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Plus-minus rating for Shayne Gostisbehere during Union’s 7-4 win in NCAA title game

Grading the Phillies and looking ahead

Posted by Ron Opher On July 18

It’s that time of year again, when we give the Phillies mid-term grades and evaluate the possibility of players who might be traded away or acquired.

While it’s true that the midpoint of the MLB season is generally around the 4th of July, the pause that the All-Star break brings gives us the opportunity not only to assess how each Phillies player has done, but also to assess their chances of being traded away in-season and also in the upcoming off-season.

Which begs the question of whether the Phillies should even be sellers in the trade market as they sit at .500 with a 48-48 record. In fact, if they are buyers, we’ll give you some names at the end of the article that the Phillies might pursue.

Regardless, here is our assessment of the Phillies, looking back to April and ahead to the trade deadline and beyond:

Cliff Lee
Grade: A
Chances of being traded at all-star break: 1%
Chances of being traded in offseason: 10%

Lee has reverted to ace form (10-3. 2.86 ERA, 0.995 WHIP) after winning only 6 games in 2012. He is earning the $25 million he is being paid in 2013, and is poised to earn $62.5 million over the next 2 seasons or $77.5 million over the next 3 seasons.

As long as the Phillies can maintain their status as a high-payroll team, Lee fits. Which is why even though he is the team’s most valuable veteran trade chip, it is difficult to see the Phillies parting with him in the next 2 weeks. Very few teams – in fact maybe only the Cardinals – have the prospects it would take to land Lee.

At the same time, just as with Jonathan Papelbon, if revenue flowing into the team dips to the point where shedding payroll is mandated, Lee is a far easier contract to move than Ryan Howard, for example, and it would be foolish of the Phillies to wait until Lee is a depreciated asset before seriously entertaining a Lee trade as a cornerstone of the rebuilding process.

Domonic Brown
Grade: A-
Chances of being traded at all-star break: 0%
Chances of being traded in offseason: 0%

Brown has finally emerged as the star that the front office and fans have been hoping for over the past several years. To temper our enthusiasm, Brown would be miscast as a #3 hitter on a contending team, as it is unlikely that he will ever hit .300 over a full season (he is at 23-67.273 at the moment). While he is no longer a defensive disaster in the outfield, Brown is still below average at tracking and running routes to balls, often content to play outs into singles that fall in front of him, rather than misplay them into doubles and triples.

Chase Utley
Grade: B+
Chances of being traded at all-star break: 30%
Chances of leaving via free agency in offseason if not traded: 40%

Utley is very close to looking like the same player he was before his knee problems cut into his playing time in 2011 and 2012, currently posting 11-30-.272 in 67 games. No, he won’t likely hit 30 home runs or hit .300, but he will likely approach 20 home runs, hit .270 or better, play good defense and run the bases better than anyone the Phillies have had on their team since Richie Ashburn.

Utley is still the center of the Phillies clubhouse universe; Jimmy Rollins recently referred to the possibility of Utley being traded as akin to “having my heart ripped out.”

For his part, Utley has said he’d like to remain a Phillie – and it would be just as possible that the Phillies announce that they have reached a 2-year, $25 million deal with a third year option at $15 million or a $5 million buyout as it is possible that Utley will be traded within the next 2+ weeks.

Jonathan Papelbon
Grade: B
Chances of being traded at all-star break: 1%
Chances of being traded in offseason: 15%

Papelbon’s grade would have been an A a month ago, but he has since blown 5 saves and looked tired and shaky. Which is not a good thing for his trade value and also not a good thing as the Phillies have played better of late – since they have needed him more often.

As the same time, Papelbon has kept the Phillies much closer to a .500 team than if they had to use one of their sub-par middle relievers in the closer role. It’s that scary thought – perhaps above all else – that keeps Papelbon in the Phillies fold.

Kyle Kendrick
Grade: B
Chances of being traded at all-star break: 0%
Chances of being traded in offseason: 1%

Kendrick was neck and neck with Cliff Lee as staff ace in the early going, but we all knew that wouldn’t last. He has still become the team’s 3rd starter (with an 8-6 record and a 3.68 ERA) – after being projected as the 4th starter – due to the injury to Roy Halladay. With one more year of team control, it’s very likely that Kendrick will remain a Phillie into the 2014 season.

Ben Revere
Grade: B
Chances of being traded at all-star break: 0%
Chances of being traded in offseason: 1%

Revere had a horrible April, batting .200, but still managed to get his season average up to .305 before suffering a broken ankle this past weekend.

For the most part, Revere has come as advertised – a .speedy 300 hitter who doesn’t draw walks (.338 OBP this season).

At the same time, I continue to maintain that Revere is not good enough to be a CF on a championship-caliber baseball team. His defense is poor considering that he has very good speed. His arm is average at best. And, perhaps worst of all, he simply doesn’t get infield hits. He always seems to be thrown out by a half-step on plays where other, better, leadoff hitters around MLB beat the throw.

Jimmy Rollins
Grade: B-
Chances of being traded at all-star break: 1%
Chances of being traded in offseason: 10%

Rollins’ grade was really a combination of his A-level defense and C-level bat. Considering Rollins has batted 1, 2 or 3 almost exclusively, his production both in scoring runs (he has 38) and in driving in runs (he has 30) is below the already tempered expectations we have for him as a batter. Rollins’ batting average (.258) and OBP (.317) fall within recent career norms – but to have only 4 HR’s and 9 SB’s (with 6 caught) is evidence of a significant decline in both power and speed.

Rollins is generally known for finishing strong – we will soon see if 2013 continues the trend. For certain, he has to hit the ball harder. There are far too many weak popups and easy grounders coming off Rollins’ bat to view him as much more than an Omar Vizquel-type at the same age.

Michael Young
Grade: B-
Chances of being traded at all-star break: 70%
Chances of leaving via free agency in offseason if not traded: 99%

Young’s batting average (.288), OBP (.344) and subpar fielding are all about as expected.

The tough part to take is his having 28 RBI in 89 games while batting primarily 5th. That lack of production is unacceptable, and could more than likely be replaced by Kevin Frandsen in the short run and Cody Asche or Maikel Franco in the longer run.

On top of that, there are strong rumors that several AL teams, most notably the Yankees and Red Sox, are interested in Young in a trade market that is very thin, especially with decent infielders.

Even if the Phillies don’t pursue wholesale “selling” at the trade deadline, there is a strong chance that they would move Young if they get something back that they like.

Jonathan Pettibone
Grade: B-
Chances of being traded at all-star break: 0%
Chances of being traded in offseason: 3%

Pettibone emerged from a group pitchers at AAA to claim what has become the 4th starter’s spot after Roy Halladay’s injury. His 3.89 ERA and 5-3 record are very good for a rookie without much pedigree (Pettibone was a 3rd round selection in 2008 and never cracked anyone’s Top 100 prospects lists).

At the same time, like with J.A. Happ and Vance Worley before him, it’s hard to see Pettibone taking his game to another level. While it’s unlikely that Pettibone could be an off-season trade chip, if Roy Halladay is signed to an incentive-laden deal and/or Jesse Biddle looks major-league ready, Pettibone could be used to acquire a catcher, third baseman or corner outfielder in much the same way that Vance Worley was used to land Ben Revere.

Cole Hamels
Grade: C+
Chances of being traded at all-star break: 0%
Chances of being traded in offseason: 1%

Hamels seems to have finally turned the corner from a 2-11 start, pitching much more like his usual dominant self of late.

Still, with the hole the Hamels has dug for himself and the team, it’s hard to give him a better grade – especially when he is being paid $19.5 million this season.

Ryan Howard
Grade: C+
Chances of being traded at all-star break: 0%
Chances of being traded in offseason: 5%

Howard has become a shell of his former self right before our eyes. He almost certainly won’t ever hit 40 HR or drive in 140 runs again. But he is delusional when he recently claimed that he was still good for 30-100. Let’s face it, 11-43 in 80 games is 22-86 or thereabouts.

While that might fly for a guy making about $10 million per year (like Adam LaRoche, for example, who has 13 HR and 43 RBI), it won’t cut it for a cleanup hitter making $20 million this season and due $85 million over the next 3 seasons or $98 million over the next 4 seasons.

Howard has also struck out in 30% of his plate appearances – which is comparable to last season (34%) and his 2007 season. Last season was a return from injury. 2007 was a 47-136 season, so the strikeouts could be overlooked in that situation. Plus Howard walked 107 times in 2007. In his prime, Howard’s K-BB rate was about 2-2.5:1. Last season, it was nearly 4:1 (99:25) and this season, it’s nearly identical (95:23). Pitchers are coming right after Ryan Howard, with success. There is no need to pitch around him.

On top of everything else, Howard had a torn meniscus in knee which needed surgery recently.

While some might suggest that a healthy Howard could still hit 30-100, the obvious question is whether, after a bad ankle, a cortisone shot, then an achilles tear, then a delayed return to action last season of an overweight and hobbling Howard, and now a knee problem – will there ever really be a healthy Ryan Howard for a full season?

The Phillies will probably explore trading Howard to an American League team this offseason, simply to gauge how much of his contract they’d have to eat. When the feedback comes in at 1/2 to 2/3, chances are the Phillies will keep him and hope for the best.

John Lannan
Grade: C
Chances of being traded at all-star break: 0%
Chances of being traded in offseason: 1%

On the positive side, Lannan has pitched better than his career numbers (3.76 ERA vs. 3.99, 1.272 WHIP vs. 1.415). On the negative side, Lannan’s injury was a double whammy with Roy Halladay also being out, and forced the Phillies to use Tyler Cloyd. Then again, Cloyd pitched about as effectively as Lannan (2-2, 3.41 ERA) in his short stint with the Phils.

With one more year of team control, it’s very likely that Lannan will remain a Phillie into the 2014 season, but will likely cede his rotation spot to Jesse Biddle at some point.

Delmon Young
Grade: C
Chances of being traded at all-star break: 3%
Chances of leaving via free agency in offseason if not traded: 98%

One one hand, for $750,000, what more can you expect than a 7-28-.263 stat line, with strikeouts in 22% of his plate appearances (second highest among regulars, behind Ryan Howard) and with subpar outfield defense (other than a strong arm)?

On the other hand, how can the Phillies play Delmon Young almost every day and seriously think they have a shot at the postseason?

Young is auditioning for a better contract as a 28-year old DH and the Phillies seem happy to oblige him in 2013. When money comes off the Philies’ payroll going into 2014, this outfield spot needs to go to Darin Ruf – or Ryan Howard needs to be moved, Ruf needs to play first base, and the Phillies need to take Andre Ethier off the Dodgers’ hands to play RF.

Carlos Ruiz
Grade: C-
Chances of being traded at all-star break: 10%
Chances of leaving via free agency in offseason if not traded: 80%

Ruiz has zero home runs and 6 RBI in 142 plate appearances.

That’s hard to do with a toothpick in your hands in the batter’s box, let alone with an actual bat.

How can I put this any less bluntly – was Ruiz’s 16-68-.325 stat line with first All-Star appearance in 2012 Adderall-fueled? What other explanation can there be?

Which might make Ruiz expendable…but then again, what’s the trade market like for him? Nonexistent, unless a key catcher on a contending team suffers an injury.

The flip side is whether the Phillies pitchers are prepared to do without Ruiz, who was arguably the heart and soul of the team during its 2007-2011 run. Can Erik Kratz and Humberto Quintero cut it? Could the Phillies get Ruiz back at a big discount this offseason?

Or should the Phillies get what they can for Ruiz and look at other options – most notably Brian McCann – in the free agent marketplace?

I can’t imagine Amaro isn’t at least shopping Ruiz to gauge whether it’s just as well to cut ties now and get something in return, as opposed to having him hit free agency and simply delay a difficult decision without getting anything in return.

With all this negativity toward Ruiz, here’s one interesting statistic that should give Ruben Amaro pause (and give Cole Hamels nightmares) about parting with Ruiz:

Hamels’ ERA with Ruiz catching in 2013: 3.30
Hamels’ ERA with Kratz catching in 2013: 4.43
Hamels’ ERA with Quintero catching in 2013: 5.18

Bench players:

Kevin Frandsen: A-
He could take over at 3B (just like he did last season) if Michael Young is dealt. Frandsen’s 11 pinch hits are tops in the majors, and his 2 walk-off hits are tops on the Phillies.

John Mayberry: C+
Mayberry’s value to the Phillies will be tested, as he is currently the Phils’ primary CF in the wake of the injury to Ben Revere. While Ruben Amaro, Jr. explores trade options and plays infielder Cesar Hernandez in CF in Lehigh Valley, Mayberry has a chance to contribute and keep the team from having to trade an asset for a stopgap replacement for Revere.

Humberto Quintero: C-
Quintero has filled in capably for Carlos Ruiz, and then got to stay with the team even longer due to Erik Kratz’s injury. Still, the difference in the lineup and of the pitchers’ confidence with Ruiz out there over Quintero is palpable.

Freddy Galvis: D
Galvis got sent down to AAA not only because he needs to play every day, but also because he was not very successful in a bench role, and did a very poor job as a defensive replacement.

Laynce Nix: D
Is Nix even on this team? It seems like he’s done nothing since delivering a couple of key pinch hits in April, and his 2-6-.200 line over 107 plate appearances, with 35 strikeouts is the stuff releases are made of.

Darin Ruf, John McDonald: Incomplete

Bullpen (other than Papelbon):

Antonio Bastardo: B-
It’s hard not to at least give Bastardo some credit for having a 2.62 ERA (second only to Jonathan Papelbon’s 2.33) so far in 2013. But when you pitch partial innings and enter in the middle of innings, you will generally have a lower ERA since when you give up hits, you are giving up someone else’s runs – and when it takes less than 3 outs to get out of an inning, you are at an advantage ERA-wise.

So I prefer to focus on Bastardo’s 18 walks in 34-1/3 innings. leading to a 1.398 WHIP. That WHIP is by far Bastardo’s career high since he became a full-season pitcher in the majors (his WHIP in 2011 was 0.931 and even last year it was 1.269, to go with a 4.33 ERA). It’s hard to allow 1.4 baserunners per inning and not get scored upon. As the weather warms, expect Bastardo’s home runs allowed (currently only 2) to climb (he gave up 7 last season and 6 in 2011), along with his ERA.

If a 1.398 WHIP is problematic, how about a 1.729 (Justin De Fratus) or a 1.785 (Jake Diekman)? Or 1.808 (Jeremy Horst before he went on the DL)? B.J. Rosenberg‘s 2.667 WHIP, Phillippe Aumont‘s 1.914 WHIP and Raul Valdes‘ 1.515 WHIP reside safely in AAA. Chad Durbin‘s 2.125 WHIP led to his release.

Need I suggest that the grade for everyone not named Papelbon or Bastado who has resided in the Phillies’ bullpen is an F (other than new recruits Joe Savery, J.C. Ramirez and Luis Garcia, who each get an incomplete for pitching in 10, 7 and 2 games, respectively)?

Here’s another sobering thought about the bullpen: Only Papelbon and Bastardo have been on the Phillies’ active roster since Opening Day. Is it any wonder that it’s not even worth speculating if anyone other than Papelbon will be traded?

Injured players:

Mike Adams, Roy Halladay. These guys represent a major reason why the Phillies are not closer to the Braves at the top of the NL East. At least with Halladay, there was reason to temper our enthusiasm based on what we saw last season. With Adams, his role as 8th inning savior turns out to be again filled by a revolving door of guys who can’t get the job done consistently. While Halladay becomes a free agent at the end of this season (we peg his chances of pitching elsewhere at 90%), the Phillies have another year committed to Adams in 2014, at $6 million – though this rotator cuff and labrum injuries probably make his 2015 vesting option unattainable and his 2014 return in serious doubt.

Erik Kratz: The Phillies haven’t missed Kratz too much, with Humberto Quintero filling in capably, but with his recent activation from the DL, Kratz’s power bat will be a better bench option and more of a threat on days Ruiz doesn’t start.

Michael Stutes: Has an injured shoulder. Again. Maybe he’s too small to throw so big? In any event, the Phillies aren’t really missing his 5.17 ERA.

And if the Phillies are indeed buyers, how about….

Mike Dunn, LHP, Miami Marlins (5%)
James Russell, LHP, Chicago Cubs (20%)
Jesse Crain, RHP, Chicago White Sox (10%, though currently on DL)
Rafael Betancourt, RHP. Colorado Rockies (5%)
Kevin Gregg, RHP, Chicago Cubs (2%)
Francisco Rodriguez, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers (<1%)
John Axford, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers (2%)
Tim Lincecum, RHP, San Francisco Giants (<1%)
David DeJesus, CF, Chicago Cubs (10%, though currently on DL)
Justin Ruggiano, CF, Miami Marlins (7%)
Alejandro De Aza, CF, Chicago White Sox (5%; it’s questionable whether De Aza would be an upgrade over Cesar Hernandez, who is attempting to learn CF on the fly at AAA)
Hunter Pence, RF, San Francisco Giants (<1%)
Andre Ethier, RF, Los Angeles Dodgers ( Raul Ibanez, LF, Seattle Mariners ( Nate Schierholtz, RF, Chicago Cubs ( Marlon Byrd, RF, New York Mets (

(%s after player’s name indicate the likelihood that the Phillies will acquire this player if they decide to “buy” at or beyond the trade deadline, The order at which the player appears on the list is our assessment of the order of priority/fit that player would have on the Phillies)


 

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