Phillies-Braves: 5 things you need to know

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Phillies-Braves: 5 things you need to know

Phillies at Braves
7:35 p.m. on CSN

The second half of the season is here. Following the four-day All-Star break, the Phillies resume their schedule with three games in Atlanta.

The Phils are 42-53 and 10 games behind the Braves (52-43), so even if they somehow sweep this series they'll still have a sizable deficit in the division.

That's not what the season is about anymore. The Phillies have a 0.1 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Fangraphs, and Bovada gives them 50-to-1 odds of winning the NL East.

This next week is important, however, for a different reason. That is the first of five things you need to know:

Boost that value
The Phillies would love for Marlon Byrd, A.J. Burnett, Jonathan Papelbon, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and a few other players to have a strong 10 days leading up to the trade deadline.

It's still early in trade season and teams won't begin really ramping up their efforts to improve until around this time next week. If any injuries arise for contenders, that would help the Phillies, a team that may have the best bat and best arms on the market with Byrd, Lee and Hamels.

Lee pitches July 21 at home against the Giants. That will be a meaningful start for him to reestablish his trade value, although it's looking more and more likely that he will be a Phillie at least until the winter.

Burnett on a roll
Burnett (6-8, 3.83) has made seven consecutive quality starts. Over that span he's pitched at least seven innings six times.

Since June 10, Burnett has averaged 7.4 innings per start and posted a 2.94 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. The walks are down, the hits are down, and the strikeouts are down, but that's OK because Burnett is inducing plenty of ground balls and soft contact. His opponents have hit .209 over his last seven starts.

Burnett could likely fetch a mid-level prospect and some salary relief by the trade deadline. Contending teams are always in need of starting pitching, and Burnett is a solid fallback option for the teams that don't have enough to pursue Hamels, Lee or David Price.

Impatience with The Piece
How much longer do the Phillies give Ryan Howard to correct this?

He's hit one home run over his last 101 plate appearances and went 5 for 53 in his final 15 games before the All-Star break.

Howard has hit .220 this season with a .300 on-base percentage and just 26 extra-base hits. He's not getting on base, he's not driving the ball with consistency, and given his issues running and fielding, he's not providing the Phillies much of anything in the middle of their order.

Ruben Amaro Jr. said a few weeks ago that if the veterans can't get it done, he'll find players who will. That would seem to include Howard, who is halfway through his $125 million contract but already looking like dead weight on a team with a bloated payroll.

The options with Howard are to leave him where he is, to move him down to sixth or seventh in the order (where he probably belongs), or to platoon him.

His OPS is actually 40 points higher vs. lefties (.711) than his mark against righties (.671), but Howard has walked less and struck out way more against same-handed pitching.

Santana for Atlanta
Starting for the Braves in this first game after the break is right-hander Ervin Santana, who is 7-6 with a 4.01 ERA in 17 starts.

Santana was great through mid-May, then stumbled to a month's worth of poor starts, raising his ERA from 1.99 to 4.10 in just five outings.

He's been better of late, however, allowing 11 runs on 30 baserunners over his last 27 innings with 24 strikeouts.

Santana has already faced the Phillies three times this season and gone 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.

This and that
• Ben Revere was the hottest Phillie before the break, hitting .391 in his final 17 games with three extra-base hits, six steals and eight runs scored. He's hit exactly .300 with a .327 on-base percentage in 173 games as a Phillie.

• Byrd has eerily similar home and road splits.

At home, he's 48 for 181 (.265) with 25 runs, 10 doubles, 10 homers and 12 walks.

On the road, he's 47 for 180 (.261) with 24 runs, 10 doubles, eight homers and 12 walks.

• Domonic Brown has been slightly more productive in July, hitting .273 with a double, a homer and eight RBIs in 35 plate appearances. Still, his batting average hasn't been as high as .230 since all the way back on May 10.

• The only player in baseball with more strikeouts than Howard is Braves centerfielder B.J. Upton. With all of the mistakes and disastrous moves the Phillies have made the last three years, could you imagine if they signed Upton before 2013? The Phils reportedly offered Upton five years and $55 million, which was $20 million fewer than the Braves gave him. The Phils' front office should feel lucky Atlanta took that potential monstrosity of a contract away from them.

Phillies set prospect-packed lineup for exhibition opener vs. U of Tampa

Phillies set prospect-packed lineup for exhibition opener vs. U of Tampa

The Phillies will have an exciting, young lineup Thursday in their annual exhibition opener against the University of Tampa.

1. Roman Quinn, CF (S)
2. J.P. Crawford, SS (L)
3. Dylan Cozens, RF (L)
4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
5. Nick Williams, LF (L)
6. Jorge Alfaro, C
7. Scott Kingery, 2B
8. Hector Gomez, 3B
9. Andrew Pullin, DH (L)

RHP Mark Leiter

Gomez aside, it's a prospect-packed lineup that represents the best of the Phillies' farm system.

Several of these players — Crawford, Williams, Alfaro and Quinn — will likely taste the majors at some point this season. They're all in big-league camp for the second straight year. It's a first for Cozens, Hoskins and Kingery.

As CSN Phillies analyst Ricky Bottalico pointed out Tuesday on Phillies Focus (airing all week on CSN at 6 p.m.), it's, in a way, a lose-lose situation for Leiter. If he pitches well against Tampa, he did it vs. college kids. If he pitches poorly, then he was hit around by college kids. Not the easiest assignment.

The Phillies play Tampa at 1:05 p.m. Thursday, then travel to face the Yankees at 1:05 p.m. Friday. The first televised spring training game on CSN is Saturday at 1:05 p.m., also against the Yankees.

Drew Anderson has emerged as one of the Phillies' top pitching prospects

Drew Anderson has emerged as one of the Phillies' top pitching prospects

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Drew Anderson remembers his telephone ringing in November. He remembers hearing Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan congratulate him and tell him that he'd been placed on the team's 40-man roster.

Anderson was elated.

"It was awesome," the right-handed pitcher said the other day.

So awesome that Anderson celebrated in an unusual way.

"I busted out 50 pushups," he said. "I had so much adrenaline."

The internal discussions that teams have when considering which players to protect on the 40-man roster and which ones to risk losing in the Rule 5 draft are often long and detailed and decisions are not always reached easily.

But in Anderson's case ...

"It was not a long conversation," Jordan said. "The feeling was, 'Put him on the roster. Don't lose him. Let's talk about the next guy.'"

"Across the board," minor-league pitching coordinator Rafael Chaves said. "And that's not common for a kid that pitched in A-ball."

Anderson, who turns 23 on March 22, will get his first taste of Double A ball in April.

Clearly, the Phillies are high on him.

But how high?

"We've got scouts who will tell you that he might be our best pitching prospect," Jordan said.

Given some of the power arms that the Phils have collected in the low minors, that's quite a statement.

If it seems as if Anderson has flown below the radar since being drafted by the Phillies in 2012 it's because, well, he's done just that.

For a while.

He received little interest from four-year colleges coming out of Galena High School in Reno, Nevada, and was headed to Mesa Community College in Arizona before the Phillies selected him in the 21st round that year.

"My name never really got out there," he said. "Really only the Phillies looked at me. (Area scout) Joey Davis saw me and he said he liked that I had a fluid arm and he liked the way the ball jumped out of my hand. He saw me as a sleeper pick. I just wanted to play ball so I said, 'Yeah, I'll give it a shot.'"

Jordan recalled seeing Anderson pitch at Single A Lakewood early in the 2014 season. Anderson had added strength to his 6-foot-3 frame and his fastball velocity had jumped from 90-92 mph to 93-95 mph.

"It was just a matter of physical maturity, his body getting stronger, and we were really excited," Jordan said.

Anderson did not make it through that season, however. He came down with an elbow injury and the following spring became a statistic — a pitcher who needed Tommy John surgery.

Anderson missed the 2015 season. He came back in May of last year and made 15 starts between Lakewood and Clearwater. At Clearwater, the Phillies' advanced Single A stop, Anderson posted a 1.93 ERA in 32 2/3 innings. He struck out 37 and walked 10.

The rehabilitation process after Tommy John surgery focuses on more than just the elbow. Special attention is paid to the shoulder and the legs. Working under Joe Rauch, the Phillies' minor-league rehab specialist, Anderson gained much strength in those areas and it showed in his fastball velocity last summer.

He got it up to 97 mph.

He also has a good breaking ball and an improving changeup to go with a classic pitcher's body. He has long arms and weighs 205 pounds.

"We just felt some team out there would have taken him even if they had to stash him in the bullpen," said Jordan, expounding on the Phils' decision to add Anderson to the 40-man roster in November. "He's too big an asset."

Anderson is excited about making the jump to Reading this season. He's never pitched more than 76 innings as a pro and now that he's healthy needs to start racking up mound time and experience.

Anderson mentioned how hard he worked this offseason to get ready for his first trip to big-league camp and what lies beyond when he heads to Double A.

The hard work started with those 50 pushups that he busted out upon learning that he'd been placed on the 40-man roster.

"After hearing that, it was time to kick it in gear," he said. "I was like, 'Let's do this.'

"I've had some ups and downs, but I feel like I'm on track now."