amount slotted for the 234th pick, but they needed to pay more for him to bypass college. They saved some bonus pool money with Martin, who signed at nearly $300,000 under the amount slotted.

The Phillies also signed 12th round pick Skylar Hunter ($100,000) and 20th round pick Will Stewart ($100,000). Stewart, who is a left-hander, just graduated high school in Alabama.

Phillies Reach Agreement with 28 Draft Picks

Phillies amateur scouting director Johnny Almaraz sounded confident last week that the Phillies would sign more than their share of 2015 Draft picks.

They already have reached agreements with at least 28 of them.

Griffin (Ga.) High School shortstop Cornelius Randolph, who was selected with the 10th overall pick in the first round, tweeted this evening that he is headed to Philadelphia. (He later deleted the tweet.) Randolph is expected to take his physical Tuesday.

Second-round pick Scott Kingery, fourth-round pick Kyle Martin, seventh-round pick Luke Leftwich and 12th-round pick Skylar Hunter were some of the players in Philadelphia today. They have agreed to deals.

The Phillies have reached agreements with 13th round pick Zack Coppola ($85,000 signing bonus), 17th round pick Kenny Koplove ($75,000), 22nd round pick Sutter McLoughlin ($50,000) and 24th round pick Zach Morris ($30,000).

Penn catcher Austin Bossart, who the Phillies selected in the 14th round, has agreed to a $5,000 bonus. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s nephew Andrew, who was picked in the 35th round, agreed to a $1,000 bonus.

Deals could be announced as early as tomorrow, assuming those players pass their physicals.

Phillies’ Draft: Hitters Early, Pitchers Late, Analytics Throughout

Johnny Almaraz, the Philadelphia Phillies Director of Amateur Scouting, speaks during a news conference before a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Wednesday, June 3, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Johnny Almaraz entered the 2015 Draft with a specific plan and he believes the Phillies executed it.

Almaraz, who ran his first Draft as the Phillies’ new amateur scouting director, used 13 of the organization’s first 18 selections on hitters. He then picked 10 consecutive pitchers from the 19th to the 28th round.

“There is some offensive potential in the Draft,” Almaraz said in a telephone interview Wednesday night. “We feel there are some strong hitters there that are going to have a chance to be everyday players at the Major League level. Position players are becoming a rarity. My feeling is we can find pitching down late. So I tried to go from the 19th round on down with a bunch of pitchers.”

Here is the breakdown of Almaraz’s first Draft:

  • 27 college players.
  • 13 high school players.
  • 21 position players (nine outfielders, four shortstops, three catchers, two first baseman, two third basemen, one second baseman).
  • 19 pitchers (12 right-handers, seven left-handers).

Almaraz pointed out that most of the Phillies’ selections had good statistics at whatever level they played. He said the organization’s analytics crew played a considerable role in that.

“We combined in making decisions,” he said. “The primary focus was ability, but we looked at the metrics to help us. I’m very old school, but I am a big believer in metrics, too. It’s a piece of the puzzle for me to make decisions.”

Some of the team’s high school selections on Day 3 are going to be difficult to sign, but the Phillies plan to follow them during the summer. That group includes left-hander Will Stewart (20th round), outfielder Von Watson (29th round), left-hander Nick Fanti (31st round), right-hander Jacob Stevens (33rd round) and outfielder Ben Pelletier (34th round). Almaraz said with a surplus of money they hope to pry one or two away from their college commitments.

“Even a couple of the college guys that we’re going to see during the summer leagues,” Almaraz said. “And if we feel we need to sign them we’re going to wrap them up.”

Almaraz said the Phillies already have agreements with several players in the first 10 rounds. High school outfielder Greg Pickett (eighth round) announced on Twitter he has reached agreement. Players like second baseman Scott Kingery (second round) are almost signed, too.

“We’re just reading the fine print,” Almaraz said.


Randolph Models Game after Cano

Cornelius Randolph has been compared to the likes of Tony Gwynn, Robinson Cano and Dmitri Young.

If Randolph has a career close to any of them, the Phillies will be thrilled with their first pick in the 2015 Draft. Randolph answered questions this morning on a conference call with Phillies beat reporters, and he seems eager to get his professional career going.

“I’m pretty confident,” he said about signing a contract in the near future, “but we’ll see how it goes, though.”

Randolph, 18, hit .526 with 11 doubles, seven home runs, 27 walks and a .934 slugging percentage in 17 games this season with Griffin (Ga.) High School. The Phillies drafted him with the 10th overall pick as a shortstop, but Phillies amateur scouting director Johnny Almaraz said Monday night they expect Randolph to move to left field once he signs.

Randolph is OK with that.

“I’m open to anything, honestly,” he said. “I’m just ready to play ball. I’ve played outfield a little bit with my summer ball team, so I think I’ll adapt pretty quickly.”

Randolph said he learned to play baseball from his father, Cedric. Father and son worked together from the time Randolph was five years old.

“We go to the cages every day,” he said. “We hit buckets and buckets (of balls).”

But Randolph said he modeled his swing after Cano.

“That’s my favorite player,” he said. “I watched him growing up. That’s where I got the little smooth swing from the left side. I know I have a lot of work to do with my hitting, but I feel like I can be a clutch hitter.”

The Phillies think so, too.

“We love his bat,” Almaraz said. “He’s somebody who we feel is one of the top three hitters in the country as far as this year’s Draft is concerned. Very rarely do you ever get a consensus from an entire room. There’s no doubt we feel he’s got a chance to be a hitter in the Major Leagues that hits for both average and power.”

Randolph said he went to his share of Braves games at Turner Field with his father and brother. They saw the Phillies play quite a bit, and he gravitated toward Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard.

“Getting drafted by the Phillies is actually pretty cool,” he said.

Phillies’ Draft: Day 2

The Phillies took a high school shortstop and a college second baseman last night in the first two rounds of the 2015 Draft.

They remained in the middle of the infield with their first pick today.

Here is a look at the Phillies’ selections on Day 2:

Round 3: SS Luke Williams, Dana Hills (Calif.) HS
Williams (6-foot-1, 180 pounds) has committed to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

The right-handed hitter posted a .315 batting average in 32 games and has good speed. He set the school’s career stolen bases record this year.

“I like to utilize my speed, that’s a big part of my game,” Williams told the Orange County Register in April. “Every time I’m on first, I like to try and swipe a bag.”

Round 4: 1B Kyle Martin, South Carolina
Martin earned second-team All-America honors during his senior season with the Gamecocks. He hit .350 with 12 doubles, 2 triples, 14 home runs, 56 RBIs, a .455 on-base percentage and a .635 slugging percentage.

Martin (6-foot-1, 240 pounds) walked 39 times and struck out just 27 times.

The Angels selected Martin in the 20th round of the 2014 Draft, but he returned for his senior season.

Round 5: LHP Bailey Falter, Chino Hills (Calif.) HS
Falter is 6-foot-4, 175 pounds, and MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo said he throws in the mid-to-high 80 mph range, but scouts believe his velocity will build in time.

He has committed to UC-Santa Barbara.

Round 6: LHP Tyler Gilbert, Southern California
He went 5-2 with a 2.79 ERA as a junior with the Trojans, where he spent most of his time in the bullpen.

Gilbert allowed 68 hits, 21 earned runs, 25 walks and struck out 66 batters in 67 1/3 innings.

Round 7: RHP Luke Leftwich, Wofford College
Leftwich (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) is a junior with baseball bloodlines.

The Angels selected his father Phil in the second round of the 1990 Draft. He made 34 starts with the Angels from 1993-96. Leftwich’s grandfather Tom Timmermann pitched six season for the Tigers (1969-73) and Indians (1973-74).

Leftwich went 7-2 with a 4.25 ERA in 16 appearances (14 starts) this season. He struck out 114 and walked 28 in 89 innings.

Round 8 (234th pick): OF Greg Pickett, Legend (Colo.) HS
Pickett is listed at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. He has power from the left side of the plate.

He hit .420 this season. He has committed to Mississippi State.

Round 9 (264th pick): CF Mark Laird, Louisiana State
He has good speed, but lacks power.

Laird (6-foot-2, 173 pounds) played the corners in college, but the Phillies see him as a center fielder. He has hit .323 with nine doubles, one triple, one home run, 23 RBIs, a .379 slugging percentage and a .390 on-base percentage. He stole 23 bases in 29 attempts.

Round 10 (294th pick): 3B Josh Tobias, Florida
Tobias hit .373 with 14 doubles, five triples, five home runs, 41 RBIs, a .557 slugging percentage and a .447 on-base percentage as a senior.

He is listed at 5-foot-9, 205 pounds.

The Draft concludes tomorrow, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 on MLB.com beginning at noon ET.

Phillies Sign Correia

The Phillies filled Severino Gonzalez’s spot in the rotation from outside the organization.

The team announced this afternoon it had signed right-hander Kevin Correia to a Major League contract. Correia is expected to join the team in Cincinnati.

Correia, 34, spent the first two months this season pitching for Triple-A Sacramento, which is the Giants’ top affiliate. He went 0-1 with a 3.58 ERA in six starts. The Giants released Correia on May 29 after exercising an opt-out clause in his contract.

“Kevin fills a need by adding depth, durability and experience to our pitching staff,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. “We hope that he can give us quality innings to take some heat off the bullpen.”

Correia is 76-95 with a 4.59 ERA in 353 games (216 starts) for the Giants (2003-08), Padres (2009-10), Pirates (2011-12), Twins (2013-14) and Dodgers (2014).

The Phillies optioned Gonzalez to Triple-A over the weekend. He went 1-2 with a 4.34 ERA in five starts.

Almaraz Hopes to Change Draft Fortunes

crawfordPhillies president Pat Gillick said something interesting in Spring Training about new amateur scouting director Johnny Almaraz.

He said Almaraz likes players.

“People might not understand that,” Gillick said, “but sometimes you look at a player and you can talk about his minuses or you can talk about his plusses. Our new scouting director, he talks about players’ plusses. He wants to concentrate on what this player can do, not on what he cannot do. So I think it’s a little bit of a different approach.”

The Phillies announced in October that Almaraz had replaced Marti Wolever, who had run the organization’s drafts for more than a decade. Almaraz gets his first crack at it next week, when Major League Baseball holds the 2015 First-Year Player Draft.

The Phillies have the 10th overall pick.

“I believe that we all know what a baseball player is,” Almaraz said today. “It’s somebody who executes the fundamentals, somebody who hits behind the runner, somebody who takes pitches, who can bunt the ball to both sides of the field. Pitchers who can throw strikes, first pitch for a strike. Baseball players who know how to play the game. We’re going after baseball players with ability. Sometimes when you get somebody who is extremely talented in any sport, and you try to teach them the game sometimes they cannot ever learn it.”

The Phillies hope that tweak in philosophy serves them well. Since the Phillies selected Cole Hamels with the 17th overall pick in the 2002 Draft, Phillies first-round selections (including supplemental picks) have a combined -1.2 WAR, according to Baseball Reference.

That group includes outfielder Greg Golson (2004, playing in Mexico), right-hander Kyle Drabek (2006, pitching in Triple-A Charlotte), infielder Adrian Cardenas (2006, retired), left-hander Joe Savery (2007, not playing), Travis d’Arnaud (2007, Mets), Anthony Hewitt (2008, Class A Frederick), Zach Collier (2008, not playing), Jesse Biddle (2010, Double-A Reading), Larry Greene (2011, retired), Shane Watson (2012, injured), Mitch Guellar (2012, injured ), J.P. Crawford (2013, Double-A Reading) and Aaron Nola (2014, Double-A Reading).

In fact, since the Phillies selected Golson in 2004, the Phillies’ five most successful draft picks have been J.A. Happ (third round in 2004, 6.8 WAR), Vance Worley (third round in 2005, 5.4 WAR), Jarred Cosart (38th round in 2008, 5.5 WAR), A.J. Griffin (34th round in 2009, 4.3 WAR) and Kyle Gibson (36th round in 2006, 3.4 WAR).

Griffin and Gibson never signed with the Phillies. They reentered the draft at a later date.

The Phillies will be looking for the best player available at No. 10, which only makes sense. While they certainly could use a hitter, they cannot afford to be picky. They have numerous holes to fill.

“I know we are going to get a good player at 10,” Almaraz said.

And what would make his first draft a successful one?

“My definition of a successful draft is getting somebody in the first, second and third round who are going to impact the major league level four to five years from now or sooner,” he said.