Phillies Monday Mailbag: Ryan Howard, First Base Offense, Cam Perkins
It is time once again for a Phillies 97.3 ESPN Monday Mailbag. We take your questions every Monday and then we talk about them during the Sports Bash with Mike Gill on Tuesday afternoons at 2:30 p.m. If you are not in South Jersey, you can listen online at 973espn.com.
Will Ryan Howard finish the season on the Phillies roster?
The Phillies are in the final guaranteed year of Howard's five-year, $125 million contract. The Phillies seem committed to keeping Howard around until the contract ends. While Howard has given the Phillies eight home runs, Howard's .161 average is the worst in the National League among players with as many at bats. Howard is batting just .091 in May after a .203 month of April.
However, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said on Sunday after the game that in the upcoming interleague series in Detroit against the Tigers he planned to give starts to both Howard and Tommy Joseph since there would be a designated hitter. Joseph was summoned from AAA Lehigh Valley May 13, and has made just four starts with 16 total at bats. Things appear to be changing.
After essentially being in a straight platoon, Joseph got the start on Sunday, despite facing a right-handed pitcher. The Phillies will face three right-handed starters in a row in Detroit, Mike Pelfrey, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez. Joseph will start against all three and if he fares well against right-handed pitching, the Phillies will be likely to play him more.
As for Howard, the Phillies probably will not cut him, but keep him as a left-handed pinch hitter who gets occasional starts. It is really sad to see and remains difficult for a team who is surprisingly in contention to carry such a hitter, but the loyal Phillies organization probably does not simply release Howard at this point. The reason why Howard would stick heading into 2016 is that he was not blocking anybody. But now, thanks to the rise of the once-waived Joseph, Howard is blocking somebody.
Howard will have to get used to letting Joseph play more and more, but I think that he is here until the end of the season.
Beyond Tommy Joseph, who could potentially be the Phillies first baseman moving forward?
I recently just mentioned that nobody was blocking Ryan Howard heading into 2016. After Joseph, we have to look down to AA to find a potential first base prospect. The best first base prospect in the system is Rhys Hoskins.
Hoskins made headlines earlier this season when he put together a 19-game hitting streak for AA Reading. Hoskins began 2016 in Reading after a 2015 split between Class A Lakewood and Class A Clearwater in which he batted a combined .319 with 17 home runs and 90 runs batted in. Those are some impressive numbers for a minor league season, even at that level. Moving up to Reading, Hoskins has had some success.
In 40 games in 2016, Hoskins is batting .272 with seven home runs and 26 runs batted in. At times, Hoskins has struggled a tiny bit, but for the most part is putting together a really nice season. Hoskins probably gets most of the season in at AA Reading, and maybe could be in line for an invitation to Spring Training next season.
Brock Stassi spent time with the Phillies in Spring Training, but is generally not considered much of a prospect. Stassi was the Eastern League most valuable player in 2015, but 2016 has not been kind to Stassi. Thus far in 2016, Stassi is batting just .227. Additionally, time is not on Stassi's side. Turning 27 in August, Stassi may not get another season in the Phillies system to show he belongs.
Otherwise, the Phillies may find a first baseman in the form of another position player who does not have a space. That could mean one of Jorge Alfaro or Andrew Knapp, or an outfielder like Dylan Cozens, if the outfield is full. We will just have to see how this all plays out.
Does Cam Perkins get a shot this year?
Cam Perkins had 74 games at AAA Lehigh Valley back in 2014, but spent all of 2015 at AA Reading. Back in AAA again, the right-handed hitting outfielder Perkins has performed pretty well with the bat. In 32 games and 102 at bats, Perkins is batting .304 with one home run and 10 runs batted in. While a .304 batting average is pretty good, I'm not sure that it warrants a call to the Major Leagues, especially given the Phillies current roster situation.
Cody Asche should be activated from the disabled list soon. That means the Phillies outfield should have David Lough, Odubel Herrera, Tyler Goeddel, Peter Bourjos, and Asche. Looking at those names, the weakest bat is Bourjos. However, Bourjos is realistically the one back up center fielder that the team has right now. With Goeddel hitting well, Bourjos figures to be a reserve outfield bat who might play against some left-handed pitching instead of Asche.
Besides finding room on the Phillies 25-man roster, the Phillies would need to make room on the 40-man roster. Mario Hollands is close to being activated from the 60-day disabled list and will require a roster spot. Charlie Morton has yet to be moved to the 60-day disabled list and beyond that the Phillies would need to completely cut someone.
With little power coming from Perkins, I do not think the Phillies will be making a move anytime soon to promote him. Of course, a couple injuries and we might be able to have this discussion. With Herrera and Goeddel hitting and Asche on his way back, I just do not see any immediate space for Perkins right now.