Phillies

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.

Former Phillies prospect Jon Singleton released by Astros

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Former Phillies prospect Jon Singleton released by Astros

During that time period when the Phillies were selling out every night, stacking division crowns and chasing veteran stars who fit, one of their prospects everyone wanted was Jon Singleton.

A first baseman, Singleton was blocked by Ryan Howard, and the Phillies eventually included him in one of their blockbusters, trading him along with Domingo Santana, Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid to the Astros for Hunter Pence.

Houston saw a lot of potential in Singleton, who showed power and routinely had huge walk totals in the minors. The Astros took a unique chance on Singleton in 2014, signing him to a historic contract that guaranteed $10 million, even though he had yet to see a major-league pitch at that point.

The deal evoked strong reactions on both sides, with Cardinals pitcher Bud Norris tweeting that week: "Sorry but this Singleton deal is terrible. Wish the Jon listened to the union and not his agent."

Turns out, that deal was the right call for Singleton, who was released Monday night by the Astros.

Singleton is currently serving a 100-game suspension for a third positive drug test. The first two were marijuana-related.

Singleton is still just 26 years old, so he probably will resurface once his suspension is up. But his is one of many cautionary tales of why you shouldn't overvalue most prospects when you have an opportunity to add a star.

Pivetta's emergence, Alfaro's cannon, and what 27-18 means

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Pivetta's emergence, Alfaro's cannon, and what 27-18 means

At 27-18 after winning the first of a crucial three-game series against the Braves, the Phillies have the second-best record in the National League and the third-fewest losses in the majors, behind only the Yankees and Red Sox.

Seriously ... who would have thought the first 45 games would play out this way? Certainly not Vegas, where most books set the Phillies' over-under at 75½.

Let's take a look at some of the most interesting Phillies-related developments of the last week, starting with the word on everyone's mind:

Playoffs?!
Last season, only five teams — the Astros, Yankees, Nationals, Diamondbacks and Rockies — had this strong a start, record-wise.

All five of them made the playoffs, winning at least 87 games.

Going back two seasons, 11 of the 13 teams to start this fast made the playoffs, and going back another, it's 15 of 20.

The Phillies have not arrived at this record with dumb luck. They've outscored their opponents by 38 runs. They're fourth in the NL in runs scored and fourth in runs allowed. 

"Yeah, but they beat up on bad teams."

That's not even really true. The Phillies are 17-15 this season against teams .500 or better, including 8-3 in their last 11.

Perspective on Pivetta
After another gem last night, Nick Pivetta has a 3.23 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Those are ace-like numbers nearly identical to 2017 Zack Greinke's (3.20 ERA, 1.07 WHIP).

Over his last three starts, Pivetta has pitched 19 innings and allowed one run on 12 baserunners while striking out 25. 

Pivetta is the only pitcher in the National League this season with at least 60 strikeouts and no more than 12 walks. In the AL, only Corey Kluber and Rick Porcello have done it.

And keep in mind, this is a guy who four starts ago allowed six runs in an inning. Take away that game at Nationals Park — which, I know, you can't — and Pivetta has a 2.25 ERA.

In a perfect world, the Phillies wanted Pivetta to become a reliable No. 3 starter this season. So far, he's been much more.

Alfaro's arm
When he first saw Jorge Alfaro in spring training, former Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said Alfaro may have the strongest throwing arm he's ever seen from a catcher.

Last night, Gabe Kapler compared Alfaro favorably to Pudge Rodriguez.

If it seems like Alfaro has an uncommon cannon behind the plate, it's because he does. Alfaro's throws this season have averaged 90.5 mph, by far the fastest in the majors among catchers. J.T. Realmuto is next at 87.6 mph.

Alfaro had two base-stealers nabbed last night but caught only one because the throw was bobbled on Freddie Freeman's attempt. Still, Alfaro has thrown out 30 percent of would-be base-stealers, which is better than the league average.

Clutch off the bench
The Phillies already have three pinch-hit home runs this season after totaling just four in each of the past two seasons.

Two of the homers were from Nick Williams, and Aaron Altherr answered with his own last night. These guys are just in perpetual competition.

Williams, by the way, has hit .313 with a .405 OBP in his last 15 games.

Finally, a home-field advantage
After posting the worst home record in all of MLB from 2014-17, the Phillies have the majors' best home record this season at 17-6.

The Phils have outhomered their opponents, 32-19, at Citizens Bank Park and outhit them .258 to .220.

While most would be inclined to attribute this to fans packing the park to finally see a winner, that really hasn't been the case so far. The Phillies' attendance is improved from the last few seasons, but they're still at just 58.3 percent capacity at CBP.