Early-Season Grades for Each Player on Philadelphia Phillies' Roster
Early in the 2014 season, the Philadelphia Phillies find themselves at 7-10 and in last place in the National League East.
For a team that many predicted to finish last in the NL East, the Phillies are doing better than many, including myself, had them doing early in the 2014 campaign.
In this slideshow, each player will receive a range of grades (A-F) that describe their overall playing as well as an in-depth look on how that player has fared in 2014. The Phillies are full of a mix of seasoned veterans and inexperienced role players. These early grades will be precursors to how the players will finish through the end of the season.
Obviously each grade can be interpreted differently, so if you have your own grades and opinions, feel free to leave a comment!
Hamels is set to make his season debut on Wednesday evening against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He will be slotted in Jonathan Pettibone’s spot in the rotation. Hamels is looking to continue his streak of consecutive productive seasons with the Phillies. It’s too early to decide a grade for Hamels. Give him a few starts, and then you can make a decision.
Mike Adams made his season debut on Friday evening at Coors Field against the Colorado Rockies. Adams’ fastball velocity topped out at 89.7 mph, which is where it was in 2013. His slider topped out at 86.9 mph, mirroring the production he had in 2012 with the Texas Rangers.
Adams’ fastball will likely progress with more work and regular throwing sessions, but it is still too early to give him a grade. Look for the right-handed reliever to give the Phillies bullpen a boost for the remainder of the season.
Until last week, B.J. Rosenberg had been an effective player out of the Phillies bullpen. His first 4.1 innings pitched yielded scoreless outings and a 0.00 ERA. His last two appearances, however, have yielded five earned runs that included back-to-back-to-back home runs from the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Rosenberg’s grade for the early season is low, given how hittable he can be. But don’t be surprised if he makes a few adjustments on the mound to improve at times this season.
Jeff Manship was placed in the Phillies bullpen as a long man in case of emergency. His first 2.1 innings pitched were against the Chicago Cubs; both appearances yielded scoreless outings. Manship came into a game against the Milwaukee Brewers and was unable to finish the inning, as he surrendered three earned runs on two hits. He has struggled lately, but an inflated 9.00 ERA shouldn’t be concerning in the early going.
Manship’s fielding independent pitching (FIP), which is a stat that measures a pitcher's effectiveness at preventing home runs and walks while creating strikeouts, is at 3.08 and could be a telling sign for progression later in the season.
Take away the first game of the season, and Mario Hollands has been one of the Phillies' best pitchers out of the bullpen. The way he hides the ball creates deception that opposing hitters fail to see. He has a chance to be the type of reliever that Antonio Bastardo was when he was younger. Look for Hollands to continue to be a bright spot in a struggling Phillies bullpen.
Not much has been expected from the backup catcher position this season. Wil Nieves has produced when called upon by manager Ryne Sandberg. His 3-for-4 performance against the Miami Marlins on April 13 led the Phillies to a victory. Nieves is hitting .300 and can be productive if needed.
Jayson Nix was acquired by the Phillies as insurance on the bench in case a player needed a day off or two. He has a few RBI over the brief time he’s played but has yet to stand out. Nix’s grade represents his career as a utility player.
Jonathan Pettibone returned from injury to be throttled by the Colorado Rockies on Saturday evening. His nine-hit, eight-earned run and two-walk performance earned him a trip back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Hamels will replace him in the starting rotation. Pettibone didn’t look impressive at all in his nine innings of work this season. A demotion was well earned by the young right-hander.
John Mayberry Jr.
John Mayberry Jr. was chosen to be the right-handed bat off the bench for the Phillies in 2014. Mayberry has struggled with runners in scoring position, but the Phillies as a whole have done the same.
Mayberry can play all three outfield positions but is a streaky hitter. He hasn’t done much, which is why his grade represents his play.
Tony Gwynn Jr.
Tony Gwynn Jr. has impressed for the Phillies since being named to the Opening Day roster. His defensive presence, patient approach at the plate and veteran experience are reasons why Gwynn’s being graded higher than some of the other bench players. Gwynn is fully capable of playing center field in place of Ben Revere, but that is another argument for another day.
Freddy Galvis is still playing solid defense and will knock in runs when needed. He hasn’t played a ton of games thanks to some time on the disabled list, but he has certainly been reliable when needed. Expect Galvis to continue to be productive. He could be important later in the season.
Well, Jake Diekman is struggling. The weird part is that he is also dominating as well. The left-hander has thrown 8.1 innings in 2014 but has surrendered seven earned runs. His control has been hit or miss throughout the year, especially in his latest performance against the Braves. In that game, 11 of his first 14 pitches were balls.
Two walks in the inning started a rally in the ninth for Atlanta, which ended on a grand slam by Dan Uggla.
Diekman is throwing the ball hard, however. His 15 strikeouts in nine appearances are important for a bullpen. His FIP is also at 2.84, which means that he is throwing well. If Diekman can get his control figured out, he could be a dominant pitcher out of the bullpen for Philadelphia.
The artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona has certainly impressed early on in the season. In Roberto Hernandez’s first three starts of the season, he has surrendered seven earned runs in 16.1 innings of work.
The right-hander is averaging a strikeout per inning with his 17 strikeouts over that span. He has thrown well but has yet to get past the sixth inning. Hernandez is doing a good job on the mound, but the Phillies are going to need more from him if they are going to compete in the NL East.
The Phillies were looking for Antonio Bastardo to be the team’s dominant reliever in the eighth inning out of the bullpen. Instead, he has struggled with command, allowing six walks in 8.1 innings pitched. The good thing is that Bastardo has only allowed three hits against the 35 batters that he has faced this season. Bastardo needs to figure out how to limit the walks. If he does, welcome back 2011 and 2013 Bastardo.
Cody Asche has struggled a lot this season. The young Phillies third baseman shows a lot of potential. The way he approaches the game is admirable, his mirroring of Chase Utley is encouraging and he has a chance to be a better player.
The problem is that he isn’t at the moment. Don’t be surprised to see Asche benched in the coming games for Freddy Galvis. Asche’s glove has been fluky on the field this season; Galvis is a fielding connoisseur. Asche will return to form. He just needs to relax a bit and get a few days off.
There are a lot of things to love about Ben Revere. He’s fast, he gets to a lot of baseballs and can cause havoc on the bases. The problems with Revere coincide with his skills. Revere’s speed allows him to get to a lot of baseballs if he takes the right route to them. Revere’s flashy glove has been fluky at times thanks to his lack of awareness and route running in the outfield. Revere also struggles getting on base, especially due to his lack of walks.
When Revere is on he can be a spark plug. Right now Revere is hurting his team, but he is producing at times. It’s tough to make an exact decision on Revere, especially because he has a chance to become a good major league player.
Kyle Kendrick has been a bright spot of consistency for the Phillies over the past few seasons. He has managed to throw six-plus innings in three of his first four starts in 2014. The right-hander is going to be a force for the Phillies rotation if he continues to go deep into games. His ERA will drop once he gets more starts.
Carlos Ruiz has struggled. But struggling isn’t even the best way to describe the veteran backstop. Ruiz is in a huge slump. He has yet to drive in a run this season but is still getting on base via the walk. Ruiz’s offensive production is extremely important for the Phillies this season, especially since he is scheduled to make $8.5 million for the next three seasons.
Right now Ruiz is one of the worst players in the Phillies lineup and is becoming a liability at the plate. He needs to simplify his approach. The catcher is an All-Star-caliber player. There is still a chance for him to be a key to the team, but it’s going to take a lot of work.
The Phillies signed A.J. Burnett as insurance in their rotation and for dominance every five days. The right-hander has been struggling this season, but a lot has to do with a strained groin. His last start yielded seven shutout innings of work with three hits surrendered. Burnett changed his delivery, simplifying it to account for his injury.
If he wants to continue to pitch through the strain, the change in delivery could be a blessing in disguise for the veteran right-hander.
He’s due. That’s partially why his grade is lower than it should be. Domonic Brown has struggled with recording extra-base hits and driving in runs for his team with runners in scoring position. Brown needs to be a key piece to this lineup. He is due for a big game sooner or later. Brown has yet to disappoint on the field, which is why I’m giving him the grade he gets.
The Phillies' offseason acquisition returned with a few question marks. Could he hit for power? Could he play right field? Could he protect Howard in the lineup?
So far, Marlon Byrd has certainly done that for the Phillies. His 10 RBI are close to the team lead. But he has struggled with his average, which is at .242. Byrd also has struck out 21 times in 70 plate appearances. To put that into context, Byrd struck out 20 times in 30 games (115 plate appearances) after being traded from the New York Mets to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Byrd has played well, however, which is a good sign for the Phillies.
Jimmy Rollins may be one of the most criticized players in Philadelphia. Actually, he is. Rollins has been criticized on a daily basis for his “lackadaisical” efforts and tendency to dog it on the field. However, what people do not realize is that Rollins is off to a great start in 2014. Just for comparison’s sake, his .748 OPS is the highest it has been since 2008, when he was at .786.
Rollins has seen improvement in his play as a run-producer and as a two-hole hitter. His defense still allows him to compete with the best in the league, despite losing a step or two with age. Rollins has been productive for the Phillies, and the fans need to take a look and realize that he is stepping up to the “leadership role” that many have said he lacked.
Jonathan Papelbon’s first appearance in 2014 yielded a blown save and a ton of angry Phillies fans. Since that time, however, he has been dominant for the Phillies. A pitcher that is dealing with a dip in velocity needs to figure out a way to make a living.
That is what Papelbon has been trying to do.
A change in his delivery has helped him stay on top of the baseball, which is resulting in more movement. Other than the outing in Texas, the Phillies' electrifying closer has not disappointed this season.
Criticize the big man all you want, but Ryan Howard is still trying to find his stroke. People have been pressing on him, mainly because of his huge contract, but also because they remember the days of 50-plus home runs and 130-plus RBI.
Howard is starting to pick it up. He has already walked 10 times this season, which is significantly better than in years past at this point in the season. Howard has started to get comfortable at the plate. His swing as well as his approach is coming back. Philadelphia can deal with the strikeouts as long as Howard can get back to his producing ways. Look out for the big fella the rest of the season.
Cliff Lee was terrible in the Phillies' season opener against the Texas Rangers, giving up eight runs on 11 hits in five innings of work.
Twenty-two innings pitched, four earned runs and 27 strikeouts. Lee is going to contend for a Cy Young Award in 2014. He is just that type of pitcher. Look for him to continue the streak of great starts, especially if he is locating his fastball on the corners.
The best player on the Phillies roster has been Chase Utley. He hits, he fields, he runs the bases impeccably and leads by example. Utley is the definition of an All-Star, an ideal MLB player and a role model for young ballplayers. Utley is finally healthy. Fans are beginning to see some of the Utley that they witnessed prior to the injuries. Without a doubt, Utley is the man. No ifs, ands or buts.
Overall, there are a few people that believe the Phillies are better than they were projected. I am one of those people that are actually surprised at how good this team has been in the early going. Ryne Sandberg preached about taking things simple, getting back to the basics and playing fundamental baseball during spring training. The Phillies lineup has shown improvement with the way they approach an at-bat. They are more patient, more relaxed and are doing the little things to get runners in.
They had gone through a dry spell, but good pitching will always falter good hitting. This brings me to my next point. The starting rotation could be one of the surprises in the National League. Hamels, Lee and Burnett are pitchers that any team would want on their roster in postseason play. Kendrick is throwing consistently, and Hernandez has shown glimpses of being a productive No. 5 starter.
If the Phillies rotation can get through quality start after quality start, then the team has a serious chance at fighting for a wild-card slot. It’s too early to make predictions, but the Phillies are certainly showing their progression as the season begins. Look for them to turn some heads as the season goes on.