Let's find out if the Phillies like the taste of Rhys' big cuts.
The Situation: The Phillies, as you might know, are not great at baseball. They’ve held overripe first base prospect Rhys Hoskins down at Triple-A all season in favor of so-so 26-year-old incumbent first baseman Tommy Joseph, a move right on the border of defensibility for a rebuilding club. Hoskins started taking reps in left field earlier this week after Aaron Altherr went on the DL, temporarily opening a spot in a previously crowded young outfield. It’s Hoskins’ first playing time in the outfield since he was a semi-regular in left as a college freshman, but it’s not like the next six weeks of Phillies outfield defense matters too much except to the back of Aaron Nola’s baseball card.
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A look behind the curtain at our process for ranking the Phillies dynamics hurler.
Here’s a peek inside the ranking process for the top pitching prospects in the game: we’re throwing darts here. We ranked Alex Reyes as the top prospect in the game before the season because Reyes had it all: 80-grade fastball, killer curve, above-average change, developed command, success against higher-level hitters all the way to MLB, projectability as a durable 200-inning pitcher. He blew out his elbow the day after the list went live. (He was, in fact, such a great pitching prospect that we’re still ranking him as the best pitching prospect in baseball in the middle of Tommy John recovery.)
The simple fact of the matter is that under the umbrella of injury prevention, professional baseball as an industry has decided that good young pitchers are too valuable a commodity to throw very much in the minors. The effectiveness of this is still a matter of enormous debate, but it does mean that our certitude about whether any of these guys can handle a MLB starting assignment has been decreasing over time. We can guess based on injury history, mechanics, build, pitch selection, makeup, and general soothsaying. But simply put, no pitcher on this list has thrown more than 143 innings in any professional season, and one of the most major parts of their placement on our list is their projection to be able to throw 175-200 on a consistent basis. It would be far easier to just rank hitters on one list and pitchers on another list—John Sickels has done so for many years—but the conventions of this operation don’t really permit such an easy way out, and aside from that it’s a challenge worth undertaking.
Separating signal from noise can be difficult in the prospect landscape.
My first look at Phillies pitching prospect Adonis Medina this spring was so boring that I managed to not write about it at all—not in a Ten Pack or Eyewitness Report, not in my column, not even as a throwaway line in a bit about someone else. He was, more or less, the same guy we wrote up in the Phillies offseason top ten: 90-94 with a heavy fastball, a slurvish curve and a firm change that both needed generous projection to get to average, but a strong feel for pitching and good command for his age. With more physical projectability left than you’d think, we snuck him onto the back of the offseason 101 as the 91st-best prospect in baseball. There are dozens of pitching prospects with this rough outline and they populate around the 75th-to-150th spots in any given global top 101 list. I marked him as a guy to check back on and probably Ten Pack on a rainy week.
Does losing in the majors and winning in the minors eventually lead to long-term success?
I was going to show you two lists of major-league teams, ranked highest to lowest. There are 30 teams, so that kind of list can run pretty long. Maybe you don’t like reading tables with 30 lines. So I’ll do you a favor. I’ll shorten the first list for you. It’ll still make my point, but you won’t have to plow through as many rows.
How much should we read into a slow start - relative to expectations - from a top overall pick?
I’ve often said that the hardest thing to evaluate in baseball is whether a player will hit. This is an inversion of an old Ted Williams line which is just as true for our purposes: the hardest thing to do in sports is to hit a baseball.
What do Ryan Howard, Derek Jeter, Lou Whitaker, Dill Dickey, and Bobby Doerr have in common?
This week Ryan Howard was released by the Braves after 11 unspectacular games for their Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett. Some might consider this an inglorious, ignominious exit for a former MVP fallen on hard performance times, but I see it differently. I see it as a man so in love with baseball that he was willing to move on from the only franchise he’d ever played for, willing to toil away in Georgia for a Triple-A affiliate of a bad team with an All-World first baseman blocking him in the big leagues. It didn’t work out, but Howard’s story has (potentially) ended with him trying to do the thing he loved, and not for money or for glory. I like that about him.
Second sackers get a bad rap as prospects, but should they?
When watching the minors in person, occasionally a position player really pops out at you in a way you don’t quite expect. These are often enough the guys you end up writing a glowing report about after confirming your initial impressions. They aren’t always the top prospects on the team, just guys that make a strong positive initial impression. Last year, guys that stood out for me like this included Andrew Benintendi and Tyler Wade. The first guy that fit the bill for me this year is Daniel Brito, a 2014 six-figure July 2 prospect in the Phillies system. He’s an A-ball second baseman. I usually don’t like A-ball second basemen.