Phillies hope Delmon Young fills RF spot

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Phillies hope Delmon Young fills RF spot

An outfield competition will still take place in Clearwater, but the Phillies hope they have solved at least one of their question marks on the corners.

The Phils on Tuesday signed outfielder Delmon Young to a one-year, $750,000 performance-bonus laden contract with the expectation of him earning the job as their starting right fielder. Its a low-risk, potentially high-reward acquisition for the Phillies, who had been searching for another proven outfielder to add to the mix.

Now, if Young can prove his defense in right field is up to par, Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix will compete for playing time on the opposite side of Ben Revere.

"I view this is an addition of depth in our outfield, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. While obviously Delmons got a lot more track record as far as success in the major leagues, he still can be competing for playing time. Ideally, hed be playing right field every day for us but thats not etched in stone. That will happen when he shows that he can play every day in right field for us."

Young, a career .284 hitter, played left field in just 30 his 151 games last season for the American League-champion Detroit Tigers. The 27-year-old has not played his natural position of right field since 2007, his first full major league season, when he appeared in 130 games there for Tampa Bay. The former first-overall pick switched to left when he was traded to the Twins in November 2007, as Denard Span was occupying the right side in Minnesota.

Young does come without his fair share of baggage. He was suspended 50 games in 2006 as a minor leaguer for flinging his bat at an umpire. And then, in April of last year, he was accused of shouting an anti-Semitic slur outside a New York hotel, an incident that led to him pleading guilty of aggravated harassment and a seven-game suspension from MLB. He recently completed his allotted hours of community service, helping to clean a New York City park.

"It was an unfortunate incident," Young said. "I put myself in a bad situation, but it was a one-time thing. Its not like it was a daily thing. I've learned a lot from it and how to rebound from it. I have a great support system, from family and friends to teammates in Detroit. Id like to thank them because they kept my spirits up and told me I could get through."

Young's past was something Amaro said and the Phillies did their homework on. In addition to meeting with Young, the GM spoke with the anti-defamation league in Philadelphia and rabbi acquaintances.

"The off-field stuff is something that we did think about," Amaro said. "[We] did a lot of due diligence on what kind of person he is. I think more than anything else the conclusion that we came up with was that he made a mistake and whatever was written about him in the past I think doesn't really depict the kind of person he is. Obviously we want to have good character guys in our clubhouse, and I think hes going to be one."

Amaro said there's a chance Young could start the season on the disabled list, as the outfielder underwent microfracture surgery on his right ankle on Nov. 10, just after the World Series. Young, who has already lost 20 pounds on a healthier diet, continues to work through a four-to-six month rehab process in preparation for spring training.

He admitted there will likely be a learning curve moving back to right field but added that with Minnesota he often found himself looking across the field and is looking forward to the opportunity. Hes also familiar with Revere, a teammate from the Twins.

"As a younger player [Young] was at least an average, probably a plus-defender in right field as he was coming through the minor leagues in the Tampa organization," Amaro said. "Always had a good arm. Its backed off a little bit since hes been doing more DHing. And there is some risk here, there's no question about it. But we think it's one of those situations where it's kind of a low risk, high reward because the guy can hit."

Young understands the position he's in, signing with just three weeks until spring training for much less money than the $6.75 million he made last season.

"I've done some things where theres a reason for it," he said. "If I went out there and was an All-Star six years in a row and was healthy and a model citizen, then yeah. But this is where I'm looking to make a change. Ive had a full offseason to reflect on life and have good people around me."

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.”