After one week of Phillies baseball, the team is 3-4 and has already made some personnel changes within the roster. Unsurprisingly, Jeanmar Gomez is no longer the closer. Zach Eflin was activated from the disabled list and optioned to Triple-A today. Jerad Eickhoff has been as good as fans could have hoped, and Aaron Nola impressed in his debut start after a shaky first full season as a major leaguer.
Some things, on the other hand, have gone exactly as expected. Vince Velasquez still throws too many pitches, Maikel Franco is inconsistent, and Freddy Galvis plays fantastic defense. Due in part because of Cesar Hernandez’s solid defensive start to the season, the Phillies have a respectable middle infield duo for the first time since the Utley and Rollins days.
Because the Phils are only seven games into a 162-game season, though, many questions are left unanswered. To answer some fans’ questions that are still unanswered, we took to Twitter and asked fans to ask any curiosities that they may have about the club. My job is to answer these inquiries as best as possbile. Here goes nothing.
@PHLPhilNation How long can the lineup keep this productivity up before we start considering call-ups? And who gets called up first?
— Matt Donaher (@M_donaher) April 11, 2017
Throughout the first seven games of the season, it seems as if Matt Stairs has completely rejuvenated the Phillies’ offense. The players are seeing more pitches at the plate, making better contact with the ball, and putting their starting pitchers in better position to win games (that is, unless the pitcher’s name is Jerad Eickhoff). As it is still early in the season, it is same to assume that the lineup will slow down a bit from its early-season hot streak. Think back to last season, when Odubel Herrera walked more often than not for the first month of the season, then barely walked at all throughout the rest of the season.
However, when the batters who are playing out of their shoes (Howie Kendrick-.400 batting average; Odubel Herrera-.346 batting average; Freddy Galvis-.280 batting average) return to standard form, some players who have been slow out of the gate (Cesar Hernandez-.267 batting average; Maikel Franco-.200 batting average; Tommy Joseph-.100 batting average) may become hot and keep the team at the offensive level that they are currently playing at.
As for the call-ups, it is important to realize that the promotions will not come because of a struggling major league player, but because of a dominant minor leaguer. The Phillies have it very clear that they are not in win-now mode, and there is no rush to promote a prospect who is not completely ready to make the leap to the major leagues. In my opinion, the first call-up will be one of the Lehigh Valley outfielders after a trade is made for either Howie Kendrick or Michael Saunders. Crawford has not proven that he is close to major league-ready, and Jorge Alfaro has a lot of hoops to jump through to overtake Rupp and Knapp.
Put me down for a Roman Quinn call-up in June, but I hope somebody proves me wrong.
@PHLPhilNation What are the odds we see some of the big name prospects like JP with the major league club this year?
— Batter Up, Philly (@BatterUpPhilly) April 11, 2017
As I shortly went over in the previous question, JP Crawford’s call-up is completely dependent upon his success in Triple-A. He struggled mightily last season after being called up from Reading, and that cost him an opportunity to make it to Philadelphia during the September roster expansions. He still has all the potential in the world, but he will have to prove to the organization that he can still the franchise cornerstone that he was expected to be at the beginning of last season. From an odds perspective, I would say that it is a safe bet that JP makes the majors at some point before the end of the season, but he has a lot of work to do.
An expected debut by a “big-name prospect” would be Nick Williams, who slumped near the end of last season but has proved that he can hit in Triple-A. Roman Quinn and Jorge Alfaro are the two other minor league players who I expect to be playing in Citizens Bank Park come season’s end, but they made their debuts last season.
It will not be a season of constant debuts by all the Phillies top prospects. The other top-10 prospects in the organization are (in order) Mickey Moniak, Franklyn Kilome, Sixto Sanchez, Kevin Gowdy, Dylan Cozens, and Cornelius Randolph. Each of these players needs at least a season more of preparation before making their big-league debut, and some may not be in Philly until at least 2020. The farm system is extremely deep, but also very young.
@PHLPhilNation Why is Adam Morgan still on the roster? He sucks and everybody knows it. This is a serious question.
— Carlo Polidori (@PolidoriCarlo) April 11, 2017
Adam Morgan is not a major league-caliber pitcher. He is horrendously inconsistent, and there is a high chance of disaster each and every time he makes his way onto the mound. He has had more than enough chances to prove that he is worthy of a spot on the roster, but has failed mightily each and every single time. But, Morgan is a left-handed pitcher who can pitch multiple innings.
It is no secret that the Phillies organization is lacking southpaw hurlers. So keeping Morgan fulfills two needs: another left-hander in the bullpen and having a pitcher who can pitch at least three innings in case of a short outing from one of the starting pitchers.
Again, the Phillies are not delusional, and realize that this roster is not strong enough to contend for a world series title, much less a playoff spot. Even manager Pete Mackanin’s goal for the team is to win 81 games. Morgan is an insurance policy, and he will more than likely be out of the organization after this season (if he makes it that long). For now, we have to deal with his struggles.
(UPDATE: My answer to this question was written about an hour before Tuesday’s game began. Adam Morgan is officially in Triple-A, and we will in fact not have to deal with his struggles for the foreseeable future. It was the best news of the night.)
@PHLPhilNation should gomez still be the closer
— . (@Mike_seaman1826) April 11, 2017
Jeanmar Gomez was recently relieved of his duties as the Phillies closer, and it was deserved. Gomez had a miraculous first three-fourths of last season as the closer, nearly buying himself a trip to the all-star game. However, a low-90s fastball and average “stuff” can only get a major league closer so far. Batters started figuring him out, and Hector Neris closed some games near the end of the season.
Before spring training began Mackanin named Gomez the closer and said that there would not be a competition. He made the wrong move in that respect. After Gomez blew two saves in the team’s first 6 games, Joaquin Benoit was named the team’s closer. Benoit is a seasoned veteran and will most likely fill the role well, but there are still questions as to why Neris wasn’t given the job.
Benoit is not expected to be with the team beyond the trade deadline, and a run of success as the closer could spike his trade value. Once Joaquin is traded and the Phillies are given a package of their liking for his services, Neris will become the closer for the rest of the season, and possibly beyond. Simply put: closers have more value at the trade deadline, and Matt Klentak is all about value.
And just to make myself clear, Jeanmar Gomez should not be the closer.
Photo by joe (via Flickr)
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