Phillies

Phillies-Dodgers thoughts: Kershaw, Darvish on tap for Phils' young bats

phillies-dodgers-stream-small-091817.jpg
USA Today Images/CSN

Phillies-Dodgers thoughts: Kershaw, Darvish on tap for Phils' young bats

Phillies (58-91) vs. Dodgers (96-53)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

On a light night in baseball — only seven games tonight — the Phillies welcome the MLB-best Dodgers to Citizens Bank Park to open a four-game series.

With 13 games remaining, the Dodgers are six games ahead of the Nationals for home-field advantage in the NL playoffs, so these games matter for L.A.

Let's take a look at Game 1:

• The Dodgers were 91-36 on Aug. 25, a 116-win pace. Then in the most improbable of turns, they lost 16 of 17 games. Dave Roberts' club appears to now be back on track, having won four of the last five, including a series win over the weekend in Washington.

• This will be a very interesting four-game series for the Phillies' young hitters. Tonight, they'll face Clayton Kershaw (17-3, 2.12), the best pitcher in baseball. 

Tuesday night, they get Yu Darvish (9-12, 4.08), who's having a disappointing season but is still one of the toughest right-handers to face. Only 10 starting pitchers have a higher strikeout rate than Darvish (9.96 per nine), and he's coming off seven shutout innings.

On Wednesday, the Phils face Alex Wood (15-3, 2.69), a finesse-based lefty having a career year.

These next three games will be among the toughest Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro have played. The Phils are obviously not expected to win this series, but a few successful nights from these rookies could build some major confidence moving forward.

• For the first time since his 0-for-12 start, Hoskins is in a slump of sorts. He went 0 for 11 with six strikeouts and a walk against the A's over the weekend. Don't be shocked if he sits Tuesday night against Darvish. Since coming up on Aug. 10, Hoskins has started 37 of 38 games.

The numbers, of course, are still ridiculous. Through 159 plate appearances, Hoskins is hitting .287/.415/.736 with 18 homers and 39 RBIs. 

Against lefties, Hoskins is 6 for 28 and all six hits have been home runs.

• Kershaw missed nearly six weeks with a back strain, which was the only thing that could have prevented him from claiming his fourth Cy Young award in seven years. He was on such a roll before the injury that he still leads the majors with 17 wins despite missing seven or eight starts.

Kershaw still might be the Cy Young frontrunner. His main competition is Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. If Kershaw wins each of his last three starts, he'll get to 20 with an ERA right around 2.00 or below. That'll be tough to top, even with the six weeks on the shelf.

• Not that pitcher wins matter a whole lot, but the Phillies are one of only two teams Kershaw has faced more than once and has a losing record against. He's 3-4 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts vs. the Phils. (He's 2-3 with a 3.18 ERA vs. the Pirates.)

• To avoid 100 losses, the Phils must go 5-8 or better in these final four series against the Dodgers, Braves, Nationals and Mets. Only the three games against the Braves are on the road.

Angels' moves hurt Phillies' chances of catching Trout

ap-angels-mike-trout.jpg
AP Images

Angels' moves hurt Phillies' chances of catching Trout

The Eagles made Angel Stadium in Anaheim their home away from home last week. The entire team was greeted with a gift of a Mike Trout bobblehead. Nigel Bradham even used the Millville native and Birds season ticketholder's locker to dress. Trout left a personalized message to his favorite team prior to the Rams game.

Yet another link that it is kismet for the native son, the best player in his sport, to return someday soon to Philadelphia and play for the team he grew up rooting for? After all, the Phillies are flush with spending money should the opportunity arise. They appear to have the makings of a strong nucleus that could lure the 26-year-old back East. His deal runs through 2020 and Trout would be only 29 at the end of that contract. Seems perfect, right?  

Not so fast, my red pinstriped friends.

Hold on, we'll get to that in one minute. If you've been comatose the last seven seasons, all Trout has done since debuting in the big leagues in 2011 is win two MVPs, finish second in MVP voting three times and make six All-Star Games. The marriage here with the Phillies, a team he was a die-hard fan of growing up — even attending the 2008 World Series Championship parade as a senior in high school — would be one made in heaven. 

Adding fodder to the Trout-to-Philly hype is the Angels have reached the postseason only once in his time there. The hope from a fan's perspective would be Anaheim would continue to languish in mediocrity and eventually be forced to move Trout to possibly begin a rebuild, or he would play out his deal and walk. Wishful thinking? Sure. Out of the question? No. Trout has a full no-trade, so he can pick and choose where he ends up if he wishes to leave Southern California for South Philly prior to the end of his deal.

However, there may be a fly in the ointment. Despite it being only December, the Angels have had themselves an offseason. They signed Japanese two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani. The 23-year-old is a three-pitch starter who can touch over 100 mph on the gun with his fastball. He posted a 1.86 ERA in 140 innings for his Nippon-Ham club in Japan's Pacific League, a very high level of baseball. He also batted .322 with a .416 on-base percentage, while slugging .588 last season. In 2016, he hit 22 home runs. This was a major coup for the Angels, who won a bidding war over many other suitors around the league to land the right-handed pitching, left-handed hitting Ohtani.  

The Angels also signed veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler, a four-time All-Star and 2016 Gold Glove winner. Despite being 35, Kinsler is a major upgrade from what they had last year at the position. Anaheim also traded for Justin Upton late last year and re-signed him in the offseason. He'll play next to Trout in left. The Angels still need to upgrade their pitching. But on paper, they have the makings of a potent lineup that, with some pitching help, could land a wild-card spot in the playoffs. That is not music to Phillies fans' ears.

We're a long way away from 2020, so a lot can happen both here and 2,376 miles away in Orange County. The Phillies need to hope their current young nucleus blossoms like the group of Rollins, Utley, Howard and Hamels did in the mid-2000s. They should also keep a close eye on their neighbors to the West and cross their fingers things don't go so well. If both scenarios play out in their favor, the Phillies could reel in the biggest fish in franchise history.

Phillies lose prospect in Rule 5 draft, gain money to sign more

clearwater-phillies-carlos-tocci.jpg
Photo: Clearwater Threshers

Phillies lose prospect in Rule 5 draft, gain money to sign more

ORLANDO — Carlos Tocci has long been an intriguing prospect in the Phillies' system. The club's international scouting staff liked the slender outfielder from Venezuela enough to give him a $759,000 signing bonus as a 16-year-old in the summer of 2011.

The big question with Tocci was whether he'd develop enough offensive pop to go with his outstanding defensive prowess.

Tocci made strides every year in the Phillies system, but not enough, in the minds of team officials, to move past other prospects and win a spot on the 40-man roster. The Phils left him unprotected last winter and managed to slip him through the annual Rule 5 draft, but they weren't so fortunate this year. Tocci was selected by the Chicago White Sox with the fourth pick in Thursday's draft and quickly spun to the Texas Rangers in a trade.

The price to select Tocci was $100,000. He must spend the entire 2018 season in the majors (or on the big-league disabled list) or be offered back to the Phillies for $50,000.

"Obviously, it stinks for us to lose a guy like that, but it's the risk you take when you don't protect someone," Phillies assistant general manager Bryan Minniti said. "I'm happy for him to get the opportunity. Selfishly, we hope to get him back."

Tocci, 22, hit .307 with a .362 on-base percentage and a .398 slugging percentage in 113 games at Double A Reading in 2017. He hit .189 in 17 games at Triple A.

Tocci has athleticism and speed. He is a plus defender. His speed and defensive skill could help him stick in the majors as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement.

The Phillies added a player in the Rule 5 draft, but only briefly. They selected right-handed pitcher Nick Burdi from Minnesota with the third pick and quickly traded him to Pittsburgh for $500,000 in international signing money. The Phils have just over $1 million remaining in their current pool, which expires June 15.

Extra international money is valuable. The Phillies recently added four pitchers — Seranthony Dominguez, Ranger Suarez, Jose Taveras and Franklyn Kilome — to their 40-man roster and all were international signings. The team recently used international pool money to sign catcher Abrahan Gutierrez, one of 13 former Atlanta prospects who had been set free after the Braves violated signing rules. Several of those players are still unsigned and other prospects pop up all the time. Remember, the Phillies' top pitching prospect is a kid named Sixto Sanchez. He caught the eye of Phillies scouts three years ago while throwing batting practice to a catcher that the Phillies were watching (see story).

"Our international department with Sal Agostinelli and those guys, they're weapons for us," Minniti said. "So for us to have the ability to give them more money to spend is a positive. They're seeing workouts every day all over the world. It's good to have the reserves to continue to spend."

The Phillies have two open spots on their 40-man roster. Those will soon be filled by relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter.

The Phillies also completed their coaching staff on Thursday, hiring Jose Flores as first base coach and infield/baserunning instructor. Flores was a 34th-round pick by the Astros in 1989 and spent six years in their minor-league system. He spent 10 years as a coach in Puerto Rico's winter league and was also a coach for Puerto Rico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Gabe Kapler's full staff includes bench coach Rob Thomson, hitting coach John Mallee, assistant hitting coach Pedro Guerrero, pitching coach Rick Kranitz, assistant pitching coach Chris Young, bullpen coach Jim Gott, first base coach Flores and third base coach Dusty Wathan.