Phillies

Roster review — Phillies just better than Mets, Marlins, Braves

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AP Images

Roster review — Phillies just better than Mets, Marlins, Braves

The Nationals are obviously the class of the NL East. Most stars, best lineup, best rotation, much better bullpen than they opened 2017 with.

There's still a lot of offseason to go, but after the Phillies' Carlos Santana signing and Stage 1 of the latest Marlins fire sale, the Phils on paper measure up well with the other three teams in the division.

There still could be a trade in the Phillies' near future that turns an outfielder into a starting pitcher. If the Phils didn't have such a glaring need for starting pitching, one could see them entering 2017 with all three of Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr in addition to LF Rhys Hoskins and figuring out the playing time based on hot/cold streaks and injuries. That need for arms to fill out the rotation, though, makes a trade more likely.

Knowing what we know now, let's take a trip around the NL East, excluding the clear favorites in Washington. This takes into account projected opening day lineups as of the first week of January. The Mets, for example, have Michael Conforto coming off shoulder surgery and Steven Matz recovering from elbow surgery. Neither is likely for the start of the season.

Infield
Phillies: 1B Carlos Santana, 2B Cesar Hernandez, SS J.P. Crawford, 3B Maikel Franco

Braves: 1B Freddie Freeman, 2B Ozzie Albies, SS Dansby Swanson, 3B Johan Camargo

Marlins: 1B Justin Bour, 2B Starlin Castro, SS J.T. Riddle, 3B Brian Anderson

Mets: 1B Dom Smith, 2B Wilmer Flores, SS Amed Rosario, 3B Asdrubal Cabrera

Freeman is by far the best player among these 16. Santana is next.

The Phillies have the best infield of this quartet, with above-average on-base skills at three positions and power at two. 

Outfield
Phillies: CF Odubel Herrera, LF Rhys Hoskins, RF Nick Williams/Aaron Altherr

Braves: CF Ender Inciarte, LF Nick Markakis, RF Ronald Acuña

Marlins: CF Christian Yelich, LF Martin Prado, RF Derek Dietrich

Mets: CF Juan Lagares, LF Yoenis Cespedes, RF Brandon Nimmo

The Marlins have the best centerfielder.

The Mets have the best leftfielder (though Hoskins could have something to say about that in Year 2).

Right field is between the Phillies and Braves. Acuña is a very intriguing 20-year-old who hit .325 with 21 homers, 31 doubles and 44 steals last season across the three highest minor-league levels.

In totality ... again, you have to give this edge to the Phillies. On-base skills at two of three outfield positions and power at two. 

Catcher
Phillies: Jorge Alfaro/Cameron Rupp/Andrew Knapp

Braves: Tyler Flowers

Marlins: J.T. Realmuto

Mets: Travis d'Arnaud

Realmuto is the stud of this group, an underrated catcher who's hit .290/.337/.440 the last two seasons with averages of 31 doubles and 14 homers. He also has good wheels for a catcher. He or Yelich would be next if the Marlins make another trade.

Alfaro has potential but a lot to prove, offensively and defensively. Still, he's not far behind the injury-prone d'Arnaud or longtime backup Flowers.

Rotation
Phillies: Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively

Braves: Julio Teheran, Sean Newcomb, Mike Foltynewicz, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir

Marlins: Dan Straily, Wei-Yin Chen, Jose Ureña, Dillon Peters, Justin Nicolino

Mets: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo

First off, I'd be shocked if that is the Phillies' opening day starting rotation. At the very least, they'll grab one veteran with a better short-term upside than Pivetta or Lively.

Second ... this is clearly a drastic edge to the Mets. Everything — everything — went wrong for their pitching staff last season.

If the Phils add a decent No. 2 or No. 3 starter, they'd be on par with the Braves. Atlanta has more proven commodities, but let's not act like McCarthy or Kazmir are locks to make even 25 starts.

Bullpen (key arms only)
Phillies
: Hector Neris, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, Luis Garcia

Braves: Arodys Vizcaino, Jose Ramirez

Marlins: Brad Ziegler, Kyle Barraclough

Mets: Jeurys Familia, A.J. Ramos, Anthony Swarzak, Jerry Blevins

Advantage goes to the Phillies after the offseason additions of Hunter and Neshek, two solid setup men you can pencil in for ERAs between 2.00 and 3.00. With the emergence of Garcia, the Phillies have a strong core four in the bullpen. They just still need a good lefty. (Can Adam Morgan carry a strong second half into 2018?)

The Mets have a solid back-end with Familia and Ramos, but the bullpens of the Braves and Marlins will likely struggle this season.

• • •

The Phillies' additions of Santana, Hunter and Neshek make a ton of sense when you look at the non-Nationals landscape of the NL East and consider the number of games there to be won — 57 in total against the Braves, Marlins and Mets.

The Phils went 39-37 against the division last season. That number should grow closer to the mid-40s in 2018.

Morphine found in Roy Halladay's system before fatal plane crash

Morphine found in Roy Halladay's system before fatal plane crash

Roy Halladay had morphine in his system when the plane he was piloting crashed and he tragically died in November, according to Halladay's autopsy report, released Friday.

Zolpidem, the generic name for Ambien, and amphetamines were also found in Halladay's system.

As TMZ points out via the Food and Drug Administration, the amount of Zolpidem found in Halladay's system (72 ng/ml) is more than enough to impair a driver and increase the risk of an accident.

Halladay had a blood alcohol content of 0.01, according to the autopsy report. 

The official cause of Halladay's death was blunt force trauma, with drowning a contributing factor.

The crash took place on Nov. 7 in the Gulf of Mexico, with more details emerging in a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board two weeks later.

Nick Williams talks up Phillies to a free-agent Cy Young winner

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AP Images/USA Today Images

Nick Williams talks up Phillies to a free-agent Cy Young winner

It's not clear whether the Phillies will add a starting pitcher before opening day, but surely they would like to.

General manager Matt Klentak “is busting his ass every single day looking for every possible opportunity to upgrade our team from every perspective,” manager Gabe Kapler said on Tuesday. “That includes looking at every option possible for the rotation.”

Klentak has kept a close eye on the trade market, but has found the prices (i.e., the young talent that must be surrendered) for top, controllable starters to be prohibitive.

He has kept a close eye on the free-agent market, but the length of contracts that top pitchers are looking for has given him pause.

For months, the Phillies have distanced themselves from speculation that has connected them to elite level free-agent pitchers Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta.

But with spring training less than a month away and both pitchers still unsigned, the Phillies would at least have to consider both pitchers if their asking prices experience a January thaw.

Six or seven years? No way.

Three years? Hmmm. Let's talk.

The Phillies are hosting a number of their young players this week. Rhys Hoskins, Jerad Eickhoff, Mark Leiter and Nick Williams were all in town on Tuesday.

Williams has set his sights on making the National League All-Star team in 2018.

“That's what I'm shooting for,” he said at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday. “I think I had a pretty good year last year. I'm shooting for more now. I don't think being an All-Star is shooting too high.”

Williams, 24, hit .288 with 12 homers, 55 RBIs and an .811 OPS in 83 games, mostly in right field, with the big club as a rookie last season.

To give himself the best chance of surpassing those numbers — and achieving his goal of making the All-Star team — Williams has spent the offseason in Austin, Texas, working with personal trainer Jeremy Hills, a former University of Texas football player.

Williams is working hard on agility, which will help him in the outfield and on the base paths.

And guess who one of his daily workout partners is?

Free-agent pitcher Jake Arrieta.

Back in Austin, between reps and protein shakes, Williams has occasionally talked up Philadelphia as a potential landing spot to Arrieta, the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner who will turn 32 in March.

“He loves it here,” Williams said of Arrieta, who, as a free agent and a Scott Boras client, is astute enough not to rule out any team, particularly one as deep-pocketed as the Phillies. “He has told me he likes working with young guys. I'm like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I'm not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I'm not really in his position.”

Williams smiled.

“I hope to be one day,” he said.

Williams marveled at Arrieta's work ethic in the gym.

And he expressed gratitude for the kindness and generosity Arrieta has showed him.

“He's bought a lot of my protein shakes,” Williams said.

Time will tell if the Phillies add a starting pitcher to the group that already consists of Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and other youngsters. The hunch is they will, though it's unclear what the magnitude of that talent will be. Klentak's search for an arm likely won't stop with the addition of one pitcher and it will likely continue through July. And beyond. The quest to build a championship-caliber staff never stops.

“The pursuit is very real,” Kapler said of Klentak's search for pitching. “I have a lot of trust that we'll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we're better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”