Phillies

Phillies pitching prospect Zach Warren has a dirty car but a bright future

Phillies pitching prospect Zach Warren has a dirty car but a bright future

Every one of the 15 minor-league prospects that the Phillies have invited to big-league spring training camp has a story.

Zach Warren’s is unique because (in his heart) he was a Phillie before he was technically a Phillie.

Warren grew up in Vineland, New Jersey, in the “glory era,” as he correctly called it, when the Phillies were racking up National League East titles, going to two World Series and winning one of them. Young Zach rooted for Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, but his eye always drifted toward the work being done by Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, not surprising because Warren was a left-handed pitcher on the rise in those days.

After successful runs at St. Augustine Prep in South Jersey and the University of Tennessee, Warren is still a pitcher on the rise. Three strong seasons in the Phillies’ minor-league system earned him an invite to major-league spring training camp next month in Clearwater.

At the Phillies’ prospect-education seminar last week at Citizens Bank Park, Warren recalled the pinch-me moment when he got the phone call from Josh Bonifay, the Phillies director of player development, telling him he’d been invited to big-league camp, and following up that thrilling news with a phone call to his dad, Geoff.

“I had dropped off my car to be worked on in Vineland the day before,” Zach recalled with a laugh, “and my dad was a little unhappy because it was dirty and had no gas. I told him the news and that cheered him up.”

Warren, 23, is one of a handful of left-handed relievers coming to big-league camp on non-roster invites. Most, if not all, will open the season in the minor leagues, but team officials, including new manager Joe Girardi and new pitching coach Bryan Price, clearly want to get a look at what they have for future reference. The Phillies, under general manager Matt Klentak, have been aggressive running relievers in and out from the minors so it’s likely several of these relievers will get a shot in the majors this season. And if they throw strikes and get outs – well, they’ll stick around.

Warren, 6-5 and 200 pounds, was selected in the 14th round of the 2017 draft. He features a mid-90s fastball, a slider and a changeup. He has racked up double-digit strikeouts-per-nine innings in each of his three pro seasons. He spent the last two seasons working late in the game, including closer, at Lakewood and Clearwater. In 116 2/3 innings the last two seasons, he allowed just 76 hits and 34 earned runs (2.62 ERA) while striking out 180 and walking 66.

The 2020 season will be a prove-it one for Warren. He projects to make the jump to Double A Reading and be an important part of that club’s bullpen. Double A is the level where they separate the men from the boys. Have success at the level and you can rise quickly to the majors.

“I’m not thinking too far in advance, where I’m going to be and things like that,” said Warren, showing a healthy perspective. “All I can control is working on what I need to work on to get better and becoming the best player I can be. My ideal blueprint for this season is to make strides and get better and help my team win games and get to the playoffs.”

First-timers in big-league camp are like sponges. They soak up the experience and try to learn from the players who’ve walked the miles they hope to one day walk. Warren has a healthy respect for Adam Morgan, another lefty reliever and SEC product from the University of Alabama, and is eager to speak with him.

“I want to learn from Adam Morgan,” Warren said. “He was up as a starter and had to go to the minors to learn, adapt and change, and he developed and got back. I think there’s a ton I could learn from someone like that.

“I’m just looking forward to learning from everybody. I think it’s going to be a great experience and I can’t wait to get down there and get going.”

With a clean car and a full tank of gas, of course.

 

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Phillies will unveil a new-look Phanatic on Sunday

Phillies will unveil a new-look Phanatic on Sunday

CLEARWATER, Fla. — You might have heard that slugger Rhys Hoskins made some changes to his batting stance and swing over the winter.

Hoskins isn't the only prominent Phillie who made some adjustments in the off-season.

Word around Phillies spring training camp is that the Phanatic has made a few alterations himself. Fans will get a peek at the Big Green Guy's new look Sunday when the Phillies host the Pittsburgh Pirates at Spectrum Field. Aaron Nola will be the Phillies' starting pitcher, Hoskins will be in the lineup, and, yes, the game will be televised on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Don't fret, Phanatic fans. 

The lovable ol' whatever-he-is is still green, still furry and still funny as all get-out, thanks to the comic "personality" that has been developed over 41 years by Tom Burgoyne and before him, David Raymond. That Phanatic will still race around the ballpark on his four-wheeler, shoot hot dogs toward the sky, shine the head of bald guys and torment players in the visiting dugout.

But his shoes might different. 

Socks, too.

Some of his measurements may be different. (The result of some off-season work in the weight room, perhaps?)

There are apparently other creative changes, as well, but we'll all just have to see for ourselves when the Phanatic joins one of his biggest fans, Bryce Harper, on the field Sunday.

Changes are nothing new for the Phanatic. His shape, markings and attire have evolved over the years and "evolve" is probably the right word because, according to the Phillies media guide, he was born in the Galapagos Islands, the place that helped Charles Darwin form his theory of evolution.

The changes to the Phanatic's look come as the team is embroiled in a lawsuit with Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison, who were hired to design the original Phanatic costume back in the late-1970s.

The Phillies purchased rights to the Phanatic in 1984, but federal law allows artists to renegotiate rights to their work after 35 years.

In 2018, Erickson and Harrison informed the Phillies that they would seek to wrest the rights to the Phanatic away from the team unless it paid them millions. Last year, the Phillies filed a lawsuit against Erickson and Harrison in New York federal court to keep their beloved mascot. The Phillies contend that the Phanatic's four-decade rise from a costume to a Philadelphia sports and cultural icon is the result of their own creative forces and investment and therefore makes the creature property of the team.

The Phillies' rights to the Phanatic will expire on June 15, but the club is hoping the latest round of creative changes will be enough to legally continue its use of the Phanatic.

Legal feuds involving the rights to characters like the Phanatic are not new. There have been notable disputes over the rights to Winnie the Pooh and Paddington Bear.

Citing litigation, Phillies officials have declined comment on the matter for months and did so again this week.

But enough with all this legalese.

Rev up the four-wheeler. Can't wait for Sunday and the big reveal. 

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How many of MLB's $100 million men actually lived up to the contract?

How many of MLB's $100 million men actually lived up to the contract?

What percentage of baseball players who signed a contract of at least $100 million actually lived up to it?

Take a guess and remember the number you picked.

With J.T. Realmuto's arbitration hearing in the rearview mirror, the conversation shifts to his next contract. Barring some cataclysmic development, Realmuto's next deal will exceed $100 million.

Back in September, I predicted five years, $112.5 million.

Realmuto is expected to seek in the neighborhood of $23 million per season, matching Joe Mauer’s record salary for a catcher, over a five- or six-year deal. (Five years at $23 million a pop would be $115 million.)

In general, contracts this large miss more often than they hit. We went back through all the contracts of at least $100 million that were signed through 2017 to put an actual number on it. What is the success rate?

Excluded here are players who signed their contracts in 2018, '19 or '20. Too early to judge. You won't see Bryce Harper or Zack Wheeler below for that reason. The list runs through 2017 and includes 67 players.

A lot of these deals were memorably bad. That's the reality of a gargantuan contract that, for so long in baseball's history, went to a player for past performance more than future projection.

Recall the percentage you picked.

The number is 30%. Yep, 7 out of 10 deals of at least $100 million went south. Some of you might think that sounds high, some low. Here is the full list. A few are arguable.

Yes (20)

Mike Trout (2015-20)
Albert Pujols (2004-10)
Freddie Freeman
Miguel Cabrera (2008-15)
Derek Jeter
Max Scherzer
Clayton Kershaw
Justin Verlander
Felix Hernandez
Todd Helton
Kevin Brown
Buster Posey (?)
CC Sabathia
Carlos Beltran
Matt Holliday
Cole Hamels
Zack Greinke
Jon Lester (?)
Masahiro Tanaka
Manny Ramirez

Posey and Lester underperformed during long portions of their deals but they were also pivotal players on championship teams. Hamels and Holliday are right on the fringe.

No (47)

Kyle Seager
Evan Longoria
Ryan Zimmerman
Ryan Braun
Homer Bailey
Justin Upton
Jose Reyes
Yoenis Cespedes
Dustin Pedroia
Jordan Zimmermann
Ken Griffey Jr.
Cliff Lee
Elvis Andrus
Mike Hampton
CC Sabathia
Josh Hamilton
Ryan Howard
Yu Darvish
Jayson Werth
Vernon Wells
Barry Zito
Matt Cain
Johnny Cueto
Shin-Soo Choo
Alfonso Soriano
Johan Santana
David Wright
Carl Crawford
Eric Hosmer
Jacoby Ellsbury
Adrian Gonzalez
Troy Tulowitzki
Matt Kemp
Chris Davis
Mark Teixeira
Jason Heyward
Joe Mauer
Prince Fielder
David Price
Joey Votto
Jason Giambi
Robinson Cano
Albert Pujols (current deal)
Miguel Cabrera (current deal)
Alex Rodriguez
Giancarlo Stanton
Carlos Lee

Most of these deals were justifiable at the time. Some, like Chris Davis, Homer Bailey, Elvis Andrus and Vernon Wells were viewed immediately with skepticism.

A few — Votto, Teixeira — could go either way. Votto has been productive throughout his Reds career but the power has almost completely disappeared. Would the Reds have paid him $225 million if they knew that he'd miss as many All-Star games as he'd make throughout the deal and that by Year 6 he'd be a .280 singles hitter with a high OBP? He's been really good but this underscores how hard it is to live up to such a deal.

The two catchers above are Posey and Mauer. Posey, by 31, was a shell of himself offensively. This is the risk you run with elite catchers. The wear-and-tear catches up. Mauer didn't deliver either. He played well during his eight-year, $184 million contract but by Year 5, his catching days were over, and a lot of his value was tied to his position.

And as Phillies fans experienced with Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard, unpredictable injuries can ruin the party as well.

The Phillies still have to re-sign Realmuto. They traded their top prospect for him a year ago and he'd be impossible to replace during a win-now period. The Phillies did not trade for Realmuto to have him for two years. They did it to have him for closer to eight years.

Beyond that, Realmuto looks like a solid bet to deliver on his next contract because of his elite defense and an offensive skill set that is among the two or three best at his position. His well-roundedness should make the Phils feel better about the money they have to pay. It's not as if Realmuto's game is all about power, or all about defense, or all about speed, and slippage in one area would sap him of his effectiveness. He is valuable in every phase and that value is only enhanced by his intangibles.

Just don't ignore the precedent above. Three out of 10 is good enough to get you in the Hall of Fame, but it's definitely not a high hit rate when it comes to nine-figure deals.

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