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Diehard Eagles fan Leiter details enlightenment

MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies right-hander Mark Leiter became a diehard Eagles fan the same afternoon he wore a Randy Moss jersey to an Eagles-Vikings game at Veterans Stadium in November 2001.

The Eagles crushed Minnesota, 48-17.

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies right-hander Mark Leiter became a diehard Eagles fan the same afternoon he wore a Randy Moss jersey to an Eagles-Vikings game at Veterans Stadium in November 2001.

The Eagles crushed Minnesota, 48-17.

"I walked out of the stadium an Eagles fan and never looked back," Leiter said Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park.

He hopes for another big Eagles victory Sunday, when they host the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field. Leiter, 26, grew up in Toms River, N.J., but his family moved around the country a lot as his father, Mark Leiter Sr., played for eight teams over 13 years in the big leagues. The younger Leiter grew up rooting for players more than teams, which is why he wore the Moss jersey to the Eagles-Vikings game at the Vet.

"It was fun," he said. "I wasn't scared."

Video: Leiter eager to compete with Phillies' young staff

Moss caught a touchdown pass that Sunday, but Donovan McNabb threw three touchdown passes and rushed for another touchdown in a rout.

"I was sitting there in awe of the crowd," said Leiter, who was 10 years old at the time. "The [fight] song after they scored, just the atmosphere. Halfway through the game [my father] said, 'You can put your jacket on if you want and just enjoy the game and root for the Eagles.'"

Leiter was hooked.

"Just that atmosphere," he said, "you talk about winning you over."

Leiter knows that atmosphere well. He attended Phillies games when they were in the midst of winning five consecutive National League East titles, two NL pennants and one World Series from 2007-11. He would love to see the ballpark jumping like that again in '18.

"There's no better feeling as a fan," he said. "I can't imagine what it would be like on the field when the crowd gets like that. I mean, packed house and everybody is waving the towels, Dan [Baker] comes on the [PA] system and says, 'We're now joining the national broadcast,' and the crowd goes nuts before anybody takes the field. The excitement is there. If we give the fans a reason, they're going to come out."

His prediction for Sunday?

"I think they're going to win," he said.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

 

Philadelphia Phillies, Mark Leiter

Klentak open to adding more pitching to Phils

MLB.com

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Phillies general manager Matt Klentak is not feeling tempted to throw a six- or seven-year mega-deal at anybody, even as Spring Training approaches and pitchers like Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish remain on the free-agent market.

"I'm going to pursue opportunities," Klentak said Thursday night at the Phillies' winter banquet at the Sands Events Center. "If there is one that makes sense for us, I'm going to bring it to [the owners]. That's exactly what happened with Carlos Santana. I know that we're turning over every rock, exploring different avenues. It's just a matter of whether everything lines up. With a talented young team, we want to give opportunities to our young players to develop into the next core. The only way they will get that opportunity is by playing. It's a balancing act.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Phillies general manager Matt Klentak is not feeling tempted to throw a six- or seven-year mega-deal at anybody, even as Spring Training approaches and pitchers like Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish remain on the free-agent market.

"I'm going to pursue opportunities," Klentak said Thursday night at the Phillies' winter banquet at the Sands Events Center. "If there is one that makes sense for us, I'm going to bring it to [the owners]. That's exactly what happened with Carlos Santana. I know that we're turning over every rock, exploring different avenues. It's just a matter of whether everything lines up. With a talented young team, we want to give opportunities to our young players to develop into the next core. The only way they will get that opportunity is by playing. It's a balancing act.

"If the market falls, we would like to be active."

Phillies pitchers and catchers hold their first official workout Feb. 14 in Clearwater, Fla. The possibility exists that the Phillies could find a starting pitcher at a relative bargain. But it also needs to be somebody who can actually make a difference.

Signing somebody just to sign somebody? No thanks.

"We have a lot of fifth starters," Klentak said. "Like a good, solid fourth starter would be fine. That takes pressure off them, that's fine. I'd like to do better than that, but that's fine. To add just a guy for the sake of adding a guy, that doesn't interest me.

"It's been a relatively slow-developing free-agent market. Consequentially, it's also been a relatively slow-developing trade market. At some point, I expect those markets will break."

Klentak also touched on a few other topics Thursday:

Maikel Franco 
Franco got suspended from his winter ball team in the Dominican Republic earlier this month for partying until the early morning before a game. The team reinstated him, but the Phillies requested he leave the team so he can prepare for Spring Training and a critical season.

"What happened, happened," Klentak said. "His Winter League team responded the way it did. Maikel responded the way he did. … What I'm impressed with is the way that Maikel has responded to that. Maikel knows how important this year is. He was as disappointed with his Winter League team as anybody. I think the way he reacted is a sign of maturity, and we think that his commitment level is very strong and we're excited to see what he looks like when we get to camp."

Video: NYM@PHI: Franco crushes a three-run shot to left

Franco posted a .690 OPS in 623 plate appearances last season, hitting .230 with 24 home runs and 76 RBIs. Franco ranked last out of 18 qualified third basemen in OPS and on-base percentage. He ranked 17th in slugging percentage. It is expected that the Phillies will aggressively pursue Orioles third baseman Manny Machado in the offseason -- assuming he becomes a free agent -- if Franco does not improve drastically.

Tommy Joseph 
It seems like Joseph has no spot on the 25-man roster. He is a first baseman, but Santana and Rhys Hoskins have that position covered. But Joseph, 26, has hit 43 home runs over the past two seasons and has been a tremendous presence in the clubhouse.

"I personally have just a ton of respect for everything Tommy's been through in his career and the successes that he's had at the big league level after the adversity he's faced," Klentak said. "One way or the other, we're going to try to do the right thing for Tommy. Right now, he's on the roster. He comes to Spring Training and he's going to compete for a big league job just like everybody else. If something happens between now and then that changes that, then we'll address that when it comes."

Video: LAD@PHI: Joseph launches a go-ahead homer in the 7th

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

 

Philadelphia Phillies

Alfaro ranked MLB's sixth-best catching prospect

Phillies backstop boasts plenty of power, strong arm
MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro is not one of those hitters that sees a lot of pitches or draws a lot of walks.

The Phils value those things. They love hitters that "control the strike zone." But that does not mean they do not have high expectations for Alfaro. On Thursday, Alfaro was ranked as the sixth-best catching prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline. He is going to make the Opening Day roster, assuming he stays healthy, partly because he is out of options and partly because he showed promise in 29 games last season.

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro is not one of those hitters that sees a lot of pitches or draws a lot of walks.

The Phils value those things. They love hitters that "control the strike zone." But that does not mean they do not have high expectations for Alfaro. On Thursday, Alfaro was ranked as the sixth-best catching prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline. He is going to make the Opening Day roster, assuming he stays healthy, partly because he is out of options and partly because he showed promise in 29 games last season.

"The thing I think we're all most pleased about with Jorge is that he looks right now like he belongs and he feels it," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said late last season. "I think when you watch him, putting aside what his batting line is or his caught stealing percentage is and the actual production, he looks like he knows he belongs now and he's playing with confidence. He's learning and growing. By no means do we feel he's a finished product. But it's very encouraging heading into next year, to see what he's doing this year and the confidence he has."

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Alfaro, 24, hit .318 with six doubles, five home runs, 14 RBIs and an .874 OPS in 114 plate appearances. The Phillies' No. 5 prospect showed his tremendous power on Aug. 15, hitting a home run in San Diego that left his bat at 114.2 mph. It was the hardest hit home run by a Phillies hitter since Statcast™'s debut in 2015.

Alfaro also walked just three times and struck out 33 times. He saw only 3.43 pitches per plate appearance, last out of 16 Phillies hitters with 100 or more plate appearances. Former Phils hitting coach Matt Stairs said during the final weekend of the season that Alfaro might not be a hitter that walks more than 20-30 times a season, but he was encouraged because Alfaro swung at fewer pitches outside the strike zone.

Video: Statcast™: Alfaro headlines Phillies' longest homers

Defensively, Alfaro has a tremendous arm. He recorded three of the four hardest throws by a catcher last season. His average of 88.1 mph on "max effort" throws (those in a player's 90th percentile of effort or higher) was best in baseball among catchers with a minimum of five tracked "max effort" plays. Eight of his 10 tracked throws to second base clocked below the MLB average of 2.0 seconds.

Interestingly, Alfaro threw out only 23.5 percent (4-of-17) of base stealers, although other factors could be in play (pitchers time to plate, balls in dirt, etc.).

There is no question Alfaro needs to improve his catching. Baseball Prospectus' framing runs metric ranked Alfaro 42nd out of 73 catchers with a minimum of 1,000 framing chances at -2.5 runs.

But the tools are there. It is why the Phillies wanted Alfaro in the Cole Hamels trade with Texas in July 2015. If Alfaro can harness those tools, the Phillies could have a frontline catcher on their hands. He will get his opportunity to prove himself in '18.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

 

Philadelphia Phillies, Jorge Alfaro

Report: Halladay autopsy results revealed

MLB.com

An autopsy performed on two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay revealed evidence of morphine and Ambien in his system following his fatal plane crash on Nov. 7, according to a USA Today report released on Friday.

Halladay was killed when his single-engine aircraft crashed in the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa, Fla., and the autopsy -- conducted by the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office in Pinellas County, Fla. -- cited blunt-force trauma and subsequent drowning to be the likely causes of his death.

An autopsy performed on two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay revealed evidence of morphine and Ambien in his system following his fatal plane crash on Nov. 7, according to a USA Today report released on Friday.

Halladay was killed when his single-engine aircraft crashed in the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa, Fla., and the autopsy -- conducted by the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office in Pinellas County, Fla. -- cited blunt-force trauma and subsequent drowning to be the likely causes of his death.

The consumption of any alcoholic substance or drug within eight hours of flying is prohibited by Federal Aviation Administration regulations. USA Today reported that the investigation into Halladay's death is ongoing, per the National Transportation Safety Board. A preliminary report states that Halladay's aircraft made several steep climbs and dipped close to the water before making a 360-degree turn and crashing.

Halladay, who was 40, was an iconic pitcher for both the Blue Jays and Phillies over his 16-year Major League career. The eight-time All-Star is one of six pitchers in Major League history to win the Cy Young in both leagues. The right-hander pitched a perfect game on May 29, 2010, and followed it up months later with a no-hitter in Game 1 of the National League Division Series -- only the second postseason no-hitter in history.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

 

Hammer time? Righty eyes 'Major League' role

Resembling Ricky Vaughn, bespectacled reliever among Phils' non-roster invitees
MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- J.D. Hammer's story is a familiar one.

He could not see the catcher or home plate from the mound because of poor vision, posing problems early in his professional baseball career. But he got his vision checked following the 2016 season and picked out a pair of thick black plastic frames to wear on the field. He could see.

PHILADELPHIA -- J.D. Hammer's story is a familiar one.

He could not see the catcher or home plate from the mound because of poor vision, posing problems early in his professional baseball career. But he got his vision checked following the 2016 season and picked out a pair of thick black plastic frames to wear on the field. He could see.

Sounds a little like Ricky Vaughn in the movie "Major League," right?

"People have asked me to put on the skull and crossbones," Hammer said last week at Citizens Bank Park, referring to Vaughn's glasses in the movie. "But you've got to be a stud to have those."

The Phillies announced Wednesday that Hammer, 23, is one of eight additional players that will join the team in Spring Training as non-roster invitees. The others are right-handers Enyel De Los Santos and Tom Eshelman; left-handers Cole Irvin and Brandon Leibrandt; catcher Edgar Cabral; second baseman Scott Kingery (the Phils' No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline) and outfielder Andrew Pullin.

Hammer joined the organization in July in the Pat Neshek trade with Colorado. He will be one of the most recognizable players in camp because of his trademark glasses. Of course, he hopes to stand out for his performance on the mound, too.

The early returns have been encouraging. He went 2-0 with a 0.57 ERA in 12 appearances with Class A Advanced Clearwater following the trade, striking out 20, walking two and allowing eight hits in 15 2/3 innings. He posted an 0.66 ERA in 10 appearances in the Arizona Fall League, striking out 11, walking seven and allowing four hits in 13 2/3 innings.

Video: J.D. Hammer discusses pitching in Fall League

Hammer said he thought he could not see the catcher's signs during his Rookie-ball season with Grand Junction in 2016 because of shadows. The catcher called for a fastball, but he threw a slider. The catcher called for a slider, but he threw a fastball.

"I was just beating up the catcher," Hammer said. "He came out to the mound and said, 'Do I need to start doing touches?' I was like, 'Well, aren't you putting down curveball?' He said, 'No, I'm putting down fastball.' So after the season I said, 'I've got to get checked just for the safety of others.' The eye doctor said, 'I don't know how you've been throwing without contacts or glasses.' It was literally like the movie. They were like, 'You really shouldn't be doing anything without them.'"

Hammer chose glasses over contacts because contacts burn his eyes.

"I was like, 'OK, if I'm going to do glasses, I might as well do something different,'" he said. "They kind of look like the Wild Thing, so I figured I might as well just go for it. I got teased last spring. I got called everything from Harry Potter to Professor, but it's kind of what I've been known for.

"But the glasses were a game changer. I don't know if I got better [in 2017] or if it was the glasses."

Maybe a little bit of both.

But if Hammer's success continues, he could be in line for a big league promotion. Talented relievers can move fast through a farm system.

"It always feels close," Hammer said. "You can get called up at any minute. But Fall League got me that taste. I was like, 'Wow, this is close.'"

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

 

Philadelphia Phillies, J.D. Hammer

The Phillies are signing Billy Joel to a 'contract' to commemorate his next Citizens Bank Park concert

Baseball stadiums aren't just for baseball games -- quite often, they also double as gigantic outdoor concert venues for megastars, who entertain tens of thousands of adoring fans with hit after hit. 

Billy Joel knows a thing or two about hits, as the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has put together a legendary career as the "Piano Man." Joel's busy concert schedule has allowed him to take the field at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia many times over the years. It's basically an annual tradition. 

Young arms ready to give Kapler options

Phillies have a bevy of starting pitchers and opportunities for them
MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- There was a minor kerfuffle last spring when the Phillies announced that veteran Jeremy Hellickson would be their Opening Day starter. Some thought, based on his work the previous season, Jerad Eickhoff deserved it more.

Among those, by the way, was Hellickson. But, he added, Eickhoff would undoubtedly get that honor multiple times in his career.

PHILADELPHIA -- There was a minor kerfuffle last spring when the Phillies announced that veteran Jeremy Hellickson would be their Opening Day starter. Some thought, based on his work the previous season, Jerad Eickhoff deserved it more.

Among those, by the way, was Hellickson. But, he added, Eickhoff would undoubtedly get that honor multiple times in his career.

Well, things can change quickly in baseball. Eickhoff's mechanics were out of whack early. That led to nerve irritation which led to numbness in his fingers and elbow, leading to him missing the final month of the regular season while on the disabled list.

Video: Kapler sees plenty of talent in young starting staff

It's also one of the reasons there's been so much focus on the Phillies' quest to add a proven starting pitcher. That could still happen, but with the first workout for pitchers and catchers in Clearwater, Fla., less than a month away, the reality is that it might not.

Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The 27-yer-old Eickhoff, in town to take part in the team's offseason promotional activities, said Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park that he's healthy and has ironed out the problems in his delivery. That's why he believes he can bounce back from four wins, a 4.71 earned run average and 128 innings last season after 11 wins, a 3.65 ERA and 197 1/3 innings in 2016.

And let's take a look at the bigger picture, a group photo that includes Aaron Nola (who will be 24 on Opening Day), Vince Velasquez (25), Nick Pivetta (25), Zach Eflin (23), Ben Lively (26), Jake Thompson (24) and Mark Leiter Jr. (27).

Video: Phillies hope young players develop more in 2018

It's fair to assume there are spots reserved for Nola and Eickhoff if they're healthy. The rest all had their moments, but none has been consistent enough to lock down a spot before camp opens. That's what has led the Phillies, sensibly, to explore all options to add another starter.

Here's the thing, though. While there are exceptions, pitchers tend to develop more slowly than position players.

Example: The reigning Cy Young Award winners are Max Scherzer of the Nationals and Corey Kluber of the Indians.

From 2008 through 2011, Scherzer was 36-35 with a 3.92 earned run average while being traded from the D-backs to the Tigers. It wasn't until he was 27 and in his fifth big league season that he harnessed his potential to become one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. Kluber was 2-5, 5.35 ERA in 12 starts in 2011 and 2012. He turned 27 the following April and has won the Cy Young twice in the last four years and also finished third in the balloting once.

Another example: Jake Arrieta turned it around when he was 28. In his first four years, mostly with the Orioles, his ERA was 5.23. It's been 2.67 since then, and he won the National League Cy Young Award in 2015.

Example: Greg Maddux was a combined 8-18, 5.59 in 1986 and 1987. Tom Glavine was 33-41 with a 4.29 ERA in his first three seasons. John Smoltz was 2-7 and posted a 5.48 ERA as a rookie. All three are now in the Hall of Fame. The list goes on.

That doesn't mean that every young pitcher who gets off to a slow start will blossom into a Hall of Famer or perennial All-Star, of course. But it does mean that it's silly to write off a youngster if he doesn't dominate from the moment he steps onto a big league mound for the first time, either.

"We have some guys who are extremely promising for any number of reasons," Phillies first-year manager Gabe Kapler said Tuesday. "Nick Pivetta lights me up because of his ability to miss bats at the top of the zone. Watching his video from last year, his slider can be electric at times. Eickhoff is very, very interesting on a number of levels. Across the board we have a lot of 'What are we going to see?' rather than what we can depend on."

Video: PHI@ATL: Pivetta throws six innings of shutout ball

So, if general manager Matt Klentak doesn't find a deal for starting pitching he feels is beneficial, the worst thing that happens is that these youngsters will get a chance to build on the mixed success they've had so far at the big league level. And that's even before thinking about 23-year-old right-hander Tom Eshelman, who was 10-3, 2.23 in 18 starts after being promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year.

Leiter believes that all the arms needed are already on the roster.

"Sometimes people are just looking for big names. Sometimes people are just looking for status," he said. "But I think if you give some of our guys a chance and let them grow, you're going to see some really good pitching.

"[Making the jump to the Major Leagues] is a big adjustment. You're facing the best of the best and they've seen a lot of pitching. You've only seen some big league hitters on rehab or whatever. But when you get the chance to keep competing (against them), you see that you belong and you can compete at this level. This year should be a lot of fun and hopefully we surprise a lot of people."

Eickhoff threw off the mound for the third time this offseason on Monday. When he finishes he sends a video tape of the session to pitching coach Rick Kranitz, whose feedback has been positive.

"I have a lot of confidence," Eickhoff said. "There are a lot of guys who have done a lot of things and still have a lot to prove ... We're going to be OK regardless."

No matter what, Kapler is anxious to start.

"I have a lot of trust that we'll either go in with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we're better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look," he said.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com.

 

Philadelphia Phillies, Jerad Eickhoff

Williams works out with free agent Arrieta

MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies outfielder Nick Williams posted a photo on Instagram last week of himself and Jake Arrieta following a workout at a Dallas gym.

In years past, a photo like that would get Phillies fans seriously buzzing. The Phillies are looking for starting pitching, and Arrieta remains one of the most coveted pitchers on the free-agent market. But despite the fact that the Phillies and Arrieta's agent, Scott Boras, met during the Winter Meetings in December, sources said they are not interested in a megadeal for a starting pitcher at this time.

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies outfielder Nick Williams posted a photo on Instagram last week of himself and Jake Arrieta following a workout at a Dallas gym.

In years past, a photo like that would get Phillies fans seriously buzzing. The Phillies are looking for starting pitching, and Arrieta remains one of the most coveted pitchers on the free-agent market. But despite the fact that the Phillies and Arrieta's agent, Scott Boras, met during the Winter Meetings in December, sources said they are not interested in a megadeal for a starting pitcher at this time.

Still, there always is the chance the asking price drops as Spring Training approaches.

"I don't even need to recruit him," Williams said about Arrieta on Tuesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. "He loves this place. He said, 'I like working with young guys,' and stuff like that. ... But I don't have the money to give him. I don't have one-twentieth of what to give him."

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler could not say if the Phillies will acquire a starting pitcher before Spring Training, although general manager Matt Klentak has said a few times in the past month it remains a priority.

But does Kapler have a hunch?

"The hunch is that the pursuit is very real," he said.

Kapler added that if they don't find a pitcher before Opening Day, the Phillies could "go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

 

Philadelphia Phillies, Nick Williams

Sixto climbing up prospect rankings

Phillies' 19-year-old is No. 10 on MLB Pipeline's updated RHP list
MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have a group of young pitchers that will be fighting for rotation jobs this spring.

The best young arm in the Phillies' system is not ready for that opportunity, but he could move himself into position with a strong 2018. MLB Pipeline on Tuesday ranked Sixto Sanchez as the 10th-best right-handed prospect in baseball. He is the No. 47 prospect overall.

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have a group of young pitchers that will be fighting for rotation jobs this spring.

The best young arm in the Phillies' system is not ready for that opportunity, but he could move himself into position with a strong 2018. MLB Pipeline on Tuesday ranked Sixto Sanchez as the 10th-best right-handed prospect in baseball. He is the No. 47 prospect overall.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Sanchez, 19, is expected to open the season with Class A Advanced Clearwater. He went 5-3 with a 2.41 ERA in 13 starts last season with Class A Lakewood before earning a promotion to Clearwater. He went 0-4 with a 4.55 ERA in five starts with the Threshers, but it should be noted that he was the youngest starting pitcher in the league.

In other words, don't let the record and ERA fool you.

Video: Zolecki discusses Sanchez's potential with Phillies

Sanchez is legit. He regularly throws his fastball in the high 90s. He hits 100 mph on occasion. And he throws the pitch for strikes. He struck out 84 batters and walked just 18 in 95 innings.

No-hit stuff? The kid has it.

The guy everybody wants from the Phillies in a trade? Absolutely.

The next step for Sanchez will be fine-tuning his secondary pitches. If he does that, he could be starting for Double-A Reading before the end of the year. And then all bets are off from that point. Pitchers make the jump from Double-A to the big leagues all the time. It might not happen in 2018 for Sanchez, but it shouldn't be much longer than that if he develops as the Phillies expect.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

 

Philadelphia Phillies, Sixto Sanchez

Hoskins enjoying ride as new face of Phillies

'I think you have to take it by storm and enjoy it,' he says
MLB.com

CHERRY HILL, N.J. -- Rhys Hoskins has handled new celebrity about as well as anybody could be expected to handle it.

He is trying to enjoy the moment, while remaining true to himself.

CHERRY HILL, N.J. -- Rhys Hoskins has handled new celebrity about as well as anybody could be expected to handle it.

He is trying to enjoy the moment, while remaining true to himself.

"It's supposed to be fun," Hoskins said Monday evening at the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association banquet. "I think that's probably the best approach to take. Enjoy it. I think my thought is, what happened may never happen again. Tomorrow something might happen and tomorrow I might never be able to step on a baseball field again. I think you have to take it by storm and enjoy it."

Video: Must C Combo: Hoskins belts first two career HRs

Hoskins, 24, took baseball by storm late last season, smashing 18 home runs in 50 games, changing his life immeasurably in the process. He's now a fresh young face of a rebuilding organization, becoming more and more recognizable in the city and elsewhere.

"If you were to ask me a year ago if I would be walking down the streets of Philadelphia and people would recognize me, I would probably laugh at you, but that's where we are now," Hoskins said. "I was out to dinner late at night after a game [last season] and I had a little boy and his dad come up to me and congratulate me on the game. That's when I said, OK, this might be something that's about to be a part of my life. It was cool because I used to be that kid."

Hoskins is a face of the organization because he is expected to anchor the Phillies' lineup alongside first baseman Carlos Santana, whose free-agent signing in December moved Hoskins to left field. Hoskins is a first baseman by trade, but played left field upon joining the Phillies in August. He will play there regularly for the foreseeable future.

Video: Klentak, Kapler on Santana's impact on Phillies

"The signing of Carlos is exciting for the city, it's exciting for the team," Hoskins said. "We add a guy who's proven himself in this league for five, six years at a very, very high level. To enter that into the lineup and in the clubhouse with such a young team, I think, we're going to feel that exponentially throughout the year. But left field is a challenge. It's a challenge I'm definitely excited about. I started to feel more comfortable out there toward the end of the year. That just comes with reps. That's kind of what I've been focused on since the signing."

Hoskins has spent his offseason in San Diego, although he also spent a few weeks traveling through China and Thailand. He has been working out in left field, throwing to different bases and trying to get a better feel for the position.

He said he plans to arrive in Clearwater, Fla., before the end of the month, a couple weeks before the Phillies officially open camp.

"Just to get as many reps as I can, maybe more one-on-one time with the coaches in left field," Hoskins said. "I think I can be just fine [in left field]. I know I'm not going to be a Gold Glove. I just don't have the speed that some guys out there have, especially in today's game. I think I'll be just fine and contribute to the team defensively as much as I can, make the plays that I'm supposed to make."

Video: Hoskins discusses hopes to improve defensively

That's all Pat Burrell and Raul Ibanez did in left field: Make the plays they were supposed to make. The Phillies are counting on Hoskins, like Burrell and Ibanez, to get on base and drive in runs.

"Absolutely," Hoskins said, when asked if the Phillies are better than they were at the end of last season. "We're older. Experience-wise there's a lot of guys that are still young, for sure. Myself, I've got 50 more games than when I started. I think the new staff is going to bring a lot of energy to the organization. I'm just kind of excited to see how it all pans out." 

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

 

Philadelphia Phillies, Rhys Hoskins

MLB Pipeline's 2018 All-Defense Team

Nats' Robles receives most votes in survey of front-office execs
MLB.com

Though home runs and upper-90s fastballs may be more eye-catching, defense wins an awful lot of championships. The 2017 Astros were nothing special with the glove, but the 2016 Cubs recorded one of the best season-long defensive performances ever while the 2015 Royals and 2014 Giants also excelled at turning balls in play into outs.

Defensive metrics are improving, giving clubs a better handle on how valuable individual players are in the field, yet it's still far from an exact science and even less so at the Minor League level. In MLB Pipeline's annual survey of front-office executives asking them to identify baseball's best defensive prospect, the 19 respondents tabbed 14 different players.

Though home runs and upper-90s fastballs may be more eye-catching, defense wins an awful lot of championships. The 2017 Astros were nothing special with the glove, but the 2016 Cubs recorded one of the best season-long defensive performances ever while the 2015 Royals and 2014 Giants also excelled at turning balls in play into outs.

Defensive metrics are improving, giving clubs a better handle on how valuable individual players are in the field, yet it's still far from an exact science and even less so at the Minor League level. In MLB Pipeline's annual survey of front-office executives asking them to identify baseball's best defensive prospect, the 19 respondents tabbed 14 different players.

Video: Jim Callis on best catching prospects

Top 10 Prospects by Position

Nationals center fielder Victor Robles, the lone repeater from our 2017 All-Defense Team, led all prospects with four votes. Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford and Rangers center fielder Leody Taveras were the only others to get multiple mentions and join Robles on our 2018 squad, which is based on our survey results as well as separate discussions with scouting and development personnel:

Catcher: Jake Rogers, Tigers
Some scouts considered him the best defender in the entire 2016 Draft, when he went in the third round to the Astros, who used him to pry Justin Verlander from the Tigers last August. Rogers erased 46 percent of basestealers in his first full pro season, enhancing solid arm strength with a lightning-fast transfer and impressive accuracy. His agility and soft hands also make him an outstanding receiver and blocker who excels at framing pitches.

"His defense is so slick," an assistant GM with an American League team said. "He has more of a 55 arm [on the 20-80 scouting scale] but it's so quick and accurate. He has such a pretty release."

Video: Rogers has potential to win a Gold Glove in future

Catcher was the toughest call on our All-Defense Team. The Athletics' Sean Murphy, another 2016 third-rounder, has similar receiving skills and even more pure arm strength but hasn't had the same success nabbing basestealers.

Video: Jim Callis on whether defense is still valued

First Base: Evan White, Mariners
Like Cody Bellinger, the first baseman on last year's All-Defense Team, White could be a Gold Glove first baseman or an everyday outfielder. He has more range than most first basemen, excels at digging errant throws out of the dirt and one scout said he's the best defensive first baseman to come out of college since Nick Swisher. White also has plus speed and solid arm strength, so he's potentially capable of handling all three outfield spots.

Second Base: Luis Guillorme, Mets
He could have challenged for shortstop honors if the presence of Amed Rosario in New York hadn't led the Mets to shift Guillorme to the other side of the bag last June. He's not the quickest middle infielder, but his hands, reflexes and instincts are as good as anyone's in the Minors. He has solid range and arm strength, and he would have led the Double-A Eastern League in fielding percentage at both second (.983) and short (.968) last year if he had played enough at either position to qualify.

Video: Guillorme's defensive versatility at short and second

Third Base: Nick Senzel, Reds
He saw time at second base and shortstop at Tennessee and didn't become an everyday third baseman until his junior season in 2016, when he was the No. 2 overall pick. Senzel is faster and more athletic than most players at the hot corner, where his hands and strong arm are also assets.

Tweet from @Vol_Baseball: ICYMI: Here's a look at @Vol_Baseball third baseman Nick Senzel's No. 1 #SCtop10 play on @SportsCenter tonight! pic.twitter.com/LQTNRPytH0

Shortstop: J.P. Crawford, Phillies
After getting significant support when we assembled our 2016 and 2017 All-Defense Teams, he makes it this time around. Crawford's range at shortstop belies his average speed, and his quick hands, strong arm and uncanny internal clock help him make all the plays. He moved all over the infield for the Phillies last September, looking very good at second and third base for someone with little experience at either position, but is their unquestioned shortstop after they traded Freddy Galvis to the Padres.

"He's very advanced at a premium position," a pro scout with an AL club said. "There are others with better tools at shortstop, but this guy can really play the position and his tools are still plenty good. His feel for shortstop, secondary tools and defensive intangibles help separate him from others."

Video: NYM@PHI: Crawford makes a slick spin and throw

Outfield: Cristian Pache, Braves
Braves überprospect Ronald Acuna can do almost anything on the diamond, including play quality defense in center field, but he'll eventually have to cede the position. That's because Pache's blazing speed and fine instincts allow him to cover more ground in the outfield than perhaps any other prospect. He also has plus arm strength, unusual for his position, and used it to top the low Class A South Atlantic League with 17 assists last summer.

Watch: MiLB Video

Outfield: Victor Robles, Nationals
If Pache doesn't have the best range among outfield prospects, then that distinction might belong to Robles. He not only has plus-plus speed but also the arm strength to match. While he could cruise on natural ability, he has worked diligently to improve his reads, routes and throwing accuracy.

"He's a game-changing defender," a National League farm director said, "with both his arm and his glove."

Video: WSH@NYM: Robles shows off defensive skills in right

Outfield: Leody Taveras, Rangers
One of the best athletes available during the 2015-16 international signing period, Taveras is highly advanced for a teenager. He makes the most of his plus speed in center field, getting quick jumps and taking direct routes, and his solid arm strength would fit anywhere in the outfield.

"He plays center field so easy," an AL farm director said. "I bet Carlos Gomez was like that as a teenager. It's a similar body and an explosive athlete."

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

 

Sources: Hernandez among 4 Phils to avoid arb

Club agrees to terms with all eligible Philadelphia players
MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies are not going to salary arbitration with any of their eligible players.

A source told MLB.com on Friday afternoon that the Phils and second baseman Cesar Hernandez agreed to a $5.1 million contract. Sources also confirmed that Maikel Franco ($2.95 million), Cameron Rupp ($2.05 million) and Luis Garcia ($1.2 million) agreed to terms.

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies are not going to salary arbitration with any of their eligible players.

A source told MLB.com on Friday afternoon that the Phils and second baseman Cesar Hernandez agreed to a $5.1 million contract. Sources also confirmed that Maikel Franco ($2.95 million), Cameron Rupp ($2.05 million) and Luis Garcia ($1.2 million) agreed to terms.

They were the only four Phillies eligible for salary arbitration after the team traded Freddy Galvis to the Padres last month.

Hernandez and Franco will open the season as the team's everyday second baseman and third baseman, respectively. Garcia will be a key piece in the bullpen. Rupp will compete with Andrew Knapp for a job alongside Jorge Alfaro.

Hernandez hit a combined .294 with a .372 on-base percentage and a .778 OPS the past two seasons. Triple-A Lehigh Valley second baseman Scott Kingery is the No. 50 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, but he is unlikely to be promoted until late April at the earliest because of service time considerations. Even then, Kingery is going to have to play well to unseat Hernandez, who ranks 24th out of 131 qualified players in baseball in on-base percentage the past two seasons.

Franco's production has declined since he posted a promising .840 OPS in 2015. It was .733 in 2016 and .690 last season, which ranked last out of 25 qualified third basemen. This is a critical season for him.

Video: NYM@PHI: Franco crushes a three-run shot to left

Garcia looked like a non-tender candidate last spring, but he posted a 2.65 ERA in 66 appearances last season.

The Phillies have about $55 million committed to eight players in 2018. They still hope to acquire a starting pitcher before Spring Training. The remainder of the team's projected 25-man roster will make near the league minimum ($545,000).

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

 

Philadelphia Phillies, Maikel Franco, Luis Garcia, Cesar Hernandez

Crawford ready to fill Galvis' shoes at short

Phillies confident prospect can prove himself offensively in 2018
MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- If the Phillies surprise people in 2018, it will be because multiple things broke their way.

One of those things is solid play at shortstop. Rookie J.P. Crawford will replace Freddy Galvis, whom the Phils traded to the Padres last month. Crawford, 23, hit .214 with four doubles, one triple and six RBIs in 87 plate appearances in September. He posted a .356 on-base percentage, giving the front office confidence that Crawford will find his way offensively in 2018.

PHILADELPHIA -- If the Phillies surprise people in 2018, it will be because multiple things broke their way.

One of those things is solid play at shortstop. Rookie J.P. Crawford will replace Freddy Galvis, whom the Phils traded to the Padres last month. Crawford, 23, hit .214 with four doubles, one triple and six RBIs in 87 plate appearances in September. He posted a .356 on-base percentage, giving the front office confidence that Crawford will find his way offensively in 2018.

Crawford, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively and Victor Arano recently participated in MLB/MLBPA's Rookie Career Development Program. Crawford spoke about the trade that made him the Phillies' everyday shortstop.

"I love Freddy," said Crawford, the Phillies' No. 4 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. "He is one of the greatest teammates I'll ever play with. He helped me out so much when I got called up. Every day we were taking ground balls, he was helping me. I hope the best for him in San Diego."

Video: Zolecki on Phillies trading Galvis to the Padres

Galvis was a National League Gold Glove Award finalist each of the previous two seasons. He posted a career-high .309 on-base percentage and a .690 OPS last year. Crawford impressed defensively in September, and the Phils believe his floor offensively should match Galvis' recent production.

In other words, they expect Crawford to at least equal Galvis' contributions this season.

But Crawford can do better than that if he applies the lessons he said he learned in September, which he believes will help him offensively.

"I think I've got to work on getting stronger and staying with my approach," Crawford said. "Not getting out of my approach and swinging for the fences and whatnot -- I think that's where I get in trouble. Be confident, don't lose sight of anything and just be yourself and have fun."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

 

Philadelphia Phillies, J.P. Crawford

Phils still monitoring starting-pitcher market

MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies general manager Matt Klentak reiterated the organization's desire to find a starting pitcher before Spring Training opens next month.

"I think a starter would help," Klentak said Thursday afternoon on MLB Network's High Heat. "We've been pretty up-front about our desire to add a starter, if possible, whether it be a trade or free agency. Because the starting pitching market has been slow to develop, we got somewhat aggressive in December on adding to the bullpen. We figured if we can shorten the game that way, kind of from the back to the front, that's one way to improve our run prevention."

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies general manager Matt Klentak reiterated the organization's desire to find a starting pitcher before Spring Training opens next month.

"I think a starter would help," Klentak said Thursday afternoon on MLB Network's High Heat. "We've been pretty up-front about our desire to add a starter, if possible, whether it be a trade or free agency. Because the starting pitching market has been slow to develop, we got somewhat aggressive in December on adding to the bullpen. We figured if we can shorten the game that way, kind of from the back to the front, that's one way to improve our run prevention."

Top-tier free agents like Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish remain available, although it is unlikely the Phillies sign either pitcher unless their asking prices drop considerably. Mid-level starters like Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn also are available, but again, it seems unlikely the Phillies sign them to four- or five-year deals.

Video: High Heat: Klentak on addition of Carlos Santana

It is possible the Phillies acquire a starter on a one-year contract, like they have the previous two offseasons with Jeremy Hellickson, Charlie Morton and Clay Buchholz. The Phillies could also trade for a starter, but they might not be willing to empty the farm system when they still have so many uncertainties entering the season.

"We're going to play it out," Klentak said. "We're going to see what's out there and what the best fit is for the Phillies, and hopefully between now and Spring Training, we'll be able to do something."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

 

Philadelphia Phillies

Glanville: 'It's all about elevating humanity'

Former Major Leaguer teaching Communications, Sports and Social Justice course at UPenn
MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- More than 40 students nearly filled Room 109 at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication late Wednesday afternoon. Comm307 registered full, and several young people who attended were on a waiting list, hoping to be added.

Part of the attraction was the intriguing course title: Communications, Sports and Social Justice. And part was the instructor: Penn alum -- and former Major Leaguer -- Doug Glanville, who handled the class with the poise of a longtime professor even though he's a rookie behind the lectern.

PHILADELPHIA -- More than 40 students nearly filled Room 109 at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication late Wednesday afternoon. Comm307 registered full, and several young people who attended were on a waiting list, hoping to be added.

Part of the attraction was the intriguing course title: Communications, Sports and Social Justice. And part was the instructor: Penn alum -- and former Major Leaguer -- Doug Glanville, who handled the class with the poise of a longtime professor even though he's a rookie behind the lectern.

Glanville, who was the Cubs' first-round Draft pick in 1991 and also played for the Phillies and Rangers in his nine-year big league career, helped design the syllabus a year ago.

The stated objectives are to look at the history of sports and communications around social justice topics, the ways messages are crafted to address inequity around these topics, how communications shifts once the message is sent to an audience and how to best use communications to address inequities.

But don't be fooled by that academic-sounding approach. The idea for this course is rooted in two very personal incidents, experiences of being the victim of racial profiling that Glanville, who is African-American, shared early in his introductory remarks. "My social justice moments," he called them.

Four years ago, Glanville was shoveling snow from the driveway of his Hartford, Conn., home. A passing policeman stopped. "So, you trying to make a few extra bucks, shoveling people's driveways around here?" the cop asked.

Two years later, while on assignment as a baseball analyst with ESPN, Glanville and a white colleague landed late one night at Los Angeles International Airport. His co-worker jumped in a cab. When Glanville got to the front of the taxi line, he was told: "Take the bus. It's $19."

Before the three hours were up, a lively back-and-forth took place with names like Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr., Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, rapper Kendrick Lamar and, yes, Colin Kaepernick among those discussed.

"I feel this course is so relevant as we try to define how our political dialogue and discourse is going," the 47-year-old Glanville, who graduated with a degree in engineering, said after class was dismissed. "Whether we can find enough common ground to find sustainable solutions that are inclusive and sensitive to where we all come from and where we identify.

"For me, it's life work because I grew up in a community [Teaneck, N.J.] that voluntarily desegregated. And baseball was that space, sports was that space that gave you a sense of ideals. The meritocracy, the potential, the constant obsession with balance and fairness which translates very well to elevating issues for a greater concept. A greater goal. ... To me, the analogy is the game being our humanity. Sure, we come from all walks of life. We are identified from so many perspectives. But in the end game, for this work about justice and equality, it's all about elevating the most important thing, [which is] humanity."

Glanville and his teaching assistant, John Vilanova, envision a highly interactive process. They've devised "games" to promote engagement. In one, students will be assigned different sports and asked to defend it as the most just. One is called "Name That CBA"; the object is to name the sport from a passage of its Collective Bargaining Agreement. Or "Who Wants to be an Activist?" with the rest of the class serving as the lifeline.

There have been overtures to an impressive lineup of potential guest lecturers. Glanville has reached out to famed sociologist Harry Edwards, author of "The Revolt of the Black Athlete;" Jeff Miller, vice president of health and safety for the NFL (and Glanville's ex-roommate); Sarah Attar, one of the first women to represent Saudi Arabia in the Olympics; ESPN's Jessica Mendoza and Jones.

There will be a social-media component, and current events will help dictate the direction of the discussions each week. In that sense, Glanville pointed out, the timing of this class couldn't be better, since it encompasses the Super Bowl, March Madness, the Winter Olympics and MLB's Opening Day.

This is the first time Glanville has taught, but he's been a guest lecturer and is an experienced public speaker, and that helped him make a smooth transition. While the subject matter is weighty and important, he also demonstrated a knack for injecting humor when appropriate.

For instance, during a discussion about the elements of the fundamental fairness in sports competition, one of the elements cited was that all players use the same equipment. "Although [Patriots quarterback] Tom Brady could be an exception," Glanville said as a smiling aside.

Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com.

 

Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies