I realize that I have not been writing as much here as I have been writing over at The Good Phight. I am not going to say I will be writing here more, I have a finite amount of time, but I will be still writing here. Also I am excited that we have a couple of new writers joining the site, and that we are always looking to add more.
With that being said, here is a bunch of thoughts too long for Twitter and too short for their own posts.
I am not concerned about Nick Williams. The numbers aren’t great, he is striking out a lot more than he is walking, and he is still learning what to do. If you watch games, you can see him working counts deep, but he still takes some big hacks at two strikes. He has the wrists and bat speed to use the full field, and that is something he will need to learn how to do. Overall he is very similar to Maikel Franco, and he is going through the same set of struggles and lessons. He is also only 22 and one of the younger players in AAA, so there is no need to panic any time soon.
If you are concerned about J.P. Crawford you probably should stop following prospects. Yes Crawford is not perfect, but I can’t help you if you are worried about him, he does just about everything you want for sustainable success. Did I mention he almost leads the minors in walks and is the second youngest player in the International League?
Mark Appel is still a mystery. He didn’t look right in his last start, so I am going to throw that aside for a second. Appel has looked very good early in games, very bad late in games, and very bad out of the stretch. He will show velocity up to 96-98 and a killer slider at his best. At his worst it is 89-92, flat, and nowhere near the strike zone. There is still something here, it may just be a reliever, but it could be a very good reliever. I don’t really blame the player, he is battling and working on things, he is going to need to make adjustments, but this is not a mental weakness thing as some have hinted.
Jake Thompson vs Zach Eflin is a great debate. I am driving the Zach Eflin hype train right now, I think he is showing a plus fastball, and feel for at least 3 average pitches. His changeup has flashed plus in the past, but I don’t see that right now. However, the curveball and slider could be at least above average, if not plus as he refines them. Thompson has found his fastball command recently, and it really shows. When on he lives at the bottom of the zone just generating a ton of ground balls, and the slider is still a nasty pitch. The changeup and curveball are not great pitches, but he has confidence in throwing them, which should at least keep hitters off balance. I think right now I lean Thompson because the slider is the best pitch between the two of them, but that will change the next time I see Eflin dotting the corners at 96.
Edubray Ramos has been very good. He just walked his second batter of the year on Sunday and has yet to allow a run in AAA. He probably is not a closer, but if you can throw strikes and miss bats while throwing in the mid-90s you have a place in the major leagues.
Miguel Nunez is what happens when a bullpen transition goes well. The Phillies moved Nunez to the bullpen last year and he did reasonably well. It is almost a year later and he is now a monster. He walked some guys right after coming up to Reading, but he closed the door yesterday, following up a performance where he came into a disaster, struck out the last guy to end it, and then struck out everyone he faced in the 9th. He is a minor league free agent after the year and is almost certainly going to be getting a 40 man spot.
Elniery Garcia was up to 95 this weekend. He still is more of back end guy because the secondary pitches good, but not great. However, he is 21 years old, left handed (which makes him the best LH pitching prospect in the system by default), is not walking many guys, and has seen a strong uptick in strikeouts. He could be in line for a midseason promotion.
The depth of the system has led to a lot of ok prospects who can fill major league roles. I speak of players like Jesmuel Valentin and Tyler Viza who are not going to be impact players, but they have major league potential as starters or solid bench/bullpen pieces.
I still don’t get Ben Lively. He has gotten some love from evaluators and scouts, but I still don’t see where he fits into the majors. He is 89-92 with average secondary pitches. He has deception, but his fastball is straight and lacks life. I have heard plus command, but have not seen it. Plus fastball command was what Nola may have had in AA, Lively does not have that. With velocity up across the league, you need to have more than deception and sequencing to get major league hitters out and I don’t see Lively doing that.
Knapp and Alfaro still both need time and that is totally fine. Knapp has been up and down so far, more power, less hit, and mixed defense. I still think he will be up at some point this year, but don’t look for immediate impact. Alfaro’s stock is up, his swing and defense are both better, and it is showing on the field. His approach still needs work, he is ultra aggressive at the plate and will need continued work on getting into a good hitting position. I think Alfaro could use at least all of this year in the minors, plus some time next year in order to be best prepared for the majors, but don’t confuse that for a lack of progress.
Don’t get caught up in low minors pitching stats. Older pitchers can dominate younger competition with deception and good secondary offerings. Just your daily reminder to not scout the stat line.
Drew Anderson is back. Anderson had Tommy John surgery 14 months ago and made his return this Sunday. Depending on how hot the gun was, he hit 93 or 94 repeatedly while pitching 5 strong innings. Anderson wouldn’t crack my Top 50 if I made a list right now, but he is another projectable right with a 4 pitch mix and the ability to throw strikes. He is Rule 5 eligible this offseason (he won’t get picked), but he is also only 22 years old so keep an eye on him, he could jump back up if he can build on his first start.