'Pen win shows Phils' need for starting pitching

slideshow-phillies-zach-miner-uspresswire.jpg

'Pen win shows Phils' need for starting pitching

BOX SCORE

MIAMI -- The Phillies’ need for starting pitching is on full display this week.

On Monday night, Roy Halladay lasted just 16 pitches before shutting it down for the season. Who knows if he’ll be back in 201 (see story)?

On Thursday night, Tyler Cloyd will pitch in Atlanta. He has allowed 25 hits and 17 runs in 13 innings over three starts this month. Ouch.

On Tuesday night, Zach Miner started for the Phillies. He did a nice job, allowing just one run in four innings in a 2-1 victory over the Miami Marlins (see Instant Replay). But Miner is viewed primarily as a long reliever. He got his second spot start in place of Kyle Kendrick, who has been shut down for the remainder of the season with shoulder soreness.

The Phillies have a good place to start their rotation with Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee in 2014.

Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez should also hold down one of the five spots. He’d better after signing a three-year, $12 million contract.

After that, it’s wide open.

Jonathan Pettibone figures to be in the mix. Kendrick will be if the Phillies retain him. Halladay could be, as well, if he’s re-signed.

But the Phillies will need more than that. They could look to make a free-agent signing or pick up another starter in a trade. Either way, new skipper Ryne Sandberg believes the club needs to improve its starting pitching. The numbers support his belief. Phillies starting pitchers rank 25th in the majors this season with a 4.36 ERA. Since the All-Star break, they rank last in the majors at 5.24.

“Starting pitching is very much a priority,” Sandberg said. “We also need depth in starting pitching. You have the fifth starter and the backup of a sixth and a seventh starter whether at Triple A or built up in the bullpen. That’s what’s necessary these days to get through the season.

“So we need to address the depth of starting pitching and the rotation.”

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. concurred with his skipper. He emphasized the need for depth.

Miner’s start Tuesday night illustrated the need for depth. He is the 10th different pitcher to start for the Phillies this season. On Saturday, the Phils could make it 11 different starters as they need to plug Halladay’s spot in the rotation one last time.

Sandberg was pleased with Miner’s effort.

“He did a nice job with his four innings,” Sandberg said. “It was a good lift for us on a bullpen day.”

“I wish I could be more pitch-efficient with these two outings and eat some more innings up,” said Miner, who went three innings in place of Kendrick in his first start. “I’m just trying to get guys out. Overall, I’ve been happy. We won today.”

The Phils snapped a five-game losing streak. They are 19-18 under Sandberg.

Offense has not been plentiful for the Phillies in the first two games of the series. They were shut out on four hits Monday night. They had just five hits Tuesday night and scored both of their runs in the first inning on a double by Jimmy Rollins and three straight walks by Miami starter Henderson Alvarez.

Rollins and leftfielder Domonic Brown combined on a nice relay to cut down a runner at third in the second inning, a big play in a tight game, and the relief corps of Mike Stutes, J.C. Ramirez, Jake Diekman and Jonathan Papelbon combined on five scoreless innings to close it out.

Stutes, in his first game back since going on the disabled list with shoulder soreness June 22, got the win.

“He was only 89 mph, but he painted the knee caps, had really good location,” Sandberg said.

Diekman has allowed just one run in his last 16 1/3 innings. He retired dangerous Giancarlo Stanton with a runner on base to end the eighth inning.

“Diekman has been tested against all parts of the order,” Sandberg said. “He’s done a good job throwing strike one and commanding the zone. We saw a 98 and 99 (mph) tonight. When he’s rested, that’s what shows up.”

Seth Smith would be a logical, low-cost trade target for Phillies

Seth Smith would be a logical, low-cost trade target for Phillies

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said Tuesday night he'd still like another veteran bat in addition to Howie Kendrick, though he understands the front office is conscious of not blocking young prospects.

The Phillies need offense and the clearest area to upgrade is an outfield corner. But don't expect to see the Phils go after Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders or anyone of that ilk, because those players will require multi-year guarantees and everyday playing time. If you sign one of them, you're basically telling two of Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr that they won't be needed much the next three years. 

That would be unwise. The whole point of rebuilding is filling a roster with young, inexpensive talent and then eventually supplementing that core with established players who fit. Look at what the Cubs did. Look at what the Astros are doing now, adding older players like Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Nori Aoki and Josh Reddick to fill in the holes around Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman.

For that reason, a player like Seth Smith would be a worthwhile addition for the Phillies.

Smith, 34, makes $7 million in 2017, the final year of his contract with the Mariners. When Mackanin discusses "professional hitters," Smith is the type. He has one of the better batting eyes in baseball, chasing about eight percent fewer pitches outside the strike zone the last three years than the league average.

He's a career .261/.344/.447 hitter who averages 29 doubles, 16 homers, 56 walks and 102 strikeouts per 162 games.

The left-handed Smith can play both outfield corners, and he's always been very effective against right-handed pitching. He has a .272 career batting average with an .827 OPS against righties compared to .202 with a .594 OPS vs. lefties. 

Smith is a fit for the Phillies for several reasons. They need more offense from the corner outfield. Logically, that outfielder should be a left-handed hitter because the Phillies' projected middle of the order has four right-handed bats in Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp and Kendrick.

Furthermore, Smith, unlike Saunders, for example, does not require everyday playing time. Smith shouldn't start against lefties. That would provide opportunities to Altherr and Quinn in 2017, while protecting against ineffectiveness from Altherr and another injury to Quinn.

And lastly, Smith is not going to cost anything meaningful via trade. He's a 34-year-old platoon player in the final year of his deal. The Phillies could likely land him for an insignificant prospect, perhaps a pitcher who had a high strikeout rate last season in the low levels of the minor leagues. 

For Seattle, it would be more of a salary dump. The Mariners' 2016 payroll is already $20 million more than it was last year, and per reports, they seem willing to spend to improve their starting rotation.

Smith is not a game-changer, that's not the argument here. He's not J.D. Martinez, a much bigger name and better player. Martinez would also fit the Phillies as a one-year option, and they'd likely be interested in keeping him around longer if they could acquire him. But any trade with the Tigers for Martinez wouldn't be nearly as painless for the Phils as acquiring Smith. 

So perhaps more than other available outfielders, Smith would be an offensive upgrade and a player who fits the Phillies' goal of improving without stunting a top prospect's growth.

Top Phillies prospect Mickey Moniak adds muscle, looks for big season 2017

Top Phillies prospect Mickey Moniak adds muscle, looks for big season 2017

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The difference was striking.
 
When Mickey Moniak arrived in Philadelphia to sign his first professional contract six months ago, he was rail-thin and 170 pounds.
 
On Tuesday night, Moniak made a quick visit to the winter meetings to be honored as Baseball America’s high school player of the year for 2016. 
 
He’d added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-2 frame.
 
“It’s all muscle,” Moniak said proudly.
 
The Phillies selected Moniak with the first pick in the June draft and signed him for $6.1 million. Just a few months of professional baseball convinced the 18-year-old centerfielder that he needed to get stronger. He recently capped off his first year of pro ball with a three-week stint at the Phillies’ strength and conditioning camp in Clearwater.
 
“It’s something the Phillies wanted me to do and I knew I definitely needed it, too,” Moniak said. “I really enjoyed my first year. I got a taste of what it was like to play baseball for a job and it was a good time.
 
“There were a lot of positives that came out of the first year. I felt like I jumped in there and really competed. I hit well in July. In August, I started to fatigue and I wasn’t prepared for that, being my first season. But it was a good learning experience. I needed to get stronger.”
 
Moniak hit .284 with a .340 on-base percentage, 11 doubles, four triples, a homer and 28 RBIs in 46 games for the Phillies’ prospect-stacked Gulf Coast League team. That club, loaded with young Latin players and first-year talent from the 2016 draft, went 41-17 and advanced to the finals of the league playoffs before losing to the Cardinals.
 
After the playoffs, many of the players from that club participated in the Florida instructional league. Moniak played sparingly, however, after dealing with some soreness in his right hip. He was checked out by doctors in Philadelphia and there are no more concerns.
 
“It was just tightness,” Moniak said. “Everything is good. I’m 100 percent. They said it was either a growing pain or just tightness. I just have to stretch more.”
 
Moniak is an athletic centerfielder with speed and a good left-side bat. He has been compared favorably to former All-Star Steve Finley.
 
"Collectively, we believe Mickey was the best player available in the draft," Johnny Almaraz, the Phillies head of amateur scouting, said on draft night in June. "He's a true centerfielder with incredible offensive ability and the potential to be a perennial All-Star."

Moniak hit .476 with seven homers, 12 triples and four doubles at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, California, during his senior season. He impressed a rival scout who saw him play five times during the season.

“The bat is good,” the scout said. “He’s going to hit and hit for average. He’s a good centerfielder. He can run. The question is how many home runs will he hit? If he ends up getting stronger, he could be a corner bat that’s unbelievable. There’s no negative here. It’s a good pick.”
 
Now, Moniak is stronger. He looked sturdy in a dress shirt and tie at the winter meetings Tuesday night. He is eager to see how it all translates on the field in 2017.
 
“I’m excited for the season,” he said. “I’m just going to go to spring training and compete and hopefully end up in (Single A) Lakewood, stay healthy and hopefully have a winning season and win a championship. That’s the ultimate goal and if personal stats come with that, too, that’s great.”