Phillies Mailbag: Kimbrel, Nola's strange start, national media attention

Phillies Mailbag: Kimbrel, Nola's strange start, national media attention

With the Phillies off again, let's open up the mailbag and try to answer some questions after their 4-1 start. Questions from Twitter:

@pinkrenee16: Will the Phillies do anything with their bullpen? That's been the weakness the past couple games.

David Robertson's issues in his first three games are confounding. They're uncommon for him. He's been an excellent late-inning reliever for most of his career, he's succeeded in high-pressure environments, he's remained effective into his 30s, he has a strong track record in April, and after Wednesday's meltdown he called it "three of the worst outings I've put together."

All that to say, Robertson probably will not continue to struggle. Two months from now, we could be looking at a reliever rattling off zeroes, with the early-season issues just a blip on the radar. Early-season performance is always overrated both ways. When a player starts hot, fans see no ceiling. When a new player starts off poorly, it's assumed it will continue and he wasn't worth the money. If he had these three appearances in mid-June, it would not cause the same stir.

Craig Kimbrel is still out there. But Kimbrel is still going to cost the Phillies something in the $15 million range, which would put them right up against the luxury tax threshold and could impact their ability to add more at midseason. Exceeding the threshold just isn't a consideration this year. It's meaningful because of the repeater tax, which increases the percentage a team pays when it's over the luxury tax multiple years in a row. You don't want to start that process until you absolutely have to.

Kimbrel has been baseball's most effective closer since Mariano Rivera, but he did show some warning signs last season. He struggled with control all year, including the playoffs. The previous version of Kimbrel would help every team in baseball, and so would the 2018 version, but with him out of game action for so long now ... which Kimbrel are you really getting?

@phishflyers: What's up with Aaron Nola?

Two uncharacteristic outings to start Nola's season. He walked a career-high five on opening day and allowed a career-high three home runs Wednesday.

On opening day, Nola was squeezed, and he was able to maneuver around the walks to allow just one run in six innings. 

On Wednesday, his lack of command was not competitive. He wasn't missing by just a hair. He was missing over the plate, and his fastball lacked its trademark bite. 

The guy is allowed a misstep like that. It was the first time in 38 starts that Nola allowed more than four runs. No active pitcher had a longer streak.

If it happens again in his next start, if the fastball looks the same, then it will be time to reassess.

@harrygk83: Will the non-Philly media ever focus on anything but the few people who boo?

It's annoying to me, too. But this is the reality: As long as Philly fans get worked up and respond to stuff like this, national outlets will continue to do it. It generates engagement, the buzz word every news outlet loves.

If an article came out about Philly fans booing and the fanbase collectively decided, "You know what, piss off" and ignored it, then eventually, I do think it would stop.

But it always leads to passionate replies and tons of pageviews for these places. So they continue to do it, while looking at each other in their offices and saying, "You believe these replies?"

@WyldeRhoads: With Roman Quinn coming back soon, who goes down?

wrote about this earlier with Quinn's rehab assignment beginning Thursday, but I think inevitably it will be a trade or DFA of Aaron Altherr. It would leave the Phillies thin in center field if Quinn is injured again, but trading Nick Williams for 30 cents on the dollar doesn't make any sense right now, especially with him being your first bat off the bench.

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

AP Images

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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