Tag: Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies Prospect Matt Imhof Loses Eye in Accident During Training Session

Philadelphia Phillies pitching prospect Matt Imhof lost his right eye in a training accident last Saturday.

Imhof explained the situation in an Instagram post:

As many of you know on Friday June 25th I had an accident. A large price of metal hit me in the head/eye resulting in a fractured nose, 2 fractured orbital bones, and most significantly, the loss of vision in my right eye. I was immediately taken to the ER and then transferred to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, the #1 eye hospital in the world. That night, the doctors informed me that the damage to my eye was extreme and essentially that my eye had been crushed like a grape. The doctors told me they were going to do everything possible to reconstruct it but in all likelihood I would never regain sight in my right eye. The first surgery was somewhat a success but overall nothing had changed, so after discussions with my family and my doctors, it was decided that the best chance I had to live a normal life was to have my right eye removed and have a prosthetic one put in. This decision was not an easy one to make but to me it seemed like the right one so on Tuesday afternoon I went forward with the surgery. I’m currently still in Miami recovering from surgery but I’m doing well. This has been the hardest week of my life but I’ve had amazing support from my family and friends to help me get through it. For those who have been wishing me well, your support has not gone unnoticed and I appreciate everyone who has kept me in their thoughts and prayers. I had the best doctors in the world doing their best work on me and for that I am grateful as well. Although this injury has been tough it could have been much worse…I’m lucky to still have vision in my left eye…I’m lucky that i didn’t have brain damage…and I’m lucky to be surrounded my the most loving and understanding people in the world. I just wanted to write this message to let everyone know that even though I suffered some bad luck, I’m not dead. I’m gonna be alright, I’m gonna persevere, and I’m gonna succeed. It takes more than this to bring me down. Again thanks to everyone for the support .

CSNPhilly.com noted the accident occurred during a “postgame stretching routine.”

The 22-year-old Imhof was in his second full season of professional baseball after being a second-round pick in 2014. He was pitching in High-A Clearwater before his injury, posting a 3.91 ERA with 48 strikeouts and 43 walks in 53 innings.

Even though Imhof’s stock had dropped off in the last year because of his command struggles, he was regarded as a potential back-end starter who could move quickly as recently as 2015.

Here is what MLB.com said about Imhof in 2015, when he ranked as the Phillies’ 19th-best prospect:

Imhof has a solid three-pitch mix and a good feel for pitching. He throws his fastball in the upper 80s to low 90s. The pitch plays up, thanks to its natural cutting action and the downhill angle he throws from. His breaking ball can be an out pitch, and he also mixes in a changeup.

Though Imhof doesn’t have premium stuff, he was one of the top strikeout pitchers in the country as a junior at Cal Poly. If he can rediscover that success in the Minor Leagues, he could start advancing quickly.

This doesn’t necessarily spell the end of his pitching career. Los Angeles Dodgers phenom Julio Urias has vision problems in his left eye, yet he is doing OK for himself.

Hopefully things work out for Imhof in the future, whatever he decides to do.

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Matt Imhof Injury: Updates on Phillies Prospect’s Recovery from Eye Surgery

Philadelphia Phillies pitching prospect Matt Imhof suffered a severe right eye injury last week that required surgery.

Continue for updates.

Imhof ‘Likely to Need Further Procedures’

Monday, June 27

ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reported the unfortunate news Monday, noting the 22-year-old’s injury is “potentially career-threatening.”

Crasnick explained what happened to Imhof, a member of the Class-A Clearwater Threshers: While he was doing band work as a means of stretching his arm after a game, a piece of equipment malfunctioned and struck Imhof in the eye.

Imhof’s agent, Adam Karon, provided Crasnick with the information and indicated the pitcher’s family has requested privacy while he recovers.

The Phillies drafted Imhof with the 47th overall pick of the 2014 MLB draft out of Cal Poly. The southpaw has posted a 4-3 record with a 3.91 ERA this season but has logged 43 walks in 53 innings pitched.

Among 14 appearances on the mound this year, Imhof has made nine starts. According to Crasnick, Imhof was making a move to the Threshers bullpen because he was struggling with his command, which was evident in his high walk rate.


Minor league stats courtesy of MiLB.com.

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Mickey Moniak, Phillies Agree on Contract: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The Philadelphia Phillies locked up Mickey Moniak on Monday after taking the outfielder first overall in the 2016 MLB draft on June 9. 

MLB.com’s Jim Callis was among the first to report the news, and he provided contract details:

Moniak had been committed to UCLA before the draft, per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. However, his deal with the Phillies ensures that he will forgo college baseball and work toward joining the big club as soon as next season.  

Moniak took a pay cut of roughly $3 million, which Zolecki said will go toward signing some of the team’s other prospects:

He is expected to start Friday with the club’s Gulf Coast League team, per Philly.com’s Matt Breen. The league consists of young draft picks and international players. 

With no clear-cut favorite to go No. 1 overall in the draft, Philadelphia’s amateur scouting director, Johnny Almaraz, believes the Phillies signed the best player available, per Zolecki.

I think you’ll have a Gold Glove center fielder who will hit in the middle of the lineup and be a leader on the team.


He was No. 1 on my list — he was the best player in the country. There was no projection with Mickey Moniak. He possesses the ability that a lot of college players don’t possess. He can run. He can throw. He can hit. His abilities are superior, and that’s why we took him.

Almaraz also said he expects Moniak to hit between 15 and 22 home runs a season.

These projections seem valid, as Moniak is a complete player who could develop into a stalwart at the top of the Phillies’ batting order. MLB.com provided a profile of Moniak’s skills:

Moniak will be a welcome addition to a Philadelphia team that has been putrid offensively.

The team ranks last in the National League in scoring this season after finishing with the third-fewest runs scored in 2015.

Philadelphia has a nice young core to build around moving forward. Outfielders Tyler Goeddel, 23, and Odubel Herrera, 24, are already significant contributors for the squad, with Herrera leading the team with a .302 batting average. Third baseman Maikel Franco, 23, leads the team in home runs with 11 and RBI with 33.

Add in Moniak and a couple of high picks in the next few seasons, and the Phillies could become a contender in the National League East in the near future.


Statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com.

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Fan Accused of Throwing Bottle at Ryan Howard Cited by Police

The identity of the person who threw an aluminum beer bottle at Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard was revealed Monday.

According to the police, 21-year-old Sidney Smith, a student at the University of Delaware, turned himself in last week and confessed, per Chris Palmer of Philly.com.

He was cited for disorderly conduct, and authorities did not disclose what caused Smith to come clean.

After grounding out in his only at-bat to end a 6-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on June 4, Howard was walking back to the dugout when the object was launched toward him and landed at his side. Howard yelled into the crowd, but Smith bolted out of Citizens Bank Park before security could apprehend him.

A witness to the incident said Smith moved down to the front row of his section and tossed the bottle, per Palmer.

“He just chucked his beer and turned around and got out of there as fast as he could,” Dennis Gabert, the witness, said. 

Deadspin posted an image of the suspect on Twitter:

Police believe the man in the photo to be Smith, according to Palmer.

Howard commented on the issue the following day, per the Associated Press (via Fox 29 in Philadelphia).

“I’ve done too much in this town to have that kind of stuff,” he said. “If you want to yell out…that’s whatever. But when you start throwing stuff, that’s when stuff gets personal.”

The 36-year-old slugger is struggling this season. Through 53 games, he is hitting .150 with nine home runs and 20 RBI. Howard, who is making $25 million in 2016, has struck out 56 times.

Fans may be frustrated with Howard, but throwing debris on the field is uncalled for. Hopefully, the public backlash from the incident discourages other fans from engaging in similar behavior. 


Statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com.

Contract information courtesy of Spotrac.

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Mickey Moniak Selected by Phillies No. 1 Overall in 2016 MLB Draft

There was no consensus No. 1 pick entering the 2016 MLB draft, but the Philadelphia Phillies‘ extensive evaluation process led the team to select La Costa Canyon High School outfielder Mickey Moniak with the first selection Thursday evening.  

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Moniak became the first outfielder selected No. 1 overall since the Washington Nationals snagged Bryce Harper in 2010. Moniak is also the first left-handed-hitting high school outfielder to be selected with the draft’s top pick since Josh Hamilton in 1999. 

The Phillies’ official Twitter account confirmed Moniak’s arrival:

Philadelphia could have opted to add a top-tier pitching prospect such as A.J. Puk or Jason Groome—who ended up with the Oakland A’s and Boston Red Sox, respectively—but Moniak offers the team a potential future cornerstone in the outfield. 

“Collectively, we believe Mickey was the best player available in the draft,” Phillies scouting director Johnny Almaraz said, per Philly Voice’s Ryan Lawrence. “He’s a true center fielder with incredible offensive ability and the potential to be a perennial All-Star.”

According to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, the 18-year-old batted .476 with seven home runs, 12 triples, 46 RBI and a .921 slugging percentage during his senior year. 

“The bat is good,” an evaluator said, per CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. “He’s going to hit and hit for average. He’s a good center fielder. He can run. The question is how many home runs will he hit? If he ends up getting stronger, he could be a corner bat that’s unbelievable. There’s no negative here. It’s a good pick.”

Adding Moniak to the mix gives the Phillies a slew of talented outfielders who should be able to carry the franchise forward as the rebuild accelerates.

Nick Williams, who’s now playing for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, grades out as the team’s third-best prospect, per MLB.com, while 2015 first-round pick Cornelius Randolph ranks No. 5 on the team. 

With an arsenal of assets who are growing and appreciating at a rapid rate, the Phillies have positioned themselves as potential National League contenders by the time the decade comes to a close. 

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Mickey Moniak: Prospect Profile for No. 1 Pick of 2016 MLB Draft by Phillies

Player: Mickey Moniak

Position: OF

DOB: May 13, 1998 (18 years old)

Height/Weight: 6’2″, 190 lbs

Bats/Throws: L/R

School: La Costa Canyon High School (California)

College Commitment: UCLA



At the start of the spring, most considered Chaminade Prep’s Blake Rutherford to be the top bat among the California high school crop.

While Rutherford is still one of the top prep hitters in this year’s class and a potential star-caliber player in his own right, Mickey Moniak has passed him in the eyes of most scouts for the title of top prospect in the Golden State.

Moniak further confirmed that sentiment when he took home California Gatorade Player of the Year honors at the conclusion of a standout senior season at La Costa Canyon High School.

According to USA Today, Moniak was hitting .471 this spring with six home runs, 12 triples, 44 RBI and a .921 slugging percentage when he received the accolade. 

Moniak already possesses a plus hit tool and has a chance to be a perennial .300 hitter and 40-double threat in the majors.

The fact he should have no problem sticking in center field long term and has above-average speed only furthers his standing as one of this year’s elite prospects. Moniak told Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish:

I think balance is huge. Being the guy to get on base whether or its a base hit, a double, a triple or whatever it may be. Having that speed is a huge advantage on the basepaths, getting in scoring position, stealing bases, scoring runs. That’s a huge plus. On the defensive side of things, it’s a huge thing to cover ground and to not let any ball drop out there. My speed really helps with that.

If there’s one below-average weapon in his toolbox right now, it’s his power, but that could change as his 6’2″ frame continues to fill out. 

“Obviously, the big knock is my power. That will come, I’ve been growing into my body,” Moniak told Cotillo. “I’m continuing to grow, continuing to go to the weight room to try to put on muscle and add strength. That’s definitely been talked about; it’s something that I definitely think will come. I don’t think it’s too much of a weak point.”

Moniak also has some baseball bloodlines.

His grandfather, William Moniak, played six seasons in the Boston Red Sox organization and his father, Matt, played at San Diego State.


Pick Analysis

There’s a lot to like about Moniak, who could be a five-tool contributor if he takes a step forward in the power department.

Here’s what MLB.com had to say while ranking him as the No. 5 prospect in this year’s class:

At the start of the summer, Moniak was thought of as a decent high school prospect from Southern California. By the time the showcase circuit was over, the outfielder had emerged as one of the best high school bats in the nation. He cemented that reputation by continuing to rake all spring.

Moniak makes consistent hard contact against high levels of competition. He has a good approach at the plate and can spray line drives to all fields. Moniak has more doubles power now, but there’s room in his frame to add strength.

His above-average speed works on both sides of the ball, and some see a future Gold Glove caliber center fielder. Moniak gets high marks for his baseball instincts and effort.

That’s about as positive of a scouting report as you’ll see on a high school hitter. There are no glaring weaknesses for Moniak, and he even draws praise for his intangibles.


Pro Comparison: Christian Yelich

Moniak weighed in on who he feels is a suitable pro comparison in the aforementioned interview with Cotillo.

“I’ve heard, and I agree with this—Jacoby Ellsbury. He can hit for power, hit for average, steal bases and stick in center field.”

That’s not a bad comparison at all, but Christian Yelich might be a better fit.

Despite being a plus athlete with good speed, Moniak will probably never be a threat to steal 35-plus bases, and that’s something Ellsbury has done five times in his career.

Yelich isn’t the flashiest player in the league, but he does a little bit of everything well.

The 24-year-old plays left field for the Miami Marlins, but he’d be a center fielder on a lot of teams, and he’s one of the game’s best defensive outfielders.

Don’t read into this comparison as a suggestion that Moniak will need to move to left field. It’s meant to be nothing but complimentary from a defensive standpoint.

As for the offensive side of things, Yelich is in the midst of a breakout season in which he was hitting .328/.419/.511 entering play Monday.

He’s put up those numbers with just five home runs, so he’s not a slugger by any means. But he still has an OPS north of .900 thanks to a strong on-base percentage and a healthy number of doubles (16).

That’s exactly the type of offensive impact Moniak could make if he continues on his current developmental path, and just like with Yelich, there is also potential for more.


Projection: Starting center fielder, potential leadoff hitter or No. 3 hitter depending on power development


Major League ETA: early 2021


Chances of Signing: 95 percent

Moniak committed to UCLA as a freshman in high school, but there’s no reason to think he won’t sign with the Phillies.

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Vincent Velasquez Injury: Updates on Phillies SP’s Biceps and Return

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Vincent Velasquez left Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Cubs after just two pitches with a biceps injury, and it is uncertain when he will return to action.

Continue for updates.

Velasquez to Undergo Further Testing

Wednesday, June 8 

Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reported Velasquez will be re-evaluated on Thursday, adding it could include an MRI. 

Velasquez Comments on Injury

Wednesday, June 8 

Velasquez told reporters he “isn’t worried” about his injured biceps.

Velasquez Has Emerged as Bright Spot for Surprising Phillies

A revelation early in the season, Velasquez has come back to earth a bit in recent starts. He began the season by posting wins in four of his first five starts but was 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA and 1.67 WHIP over his last six heading into Wednesday. This was his fourth consecutive start not lasting through the fifth inning.

Overall, Velasquez is 5-2 with a 3.65 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He’s second behind Aaron Nola on the Phillies with 73 strikeouts.

Given his recent struggles, perhaps a little rest could do Velasquez some good. As Jayson Stark of ESPN.com noted, there have long been concerns about his ability to stay healthy. Leaving after two pitches is concerning, especially if he did not feel any issues in pregame warm-ups.

The Phillies don’t have an especially deep array of talent on their roster, so this injury may just accelerate what feels like an inevitable summer swoon. They’ve lost nine of their last 12 games coming into Wednesday, undoing nearly all of their feel-good vibes from the first month of the season.

Velasquez, the leader of those good feelings, going down may only serve as the final death knell. 

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Ryan Howard Comments on Fan Throwing Bottle at Him During Game vs. Brewers

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard felt the wrath of his home crowd at Citizens Bank Park during Saturday’s 6-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers when a fan threw a bottle at him.  

On Sunday, he spoke with the media about the incident, according to Philly.com’s Matt Breen:

I’ve done too much in this town to have that kind of stuff. If you want to yell out ‘You suck,’ that’s whatever. But when you start throwing stuff, that’s when stuff gets personal. … We have to be held accountable. If someone throws something, we’re just supposed to sit there and wear it and get hit. Nah man, we’re human beings first and foremost. People get it twisted. They see the baseball stuff and they don’t see you as a human being. They see you as someone that just plays baseball.

On the baseball side of things, Howard has struggled this season, batting .151 with eight home runs and 19 RBI in 49 games. Including Saturday, he hadn’t started for three games, and the 36-year-old has been a shell of the player who won a National League MVP in 2006. 

After being inserted as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning and grounding out to end Saturday’s game, Howard was walking back to the dugout when the bottle went flying.

“I turned around and it was down near my feet,” Howard said. “I don’t play that. To me, that’s crossing the line. It becomes a security issue. It’s not necessary. That stuff infuriates me.”

The incident put Howard in an unfortunate situation, as he believes professional athletes are unable to defend themselves in predicaments like these:

If you’re in the street and you do that to somebody, you might get hauled off on. But we’re supposed to hold ourselves to a different standard and what not. Somebody has to do something. Somebody should get reprimanded for it. Because if I would’ve done something, if I would’ve went into the stands and tried to beat this dude up, I would’ve gotten in trouble by Major League Baseball. He probably would’ve tried to sue me. But it’s OK for him to throw a bottle and then go home and be on his merry way? Nah, that doesn’t work.

Conduct like this is nothing new in the city of Philadelphia, as the fanbase has a reputation of being one of the harshest in sports. After all, Philly fans chucked snowballs at Santa Claus during an Eagles game in 1968. 

Much more recently, though, Flyers fans littered the ice with wristbands given out to commemorate late owner Ed Snider during their first-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals. 

Their behavior earned the Flyers a two-minute bench minor, much to the frustration of Wells Fargo Center public address announcer Lou Nolan, via 94 WIP’s Cindy Webster:

These public displays over the years tarnish the image of Philadelphia fans. On Saturday, though, one fan in particular took it too far in the treatment of a man who helped deliver the Phillies their second World Series title in 2008. 

Howard doesn’t sound like he’s ready to forgive anyone too quickly, either. 


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

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Phillies Center Fielder Odubel Herrera Is Best MLB Player You Don’t Know About

A year ago, Odubel Herrera was just another faceless player on a bad Philadelphia Phillies team, a nice Rule 5 pickup but still a guy known for little but having an unusual first name.

Did you know he’s the only Odubel ever to play major league baseball? There’s been an Odie (Porter), and Odalis (Perez) and an Oddibe (McDowell), but never another Odubel.

Anyway, the Phillies still aren’t all that good, with a run differential (minus-43) and a roster (mostly uninspiring) suggesting their above-.500 record won’t last. But if Odubel Herrera is still a faceless Phillie to you, well, he shouldn’t be.

On a team that was supposed to be about Maikel Franco and waiting for J.P. Crawford, the 24-year-old kid named Odubel has emerged as the best and most exciting player. He’s gone from nice pickup to a part of the future, a guy Phillies manager Pete Mackanin described to CSNPhilly.com’s Corey Seidman as “a perennial .300” hitter.

What’s most impressive is how he did it.

In an era when plate discipline is valued more than ever, Herrera didn’t have it. He didn’t have it last year, which might be excused because it was his first year in the majors, but he didn’t have it in the minor leagues, either.

And now he does. By May 15, he had already walked more times (29) than he did in 537 plate appearances in 2015. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has dropped from 4.61 last year to 1.18 through Sunday.

“It’s been like night and day,” Phillies third base coach Juan Samuel said Monday.

Scouts who have watched the Phillies agree, and say it’s amazing Herrera made the change so quickly and seemingly without giving up any aggressiveness at the plate.

“He’s willing to work a count and take a walk,” one American League scout said. “But he’s still pretty aggressive.”

That shows in the numbers, too. Herrera isn’t going to be a power hitter, but he already has five home runs, compared to eight all of last year. He’s not giving up power just to put the ball in play.

He’s kept his batting average high (.320), so his on-base percentage (.427) ranked third in the major leagues entering play Monday, behind only Ben Zobrist (.454) and Dexter Fowler (.433) of the Chicago Cubs.

The Phillies like what they see but believe there’s even more to come.

“He hasn’t tried it much, but he’s a good bunter, too,” Samuel said.

He’s even made himself into a decent center fielder, one scouts say has good range but still needs work on his reads and routes. That’s hardly surprising, given that Herrera played mostly at second base before the Texas Rangers left him unprotected and the Phillies grabbed him as a Rule 5 draft pick in December 2014.

With Samuel’s help, they made him a full-time center fielder (a position he played for just two Class A games with the Rangers). This year, they’ve made him a leadoff hitter after he made himself into a player who fits that spot.

In various interviews, Herrera has credited his father, Odubel Sr., who told him last winter that 129 strikeouts weren’t acceptable.

“I feel like when I’m having my at-bat, it’s my dad, actually, having my at-bat, because I always have him in my head,” Herrera told Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. “One thing that he told me, and he was very specific about it, was that I needed to drop down my strikeouts. I struck out too many times last year.”

It’s easy to say that; not usually so easy to do it. So far this year, Herrera has done it.

The season hasn’t been completely smooth for him. Just last week, Mackanin pulled him from a game in Detroit for not running out a ground ball. But in that same series, Herrera had a home run and a bat flip that made its way around the Internet.

Todd Zolecki of MLB.com enjoyed it so much he put it on Twitter:

The Phillies have enjoyed watching Herrera, from the bat flips (sometimes after walks) to the horns sign (his nickname is El Torito).

“He’s an energy source on this team,” first baseman Ryan Howard told Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “He goes, we go.”

Many of the current Phillies, including Howard, will be going as the rebuilding process continues. Herrera, who never made any of the top prospect lists, could easily have been one of those who went.

Not now. Now he’s not just a guy with an unusual name. He’s a guy with a name you should get to know.

He’s Odubel Herrera.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Are the Phillies Really 2016 Contenders or Just Ahead of Schedule in Rebuild?

The Philadelphia Phillies were supposed to be easy to ignore in 2016. They were supposed to be bad, and that was supposed to be that.

But instead, here we are in the middle of May, wondering if they’re actually this good.

Following a 99-loss season that saw them jettison almost all the stars left over from their 2007-2011 glory days, the 2016 Phillies are off to a 20-15 start. Only three teams in the National League have a better record. If the Phillies hadn’t begun the year with a four-game losing streak, that list might be smaller.

At the least, this is a sign the Phillies are ahead of schedule with their rebuild. When Pat Gillick took over as the club’s interim CEO in 2014, he set 2017 as the earliest target for a return to contention. But rather than a team that’s ahead of schedule, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin sees a team that’s for real.

“Every time we play somebody, I get the same question, but it’s a good question because of course we [are],” the skipper said earlier this month, via Joe Harris of MLB.com.

Mackanin also pointed out that he and his club have “held our own against contenders.” The Phillies are indeed 13-9 against winning clubs, which suggests they’re not getting by on good fortune.

Or are they?

Because we’re in the year 2016, we must make a fuss over the Phillies’ run differential. It stands at minus-27, by far the worst among Major League Baseball’s early winners. If the Chicago Cubs are a winner that deserves better based on their plus-99 run differential, the Phillies are their antithesis.

And it’s not like they’ve drastically turned things around after starting the year 0-4. Their 20-11 record since then comes with a minus-13 run differential.

It’s easy to narrow down why the Phillies are succeeding despite this. They’ve crushed it in one-run games, posting a 12-3 record. And to their credit, this hasn’t happened by accident.

There’s one measure that rates the Phillies pitching staff as one of the 10 best in baseball. Their rotation is led by some awesome arms belonging to Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez and Jerad Eickhoff. Their bullpen features a trio in Jeanmar Gomez, David Hernandez and Hector Neris that’s combined for a 29.3 strikeout percentage and a 2.29 ERA.

For the sake of competing in as many games as possible, good pitching is a key thing to have. And as the leverage—that’s baseballese for “pressure”has gotten higher, Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and OPS show that both Phillies pitchers and hitters have been at their best:

Note: These stats are current through play on Wednesday, May 11.

This brings the 2014 San Francisco Giants to mind. As Blake Murphy of FanGraphs highlighted at the time, they got out to a 38-21 start by owning pressure situations. The Phillies are doing the same thing.

But this cool tidbit is also a cautionary tale. Even that Giants team, which went on to win the World Series, was forced back down to earth over the long haul in the regular season. A team with more talent than it could avoid a similar fate. The Phillies are not that team.

As good as the Phillies pitching has been, there are faults to find. Nola, Velasquez and Eickhoff have done a fine job of carrying a rotation that’s thin outside of them, but it’s unfair to expect that to continue all season. Hitters have already adjusted to Eickhoff, who has a 6.65 ERA in his last four starts. And none of the three has pitched a full season before.

The Phillies bullpen doesn’t have many cracks, but it does have a singular big one. In light of its considerable problem with the long ball, all that high-leverage dominance may not have a long shelf life.

If the team’s pitching wavers, the Phillies will need their offense to pick up more slack. At that, all anyone can say is “good luck.”

Said offense has been one of the worst at scoring runs. Outside of budding superstar Odubel Herrera, one of the NL’s best players, the only other regular with any real promise is Maikel Franco. As such, the high-leverage dominance of the Phillies offense is probably on even thinner ice than the pitching staff’s high-leverage dominance.

If the season ended today, the Phillies would be in the playoffs as a wild card. But in the long run, probably not. They began Thursday with a 5.9 percent chance of making the postseason at Baseball Prospectus. At FanGraphs, their odds were just 0.1 percent.

Still, the Phillies don’t need to make the playoffs for 2016 to count as a success. As a stepping stone toward what they hope will be many years of contention, it’s a damn enticing proof of concept.

The Phillies have every reason to be excited about how Nola, Velasquez and Eickhoff are establishing themselves as rotation cornerstones. With good stuff and control, they’ve been instrumental in giving Phillies starters virtually the same strikeout percentage as the Nationals‘ star-studded rotation.

And as a whole, the Phillies rotation may be on to something with its love for the curveball. It’s throwing more curveballs than any starting staff in recorded history, and FanGraphs August Fagerstrom can tell you all about how awesome these curveballs are.

There’s not as much long-term brightness in Philly’s bullpen, but Neris looks like a keeper. In carving out a 1.64 ERA in 20 appearances, the 26-year-old right-hander has showed off a splitter that shouldn’t even be legal. He looks like a future shutdown closer.

And even if it never improves as much as it needs to this season, the Phillies offense could at least get a glimpse of its future beyond this season. From a farm system that Baseball America ranked at No. 8 coming into the season could come shortstop J.P. Crawford, outfielder Nick Williams and catcher Jorge Alfaro before the season is over.

The Phillies farm system could also have some gifts for the pitching staff. Right-handers Jake Thompson and Mark Appel, the former No. 1 pick of the Houston Astros, haven’t been great for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but that may not get in the way of them getting called up.

There’s always the chance that every prospect the Phillies call up this summer will hit the ground running and help propel the team forward. It’s more fair, however, to expect them to gain the experience that will help them be of use in 2017 and beyond.

That means Gillick‘s target date for contention is looking pretty good. And based on the preview, the show itself should be a good time.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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