There has been a lot of talk about rebuilding a baseball team. Because baseball is a copycat league the natural inclination of many people is to look to the successful teams for how they were built, and right now those teams are the Cubs, Astros, Mets, and Royals. The Royals are far enough removed from their top farm system and their reliever heavy approach has been treated more as a guide for teams looking to get over the hump. Luckily most have realized that the Mets’ strategy of developing 3 of the Top 20 pitchers in baseball is not really a plan you can count on. That leaves the Cubs and Astros as the teams most point to as models for an ideal rebuild. So let’s talk about those two teams.
The Cubs have gotten a lot press for developing hitters and with a lineup that has young hitters like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler, and Kyle Schwarber it is hard to argue otherwise. Their entire rotation is not homegrown with all 5 coming via trade (Arrieta/Hendricks) or free agency (Lester/Lackey/Hammel). This seems to indicate that you should build around hitting and buy the needed pitching, but that is difficult because of where those Cubs hitters came from. Collectively they are a #2 overall pick, a guy acquired for the #18 overall pick, a former #11 overall pick acquired for a pitcher in the middle of a 4 win season, a player who got the top bonus for a young Cuban hitter, and the #4 overall pick. It is an impressive set of talent, but it requires both being bad for a while and having the right players available in the draft. This is without talking about the financial resources that allowed the Cubs to add Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward this offseason in free agency.
The Astros are more of a hodgepodge of players. They have a superstar in a former #1 overall pick, but they are older than the Cubs with trade acquisitions filling a lot of critical spots. They have also been good at converting undervalued assets into usable players like Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh. Many writers will point to the Astros as a model of a team built off its drafting, but in reality the Astros are a collection of getting talent from every different angle. Due to the lack of name recognition in their rotation and all of the home runs they hit, the Astros’ bats have gotten the majority of the credit for their rebuild.
Enough of talking about other teams, let’s look at the Phillies. Since being hired Matt Klentak has talked constantly about pitching and the organization’s need to acquire more pitching. He put actions to words, acquiring 5 pitchers for Ken Giles and adding Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton this offseason as well. It is unsurprising then that when polled on Twitter 60% of you thought the Phillies were rebuilding around pitching (hitting received 17%, both received 23%). If the Phillies are truly building around pitching, it should come through in the makeup of their organization. Let’s start by looking at the breakdown of players acquired via trade, Rule 5, or other means that could be considered part of the Phillies’ future or were acquired via recent trade:
Pitchers: Velasquez, Oberholtzer, Eickhoff, Thompson, Appel, Eflin, Pivetta, Eshelman, Arauz, Arano, Cordero, Tirado, Asher, Windle, Lively, Richy
Hitters: Williams, Herrera, Alfaro, Goeddel, Sweeney, Valentin
For those who don’t want to count up the names, that is 16 pitchers and 6 hitters. So far it certainly looks like the Phillies are building around pitchers and pitching depth. But that is only half the story. Here is the homegrown side of the equation (homegrown being defined as drafted or signed by the Phillies), I used players considered part of the Phillies’ future in the major leagues or appeared in the Top 30 of my Phillies’ prospect list.
Pitchers: Nola, Kilome, Pinto, Medina, Ramos, Garcia
Hitters: Crawford, Franco, Altherr, Randolph, Quinn, Knapp, Tocci, Kingery, Pujols, Grullon, Canelo, Hoskins, Ortiz, Luis
This time we favor hitters 14 to 6. This shifts the narrative from the Phillies needing pitching to build around pitching, and more that pitching has been an organizational hole that needed to be filled. Right now it looks like the organization is actually fairly balanced, but these lists include players like Harold Arauz and Juan Luis who are longshots to ever contribute to the Phillies. To remove these longshots let’s narrow down to just the impact portion of the organization. I am going to use my Top 15 under 25 list from earlier in the offseason. The split we now get is 9 hitters to 6 pitchers, with 4 of the top 5 being hitters.
So what are the Phillies building around, it looks to be both. The Phillies already have a core of hitters on their way, lead by J.P. Crawford and Maikel Franco, but until this summer into winter they lack pitchers beyond Aaron Nola. The combination of Amaro and Klentak have added Velasquez, Thompson, Appel, and Eickhoff since the July trade deadline. At the same time, the best prospect that was acquired in any of these trades, Nick Williams, is a hitter. It is unlikely by the time this whole rebuild is done that the Phillies will look like any teams that came before them, and that is ok, there is too much randomness in baseball to perpetually be one step behind copying everyone else.
Up Next: How Should the Phillies Rebuild? More theory behind different rebuilding paths.
Photo by Baseball Betsy