JP’s Final Days and Anderson’s Curve

The “Phillies minor league Labor Day Weekend Blitz” made it’s second stop last night in Allentown. This would be the third time this season I have made the trek to the place that Billy Joel wrote a song about. Last night’s trip was about accomplishing three things: check on the rehabbing Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr, watch JP Crawford before his call-up, and get a real look at Drew Anderson on the mound.

Let’s deal with the rehabbing major league players quickly. Neither Herrera, who put on a show in Reading Thursday, nor Altherr were in the starting lineup. Instead both would go through workouts and sit this one out. My guess is Herrera will start tonight, and I would assume Altherr as well but he has played in neither rehab game thus far. Still though, the expectation is that both will be activated on Monday when the team arrives in New York to play the Mets.

Speaking of players who could join the Phillies on Monday, JP Crawford continued to remain his steady self during his red hot couple of months. In his first at-bat, he worked a 3-2 count and drilled the sixth pitch into the right field gap to the wall for a one out double. Brady Lail’s two-seamer was elevated and cut back over the middle of the plate, a pitch in JP’s wheelhouse. He would unfortunately be stranded as that would actually be a theme while Lail was on the mound for six innings.

In the second inning, JP had a golden opportunity with the bases loaded and two out. Unfortunately he took more of a defensive swing at a breaking ball and hit a meager fly ball to left. He started the fifth inning working another 3-2 count and got a similar pitch to drive like he did in the first. Unfortunately, the pitch had a little more tail and while he did hit it hard, it was right at the centerfielder. In the seventh inning, he would start a two out, five run rally for the Ironpigs by working a six pitch walk and scoring on Christian Marrero’s game-tying two-run single. He would have his final at-bat the next inning and hit a comebacker back to the pitcher on the first pitch.

JP is ready for a major league call-up for a number of reasons. From a 40 man roster perspective, he must be on it this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Second is his ability to work counts and draw walks, which was a great example last night since all but one of five trips to the plate needed six pitches for a result to occur. This season he has a 14.1% BB and .347 OBP, which is good considering it’s 106 points higher than his batting average. But the real reason JP is getting this call up is that he made big adjustments and stayed hot for a prolonged stretch. In my breakdown of JP weeks ago, I mentioned how he went through a monthly process of adjustments before finally getting his mechanics right in July. Since July 1, JP has hit .279/.378/.530 with 12 HR and 27 XBH in 254 PA. Compare that to what he did in a full season worth of ABs in AAA (.227/.325/.301, 6 HR, 28 XBH in 676 PA) and you can see why JP is getting his cup of coffee now. The Phillies are trying to get creative with JP’s September ABs as over the last couple of weeks they’ve had him play 2B and 3B. They’ve even put Freddy Galvis in CF on Wednesday as Pete Mackanin tries to get him to play all 162 games. Anyway you put it, JP is going to get plenty of major league ABs this month. The only question remains is when. Monday still seems likely, unless Lehigh Valley can make up two games in three days to claim the wild card spot in the International League. September is going to be fun guys, you might want to get your tickets.

On to last night’s starter, Drew Anderson had some high expectations entering the season after reports last year had him touching 95-97 mph. Across Lakewood and Clearwater he struck 10 per nine innings. He was also on the Phillies’ 40 man roster, so if he showed a big leap there was a chance the Phillies could use him in the rotation. Anderson’s season could be described as productive but not eye-popping as he didn’t do enough for even a promotion to Lehigh Valley until last night out of necessity. In Reading he finished with a 3.59 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, .207 AVG, 7.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 107.2 IP. He’s even made two major league appearances out of the pen (neither great) for the same reasons he pitched in Allentown yesterday. This would be my first look at Anderson since his meltdown on 7/22, where he was being hit around and got ejected seven batters into the 1st inning. This time Anderson made a better impression.

Anderson’s night started with a leadoff walk, but was immediately erased as Logan Moore threw out Tyler Wade. He would then end the first by getting the next two batters waving at his curveball. After a quiet second inning, Anderson allowed a leadoff single before getting the next two. Than Moore was called for catcher’s interference and that led to a Donovan Solano single on a hanging curve. Things got pretty quiet for awhile as Anderson retired 12 of the next 15 without any damage. He was one out away from his fifth 7 inning game of the year until he allowed a solo shot and a double with two outs and he would be pulled after 96 pitches. Thanks to the rally, he would avoid the loss and get a no-decision in his first and only AAA start: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 7 K, HR, HBP, 96 pitches (62 strikes).

Anderson’s fastball has got some run on it playing mainly at 92-95 mph for most of the night. While he doesn’t have a ton of sink to it, there wasn’t much hard contact last night. While he elevated some pitches, he kept a lot of pitches below the belt. And considering this was his first AAA start, he was probably going to get away with some mistakes and there were a few fly outs that were just missed hitting barrel on perfect pitches to hit. The star of the night was his curveball though. It’s a slow (72-76 mph), looping 12-6 breaker that has a sharp dive that makes it tough to see and hit when he doesn’t elevate it. And with his fastball not hurting him, he was able to use his curve effectively as six of his 11 swinging strikes came from his curve with five resulted in a strikeout. He seemed to have a slightly better feel for that pitch than his fastball last night, which did get away from him at times. His change-up (82-84) is a work in progress but a few times it showed good late fade and tumble, giving it a chance to be an average third pitch. He threw in a slider a few times at 79-81 mph, but he didn’t look like he had a great feel for it other than the strikeout he recorded with it. Anderson has the feel of a back-end starter in the major leagues if he can keep his fastball down a bit more. And while he didn’t do well in his emergency call-ups, I do see a major league floor for him as a middle reliever because of his curve and the fact he has shown consistent mid 90s velocity prior. Right now, the Phillies need starters and Anderson should continue this path for the time being. Here’s some stats and video from Anderson’s start last night:

  • 18/28 1st pitch strikes; 15 on fastballs, two on curveballs, one change-up; 1st pitch: 3/5, HR, 2 RBI, HBP; Ahead 0-1: 2/12, 7 K catcher interference; Behind 1-0: 0/7, 2 BB
  • Five groundouts, five fly outs
  • LH hitters: 3/9, 2B, 2 BB, HBP, 2 K (both swinging), CI; RH hitters: 2/15, HR, 2 RBI, 5 K (all swinging)
  • 63 fastballs (65.6%), 20 curveballs (20.8%), eight change-ups (8.3%), five sliders (5.2%); 2/13 on fastballs (HR, K, BB, HBP), 2/9  on curveballs (five K, RBI), 1/1 with a BB on change-up, 0/1 on slider (K)
  • 11 swinging strikes (11.5%)(six curveballs, three fastballs, one slider, one change-up); all seven strikeouts were of swing and miss (five curveballs, one slider, one fastball)
  • Seven at-bats of five or more pitches; Ten at-bats of two pitches or less

One Final Thought

  • Dylan Cozens has had an absolutely disappointing season in my opinion. It wasn’t so much the fact that I didn’t see a high strikeout rate. It was my expectation that I thought he could hit .250 and maintain a strikeout rate of 27%, which would have been almost 5% lower from last year (31.7%). He had an ugly April where he hit .136 with 4 HR, 8.9% BB and 44.4% K in 90 PA. And after you think he turned the corner after a good May/June (.279, 14 HR, 9.8% BB, 26.1% K), his last two months have been dreadful (.171, 9 HR, 11.6% BB, 41.7% K). The only thing that improved was that he was drawing more walks down the stretch. Dylan is basically the Joey Gallo of the minors right now. It’s either home run, strikeout or walk as only 30 of his 57 hits have not been a home run (15 1B, 12 2B, 3 3B). Entering last night Cozens was in the midst of an 0 for 20 with 12 strikeouts. He would have a typical game as he would walk twice and strikeout before coming up in the seventh inning and capping a five-run, two out rally with a three-run homer that just cleared the big wall, snapping his streak at 0/21. With the Phillies outfield likely set next year (Williams/Herrera/Altherr), Cozens should take his time in AAA next year to work on recognizing breaking balls better. His power is incredible, but it’s a bit hollow if your striking out 35.5% of the time and hitting .211. in AAA, even with the walks.


Author: Jeff Israel