The Phillies open spring training in Clearwater, Florida next week. In preview, we take a look at five storylines:
Tuesday — Five new faces to watch
Wednesday — Five questions on the position side
Thursday — Five questions on the pitching side
Friday — Five prospects to watch
Saturday — Five people with something to prove
Over the last couple of months, more focus has been placed on who is not (yet) a Phillie than on who already is. The club has added several veteran players who have experienced success with other teams and have enough tread left on their tires to incrementally push this roster forward. New faces, new roles ... let's take a look:
Acquired in a trade with Seattle, Segura is an above-average defensive shortstop with something the Phillies really need — a good bat. The Phillies finished last in the NL in hits (1,270) and batting average (.234) in 2018. Their shortstops hit .235 with a .651 OPS. Those marks ranked 27th and 28th, respectively, in the majors. Segura will be a good addition to the offense. He is a contact machine who led the majors with 203 hits in 2016. Over the last three seasons, he has hit .308 with an .803 OPS.
"We think Jean Segura at shortstop moves the needle in terms of win expectancy, probably several wins and I think that's important as we try to turn an 80-win team into a playoff contender," GM Matt Klentak said. "Jean Segura is a really good major league player."
Segura turns 29 in March.
At 32, he's not the elite player he was during his peak when he finished third, first, third and fifth, respectively, in the National League MVP voting from 2012 to 2015, and a three-year contract seems like an overpay. But McCutchen can still be a strong contributor, a defensive upgrade at a corner outfield spot, and a 30-double, 20-homer, high on-base guy in the lineup.
McCutchen is durable — he's been on the disabled list only once in his career — and he's the type of high-character, exuberant person that fans can connect with.
The former Yankee and White Sox reliever, signed as a free agent, brings experience, durability and a history of excellence to the back end of the bullpen. Over the last six seasons, he has pitched in 385 games and recorded an ERA of 2.83 and a WHIP of 1.04 while averaging 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
Robertson, who turns 34 in April, succeeded Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera as the Yankees' closer and has reached at least 30 saves three times. The right-hander has posted outstanding results against lefty hitters. Robertson does not care if he sets up or closes, he just likes to pitch in the late innings with the game on the line and that's what he'll get.
"He's going to pitch high leverage innings for us," Klentak said.
Despite poor defense and inconsistent offense, the Phillies improved by 14 wins last season. Their starting pitching was a big reason why. Through the first four months of the season, the team ranked fourth in the majors with 53 quality starts and the starters had a 3.81 ERA, which was eighth-best in the majors at that point. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz was very popular with the starting pitchers (and relievers, for that matter) and many of them credited him for his work. However, Kranitz was abruptly let go in mid-November and replaced by Young, who had spent 2018 as the team's assistant pitching coach. The division rival Atlanta Braves subsequently scooped up Kranitz to be their pitching coach and that should add a little drama to the 19 meetings between the teams this season.
Phillies management said it made the change because it feared losing Young after other clubs expressed interest in him. Young is technically not a new face. We saw a lot of him last season as he stood conspicuously in the dugout, huddling with manager Gabe Kapler and positioning outfielders. But he now finds himself in a new, high profile role with a chance to have a significant impact on the club.
Young, 37, joined the Phillies organization before the 2018 season. He had previously spent three years with the Houston Astros as pro scouting supervisor. The Astros are one of baseball's most progressive organizations and Young is well schooled in the modern approach (video, big data, deep matchup study, etc.) that many teams, the Phillies included, are now taking toward coaching, game preparation and execution.
Isn't that the portmanteau that fans are using to describe Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, the two big stars that continue the clog the free-agent market?
The Phillies still hope one of them ends up in Clearwater.
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