Phillies Mailbag: Ken Giles Trade, All-Stars, Aaron Nola
We are back with a Phillies mailbag on 97.3 ESPN. We are on a little later today, at 5:30 p.m. as we are accommodating another guest, but we will be on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill and Pete Thompson so please tune in!
Knowing what you know now, would you make the Ken Giles trade over again with the same players involved?
This is a good question to ask, especially since many Phillies fans feel frustrated with the lack of a closer on this Phillies team. Ken Giles has 19 saves so far in 2017 with a 3.34 earned run average. Even so, I would still do the deal as is, but I will make one note at the end.
The Phillies were in a situation in which they needed to add talent to the organization. The Phillies ended up getting back Brett Oberholtzer, Vince Velasquez, Mark Appel, Tom Eshelman, and Harold Arauz for Giles and shortstop Jonathan Arauz. Oberholtzer was meant to be a short-term arm in the Phillies bullpen who might have been able to start in a pinch and the Phillies got exactly what they figured they would from him. But the Phillies got three real prospects and a fringe prospect in Arauz.
Velasquez has been frustrating at times for Phillies fans, but remains a promising talent in the organization. While fans, scouts, and even Phillies management wonders about Velasquez's long-term role (closer or starter), they all generally agree that he he has an electric arm. The Phillies are doing the right thing in letting him have this season as a starter before making a final decision. At the time of the trade some scouts thought he could be as good a closer as Giles. He still may get that opportunity.
Appel, unfortunately, I do not think is going to work out. At 5-4 with a 5.27 earned run average at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Appel struggles to find consistent command. There are times Appel can pitch eight innings of shut out ball and other times that he can give up eight earned runs in three innings. If he is going to figure out, he is running out of time. At 25 years old and with other players on the rise, the Phillies may have to decide to give Appel's roster spot to another player.
Eshelman was taken in the deal at the lower levels of the minor leagues and team has done a tremendous job developing him. Eshelman is slated to start tomorrow night's Triple-A All-Star Game for the International League. Eshelman is 7-2 with a 1.98 earned run average since joining Triple-A Lehigh Valley on May 8 after going 3-0 with a 3.10 earned run average for Reading. Eshelman very well could be a promising piece of the Phillies starting rotation.
Arauz is 4-3 with a 1.40 earned run average in 20 games for Clearwater Threshers (including one start). Arauz is not a member of the Phillies Top 30 prospects list on MLB Pipeline, but could work himself through the system and up towards the Major Leagues. He was not a major piece but could make himself one.
Giles serving as the Phillies closer during a rebuild is not really a necessity. Look at how few save situations the Phillies have right now. If Giles were a Phillie, would he be getting much action? The Phillies were better off acquiring assets that might help when the Phillies were ready to win again.
There one thing that could have worked out better. The original trade had outfielder Derek Fisher coming to the Phillies instead of Appel. After the Phillies and Astros did physicals, the Phillies did not like something they saw so they re-worked the trade. Fisher was the Astros number four prospect when he was promoted last month. The left-handed hitting outfielder is batting .278 with two home runs in 18 games thus far.
What player currently on the Phillies will make the most All-Star game appearances as a Phillie?
This is a tough question, because the Phillies really struggled to find an All-Star in 2017. The Phillies are sending Pat Neshek, who has mostly been effective for the Phillies, allowing runs in only two of his appearances. But beyond this season, my money is on Aaron Nola.
There are some really talented players I think will do good things for the Phillies going forward, such as Aaron Altherr and Cesar Hernandez. But I tend to think they fall into the "really good" player category. Players like this - think Jayson Werth - usually do not make All-Star appearances but are very helpful to the club. (Charlie Manuel did select Werth as a replacement for Carlos Beltran when he managed the All-Star Game in 2009 but otherwise Werth has not made a team).
I think Nola will pitch well enough to represent the Phillies next season and perhaps even beyond. I think the more experience he is getting the sharper he will pitch. He has had some down starts, but for the most part I think he will give the Phillies enough reliable ones to make an All-Star appearance next year and beyond.
Is the Aaron Nola of the past couple weeks the Aaron Nola we should expect going forward?
Nola's injury in 2017 really kept him from pitching like his old self. The Phillies have gotten four straight starts from Nola in which he has allowed fewer than two runs and pitched at least seven innings. While I do not think Nola will do this all the time, I think he will most of the time.
The main reason for Nola's success: his curveball. Nola is very smart and mixes his pitches. Unlike the high-90s throwers, Nola is pitching. When Nola's curveball is working, he uses it as his go-to pitch.
Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs pointed out about a year ago that Nola had the most effective curveball, statistically. When it is working, it has just fascinating movement to watch. That will always give Nola the edge.
I still tend to put Nola a tick below an "ace", but he is certainly the most reliable pitcher on the current Phillies staff. I think he will have a down day here or there and he would be a heck of a number two on a really good team. You may not get seven innings and two or fewer runs all the time, but enough that he will anchor this Phillies team for now