Phillies

For Phillies, a reunion with Pat Neshek makes sense

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For Phillies, a reunion with Pat Neshek makes sense

ORLANDO — The Phillies' bullpen showed signs of coming together late last season. Over the final 33 games, the team's relievers put together a 2.54 ERA. Only the Cleveland Indians' bullpen had a better ERA (2.41) over that span.

Despite those improvements, general manager Matt Klentak has arrived at these winter meetings intent on strengthening that unit. Sources say the club would like to add one or two veterans to the bullpen and that team officials have discussed a reunion with free agent Pat Neshek. Sources say the Phils have also expressed interest in free-agent lefty Jake McGee.

The Phils would also like to add a starting pitcher. That could come in a trade, possibly involving Cesar Hernandez or Freddy Galvis.

Bringing back Neshek would make a lot of sense. Klentak has an affinity for the right-hander, and why not? In his first two offseasons as Phillies GM, Klentak added a number of veterans designed to serve as stabilizing forces as the team navigated a rebuild. The Phils got little from pitchers Charlie Morton and Clay Buchholz; both suffered season-ending injuries early in their time with the club. The Phils got mixed results (and no high draft pick) from Jeremy Hellickson in a season and a half with the club. Howie Kendrick contributed nicely but was often hurt. Michael Saunders flopped. Peter Bourjos was somewhere in the middle.

Among Klentak's big-league pickups, Neshek has been the one overwhelming success. Klentak acquired the side-arming reliever in a salary dump deal (the Phils added his $6.5 million salary) from Houston in the fall of 2016 and Neshek delivered a stellar season in 2017. He pitched in 43 games (40⅓ innings) for the Phillies and gave up just five runs while walking five and striking out 45. At the trade deadline, the Phils turned Neshek into three prospects by sending him to Colorado, where he was a teammate of McGee's. In Colorado, Neshek continued to shine. He finished the season with a 1.59 ERA in 71 games. Overall, he pitched 62⅓ innings and gave up just 11 earned runs while walking six and striking out 69.

Why wouldn't the Phillies want a guy like that back to help set up for Hector Neris and complement Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan and Edubray Ramos, all relatively young relievers who showed breakthrough signs in 2017?

Given Neshek's success last season — he was the Phillies' lone All-Star — and his track record, he would probably require a two-year contract. But even at 37, Neshek has shown the durability that would make that a sound investment, especially if there was not a no-trade clause. That way, the Phils could deal Neshek for young talent if they were not in the race. And, of course, they could hang on to him if they were in the race.

Matt Klentak has veteran relievers on his wish list and Pat Neshek makes sense.

Again.

Another old friend joins Phillies' spring coaching staff

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Another old friend joins Phillies' spring coaching staff

Another old friend is joining the Phillies' coaching staff as a guest instructor in Clearwater this spring.

Bobby Abreu will make his coaching debut, while Larry Bowa, Brad Lidge, Charlie Manuel, Dan Plesac and Mike Schmidt will all be back to assist in spring training.

Gabe Kapler has a lot of experience on his side as he prepares for his first camp as a major-league manager.

Abreu was a polarizing player in these parts, drawing criticism from fans for a perceived lack of hustle and not nearly enough praise for hitting .303/.416/.513 in his nine seasons with the Phils. He was one of the most complete players in the game during his peak from 1998 to 2006.

The Phillies' first workout with pitchers and catchers is Feb. 14 in Clearwater. Full-squad workouts begin on Feb. 19.

Big rise, big fall for Phillies prospects on Baseball America list

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Big rise, big fall for Phillies prospects on Baseball America list

Baseball America is out this week with its annual ranking of what it considers the top 100 prospects in the game.

The always interesting list offers a glimpse at just how fickle the ranking of prospects can be.

J.P. Crawford, who will take over at shortstop for the Phillies in the coming season, ranks 16th on the list, not far off from his standing as BA's 19th-ranked prospect a year ago, but dramatically higher than No. 92. That's where he was on BA's midseason list in July. Crawford had slipped that far after a poor first half. He recovered in the second half, played in the majors in September and ascended to the starting shortstop job after Freddy Galvis was traded in December. Now, he finds himself in better standing with BA.

The Phillies are well represented with five players on BA's list. Atlanta leads the way with eight players. Milwaukee, San Diego, Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees have six each.

After Crawford, the Phillies come in at No. 25 with right-handed pitcher Sixto Sanchez, No. 31 with second baseman Scott Kingery, No. 84 with right-handed pitcher Adonis Medina, and No. 100 with outfielder Adam Haseley.

Sanchez, 19, is a power-armed strike thrower who projects to pitch at High A Clearwater with a good chance to get to Double A Reading in 2018.

Kingery, 23, projects as the Phillies' second baseman of the future. He will be in major-league spring-training camp, but is expected to return to Triple A for at least a couple of months before arriving in the majors sometime in 2018.

Medina, 21, is another power arm. He is expected to open at Clearwater.

Haseley, 21, was the Phillies' top pick in last year's draft. He was selected eighth overall out of the University of Virginia. He has strong on-base skills and projects to open the season at Clearwater, as well.

Notably absent from Baseball America's ranking is Mickey Moniak. The 19-year-old outfielder was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft. He ranked 46th on the list a year ago, but struggled in his first pro season, hitting just .236 with a .284 on-base percentage in 123 games at Low A Lakewood, and dropped off the list. 

Phillies officials remain high on Moniak and he has plenty of time to climb the list. Nonetheless, third baseman Nick Senzel, picked by Cincinnati with the second pick in 2016 draft, one spot behind Moniak, ranks No. 7 on BA's list. 

Braves' outfielder prospect Ronald Acuna is No. 1.