The Situation: This was supposed to be the season that the Phillies came out of their rebuild, but instead they have the worst record in baseball. Michael Saunders was supposed to bridge the gap between Philadelphia’s outfield of today and outfield of tomorrow, but was instead so bad that he was released. The overall situation is even more dire, as with the exception of Aaron Altherr, the Phillies’ group of promising young MLB hitters has all spiraled down in performance at once—as has top prospect J.P. Crawford at Triple-A. So with just a group of random Quad-A guys in the outfield corner not featuring Aaron Altherr, why not give the best outfield prospect in the system some run?
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Can Thompson make the most of this window, and seal up a rotation spot?
The situation:Jake Thompson was going to be the next starter up for the Philadelphia Phillies. The most likely scenario was his taking Jeremy Hellickson's spot after a deadline deal sent the crafty veteran packing for a contending team that needed to stabilize their rotation for the home stretch. That never materialized, but Aaron Nola's elbow woes have opened a spot for the Phillies top pitching prospect, albeit not in the way the phaithful would have preferred.
The background: Thompson was a second-round pick of the Detroit Tigers out of high school in 2012. He was dealt twice during his minor league career, heading first to Texas for Joakim Soria, then to Philadelphia as part of the Cole Hamels deal. He's pitched well everywhere though, using an above-average fastball/slider combo to cruise to the majors at the age of 22. He entered the year as our no. 3 prospect in the Phillies system, and has made the Top 101 two years running, most recently clocking in at no. 36 on our midseason Top 50.
Why would the Phillies be looking at buying this trade deadline? R.J. runs down the possibilities.
Over the past week, the Phillies have taken series from the Pirates and Braves and at worst split a four-game set against the Nationals, thus improving their positioning in the playoff race by moving them to within 5 1/2 games of the second wild-card spot. Positive results tend to boost confidence, and that's exactly what's happened in Philadelphia. While our Playoff Odds Report says the Phillies have a 6 percent chance of making the postseason, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is flirting with the idea of adding a piece or two at the trade deadline.
Amaro's stated plans have, predictably, gone over poorly. Too many authors have penned too many pieces about why the Phillies should sell over the past 12 months for any other reaction. The arguments go like this: the Phillies are a mediocre, veteran-laden team with too many big-money, long-term commitments and too few worthwhile prospects; they aren't good enough to compete for a title, but not poor enough to bottom out and force a clearance sale. Amaro seemed to acknowledge this last July, when he traded Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, and even Hunter Pence, who had team control remaining. The stripping down stopped there, however, and in the time since the Phillies haven't done much to change their talent level.
The Phillies can survive Ryan Howard's contract, but can they survive the GM who gave it to him?
Some baseball teams are disappointing by strange twists of fate. Some are disappointing by design. Not because they’re designed to perform poorly (although that happens, too), but because they’re given expectations contrary to reality, and when reality diverges from expectations, they continue to cling to the expectations.
The 2013 Phillies are a team modestly below .500. Given a preseason forecast of a basically .500 team, this shouldn’t be a terrible shock—baseball is a game filled with randomness, after all. But to view the Phillies as a real disappointment requires you to compare them to their run of excellence from 2007 through 2011, rather than the team they are now. General manager Ruben Amaro’s expectations, then, seem weirdly out of date, in more ways than one. When asked about the player who will most likely define Amaro’s career as a GM, he responded succinctly:
After a terrific May, Jason explains why owners might be wise to sell high on the Phillies' left fielder instead of simply enjoying the ride.
In his last game in the month of April, Domonic Brown earned a walk. In his first game of June, Domonic Brown earned a walk. Brown did not earn a single walk in the month of May, but fantasy owners are not complaining. Brown won Player of the Month honors in the National League, as he hit .303 in the month with a .688 slugging percentage—an outburst very few saw coming.
It was not that long ago that some wondered if Brown could maintain success with the swing he brought to the major leagues. Harold Reynolds did an excellent job breaking down that swing in late 2011:
Background: The Phillies gave Pettibone an aggressive $500,000 signing bonus as a third-round pick in 2008 and assigned the 17-year-old right-hander to the Gulf Coast League for one start in his debut summer. In 2009, Pettibone moved on to the New York-Penn League, where he tossed 35 1/3 innings with a 5.35 ERA as one of the younger players in the league. The Phillies continued to promote him a level at a time as he moved to Low-A in 2010 and put together his first truly successful season, posting a 3.49 ERA in 131 1/3 innings.
The third installment of a five-part series on the pressing questions confronting each team in 2013.
In the week leading up to Opening Day, we're asking and answering three questions about each team in a five-part series ordered by descending Playoff Pct from the Playoff Odds Report. Today, we continue with a look at the group of six teams with the third-highest odds of winning at least a Wild Card. As a reminder, you can find links to our preview podcasts for each team here.