Scouting Reports, 2014 Projections for Phillies' Pitchers and Catchers
The Philadelphia Phillies' offseason is mercifully coming to a close. After a winter that saw a few too many bad contracts signed, fans would like to see what this supposedly-revamped team is capable of doing.
With pitchers and catchers set to report to spring training by February 12—just 13 days from now—some familiar and new faces will head down to Clearwater to show the team what they've got. Some of these players will make the team, while others will head to the minors for the start of the season or be cut from the organization altogether.
Keeping that in mind, here are scouting reports and 2014 projections for the Phillies' pitchers and catchers.
The Phillies' 2014 rotation will look very similar to that of 2013, at least at the front. Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee will lead the way once again, with Kyle Kendrick trailing right behind now that Roy Halladay has retired. However, after them are Roberto Hernandez and, as of now, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Sure, Gonzalez has to prove himself since he's still a wild card, but take it as this writer's first prediction that he'll make the Opening Day roster as the fifth starter.
Cliff Lee: He pitches with a four-seam fastball that touches the low to mid-90s and his most effective pitch, a devastating cutter that slices away from lefties. Arguably his coolest pitch is his spiked curveball, which he seemingly threw more often earlier in his career, though he now uses it as a strikeout pitch. Lee could get his turn as the Opening Day starter this year if all goes his way. He'll go something along the lines of 15-7 with a 3.22 ERA.
Cole Hamels: Things did not go well for Hamels in 2013, namely decisions. Either Hamels faltered or the offense let him down, leading to an 8-14 record and 3.60 ERA. However, Hamels still remains one of the top left-handed pitchers in baseball, and what gives him that distinction is his changeup. Possibly the greatest in baseball, Hamels' changeup fools hitters day in and day out and is a great out pitch. His fastball can still clock in at the mid-90s, and his cutter has come a long way. Hamels should rebound in 2014, going 16-9 with a 3.35 ERA.
Kyle Kendrick: Another Phillie pitcher with a mediocre year, Kendrick, just was not good. Going 10-13 with a 4.70 ERA, Kendrick was off in the worst way and really could not find his niche in 2013. He'll still remain in the organization in 2014, but now in a contract year, Kendrick will have a lot to prove. He'll bounce back, though only slightly, to a 12-10 record and a 4.25 ERA.
Roberto Hernandez: Signed at the end of the winter meetings, Hernandez is best known as the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona. He has the capability of inducing ground balls, though he'll have much less leeway at Citizens Bank Park to keep the ball in play. Ultimately, Hernandez will probably struggle in 2014, leading to a 9-15 record with a 4.58 ERA.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez: There isn't much known about the Phillies' Cuban signee from last summer. All that is known is that his contract was heavily restructured after an elbow concern arose during his physical, and he signed for a fraction of the price he was initially slated to receive. Supposedly 27 years old, Gonzalez could be terrific, or he could tail out. In his rookie season, he might go something like 10-7 with a 3.86 ERA.
Led by closer Jonathan Papelbon for the third season now, the Phillies' bullpen will need some vast improvement heading into 2014. As one of baseball's worst in 2013, this relief corps has only received some slight alterations, so the Phillies are hoping their patience pays off. Here is the Opening Day bullpen prediction in addition to each reliever's stats.
Jonathan Papelbon: Decreased velocity on his fastball and vocal team concerns overshadowed Papelbon in 2013. He blew five saves in a span of six opportunities back in June and July, and it was part of the reason why the Phillies ended up fourth in the NL East. His lack of save opportunities didn't help either, as 2013 was his first full season in which he fell shy of the 30-save plateau. Papelbon should be slightly better in 2014, pitching to a 2.57 ERA and posting 34 saves.
Mike Adams: The Phillies' premier signing of the 2012-13 offseason, Adams' career in Philadelphia has been a bust after year one of the deal. Recovering from Thoracic Outlet Surgery, it was clear that Adams was not himself from day one and was potentially brought along too quickly. He hit the disabled list in May and never returned. While he's expected to return in early 2014, if not by Opening Day, it’ll take some time to reacclimate before being effective again. Adams' ERA should hover around 3.70.
Brad Lincoln: Acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays for catcher Erik Kratz and pitcher Rob Rasmussen, Lincoln could turn some heads with a nice season. Once the fourth-overall pick in the MLB draft, Lincoln has pitched effectively as a swingman, though he's best suited to relieve after doing so for Toronto over the last two years. He could prove to be a good right-handed setup man, but what the biggest issue is that the short fences at CBP could be an issue. Lincoln's ERA should be around the 4.00 area at worst, 3.50 at best, though he's a slight reclamation project for the Phillies.
Antonio Bastardo: Coming off the heels of a 50-game suspension, Bastardo will have to show that he's not rusty and can remain effective in the majors. He shouldn't have any problems doing so and will remain the top southpaw option in the Phillies' bullpen. Bastardo could have the best ERA out of any Phillies reliever, and he'll have a semi-breakout year in 2014 with a 2.42 ERA.
Jake Diekman: He had a solid 2013 and should have an even better 2014. Although his delivery is unorthodox and can easily lead to a bad inning, Diekman's windup has also confused and distracted hitters, which has led to strikeouts. Diekman will pitch to a 3.40 ERA this year.
Justin De Fratus: Once hailed as the Phillies' next great reliever, De Fratus has overcome injuries and ineffectiveness to turn into one of the Phillies' bright young relievers. Although he's still got to earn his place in the bullpen, De Fratus has what it takes to do just that. His ERA should decrease to the 3.25 range in 2014.
Michael Stutes: Now somewhat of an afterthought, Stutes was once one of the Phillies' best relievers, but he can't seem to stay healthy. Fortunately for him, his other competition shares that distinction. If Stutes makes the roster—which is far from a guarantee—his ERA will be close to 3.65.
The catching crew looks a little different than it did last year, as Erik Kratz is gone as the backup and Wil Nieves has been signed to take his place. Here's the lowdown on the Phillies' backstops:
Carlos Ruiz: The ink is still drying on his new three-year, $26 million contract, and Ruiz has ended up in the best situation possible. He has no real threat to overtake him in the organization as the top dog, and he's making decent money. It's a win for the rotation, too, which loves the crap out of Ruiz's game-calling. Defensively, Ruiz will remain one of the best, while his batting average will fall around .280 on the season.
Wil Nieves: Although his last three seasons have seen batting averages north of .280, Nieves has always been a defense-first catcher. Now 36 years old, it's questionable as to how much time he'll get behind the dish unless Ruiz gets hurt. Nieves should be a fine defensive fill-in, but don't expect him to contribute much offensively, even with CBP in mind. He'll bat around .260 in limited action.
Cameron Rupp: Once thought to be the backup catcher in-waiting, Rupp unexpectedly lost out on that job after Nieves was signed to take Kratz's role. Rupp still has a chance to beat out Nieves with a dominant spring, and since Nieves will only be paid a prorated portion of his 2014 salary by the end of spring training, the Phillies wouldn't lose too much if they cut him. Having said that, they will probably reap the most they can out of Nieves first, rendering Rupp in the minors. Should he break camp, though, Rupp could hit .275 in his stopgap opportunities.