Phillies Mailbag: Happ, Catching, Hoskins
We are back once again with the 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Send your questions to the 97.3 ESPN text board at 609-403-0973 or send them to @FrankKlose on Twitter. Each week on Tuesday afternoon we answer your questions on the air during the Sports Bash with Mike Gill.
Didn't the J.A. Happ deal burn Ruben Amaro, Jr. in the long-term?
During Sunday's Phillies-Blue Jays match-up in which former Phillies starter J.A. Happ went six and two-thirds innings and striking out eight, I tweeted that while a lot of the focus is on Cole Hamels coming to the Phillies in a trade deadline deal to give the club a much-needed left-handed starter, one name that might work well too would be Happ. The tweet sparked some interesting discussion during the game.
Happ will be a free agent after this season and the Toronto Blue Jays appear to be a team that might need to pick up some young assets this trade deadline, trading Happ, Josh Donaldson and other veterans who are not signed long-term. But Happ the veteran pitcher is not the same as Happ the young pitcher. The Phillies did pretty well in the Oswalt deal.
It took Happ until joining his fifth team in the major leagues, the Pittsburgh Pirates, to find himself and pitch to the level we see him pitching now. After the Phillies traded Happ to the Astros, he was so-so. He then went to Toronto, then to Seattle and then finally the Pittsburgh Pirates before hitting free agency after the 2015 season.
From 2011 to 2015 Happ posted earned run averages of 5.35, 4.79, 4.69, 4.56, 4.22 and then 3.61 in 2015. Happ's 2015 turned around after a trade to Pittsburgh. Happ went 7-2 with a 1.85 earned run average under the tutelage of coach Ray Searage and pitching guru Jim Benedict.
When Happ hit free agency, I suggested the Phillies sign Happ to be a veteran starter who could eat innings and give the Phillies an arm from the left side. Instead, the Phillies went with Jeremy Hellickson and Happ has gone 37-18 with the Blue Jays in his three-year deal, with an earned run average in the 3s the entire time. Happ leads the American League in wins so far in 2018 with 7.
So while Happ would be a nice addition to the Phillies rotation to give them a reliable left-handed starter, the Phillies certainly would not have gotten his best years if he had stuck around. Those came after he was a free agent, at a time the Phillies and any other team could have signed him.
How about a back up catcher who can catch?
The good news for the Phillies catching corps is that Jorge Alfaro has done a great job acclimating to the position. After some slow starts, Alfaro's bat has come around, and we saw Alfaro make some of the sport's fastest throws while throwing out base runners.
Steve Gardner of USA Sports summed up Alfaro's place nicely on Middays With Q last week:
"He’s been an excellent starter for (the Phillies), given them everything that they needed defensively behind the plate calling games. Maybe he deserves some of the credit too for the pitching staff being as good as they have been this season - You can’t complain at all with what Alfaro’s given them behind the plate."
Alfaro's backup Andrew Knapp, meanwhile, has struggled.
Aside from batting just .154 for the Phillies this season, Knapp has made four errors behind the plate and allowed three passed balls and nine wild pitches behind the plate. Interestingly, pitchers have a 4.31 earned run average when Knapp is catching.
I think the Phillies are going to be in contention, they may have to consider picking up a veteran backstop at the trade deadline who might be able to help Alfaro continue to develop. Ideally, that backstop will be left-handed to compliment the righty Alfaro.
As for Knapp, maybe playing every day at Triple-A Lehigh Valley would help, if they can afford to carry him on a 40-man roster.
But finding such a backup will not be easy. The catching position is rather thin in the major leagues right now. Former Phillie A.J. Ellis is not a lefty but might be available down the line if starter Austin Hedges returns from the disabled list.
What are the Phillies options if Rhys Hoskins needs to hit the disabled list?
Right now it is unknown the extent of the injuries Rhys Hoskins suffered on Monday night. If you were not still awake with two outs in the ninth inning, Hoskins suffered a freak injury as the ball hit his bat and ricocheted directly into his face. Hoskins was bleeding and immediately left the game.
The initial reaction was that the Phillies were "not overly concerned". It appeared to be a cut on his lip, not a broken tooth, not a broken nose, and hopefully not a concussion. The Phillies may have to proceed with caution, however.
The only Phillies position player on the 40-man roster not currently on the disabled list and not active on the major league roster is Dylan Cozens. He may be the only option for a quick summons if Hoskins needs a temporary trip to the 7-day concussion disabled list or 10-day disabled list to heal.
Cozens is striking out 44.4% of the time for the IronPigs right now, which is concerning. But maybe a quick opportunity in the major leagues would be very helpful for Cozens, who could recognize the opportunity and take advantage of it.