Phillies

Eight years later, the one that got away comes back to haunt the Phillies

Eight years later, the one that got away comes back to haunt the Phillies

DENVER – If things had worked out differently eight years ago, lefty Kyle Freeland might have pitched six shutout innings for the Phillies instead of against them on Thursday night.

Freeland’s work on the mound and Ryan McMahon’s work at the plate (five RBIs on a pair of homers) backboned the Colorado Rockies’ 6-2 win over the Phillies at Coors Field (see observations).

Zach Eflin pitched well before an error by shortstop Scott Kingery, a base hit and a three-run homer turned the game in the Rockies’ favor in the sixth inning.

Save for a two-run homer by J.T. Realmuto in the seventh, the Phillies’ bats did little in one of the best places to hit in baseball. Four of the Phils’ five hits were singles and one of those was an infield hit.

The top four hitters in the Phillies’ lineup were 0 for 14.

After the game, manager Gabe Kapler tipped his cap to the Rockies’ starting pitcher.

“I think the story was Freeland,” Kapler said. “He was really good. He really commanded the inside part of the plate. He made it very difficult for us to get anything going. We weren’t able to score any runs. It’s tough to score two runs and win in this ballpark.”

Freeland was one of the game’s breakout pitchers last season. He went 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA in 33 starts and finished fourth in National League Cy Young voting. He’d started against the Phillies once in 2017, but had to come out in the first inning with a groin injury. He entered this start 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA on the new season, but clearly did his homework on the Phillies. He gave up just two hits, walked none and struck out seven.

“I noticed when I started watching video two days ago that they have guys with big leg kicks and they’re trying to get the perfect timing with the pitcher,” he said. “It’s kind of easy to start messing with their timing.”

Freeland did that by varying the interval of the hesitation in his delivery.

“I can hold that for a whole inning,” he said of the pause on his leg kick.

Freeland, who turns 26 in May, actually has a significant connection to the Phillies. He was selected by the Phils in the 35th round of the 2011 draft as a high school senior out of the Denver area. Freeland opted not to sign. He attended the University of Evansville and in 2014 was drafted in the first round by the Rockies. He was picked eighth overall, one slot behind Aaron Nola, and received a $2.3 million signing bonus from the Rockies.

Had Freeland signed with the Phillies out of high school, he and Nola might now be teammates.

And the Phillies would have a lefty in their rotation.

“The Phillies picked me as a draft-and-follow so I continued to play summer ball that year then they offered at the end of the summer,” Freeland said. “We couldn’t get to the price point that I wanted. It was a tough decision for me. I wanted to go play pro ball. I also had a great offer on the table to go play for Evansville and I think it’s safe to say I made the right choice.”

Freeland would not say how far apart he and the Phillies were back in 2011. But he did mention how much the Phils had on the table.

“You’re 18 years old and you have someone throwing a quarter of a million dollars at you,” he said. “I really didn’t know anyone who had been through the process so it was hard for me to lean on anybody. So it was a decision I had to make on my own and I’ve never had any regrets.

“But at the time it was tough. One thing that was nice is going to college I had three years where I knew I was going to play where as going into pro ball as a 35th rounder, if you don’t pan out in the first season and a half you might get canned.

“I made the right decision.”

It's difficult to argue with that.

Nonetheless, the Phillies sure would like to have had Kyle Freeland on their side Thursday night. What might have been.

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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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