Pete Mackanin opens up about Phillies' prospects with trade deadline looming

Pete Mackanin opens up about Phillies' prospects with trade deadline looming

If the Phillies do the expected and shake up their roster before the July 31 trade deadline, the minor leaguers manager Pete Mackanin would most like to see are reliever Jesen Therrien and first baseman Rhys Hoskins.

Mackanin was quick to add the play of the Phils’ current first baseman, Tommy Joseph, complicates matters when it comes to Hoskins.

“Tommy Joseph’s been doing well enough to where you just can’t forget about Tommy,” Mackanin said before Saturday’s game against Milwaukee. “So that becomes an issue.”

Joseph entered Saturday’s game slashing .249/.310/.449, with 15 homers and 45 RBIs. His homer total led the team. Hoskins, while slumping lately, was slashing .279/.373/.550 for Triple A Lehigh Valley heading into Saturday’s game at Durham. He had 21 homers and 70 RBIs.

“We’d all like to see Rhys Hoskins,” Mackanin said. “There’s just a matter of him getting playing time.”

Therrien, a right-hander, began the season with Double A Reading, going 2-1 with a 1.26 ERA in 21 games while converting seven of eight save opportunities. That resulted in a promotion to Lehigh Valley. He had not recorded a decision before Saturday, but in 16 games owned a 1.75 ERA while converting both his save chances.

Mackanin expects another righty reliever, Edubray Ramos, to return to the big-league club at some point. Ramos was 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in nine games with the IronPigs before Saturday.

The manager also remains high on outfielder Dylan Cozens, despite Cozens’ low batting average (.236) and high strikeout total (130, in 352 at-bats) for Lehigh Valley. Cozens, who owned a .314 on-base percentage and .469 slugging percentage entering the game at Durham, had accumulated 22 homers and 61 RBIs.

“I think he’s going to be a heck of a hitter with power,” Mackanin said. “He strikes out an awful lot, but I’d still like to see him. I’d like to see what he does up here. I’m not politicking for him, but I would like to see him.”

Mackanin had little to say about shortstop J.P. Crawford, who has begun to show some pop after a slow start at Triple A. 

“That’s a positive,” Mackanin said of Crawford, who overall is slashing .221/.332/.356.

The play of Freddy Galvis this season has made that a moot point.

“I wouldn’t want to have to replace him,” Mackanin said. “That’s how important I think he is right now to us.”

Mackanin also adopted a wait-and-see stance on catcher Jorge Alfaro, who began Saturday slashing .246/.300/.360 for Lehigh Valley, with six homers and 40 RBIs.

“I look at the numbers, and statistics mean something,” the manager said. “If you’re hitting in the .240s, that doesn’t necessarily warrant a promotion to the big leagues.”

Mackanin did add that Alfaro has shown improvement defensively, and added that his youth (24) and tools work in in favor.

“He’s just been inconsistent,” Mackanin said. “He’s a tool player. Tools are great, but we want the potential to come out.”

Medical report
Mackanin said outfielder Daniel Nava is “day to day” with a strained left hamstring sustained in Friday’s game against the Brewers.

The manager also said outfielder Aaron Altherr, on the disabled list since July 15 with a strained right hamstring, has made “very good progress” and could be activated as soon as Tuesday.

Future Phillies Report: Armed with motivation, J.P. Crawford hitting for power

Future Phillies Report: Armed with motivation, J.P. Crawford hitting for power

It took the better part of three months but J.P. Crawford is finally on a hot streak. 

Whether it's a result of warmer weather, the ups and downs of a long baseball season, motivation from the national outlets which have soured on him, or all of the above, Crawford is finally hitting the ball with authority.

This week's Future Phillies Report begins with him:

SS J.P. Crawford (AAA)
Crawford has hit .262 in July with a .357 on-base percentage, but the most impressive part of his month has been the power. Ten of his 16 hits have gone for extra bases (two doubles, two triples and six homers). Crawford is pulling the ball more and generating loft with his swing.

It's an interesting development given the recent criticism from Baseball America's John Manuel and ESPN's Keith Law that Crawford has gotten homer-happy of late. Law wrote in a chat that accompanied his midseason prospect rankings that Crawford had lost his great control of the strike zone because of it.

But the J.P. staples are still there — his on-base percentage is 113 points higher than his batting average this season, and he has 52 walks with 59 strikeouts. 

Crawford has never been a big power guy. These eight home runs are three shy of his career high set in 2014. As Manuel noted on Jim Salisbury's "At the Yard" podcast last week, a player needs to show some pop in order for major-league pitchers to respect his bat and stay away from the middle of the plate. If he doesn't, or if he can't, then that walk total won't be as high once he debuts.

For now, though, Crawford seems to be in a good place, and the Phillies are hoping it continues for another month or so. He still has enough time to turn his 2017 season around and make a push toward next year's opening-day roster.

RHP Sixto Sanchez (Class A Lakewood)
Sanchez is gaining more and more steam nationally as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Law wrote on Wednesday, after seeing Sanchez pitch last week, that he has "perhaps the best" fastball of any starting pitcher in the minors.

The Phillies have been very cautious with Sanchez, who turns 19 on July 29. He has yet to throw more than 80 pitches in any game this season, and his six innings last Wednesday matched his season high.

He's having a stellar year against Single A competition — .199 opponents' batting average, 54 strikeouts, six walks, one home run allowed in 56⅓ innings.

Sanchez still has some things to work on, notably his breaking ball. Even a pitcher with the best of fastballs needs to be able to throw his slider or curveball effectively for strikes to succeed in the majors. 

As Sanchez progresses through the Phillies' minor-league system, these pristine strikeout-walk numbers may regress. His control is excellent and his command is advanced but no 19-year-old has mastered fastball command. In the South Atlantic League, he's been able to keep hitters off balance even when he makes mistakes.

Baseball America ranked Sanchez 47th in its Midseason Top 100, a spot behind Mickey Moniak.

RHP Adonis Medina (Class A Lakewood)
From one young Dominican right-hander to another, Medina is having a very impressive year for the BlueClaws. In 15 starts, he has a 3.32 ERA with 97 strikeouts and 29 walks in 81⅓ innings.

Medina has never before missed bats at this clip. It's his fourth year in the Phillies' system, and from 2014-16 he struck out 6.0 batters per nine innings. This season, he's struck out 10.7 per nine.

Medina, 20, gets his fastball up to the mid-90s and has shown an impressive curveball and changeup this season. 

The Phillies feel good about that young pitching staff at Lakewood, which also includes Nick Fanti, who was involved in his second no-hitter of the season earlier this week.

2B Scott Kingery (AAA)
Kingery has hit safely in 16 of 19 games since being promoted to Lehigh Valley and has reached base in 18 of 19. 

He's swung and missed more often with the IronPigs — his strikeout rate is 23.5 percent at Triple A compared to 16 percent at Double A. But he's still playing well and sparking his team's lineup. 

In his 19 games at Triple A, Kingery has four homers, three doubles and seven steals in as many attempts. Overall this season, he's hit .306/.364/.579 with 21 doubles, 22 homers, 54 RBIs, 26 steals in 29 attempts and 74 runs scored.

And he's done all of this while playing excellent second-base defense. Kingery's speed, defense and contact ability should make him a starting second baseman in the majors soon. His floor seems to be Cesar Hernandez with a bit less plate selection but better defense and baserunning. His ceiling is all of that with the added element of power.

1B Rhys Hoskins (AAA)
For the first time this season, Hoskins is in a cold spell. He's just 9 for 54 with three extra-base hits in July and down to a still-impressive .281/.376/.550 on the season.

Hoskins' call-up will likely occur soon, but the Phillies will first want to him to get back to swinging well and comfortably working deep counts. 

The organization knows it can't keep both Hoskins and Tommy Joseph because both look like everyday first basemen and neither can play another position. The problem is, it doesn't look like the Phils will be able to trade Joseph for much ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.

The only two potential contenders who could use a first baseman were the Yankees and Mariners, but the right-handed heavy Yankees never made a ton of sense for Joseph and can be crossed off after Tuesday's acquisition of Todd Frazier. The Yankees will likely use Frazier and Chase Headley at the infield corners.

The Phils would be wise to hold on to Joseph and try to trade him this winter when more teams are likely to express interest. Even if that's the case, though, they can still call up Hoskins and play him regularly. Joseph is not some seasoned veteran the Phillies should feel locked in to starting. He's a league-average offensive first baseman with a below-average glove. He has some value, but it shouldn't come at the expense of finding out what you have in Hoskins.

OF Dylan Cozens (AAA)
It's a shame Cozens is back to striking out so much because Aaron Altherr's hamstring injury might have created an opportunity for him. Altherr is expected to miss 3 to 4 weeks, but the Phillies will likely stem the tide with Daniel Nava and Cameron Perkins before welcoming Howie Kendrick back.

In Cozens' last 100 at-bats, he's hit .230 with six homers and 45 strikeouts. Overall, he's whiffed 126 times in 386 plate appearances. That's an even higher strikeout rate than he had last season when he punched out 186 times.

Opinions of Cozens are mixed. Some question whether he'll make enough contact to ever be a valuable player. Some question his attitude. Most question his defense.

Cozens has 62 homers in 972 plate appearances the last two seasons at Double A and Triple A, but his value is tied almost entirely to that raw power. Will a front office that clearly values consistency, a solid hit tool and thoughtful approach at the plate be able to live with Cozens' streakiness?

He turned 23 at the end of May so he's still not yet at that non-prospect age. But Cozens requires further seasoning and is no lock to be in the majors next spring.

C Jorge Alfaro (AAA)
These final two months are crucial for Alfaro, who has had a down year at Triple A. Through 75 games, he's hit .246/.300/.360 with six homers, 40 RBIs, 16 walks and 96 strikeouts.

Alfaro will be up in the bigs next season — he's out of options after this year — so the need for him to show improvement and more consistency has heightened. 

Over his last seven games, Alfaro is 4 for 27 with no extra-base hits, one walk and 12 strikeouts. The Phillies would be right to wonder whether weeks like that will be frequent once he's in the majors. It's tough to live with a starting catcher who doesn't walk, strikes out a lot, isn't hitting for power and isn't a great receiver.

That last part is very important. Catchers are no longer judged mostly by their throwing arm but instead their ability to frame pitches and block balls in the dirt. Alfaro can also be a bit jumpy behind the plate; teams seek stillness from their catcher as soon as the target is set.

Alfaro has a long way to go, but he has the tools and the upside. He just hasn't squared the ball up enough this season, fouling off or swinging through hittable pitches. The Phillies won't enter the offseason feeling confident about their catching situation, short term, if he has a second half like his first.

OF Adam Haseley (Short-Season Class A Williamsport)
The Phillies' first-round pick has had a hot start to his pro career, hitting .342/.437/.479 with seven extra-base hits in 87 plate appearances. 

Haseley's teammates at Williamsport rave about his work ethic, and there are believers in the Phillies' organization that he will someday be a 25-home run guy.

Haseley's intensity and focus have stuck out to Williamsport manager (and former MLB catcher) Pat Borders, who noted how locked-in and committed to his plan Haseley is during batting practice. 

Haseley's lone home run with Williamsport was an opposite-field shot down the left-field line. He uses the opposite field quite a bit. Borders remarked that once Haseley starts pulling the ball with authority, he'll be a real problem.

"The sky's the limit for him because he can repeat his swing so well and drive the ball," Borders said on this week's Phillies Clubhouse, which will air after Postgame Live Saturday night. "He hit a home run to straight left field the other day, which is a remarkable feat for anybody hitting the ball the other way but especially for somebody his age (21). He's not a super big kid but he's got power going the other way. When he learns to pull the ball with power also, he's going to be a dangerous, dangerous hitter."

OF Mickey Moniak (Class A Lakewood)
Moniak has had some growing pains in his first full pro season. Through 355 plate appearances, he's hit .263/.317/.379 with 22 walks and 72 strikeouts.

He's struggled with breaking balls, struggled against lefties and hasn't hit for much power. He was picked off last night, the sixth time he's been caught stealing in 15 attempts.

Perhaps Moniak wasn't as advanced as the Phillies thought when they selected him first overall in 2016. But that doesn't mean the shine has worn off — he's still just 19 years old. 

One interesting note from Manuel last week was that some scouts have opined that as Moniak has gained muscle, he's lost some of the quick-twitch ability that had made him such a polished, gap-to-gap hitter.

LF Cornelius Randolph (High-A Clearwater)
Randolph is in the midst of his best month in the Phillies' organization. The 2015 first-round pick has hit .397 over his last 18 games with five doubles, a triple, three homers and 15 walks.

He's hitting .258/.358/.407 this season with nine homers and 38 RBIs. The Phillies are happy to see the double-digit power because Randolph, whose value is tied entirely to his bat, entered 2017 with three home runs in 503 pro plate appearances.

At 20 years old, Randolph is nearly three years younger than the Florida State League average. The Phillies were aggressive in moving him up to Clearwater this season, but he's made the necessary adjustments as the season has gone on.

RHP Jesen Therrien (AAA)
Therrien could soon be up in the majors after the expected trades of Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit. The 24-year-old relief prospect has had success at both Double A and Triple A this season, posting a combined 1.49 ERA and 0.81 WHIP with 62 strikeouts and just seven walks in 54⅓ innings.

The Neshek and Benoit trades would create an opening for Therrien to slide in as a seventh-inning guy. In that scenario, the Phils would likely use Luis Garcia in the eighth and Hector Neris in the ninth. 

It would be nice for the Phils to promote at least one legitimate relief prospect before the season ends so they enter the offseason feeling somewhat comfortable about their future bullpen. Therrien's progress could, in a way, cancel out the steps back taken by Edubray Ramos.

Other tidbits
Zach Eflin pitched well Wednesday night, allowing one run over seven innings for the IronPigs. He missed nearly all of June with a sore elbow but has a 2.22 ERA in five games since returning.

Jake Thompson continues to struggle. He followed a seven-inning start on July 6 by lasting just 4⅔ innings his last time out. He walked four and threw 101 pitches. In 17 starts at Triple A this season, Thompson is 3-11 with a 5.59 ERA and 1.60 WHIP.

Mark Appel was placed on the DL last week with more shoulder problems.

• In 24 games since his promotion to Triple A, outfielder Andrew Pullin has hit .198 with six doubles and two homers.

Is Rhys Hoskins ready for Philadelphia? 'Of course, I'm ready,' the slugger says

Is Rhys Hoskins ready for Philadelphia? 'Of course, I'm ready,' the slugger says

MIAMI -- It's only a matter of time now for Rhys Hoskins. He will be wearing red pinstripes, playing for the Phillies, soon. The call might be a week away. It might be two or three weeks away. But it's coming. Real soon.
 
Is he ready for the jump?
 
"Of course, I'm ready," he said Sunday afternoon.
 
Yes, Hoskins is a confident young man.
 
You'd be, too, if you'd put up the numbers that he has since joining the Phillies' organization as a fifth-round draft pick out of Sacramento State University in 2014.
 
The slugging first baseman hit .319 with 17 homers, 90 RBIs and a .913 OPS in his first full season of Single A ball in 2015.
 
He moved to Double A last year and hit .281 with 38 homers, 116 RBIs and a .943 OPS.
 
This year, he has moved to Triple A, the threshold of the majors. In 88 games for Lehigh Valley, he has hit .289 with 20 homers, 66 RBIs and a .961 OPS.
 
These numbers, along with his improved selectivity at the plate — his walks are up and his strikeouts down — have the 24-year-old Hoskins looking like the Phillies' first baseman of the future, and club officials seem eager to give him a look in the majors while there is still a good chunk of the 2017 season left.
 
There's one hitch: Tommy Joseph, who turns 26 next week, is having a solid season as the first baseman in Philadelphia. Joseph got off to a slow start and turned things around in May. Had he not done that, Hoskins would already be in Philadelphia.

But, Joseph, who ended the first half of the season hitting .252 with 15 homers, 43 RBIs and a .779 OPS, might not be able to hold off Hoskins much longer. According to sources, the Phillies have made Joseph available for a trade as they look to clear a spot for Hoskins.
 
Hoskins received a hall pass from Lehigh Valley to play in Major League Baseball's Futures Game on Sunday. Before the game, he indicated that he was aware that the Phillies' first-base situation was coming to a head as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.
 
"Yeah," he said, acknowledging the trade deadline and how it could impact him. "That's something that's way out of my control. It's out of Tommy's control. He's been a good player. The guy can hit. I think he's shown that. You know, whatever happens, happens. I hope it works out the best for both of us and we both get an opportunity soon."
 
That's not going to happen with the Phillies. Even manager Pete Mackanin has acknowledged that Joseph and Hoskins, similar in that a lack of foot speed limits them to just first base, can't "coexist" on the same team (see story).
 
So a solution draws near.
 
The first-base logjam is actually a good problem for the Phillies — a team can never have enough good options at a position — just like it was a little more than a decade ago when another fifth-round draft pick, Ryan Howard, forced the Phillies to move Jim Thome.
 
Hoskins made people notice him last season with those 38 homers and 116 RBIs at Double A.
 
"I think if you were to tell me last year that I was going to hit 38 home runs, I probably would have laughed at you just because that's not the type of hitter that I think I am," he said. "I want to be a hitter first, doubles guy, gap guy, some of them go over the fence."
 
Hoskins displayed some of his hitter's acumen in his first at-bat Sunday. He took a first-pitch, 96-mph fastball from World Team pitcher Yadier Alvarez then lined the second pitch, an 86-mph breaking ball into left field to help set up a run.
 
Hoskins struck out 125 times (20 percent of the time) and walked 71 times (12 percent) last season. He has improved those marks this season, striking out just 53 times (15 percent) and walking 47 times (13 percent). The ability to work counts and avoid strikeouts is something this Phillies' front office values greatly and could ultimately push Hoskins ahead of Joseph.
 
Hoskins is happy with the improvements he has made in his selectivity and believes he can continue it.
 
"I think that's the biggest separator between this year and last year, being selective at the plate and patient and getting more pitches to hit," he said. "It has to be a mindset. A lot of it is preparation, knowing what the pitcher has, what he's done in the past to a hitter like myself and sticking to that plan and being stubborn to it."
 
Next stop for Hoskins is the Triple A All-Star Game in Tacoma on Wednesday night.
 
Then it's back to Lehigh Valley, but probably not for long.
 
He has hit his way to the doorstep of Philadelphia and will soon walk through the door.
 
"I honestly don’t know when it's going to happen," Hoskins said. "I wish I did. It would be nice to know. I just have to keep my head down and keep working. You still have to hit wherever you go and that's the way, ultimately, I'm going to get where I want to be."