Phillies

The 12 best free-agent hitters after Manny Machado and Bryce Harper

The 12 best free-agent hitters after Manny Machado and Bryce Harper

You know who the top two free-agent position players will be this offseason: Bryce Harper, Manny Machado.

What about the rest of the class? Let's take a look at the dozen next-best bats out there after those two. 

Catchers — Wilson Ramos, Yasmani Grandal

It's these two and little else behind the plate. Grandal seems likely to re-sign with the Dodgers, who have a ton of money and value his framing and work with the pitching staff. Grandal also has a .799 OPS the last three seasons with an average of 24 homers. He's one of the better all-around catchers in baseball, despite his ugly showing in the NLCS.

For the Phillies, Ramos is worth re-signing, and the Phils should have a key advantage on other teams because they know more about his health situation. If the Phils deem Ramos able to play 100-plus games in 2019, they should bring him back. He's one of the best hitters at any position in this free-agent class.

Infielders — Josh Donaldson, Daniel Murphy, Jed Lowrie, D.J. LeMahieu, Eduardo Escobar, Brian Dozier, Marwin Gonzalez

Donaldson offers the most "boom" among this group. He's three years removed from winning AL MVP as an impact power hitter and impact defender at 3B. From 2015-17, he hit .285/.387/.559 with an average of 37 homers and 100 RBI.

But a calf injury cost Donaldson most of 2018 and prevented the Blue Jays from getting much value for him in a trade with the Indians. Donaldson will be one of the most interesting free agents this winter. Will a team pay him for past performance? Will he sign a one-year, prove-it deal? The latter seems more likely.

Murphy should get something like two years, $18-20 million. Just tough to commit long-term to a 34-year-old who can't play defense and is one year removed from a devastating injury.

Gonzalez is worth keeping an eye on for Phillies fans. He can play every position on the diamond other than pitcher and catcher, and he can do more than just stand at that position. He's a decent fielder all over the place. A better hitter than Asdrubal Cabrera. A better utilityman than Pedro Florimon.

Outfielders — Michael Brantley, A.J. Pollock, Nick Markakis

Pollock and Brantley have been oft-injured in recent seasons and that will certainly impact their markets. Pollock has missed 249 games the last three seasons. Brantley has missed 242.

Non-Bryce Harper outfield help isn't among the Phillies' top needs, but there's no question Brantley or Markakis would make this a better, more well-rounded lineup because of their ability to hit for average and produce a ton of doubles. 

We'll delve deeper into the Phillies fit for many of these players in the days and weeks to come. But there's some talent out there even if the Phils strike out with that top tier.

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

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Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Baseball America’s always interesting Top 100 Prospects list landed this week and the Phillies are represented with two players in the top half.

Starting pitcher Spencer Howard ranks 27th on the list and third baseman Alec Bohm 28th. Both players are projected to open the coming season at Triple A and get to the majors at some point in 2020. Both have been invited to major-league spring training camp, which begins in less than three weeks in Clearwater. See the complete list of Phillies’ in-house non-roster invites here.

Howard, a 23-year-old right-hander, was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2017. We profiled him here.

In its story on the Top 100 prospects, Baseball America offered this take on Howard: Triple-digit fastball, swing-and-miss curveball and the ability to work the edges of the strike zone, Howard flashes front-end potential.

Bohm, 23, was the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. He hit .305 with 21 homers, 80 RBIs and a .896 OPS at three levels, including Double A in 2019. We profiled him here.

Baseball America offered this take on Bohm: Even with questions about whether he’ll have to move to first base, Bohm has the feel to hit and plus power to hit in the middle of the Phillies’ order, and soon.

Shortstop Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays was ranked No. 1 on Baseball America’s list for the second year in a row. The Rays placed eight players on the list. Because of a loaded farm system, the Rays were unable to protect left-hander Cristopher Sanchez on their 40-man roster and the Phillies traded for him in November. Read about Sanchez here.

The Los Angeles Dodgers placed seven players on the list and the Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres had six each.

The Miami Marlins led National League East teams with five players in the Top 100, including former Phillies pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, who was traded for J.T. Realmuto a year ago. Sanchez ranks 16th on the list and is projected to arrive in the majors sometime in 2020.

The Atlanta Braves placed four players on the list and the Washington Nationals and New York Mets joined the Phillies with two players.

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