Phillies

Countdown to Clearwater: A peek at a few Phillies prospects

Countdown to Clearwater: A peek at a few Phillies prospects

The Phillies open spring training in Clearwater, Florida next week. In preview, we take a look at five storylines:

Tuesday5 new faces to watch

Wednesday5 questions on the position side

Thursday5 questions on the pitching side

Friday — Prospects to watch

Saturday — 5 people with something to prove

It's always fun to get a peek at some of the prospects who will be in big-league camp for the first time and there are plenty worth watching over at the minor-league complex, as well. We picked out five. And, yes, Sixto Sanchez was supposed to be on the list, but he was traded in the J.T. Realmuto deal on Thursday so we'll use a pinch-hitter for him.

MICKEY MONIAK

Moniak has gotten a lot of attention since being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft and now he will get some more in his first trip to big-league camp. The left-handed hitting outfielder has endured some struggles in his first 2½ seasons of pro ball, but he showed improvement in the second half of the season at Single A Clearwater last year by hitting .302 with 24 extra-base hits and an .829 OPS over his final 52 games. Moniak could open the season back in Clearwater but he will have a chance to play himself to Double A before the season is out. He's added strength to his 6-3 frame and he won't turn 21 until May. This will be a big year in gauging his development and what kind of prospect he is.

ADAM HASELEY

Haseley is another guy who has gotten a lot of attention since being selected eighth overall in the 2017 draft after a stellar three-year run at the University of Virginia. Like Moniak, he is also headed to his first big-league camp. Haseley hit .305 with 11 homers and a .795 OPS between Clearwater and Double A Reading last season. Haseley turns 23 in April and it will be interesting to see if he complements his on-base skills with more power as he matures. It's likely that will get to Triple A at some point this season. Will the Phils assign him there in April? We'll see.

EDGAR GARCIA

Last year, Seranthony Dominguez got everyone's attention during his first trip to big-league camp. In May, he was called to the majors and quickly became Gabe Kapler's favorite bullpen weapon.

Garcia might be able to make a similar rise in 2019. The 22-year-old right-hander was added to the 40-man roster in November after recording a 3.64 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 52 games at Double A and Triple A in 2018. In 64⅓ innings, he struck out 72 batters, walked 27 and held opposing hitters to a .206 batting average.

Like Dominguez, whose fastball can reach triple digits, Garcia has a dominant pitch — a slider that ranks among the best in the organization. Given the way the Phillies run young relievers back and forth between Triple A and the majors, it would not be surprising to see Garcia in Philadelphia at some point this season. For now, he heads to his first big-league camp.

DEIVI GRULLON and AUSTIN LISTI

Two for the price of one here. We're looking forward to seeing both of these guys swing the bat in big-league camp. Grullon profiles as the organization's Triple A catcher and he's got some power in his bat. He hit 21 homers at Double A Reading last season.

Listi, an outfielder/DH type, hit .312 with 25 doubles, 18 homers and a .915 OPS between Clearwater and Reading last season. He reached base 41 percent of the time. Listi is 25 so he needs to move quickly, but he has a very intriguing bat. A Triple A test seems likely.

SPENCER HOWARD

This guy will be in minor-league camp but he's worth checking out because of the improvement he made last season and the buzz he has created with other teams. As the Phillies probed trade markets this winter, Howard was one of the guys rival teams wanted in return and the Phils were reluctant to move him.

Howard, 22, is a 6-3, 205-pound right-hander. He was the team's second-round pick (45th overall) out of Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo in 2017. He pitched at Single A Lakewood in 2018 and had a 3.78 ERA in 23 starts. In 112 innings, he allowed 101 hits, struck out 147 and walked 40. He finished his season with a nine-strikeout, one-walk no-hitter in the South Atlantic League playoffs.

Scouts love Howard's pure "stuff." During the 2018 season, he added velocity to his fastball and reached the high-90s at times, and his slider is an excellent pitch. Over 32 pro starts, he has averaged 12 strikeouts per nine innings.

It wouldn't be surprising to see Howard tested in Double A at some point in the 2018 season.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on you device.

More on the Phillies

Phillies to sign Matt Szczur, according to sources

Phillies to sign Matt Szczur, according to sources

The Phillies are about to sign a player with a resume chock-full of impressive — and important — accomplishments.

According to sources, Matt Szczur, the 30-year-old outfielder from South Jersey, has agreed to sign a minor-league contract with the Phils. The deal will include an invite to major-league spring training camp.

Szczur — pronounced SEE-zur — has spent parts of five seasons in the majors with the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres. He is a product of Lower Cape May Regional High School and Villanova University. He was a two-sport star at Villanova.

On the football field, Szczur was a dynamic receiver and return specialist for Villanova’s 2009 NCAA FCS national championship team. He racked up 270 all-purpose yards in the title game win over Montana and was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player.

On the baseball field, Szczur was an all-Big East player and a fifth-round draft pick of the Cubs in 2010. He played in 107 games for the Cubs team that won the World Series in 2016.

Szczur’s accomplishments extend beyond the playing field.

Off the field, he did something extraordinary when he took time off from his junior year baseball season at Villanova in 2010 to donate bone marrow that ultimately helped save the life of a young girl from Ukraine who had battled leukemia. Szczur’s life-saving gift started with his involvement in the Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation. Talley was Szczur’s football coach at Villanova. Szczur has subsequently started his own charitable enterprise, the Szcz The Day Foundation.

Szczur hit .259 with five homers and 24 RBIs in 185 at-bats for the World Series champion Cubs in 2016. He was traded to San Diego in 2017. He spent parts of that season and the 2018 season in the majors with that club. He signed a minor-league deal with Arizona last season and hit .322 with eight homers, 28 RBIs and a .967 OPS in 44 games at Triple A Reno. His season was shortened by a quad injury.

The Phillies are set at the corner outfield spots with Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper and Adam Haseley is going to get a chance to hold down the center field spot with Roman Quinn in the picture as well. Szczur will give the Phillies some outfield depth and his ability to play center field is a plus. He is an excellent defender at all three outfield positions and could push for a spot on the big club as active rosters will expand from 25 to 26 men in 2020.

Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

More on the Phillies

Winter meetings complete, what’s next for Phillies?

Winter meetings complete, what’s next for Phillies?

SAN DIEGO — A year ago, Phillies officials left the winter meetings with much of their offseason work still in front of them.
 
Manny Machado was still a front-burner free-agent item. Bryce Harper was still in the background and J.T. Realmuto was headed to Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, New York … anywhere but Philadelphia.
 
You know the rest of the story.
 
Spring training had already begun by the time the Phillies settled their offseason last year. A year later, Phillies officials departed the winter meetings on Thursday with their heavy offseason lifting complete.

The Phils signed free-agent pitcher Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million contract last week and free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius to a one-year, $14 million deal at the meetings this week. The signings left the Phils about $5 million under the $208 million luxury-tax threshold for the coming season and the club will be mindful of that. It’s likely — though not certain — that any further moves the Phillies make will qualify as tweaks.
 
Here are a few things to keep an eye on over the remainder of the offseason.

The starting rotation

Aaron Nola and Wheeler give the Phillies a “1 and a 1-A,” as manager Joe Girardi said.

Jake Arrieta is healthy and will be ready to go Day 1 of camp and Zach Eflin will hold down a job. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez are slated to battle for the fifth job, though it would not be surprising to see the Phils bring back Drew Smyly on a minor-league deal to join the fight. The Phils were keeping an eye on Rick Porcello to see where his market was headed, but he signed for one year and $10 million with the Mets. Lefty Wade Miley could be someone to keep an eye on, depending where his market goes. The Phils are committed to having top prospect Spencer Howard start the season in Triple A, but he could have a major impact as the season goes on. The Phils will watch Howard’s workload — because of injury, he pitched under 100 innings last year — so adding bargain depth is a must.

The bullpen

At the moment, it looks like a fairly unchanged unit. The Phils are banking on Adam Morgan and Seranthony Dominguez being healthy again and Hector Neris, Jose Alvarez and Ranger Suarez carrying a heavy load again. Pivetta, Velasquez or both could be used in the ‘pen, depending on the depth that is added in the rotation. If the Phils want to push the tax, they could make a play for former Yankee Dellin Betances. Someone from the system like Garrett Cleavinger or Connor Brogdon could surprise in spring training. How about Tommy Hunter? The Phils put a lot of time into his rehab after elbow surgery last year. Could he be a fit on a bargain deal? Ditto for Jared Hughes and Mike Morin.

The bench

Former All-Star and .300 hitter Josh Harrison has been signed on a minor-league deal. He can play anywhere and figures to have a good chance to make the club. Phil Gosselin, another jack of all trades, is coming back on a minor-league deal and the team has shown some interest in free agent Matt Szczur. Brad Miller remains a free agent and a potentially good fit. Jay Bruce will add power off the bench. Andrew Knapp returns as backup catcher but it would not be surprising to see the Phils sign one or two more veteran catchers to push for work and add depth. Remember, Girardi has said he’d like to keep Realmuto to between 120 and 130 games so he is fresh in October. “That’s where the prize is,” Girardi said. Austin Romine would have been a nice fit, but he signed with Detroit. 

Trades

While it appears as if most of the team’s major moves are done, general manager Matt Klentak and his group will continue to stay engaged on the trade front and you never know if one could materialize. Nick Williams could be dealt. Miami has long liked him. Velasquez could be dealt for some salary relief, particularly if the Phils are able to add starting pitching depth. The Phils would surely listen on Jean Segura, but he has three years and $45 million left on his deal so that would not be easy.
 
Could the Phils make a major trade?
 
After seeing the Realmuto deal come together so quickly last February, it can’t be ruled out. Even something crazy is possible. By crazy we mean Kris Bryant. Yes, he’d be a nice fit as the Phils make a quick push at a title before he becomes a free agent. But it’s a real long shot and it would probably cost top prospect Alec Bohm, and it would definitely push the Phillies over the luxury tax threshold, though managing partner John Middleton has said he would go over it for the right championship-caliber opportunity. Maybe that’s Bryant. There will continue to be buzz about him and the Phillies will continue to be connected to him as long as there is.
 
J.A. Happ could be another guy to watch on the trade front. The Phils made him an offer last winter and he signed with the Yankees. The Yanks are now eager to move his $17 million salary and might attach a good prospect to the package to help make the deal. Happ would put the Phillies over the tax, but, given the Phils’ need for more pitching, it might it be worth rolling the dice on the left-hander having a bounce-back year if and only if the Yanks attach a good prospect or two to the deal. 

What about Herrera?

The end of the winter meetings begins to put spring training in focus and the Phillies have a big decision to make before then: Do they bring Odubel Herrera to camp? Do they release him? The Phils would eat most of his salary to trade him, but there has been no interest.
 
We dealt with the Herrera situation more deeply in this story.

Realmuto's extension

Sometime before spring training, the Phils are expected to pursue a contract extension with Realmuto.

Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

More on the Phillies