Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies team profile

The Phillies turned in the third worst record in baseball in 2017. However, things don’t feel so lousy in the city of brotherly love. The Eagles are the best team in football, which is what most of the city is focusing on right now, but the Phillies don’t have such a bad outlook either.

The calvary is coming

After a couple of promising campaigns, Maikel Franco had a disappointing 2017. He still managed to knock 24 home runs, but his slash line of .230/.281/.409 is not what the Phillies wanted to see. There is definitely room to improve for the young third baseman.

Philadelphia Phillies

Maikel Franco will look to bounce back from a lackluster 2017 season. (Photo from Philly.com)

Although Franco was supposed to be breaking out as the face of the Phillies future, another man stepped in to make up for his struggles. Rhys Hoskins did not make his major league debut until August, but he did not waste any time getting acquainted with big league pitching. In 50 games, Hoskins managed to hit 18 home runs. If he kept up that pace through an entire season, he would have hit over 40.

Hoskins is only the beginning of the young prospects coming up in the Phillies system. They have six prospects in the MLB top 100, five of them being hitters. This means that Hoskins really is only the start of an offensive wave that will be coming into Citizens Bank Park. The process of all these hitters coming up will take about three seasons to develop.

What to expect this offseason

Philadelphia has been mentioned as one of the top teams in the race for Giancarlo Stanton, the hottest hitter on the trade market. The Phillies wouldn’t be trading for him for 2018 or 2019, but they would think he could be a big contributor for the 2020 season and beyond. The only catch is that they would have to be willing to give up some of their top prospects of the future.

The Phillies took Mickey Moniak with the first pick in 2016, a young outfielder with impressive plate discipline and can make solid contact. He is still developing as a ballplayer, but he is a very valuable tool for the future. He would be someone that the Phillies may have to give up in order to acquire Stanton.

Rumors have been fading away from the Phillies and Stanton though. Philadelphia does not have the pitching prospects that Miami would be interested in. The Giants, Cardinals and Red Sox have been more in the mix as of late. This makes the Phillies more of an outside contender for Stanton.

The Phillies ought to focus on pitching this offseason. They have been improving as a whole on offense and have some solid names coming up, but the pitching outlook is a little bleak. There are some intriguing names that hit free agency, such as Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb.

One name that could stand out for the Phillies is Tyler Chatwood. He has managed to put up some modest numbers while playing in the mountains, so he may be a plus pitcher if he is in a better suited park. He will come much cheaper than some of the other pitchers on the market, and could be serviceable for the future as he is only 27.

What to expect in 2018

The Phillies are still in the middle of their rebuilding process, so don’t expect them to compete with the Nationals for the NL East crown just yet. However, they are showing signs of not being the bottom dwellers of years past.

Phillies

Scott Kingery may be cementing himself as the second baseman of the future (Photo Courtesy of Yong Kim)

Their No. 3 prospect, Scott Kingery, should be making his debut next year at second base. Kingery had a stellar year in Double and Triple-A. He managed to hit 26 homers and had a slash line of .304/.359/.530. He also possess great speed as he stole 29 bases. Expect for him to make a splash in Philly next year.

 

 

Jorge Alfaro is another name that could make a big impact in 2018. Alfaro is the fifth best prospect in their system, and got some time in the big leagues in 2017. He came from Texas in the Cole Hamels deal, and is showing to be worth it thus far. In 29 games he hit .318 with five home runs. He is looking to fill the hole left at the catchers spot since Carlos Ruiz in 2016.

The Phillies may not be bottom dwellers in the East next year, seeing that the Marlins are looking to go into rebuild mode. Their offense is already looking much better, and will only be getting better as time goes on. They are hoping that Franco looks more like his 2016 self rather than last year. If he does turn things around, it could be a threatening lineup with Hoskins, Franco and Kingery.

 

Featured image by Laurence Kesterson/AP

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Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles team profile

The Baltimore Orioles enter the 2017 offseason with way more questions than answers. A 75-87 season with a last place finish in the AL East will do that to a team. Even so, the Orioles are just one season removed from an 89-73 season and a second place finish in the AL East. How did the Orioles fall off so quickly and where do they go in 2018?

2017 Season

After a second place finish in 2016, the Orioles were primed to make another run at the AL East crown. Through the month of April, it looked like they would do just that. They boasted a 15-8 record and were one of the hottest teams in baseball.

Baltimore Orioles

Manny Machado struggled mightily at the plate in 2017. (Photo by Karen Hill/Houston Chronicle).

However, an absolute collapse of the pitching staff grounded the Orioles’ playoff aspirations. As a staff, Orioles pitching gave up 841 runs on the season, averaging out to a little over five runs per game. That was much too difficult for the eighth ranked offense in the American League to overcome.

It wasn’t just the pitching staff that suffered from inconsistency though. Star third baseman Manny Machado got off to a poor start in 2017, batting .224 in March and April and slumping to a .191 batting average for the month of May. Throughout the whole season, he only slugged over .500 in one full month, slugging .690 in August. Even with Machado’s struggles, the Orioles were able to score 743 runs, only one less than their total last year.

One reason for that was the emergence of Jonathan Schoop. Schoop definitely tapped into his power this year, launching 32 home runs. He also drove in a team high 105 RBIs.

Another factor was the under the radar addition of shortstop Tim Beckham. Beckham is the new poster child for the change of scenery narrative. After posting a paltry 97 OPS+ in Tampa Bay, Beckham hit to the tune of a 131 OPS+ in Baltimore. Both Beckham and Schoop will be relied on next season season.

Team Needs

The Baltimore Orioles are set in the infield, with catching duties likely being split between Caleb Joseph and prospect Chance Sisco. Beckham will take over for the 35-year-old J.J. Hardy, solidifying a strong infield.

Where the questions begin is in the outfield. Nine different players earned time in right field for the Orioles, with 35-year-old Seth Smith playing the most games with 80. Joey Rickard, Craig Gentry and Mark Trumbo all played at least 31 games in right, but none are thought to be long-term options. Rickard, who will turn 27 next season, has a career 77 OPS+. Gentry will be 34 with an 84 OPS+ for his career, and Trumbo was mostly a designated hitter. Either way, right field will be the least of the Orioles’ problems if they can’t find some starting pitching.

When your “staff ace” posts a 4.24 ERA, you know there are bound to be some problems. The Orioles had two starters with ERAs well over 5.00. Wade Miley made 32 starts and posted a 5.61 ERA. Not to be outdone, Ubaldo Jimenez went one step further. The former Rockies ace started 25 games and posted an atrocious 6.81 ERA.

Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman were the only starters to post sub 5.00 ERAs on the season. The Orioles will definitely have to dip into the free agent market to address one of the worst starting staffs in the majors.

Potential Free Agent Signings

One player that the Orioles could target is pitcher Trevor Cahill. While adding a pitcher with a 4.93 ERA this past season may not sound like a good idea, a closer look at the numbers says otherwise.

As a starter with San Diego, Cahill made 11 starts, going 4-3 with a 3.69 ERA. It was when Cahill was shipped to Kansas City that his numbers started to balloon. A change of scenery and a change to the bullpen spelled disaster for the former second-round pick. Cahill will only be 30 years old next year, and should come at a reasonable price.

Baltimore Orioles

Tyler Chatwood has a chance to be an impact arm (Photo from AP Photo/David Zalubowski).

Another option for the Orioles is pitcher Tyler Chatwood. With Chatwood, you have to look even deeper than with Cahill. The former Rockies starter has a chance to be a diamond in the rough. Chatwood is a perfect example of how pitching in Colorado can damage a pitcher’s career.

He has posted a 5.25 ERA in 68 games at Coors Field. But outside of Colorado, Chatwood has posted a 3.31 ERA in 62 games. He has also given up 25 homers on the road compared to 42 at home, and limited batters to a .241 batting average on the road. There is only a 17-inning difference between his 332.1 IP at home compared to his 315.1 IP on the road. While Cahill could be a solid signing, Chatwood has the chance to be an impact arm for the Orioles. And at almost 28 years old, he’s one of the youngest available starters on the market.

The Baltimore Orioles have a chance to turn their organization around in 2018. However, with the Yankees and Red Sox back to powerhouses once again, the best the Orioles can hope for in 2018 is a Wild Card spot.

 

Feature image by cbssports.com 

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Colorado Rockies

Buy or Sell: Colorado Rockies Starting Pitching

The Colorado Rockies play home games in a very unique environment. Their stadium, Coors Field, is located in Denver, Colorado, about one mile above sea level. The altitude factor at Coors Field has been notorious for negatively affecting pitchers and positively affecting hitters.

The two major forces acting upon a baseball are gravitational and frictional force. The gravitational force acts on a baseball by bringing it straight downward and is generally the same in all ballparks. The frictional force is the amount of friction caused by the baseball rubbing against molecules in the air. Due to the altitude at Coors Field, the air molecules are 15 percent less dense than at other ball parks.

For pitchers, this causes fastballs to be faster and curveballs to be flatter, which in theory could be positive or negative for specific pitchers. The Rockies tried to take advantage of this theory in 2001 when they signed 1998 CY Young runner-up Mike Hampton.

At that time, Hampton only threw a fastball, cutter and changeup, which the Rockies’ organization believed would be a successful arsenal for Coors Field. Short story even shorter, Hampton spent two seasons in Colorado and finished his tenure with a 21-28 record, 5.75 ERA and 1.67 WHIP in just over 380 innings pitched.

For hitters, lesser air density results in batted baseballs flying higher and further since there is less air resistance to decelerate the ball. These factors can be the difference between flying out to the warning track or hitting a home run.

Since being established in 1993, the Rockies have had only two Cy Young candidates with Jeff Francis in 2007 and Ubaldo Jimenez in 2010. With this in mind, many fantasy baseball owners disregard Rockies’ pitching.

However, the Rockies are in first place with a 22-13 record, showing that their pitchers may have more to offer than we originally thought.

 

BUY: Antonio Senzatela, RHP

Colorado Rockies

The electric rookie has provided a strong presence for the Rockies (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports).

  • 5-1 with a 2.86 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 4.91 K/9

 

Senzatela has quietly been the Rockies’ best player so far. He has managed to compile five quality wins in his first seven starts. He has had trouble striking batters out, but that has never been his motive.

The 22-year-old has a minor-league career record of 41-19 with a 2.45 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 6.6 K/9. Senzatela’s transition from the minors to majors could not have gone more smoothly. His arsenal of pitches follows the Rockies blueprint, as he throws a fastball, slider and changeup.

What stands out about Senzatela is his incredible walk rates. His career walk percentage has never been over seven percent. For the analytical gurus, Senzatela’s xFIP is a poor 4.59, and his HR/FB ratio is only average at 8.9 percent. It is understandable to think his numbers are not sustainable, although I disagree.

I believe he has all of the qualities to succeed in Colorado. His arsenal seems suited for Coors Field, and his previous success has been immaculate. The sky is the limit for the Rockies interim ace.

 

SELL: Kyle Freeland, LHP

Colorado Rockies

Kyle Freeland looks to find success in his next start against the Minnesota Twins. (Photo by The Denver Post)

  • 3-2 with a 2.93 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 5.9 K/9

 

Freeland has astounded so far in 2017. However, a drop off in performance should be expected.

The Rockies rookie has a career minor-league record of 17-12 with a 3.49 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 6.1 K/9. He has a career ground-ball rate of around 53 percent, although his current ground-ball rate is up at 66 percent. That is sure to drop. Once his ground-ball diminishes back to his career averages, his home run rate is sure to rise.

Also, the 23-year-old has an xFIP of 4.18 and BABIP of .272. Both suggest that his performance will decline soon enough.

 

BUY: Tyler Chatwood, RHP

Colorado Rockies

Tyler Chatwood tosses complete game shut-out against San Francisco. (Photo by Purple Row)

  • 3-4 with a 4.74 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 6.4 K/9

 

Chatwood has been subpar, although a turnaround is imminent. The 27-year-old has a career 4.24 ERA, which is obviously nothing to get too excited over, but he has shown signs of excellence on multiple occasions this season.

He threw a complete game shutout against the San Francisco Giants. He also held the league’s best offense, the Arizona Diamondbacks, to only one earned run in seven innings of work. His main pitches are his fastball and cutter, but he also uses a changeup and curveball to keep hitters off-balance.

Chatwood has a ground-ball rate of 57 percent and an xFIP of 3.87, which shows he is a ground-ball pitcher with average independent fielding stats. As long as he keeps the ball on the ground, he should find success in Colorado.

 

SELL: German Marquez

Colorado Rockies

German Marquez is filling in for injured Jon Gray quite nicely. (Photo by the Denver Post)

  • 1-2 with a 4.88 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 7.9 K/9

 

Marquez has been very inconsistent in his first four starts after being called up to replace an injured Jon Gray. He has shown multiple signs of excellence, as he carried a no-hitter into the seventh against the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. He also shut out the Diamondbacks in six innings on May 30.

The 22-year-old has a minor-league career ERA of 3.61 and has severally struggled with allowing home runs. He has a career home-run-to-fly-ball (HR/FB) ratio of 11.1 percent, which is considered poor. This trend is very worrisome since Coors Field is not forgiving to fly-ball pitchers.

Marquez also relies heavily on his curveball, which does not bode well at Coors Field either. This specific pitch will drop much less in Colorado than at any other big league park.

 

BUY: Tyler Anderson, LHP

Colorado Rockies

Tyler Anderson is a young stud off to a rough start in 2017. (Photo by Purple Row)

  • 2-3 with a 6.69 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, and 8.4 K/9

 

Anderson has struggled in all six of his last seven starts. However, I believe it is too early to give up on the 27-year-old. He has a career minor-league ERA of 2.38, WHIP of 1.10 and K/9 of 7.4. Clearly the potential is there, but his early struggles have caused owners to drop him at alarming rates.

The first-round pick in 2011 has faced the Dodgers twice, the Nationals, Giants, Brewers and Diamondbacks so far. Four of these five teams have top-12 scoring offenses, while three of them are ranked one, two and three consecutively.

Anderson’s HR/FB rate is at an astronomical 24.3 percent, which will not sustain itself. Also, his career ground-ball rate is about 49 percent, which is ways apart from his current 40 percent ground-ball rate. His ratios will go back to normal, and he will surely find success this season.

BUY: Jon Gray, RHP

Colorado Rockies

Jon Gray and his lion’s mane currently have no timetable for return. (Photo by of Elise Amendola of the Associated Press.

  • 0-0 with a 4.38 ERA, 1.46 WHIP and 6.6 K/9

 

Gray finished 2016 in sixth place in the National League Rookie of the Year voting after recording a 10-10 record, 4.61 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 168 innings.

The 25-year-old was slated to be the Rockies ace in 2017, although he is currently on the 10-day disabled list with a stress fracture in his foot. He is without a firm timetable for his return, although he has been actively throwing and will go for a follow-up on his foot this Thursday.

Gray has an immaculate career K/9 of 9.5, which will make him fantasy relevant whenever he steps on the mound. Although foot injuries are usually serious and tend to linger, this may be the time to buy low on a possibly elite fantasy commodity.

 

(Featured image by MLB.com)

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