Phillies Mailbag: Closer, Draft Picks, Hoskins
It's time once again for the 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag! Each week we take your questions and talk about them on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. Submit a question at any time to @FrankKlose
Pitching: Did you know the Phillies have lost 16 one run games with 10 blown saves? Who is the closer of the future?
Anyone who watches the Phillies night after night knows all too well that the Phillies bullpen has been problematic in 2017. The lack of command by 2016 closer Jeanmar Gomez has set off a chain reaction that has put relievers in situations that they were not pegged to fill. The results have been the numbers you mention.
I do not think that the closer of the future is anyone that is on the Phillies roster right now. Fans were eager for Hector Neris to take over the closer role. But there's a problem with Neris filling this role long-term: he has two pitches. One is the fastball, which led to his back-to-back-to-back home run blown save in Los Angeles. The other is his splitter.
When working, Neris has an absolutely nasty splitter that allowed him to dominate. But Neris does not have that pitch in 2017. All he has left are fastballs. While his fastball is mid- to upper-90s, Major League hitters will hit that fastball any day of the week.
This happens with relievers; sometimes their pitches come and go from season to season. It is not uncommon for some relievers to have up and down seasons as a result. The pitchers tabbed to be long-term closers usually are those who do not go up and down as such.
Sometimes a reliever will have a great season followed by a poor one. There is Gomez, for one. Sam Dyson went from a 38-save season and 2.43 earned run average in 2016 to being designated for assignment the following season. Then, there are closers like Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, and Andrew Miller.
I would expect the Phillies to open their pocket books and sign such a closer when it is time to compete. The Phillies were criticized for giving Jonathan Papelbon a four-year, $50 million deal when they did, but for all his quirkiness, his performance on the field was as steady as it came and he gave the Phillies what they envisioned when they paid him. We saw this record contract eclipsed multiple times this offseason alone.
So, the Phillies should be active as their pieces come together into being a contender. Do not expect the Phillies to overlook the bullpen as they spend their money. Maybe that reliever will even be the aforementioned Kimbrel, who is a free agent after next year.
The past few years the Phillies have selected outfielders with the first round pick. Why not pitchers? I feel like they need pitching more.
The Phillies took Adam Haseley, a toolsy outfielder out of the University of Virginia with the eighth pick overall all in this year's MLB draft. This comes after last year's selection of Mickey Moniak, also an outfielder with a lot of ability. However, I do not think that the Phillies are in any way avoiding pitching.
Last season, as we probably know so well because of the local connection, the Phillies had the first overall pick and spent a ton of time scouting Barnegat pitcher Jason Groome. They also spent a great deal of time scouting pitcher A.J. Puk Florida before making their selection. Both pitchers were widely considered candidates for the first overall pick. Puk went sixth overall to Oakland, while Groome went 12th overall to Boston, so had the Phillies taken either it may have been considered a mistake.
This season, there were nice pitching options in the draft such as Louisville's Brendan McKay, Vanderbilt's Kyle Wright, and high school pitcher Hunter Greene. However, all three players were picked ahead of the Phillies. Remember, however, the Phillies went pitcher in the second round.
Remember, too, the Phillies selected Spencer Howard in the second round. The Phillies think they really got lucky with this pick. Scouting director Johnny Almaraz even remarked that Howard was the top right-handed pitcher in the draft.
It was not that the Phillies were looking to take something other than pitching, but that they are trying to get the best players available. Remember, a lot happens between the player being drafted and the Major Leagues. Some could be traded for that pitching the Phillies might need, or we may see an even lower-round pick work out very well on the mound. The Phillies drafted 20 pitchers total in the 2017 draft.
What's the over under on when we see Hoskins?
This is perhaps the toughest situation regarding the Phillies prospects at Triple-A. Rhys Hoskins had two home runs last night, and really has shown the most consistent play of all the Phillies prospects. But, Hoskins is blocked at first base by Tommy Joseph.
After batting an even .300 in May, Joseph is being just as consistent in June. As of June 20, Joseph is batting .299, just a tick below that mark. The Phillies have relied on Joseph to be a steady presence in their lineup, that has seemed to move on from Maikel Franco occupying one of the three or four spots in the batting order.
The Phillies probably will be as open-minded as possible here. If Joseph could be shipped to a contender for some prospects, the Phillies might be willing to make a trade. Joseph is only 25 years old and still has four years of control beyond this one, and that could lead to a team being willing to give up more in exchange. That would open up first base for Hoskins.
Otherwise, we might have to wait for Hoskins to get some playing time in September as a call-up while the Phillies figure out how to go forward. The Phillies really wanted 2017 to see if Joseph is indeed a consistent Major League baseball player. After the slow April in which he batted just .179, Joseph is showing that he belongs. Hoskins has not done that yet.
I'll make the over-under August 31. I take the over.
What are your thoughts on the Fultz trade?
The Phillies signed Aaron Fultz as a free agent in 2005; it was not a trade. The Phillies got two nice left-handed relief seasons from Fultz. Fultz is now the pitching coach for the Class A Clearwater Threshers.