30 Clubs in 30 Days: Philadelphia Phillies

There’s a video circulating of ODell Beckham Jr in a hotel room with a woman smoking what looks like a blunt and what appears to be cocaine present in the room. The blunt I don’t really care about, it’s pretty well known that a large majority of NFL players smoke weed and even the NFL is like “you can’t smoke weed, wink wink,” but the blow is a different issue. Beckham doesn’t snort the substance in the video so maybe they just emptied the sugar out of a bag of sour patch kids. Can’t really know for sure unless you stick a little bit on your tongue or snort it so let’s give Beckham the benefit of the doubt before condemning him. Also I know Selection Sunday was yesterday, but I’m writing this in the airport before my flight at 11 AM just in case things get out of control tonight, so I won’t be sharing my March Madness bracket until tomorrow. We’ve got a couple days between Selection Sunday and the play-in games so I’m not too worried. With that, let’s get to day 21 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Philadelphia Phillies.

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2017 Results:

Record: 66-96, 31 games behind Washington Nationals, 21 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Jake Arrieta, 1B Carlos Santana, RP Pat Neshek, RP Fernando Abad, RP Tommy Hunter, IF Adam Rosales

Notable Offseason Subtractions: OF Daniel Nava, OF Hyun Soo Kim, SP Clay Buchholz

Best Offensive Player: 1B Carlos Santana

Best Pitcher: Jake Arrieta

Depth Chart:

C-Jorge Alfaro, Cameron Rupp

1B-Carlos Santana, Tommy Joseph

2B-Cesar Hernandez

3B-Maikel Franco

SS-JP Crawford, Adam Rosales

LF-Rhys Hoskins

CF-Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn

RF-Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr

SP-Jake Arrieta, Aaron Nola, Jared Eickhoff, Vincent Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin

Bullpen-Hector Neris (CP), Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan, Edubray Ramos, Fernando Abad

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Gabe Kapler (1st season with Phillies)

Hitting Coach-John Mallee

Pitching Coach-Rick Kranitz

1st Base Coach-Jose Flores

3rd Base Coach-Dusty Wathan

Bench Coach-Rob Thomson

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I was pretty disappointed in the Phillies last season. I thought last year was the year their young guys would start to put it together and show some progress in this rebuild. But they didn’t, really. The team continued to suck and finished with a record of 66-96, second worst in the NL. They continue to pay for not drafting me in the 2014 MLB Draft. They sent a scout to my high school and he witnessed with his own two eyes me line a single down the left field line to start a 9th inning rally. Who cares if I had a weak throwing arm, no speed, little power, and started 2 games all season (and yes, I did check to make sure they didn’t actually draft me)? That one hit should’ve been all the proof they needed. Instead they drafted Aaron Nola, but I’ll get to him later. They hired Gabe Kapler to be their new manager, as I recommended they should, so hopefully the young guys develop the way they should. Here’s a look at what he’s got to work with heading into this season.

1. Odubel Herrera-CF

2. Cesar Hernandez-2B

3. Carlos Santana-1B

4. Rhys Hoskins-LF

5. Maikel Franco-3B

6. Nick Williams/Aaron Altherr-RF

7. JP Crawford-SS

8. Jorge Alfaro-C

9. Pitcher’s Spot

There’s some young talent here. JP Crawford is one of the top prospects in all of baseball and he got a brief taste of the Majors last season. He only hit .214 in 23 games but he walked a TON, as he reached ball 4 on 18.4% of his plate appearances (which would’ve ranked 4th in the Majors behind Joey Votto, Aaron Judge, and Mike Trout), resulting in a .356 OBP despite the low average. Maikel Franco is a guy I’ve been frustrated with because he’s one of the most talented third basemen in the game but he has done nothing so far in the Majors. Reportedly the newly-signed Carlos Santana is taking him under his wing, though, so if he can learn from Santana’s approach, then we could see a significant uptick in production. Santana is notorious for his plate discipline, as he’s traditionally one of the best at drawing walks year-in and year-out while also displaying 30-home run power. But of course, the biggest story for the Phillies offensively last season was Rhys Hoskins. Despite only playing 50 games last season, Hoskins launched 18 home runs, slugged .618, and was worth 2.2 WAR. That’s outstanding for such a short period of time. He’s going to do a lot of damage for the Phillies this season and he’ll likely be doing it with runners frequently on base ahead of him, as Santana draws a lot of walks and Odubel Herrera has never hit below .280 in his 3-year career. So provided this talented group of youngsters grows under Kapler the way I thought they would last season under Pete Mackanin, this could be a sneaky good offense.

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Pitching was pretty inconsistent for the Phillies last season, as they posted a 4.60 team ERA. There’s a lot of untapped potential in this staff. Aaron Nola looks like a budding star at the top of their rotation. Last year he went 12-11 with a 3.54 ERA and struck out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings. He’s already been named the Opening Day starter against the Atlanta Braves, a huge honor for the 24 year-old. After him there’s some talented guys but with mixed results. Jared Eickhoff showed flashes of brilliance at times for the Phillies but his final numbers were pretty underwhelming, posting a 4.71 ERA and striking out a little over 8 batters per 9. Vince Velasquez is another guy who has flashed a ton of ability, particularly in a 2016 start against the Padres when he threw a shutout while striking out 16 batters on just 3 hits. However he also hasn’t built on that amazing outing, as he finished with an ERA over 5 in 2017. Kapler has a reputation for developing players in the Dodgers’ organization so hopefully for these guys’ sakes he’s able to work his magic with them, too. This is also a late edit, but I had already had this blog set up so forgive me if it reads weird, but Jake Arrieta just agreed to a 3-year $75M deal with the Phillies. It likely doesn’t change Nola’s status as team ace, but it is certainly a MAJOR upgrade on the mound. The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner didn’t have his best year in 2017, but he’s still a stud on the mound. It’ll be interesting to see how soon he’s able to suit up for the Phillies.

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There’s a lot to be desired in the Phillies bullpen. Hector Neris is set to be their closer and he was pretty good last season, saving 26 games with a 3.01 ERA and 10.37 K/9. He’s got some electric stuff and I think he could be a potential breakout candidate. The star for the Phillies’ pen was 36 year-old Pat Neshek. Before being traded at the Deadline to the Rockies, Neshek was the Phillies’ lone All Star last season, posting a 1.12 ERA while striking out over 10 batters per 9, a very high number for a submarine pitcher at his age. Neshek returned to the Phillies in free agency in the offseason and he will likely be the 8th inning guy and possibly the closer when Neris can’t go. After those guys there’s a lot of uncertainty. New additions Fernando Abad and Tommy Hunter have had success in the past but have also had plenty of rough patches and might not be the most reliable guys for the Phillies. This bullpen may struggle in 2018.

Overall, I think there’s talent on the Phillies and like the A’s in yesterday’s blog, it’s all going to come down to how their young guys develop. If Kapler can awaken the talent in these guys like he did for guys like Chris Taylor and Justin Turner with the Dodgers, then the Phillies’ rebuild could be ending very soon. I think the Phillies are going to be my pick for most-improved team in 2018.

Projected Record: 75-85, 3rd in NL East

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are on the brink of a rebuild after trading stars Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Let me know what you think of the Phillies’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Boston Red Sox

Some huge news in the college basketball world as some initial reports have been released regarding current and former players and improper benefits from either schools or agents. The biggest names listed are Michigan State’s Miles Bridges (as if Michigan State needed any more scandals), Alabama’s Colin Sexton, Duke’s Wendell Carter, Markelle Fultz of the 76ers (attended Washington), Kyle Kuzma of the Lakers (attended Utah), and Dennis Smith Jr of the Mavericks (attended NC State). The investigation is still ongoing so I’ll provide more details when more information is released. Also, a big trade was agreed upon between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams, as the Chiefs are sending star cornerback Marcus Peters to LA for a package of draft picks. This just made an already good Rams defense absolutely terrifying. But today is 30 Clubs in 30 Days and I’m featuring the Boston Red Sox. As I’m sure readers of my blog are well aware, I’m a Red Sox fan, so I apologize if I go a little more in depth with them than other teams. I’m only human. So let’s get a look at the Red Sox’ chances in 2018.

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2017 Results:

Record: 93-69, Won AL East over New York Yankees by 2 games, lost to Houston Astros in ALDS

Notable Offseason Additions: OF JD Martinez

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Addison Reed, OF Chris Young, RP Fernando Abad, RP Blaine Boyer, 2B Josh Rutledge, CF Rajai Davis, SP Henry Owens, SP Doug Fister

Best Offensive Player: RF Mookie Betts

Best Pitcher: Chris Sale

Depth Chart:

C-Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon

1B-Hanley Ramirez, Mitch Moreland

2B-Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez

3B-Rafael Devers, Deven Marrero

SS-Xander Bogaerts

LF-Andrew Benintendi, Brock Holt

CF-Jackie Bradley Jr

RF-Mookie Betts, JD Martinez (DH)

SP-Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright

Bullpen-Craig Kimbrel (CP), Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, Tyler Thornburg, Austin Maddox, Brandon Workman, Robby Scott

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Alex Cora (1st season with Red Sox)

Hitting Coach-Tim Hyers

Pitching Coach-Dana LeVangie

1st Base Coach-Tom Goodwin

3rd Base Coach-Carlos Febles

Bench Coach-Ron Roenicke

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The Red Sox regressed in a big way offensively in 2017. After scoring the most runs in the American League in 2016, they dropped off significantly and finished dead last in the American League in home runs. For a while, it didn’t look like they were going to do a whole lot to change things other than bring back guys from last year’s team (Mitch Moreland and Eduardo Nunez). That was until they signed JD Martinez to a 5-year $110M deal. I won’t expand too much about his potential role in Boston, as I did so in the blog I just linked. Now they look to get back on track under rookie manager Alex Cora. Here’s a look at how the Red Sox are projected to line up in 2018.

1. Eduardo Nunez/Dustin Pedroia-2B

2. Andrew Benintendi-LF

3. Mookie Betts-RF

4. JD Martinez-DH

5. Xander Bogaerts-SS

6. Hanley Ramirez/Mitch Moreland-1B

7. Rafael Devers-3B

8. Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon-C

9. Jackie Bradley Jr-CF

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Now on paper that’s a pretty imposing lineup as long as they can return to their 2016 forms because only Christian Vazquez took a step forward at the dish in 2017. It’s an entirely new coaching staff with a different philosophy so it’ll be interesting to see how they do things. Alex Cora stated recently that he doesn’t really get the whole “lefty/lefty righty/righty” conundrum, stating something along the lines of “you’ve been hitting lefties all your life and now all of a sudden you can’t hit lefties when you reach the Majors? Doesn’t make sense to me.” He hasn’t even managed a meaningful game yet and I already love his style. But there is a ton of ability in this lineup if Cora and company can get the most out of it. The young stars have been nicknamed the Killer B’s, consisting of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Andrew Benintendi, all of whom can take over games when teams aren’t careful. Betts is the most dangerous of the bunch, as he was AL MVP runner-up in 2016 and despite taking a step back in 2017, was still their best hitter, batting .264 with 24 home runs, 102 RBI, 26 stolen bases, 32 DRS, and was worth 5.1 WAR. Bogaerts is another talented hitter but he’s also extremely streaky. When he’s hot, he’s impossible to get out. You’ll see 3-4 game after 3-4 game and his batting average will skyrocket up into the .350’s. But when he’s cold, you have to work your ass off to let up a hit to him. In fact, there was a long stretch in the middle of the season where Bogaerts was the worst statistical hitter in baseball. Jackie Bradley is another guy who can be streaky, like Bogaerts, but unlike Bogaerts, Bradley is an excellent defender at a premium position so when he’s not hitting well, he can still make excellent contributions in the field. I listed Bradley as the 9th hitter mainly because he’s had so much success in that position. In fact, it’s been a while since I updated this stat, but last I checked, Bradley was a career .346 hitter when batting 9th. Benintendi was the runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year last season and probably would have won it, too if Aaron Judge didn’t set the rookie record with 52 home runs and finished runner-up for AL MVP. Benintendi hit .271 with 20 home runs, 90 RBI, and 20 stolen bases while playing a solid left field. Another guy the Red Sox have to be excited about is third baseman Rafael Devers. Devers is a bad defender at the hot corner and I think that he’s going to have to eventually switch to either first base or start DH’ing before long. But he shows bat discipline well beyond his years (he turns 22 in October). Watching Devers’ at bats as a youngster, I noticed that he doesn’t try and do his own thing at the plate. He takes what the pitcher gives him and goes with the pitch. For example, he’s not going to try and pull everything. If he’s thrown a curveball low and away, he’ll wait patiently for it to get to him and will send it the other way. He’s a guy I’m really excited for in his first full season in a Red Sox uniform.

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The Red Sox pitching was fantastic in 2017, as they finished 4th in the Majors with a 3.73 team ERA. That was thanks in large part to their trade acquisition of Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox in the 2017 offseason. Sale was an absolute monster in his first season in a Red Sox uniform, going 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and 308 strikeouts. He was 5 strikeouts away from tying Pedro Martinez’s franchise record, a record he likely would’ve broken had he been allowed to pitch his last start. However that start came at a time that would’ve affected his ability to start Game 1 of the ALDS so I think then-manager John Farrell made the right move there. David Price was battling injuries throughout the year but he was pretty solid when he was on the mound and even better when he was placed in the bullpen. He finished the year at 6-3 with a 3.38 ERA, which included an ERA of 0.00 in 5 relief appearances. A fully healthy season for Price would be huge for the Red Sox. Rick Porcello had a rough follow-up to his Cy Young-winning 2016 season, as he went 11-17 (most losses in baseball) with a 4.65 ERA. However he is still one of the more talented pitchers on the Red Sox roster and if he can return to form in 2018, that’s three aces at the top of the Red Sox rotation. And that’s without even mentioning Drew Pomeranz, who after a brutal first 2 months of the season, was absolutely terrific for the Sox. In the second half of the season, his ERA was 3.01, bringing his overall line to 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA. Not bad for your fourth starter.

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The Red Sox bullpen is also expected to be very strong, spearheaded by the American League’s Reliever of the Year in Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel was dynamite in 2017, as he finished with 35 saves, a 1.43 ERA, and a Strikeout per 9 rate of 16.43, which is absolutely ridiculous. Provided Kimbrel can stay healthy, the 9th inning will be a sure thing for the Red Sox. It’s the rest of the bullpen that has some question marks. Joe Kelly had a breakthrough season as a reliever, including throwing the fastest pitch ever by a righty at 103.5 mph and finished with a 2.79 ERA but that was after being in the low 1’s for much of the year. Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith hope to be big parts of the Red Sox bullpen but both guys are recovering from injuries. Smith was able to appear at the end of the 2017 season and he did pitch pretty well, pitching to a 1.35 ERA in 8 appearances. Thornburg, however, has yet to pitch an inning for the Red Sox after being acquired from the Brewers in the Travis Shaw trade. He was Milwaukee’s closer prior to the trade so he’s another guy the Sox have to be excited for. The Red Sox could potentially have one of the top bullpens in baseball if they can stay healthy.

Overall, I think the Red Sox have a legitimate shot at a World Series. Basically every facet of their team could rank amongst the top 5 in baseball. The problem is going to be getting by the Yankees, who made the biggest move of the offseason when they acquired Giancarlo Stanton in a trade with the Marlins. It’s going to be a fight to the death between those two teams. The return to form of the hitters in this Red Sox lineup will go a long way towards the success of Alex Cora’s first year as manager. If all goes well, this team could win 100 games.

Projected Finish: 95-67, Host AL Wild Card Game against Anaheim Angels

That’s going to do it for Day 5 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Chicago Cubs, who are looking to win the NL Central for the third straight season and will try and win their second World Series in 3 years. Let me know what you think of the Red Sox’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.