Phillies to bring top prospects Spencer Howard, Alec Bohm and a slew of relievers to big-league camp

Phillies to bring top prospects Spencer Howard, Alec Bohm and a slew of relievers to big-league camp

The Phillies will get a look at their top two minor-league prospects in big-league spring training camp next month in Clearwater, Florida.

Starting pitching Spencer Howard and third baseman Alec Bohm are among 15 minor-leaguers from the Phillies system that have received invites to big-league camp, the club announced Monday.

Howard and Bohm are both expected to open 2020 at Triple A, but they could impact the big club during the season.

In addition to Howard and Bohm, the Phillies will bring a deep group of relievers into big-league camp. The Phils have so far made no significant additions to their bullpen this winter and will be looking for contributors to emerge. 

Pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 11.

The Phillies previously invited veteran position players Josh Harrison, Matt Szczur, Phil Gosselin, Mikie Mahtook, Ronald Torreyes, T.J. Rivera and Christian Bethancourt to big-league camp. All signed minor-league contracts in recent weeks.

Members of the 40-man roster who will attend their first big-league camp include pitchers Mauricio Llovera, JoJo Romero, Garrett Cleavinger and Cristopher Sanchez. Llovera, Romero and Cleavinger could all get looks in the bullpen. The hard-throwing Sanchez, acquired in a minor-league trade with Tampa Bay in November, is slated to work as a starter at Double A Reading.

Here’s a quick look at the 15 players from the organization who have been invited to big-league camp.

Spencer Howard, starting pitcher: The organization’s top pitching prospect. He has a power fastball and the rest of his pitch mix is above average. He has averaged 12 strikeouts per nine innings in his minor-league career. The 23-year-old right-hander is expected to open in Triple A and should be a factor in Philadelphia during the season, though team officials will be mindful of his workload because he has pitched more than 100 innings only once in his pro career.

Alec Bohm, third baseman: He was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft and is ready for Triple A after hitting .305 with 21 homers and 80 RBIs at three levels in 2019. Team officials believe he can play major-league quality defense, but some scouts who’ve seen him believe his future is across the diamond at first base or even in left field. It will be interesting to see if the Phillies move him around the diamond a little in spring training. Like Howard, he could arrive in Philadelphia some time this season.

Mickey Moniak, outfielder: He has not lived up to the hype of being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, but he’s still young (he turns 22 in May) and improving and projects to play in the majors in some role. He played at Double A Reading last season and hit .252 with 28 doubles, 13 triples and 11 homers. This will be his second trip to big-league camp.

Connor Brogdon, relief pitcher: The 6-6 right-hander struck out 12.6 batters per nine innings at three levels in the minors last season and was discussed for a late-season promotion. He will get a chance to open some more eyes in big-league camp and could help the big club in 2020.

Damon Jones, starting pitcher: Lefty was the team’s 18th-round draft pick in 2017 out of Washington State University. He popped on the radar in 2019 with big strikeout totals at High A and Double A before struggling at Triple A.

Addison Russ, relief pitcher: He struck out 12.9 batters per nine innings at Double A Reading in 2019 and has racked up 49 saves the last two seasons. He was a 19th-round pick out of Houston Baptist in 2017.

Austin Listi, first baseman/third baseman/outfielder: He returns to big-league camp for the second year in a row. He has driven in 84 and 83 runs, respectively, the last two seasons, including 50 in 259 at-bats at Triple A last season. 

Tyler Gilbert, relief pitcher: Lefty will attend his second straight big-league camp. He has shown an ability to get lefty hitters out.

Kyle Dohy, relief pitcher: An intriguing, power-armed lefty, he has struck out 13.8 batters per nine innings in his minor-league career.

Zach Warren, relief pitcher: Yet another lefty reliever who has opened eyes with 13.2 strikeouts per nine innings in the minor leagues. Vineland, N.J. native and former Tennessee Vol saw action as a closer at Lakewood and Clearwater last season and should be ready for Double A.

Darick Hall, first baseman: Big, lefty-hitting slugger has 75 homers at the Single A and Double A levels the last three seasons.

Henri Lartigue, catcher: He played at Double A Reading last season.

Nick Maton, shortstop/second baseman: He made it to Double A last season and was named on Baseball America’s list of Top 10 Phillies prospects. He’s from the same Illinois high school as Jayson Werth.

Luke Williams, infielder/outfielder: Third-round draft pick in 2015 played at Double A last season.

Ramon Rosso, starting pitcher: Made 24 starts between Double A and Triple A last season.

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Bryce Harper's Top 5 home runs as a Phillie

Bryce Harper's Top 5 home runs as a Phillie

Today is the one-year anniversary of Bryce Harper's first regular-season home run as a Phillie, a 465-foot solo shot off of former Phils first-round pick Jesse Biddle.

The Phillies swept the Braves in that opening series and Harper went deep in the second and third games. He hit seven of his 35 home runs against the Braves, three more than he had against any other team in 2019.

Let's look back at Harper's top five home runs as a Phillie in Year 1.

1. Walk-off grand slam vs. Cubs (Aug. 15)

You knew this was going to be No. 1. It was probably the top moment of the Phillies' 2019 season.

The Phillies were down 5-3 with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth when Harper sent a 2-2 pitch from lefty Derek Holland into the second deck in right field.

Everything about the moment was great — from the height and majesty of Harper's walk-off grand slam to John Kruk's "Oh my god!" to Tom McCarthy's call.

This win made the Phillies 63-58 and was part of a season-long four-game winning streak. They won four in a row on five different instances but lost the fifth game each time.

Harper has six career walk-off home runs. This was his first since May of 2017.

2. Harper drops the mic in return to D.C. (April 2)

This one didn't affect the outcome of the game like the walk-off grand slam but it was definitely a memorable moment on a night when Harper was booed nonstop.

It was the Phillies' fourth game of the season and they had just swept the Braves. The Nats started Max Scherzer in one of many long, rainy games in D.C. between the Phils and Nats.

Late in the night, with the Phillies already up 6-2, Harper absolutely crushed a Jeremy Hellickson pitch to the second deck in right-center. There were a ton of Phillies fans in attendance and they made up most of the remaining crowd. 

Check out how that section in right field stirs after the crack of the bat.

3. Harper splashes into McCovey Cove for the win (Aug. 9)

Another late-game home run against a left-handed reliever. The Phillies were down 6-5 in the seventh inning in San Francisco when Harper hit a 3-run shot into McCovey Cove against Tony Watson.

It went 456 feet. The Phillies badly needed it because it was their only win in the final six of a seven-game West Coast trip.

This was when Harper was at his hottest. In 20 games from Aug. 5 through Aug. 31, he hit .304 with 10 homers and 24 RBI.

4. Blasting off onto Ashburn Alley (May 18)

This was Harper's longest home run of the year, a 466-footer on a Saturday afternoon to straightaway center field that cleared almost everything and landed on Ashburn Alley.

The Phillies swept the Rockies in this early-season series and emerged 27-19. Remember those days? The Phils' high watermark came 10 days later at 33-22.

5. Bryce beats the Dodgers early and late (July 16)

Probably Harper's best game of the season.

The Phillies jumped on Dodgers ace Walker Buehler for six runs in one of Buehler's worst starts. Harper punctuated the Phillies' second-inning rally with a 458-foot, three-run shot off Buehler on a fastball just over 98 mph. He did even more damage later.

This was one of the Phillies' wildest games of the year. They led 6-1 after three innings but the Dodgers came all the way back and went ahead 8-6 in the top of the ninth. 

With one out in the bottom of the ninth against Kenley Jansen, Andrew Knapp doubled, Cesar Hernandez singled, Scott Kingery drove in a run with an RBI single and Harper hit a walk-off two-run double.

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Delay in MLB season gives Phillies star J.T. Realmuto something to think about

Delay in MLB season gives Phillies star J.T. Realmuto something to think about

At least the Phillies got one full season of J.T. Realmuto.

The Los Angeles Dodgers could end up getting nothing from Mookie Betts.

While there is hope of a Major League Baseball season in 2020, no one knows for sure if one will happen. One-hundred games, 120, 88, zero. No one knows. Our world is at the mercy of this beast called coronavirus and baseball is just a small part of our world.

But baseball is what we do here, so we have to consider these possibilities and one of them is that the popular and talented Realmuto has played his last game with the Phillies.

Last week, Major League Baseball and the Players Association agreed that players would continue to accrue service time during the game's health-related shutdown. This means that established players who are just one season shy of free agency will still arrive at that precious and lucrative destination next offseason, regardless of whether or not there is a 2020 season.

Now, all sides are hopeful that there will be baseball in 2020, and the guess here is that there will indeed be some type of a season. But if this pandemic does not subside and the sport is shuttered for the season, Betts, picked up by the Dodgers in a February trade with the Red Sox, will enter the free-agent market next winter without ever wearing Dodger blue in an official game.

If the sport is shuttered for the year, Realmuto will become a free agent after just one All-Star season with the Phillies. Pitchers Trevor Bauer, James Paxton and Marcus Stroman will all become free agents without throwing a competitive pitch in 2020.

The Phillies have made it clear that they would like to keep Realmuto off the free-agent market. They have long called him the best catcher in baseball and with that praise seems to come an acknowledgment that they’d be willing to give him a multi-year deal with an average annual value of more than $23 million, which would exceed Joe Mauer’s record AAV for a catcher. The Phils had been engaged in talks with Realmuto’s representation about a potential contract extension before spring training camps were shut down earlier this month.

When camps were shut down, health and safety of players, staff and fans became the top priority, and contract negotiations, as a practical matter, were back-burnered. Now, they are officially off the stove as MLB has issued an indefinite freeze on transactions and negotiations.

If and when MLB comes up with a clearer idea of when the season will start, the Phillies will surely engage Realmuto’s side in contract talks again.

But now, a new variable has entered the picture.

The Phillies' best bit of leverage in talks with Realmuto was the season itself, the 162-game grind of the schedule and the risk of injury that all players assume. Suffering an injury in a walk year could seriously impact any player’s earning power in free agency so, in that regard, opening day and the length of the season was seen as an ally for the Phillies.

But what happens if the season is shortened dramatically? A shorter season would not eliminate the risk of injury because injury has no calendar and it does not discriminate Game 25 from Game 152. But, could fewer games be enough of a mitigating factor in Realmuto’s mind that he takes the risk of playing whatever the 2020 season looks like without the security of an extension so he can take his chances on greater free-agent riches in just a few months?

It’s something to think about.

But so is this:

Regardless of whether the 2020 season is simply altered, shortened or canceled altogether, revenues throughout the game are going to shrink, maybe drastically. The shutdown affects everything from ticket sales, to parking, to merchandise and concessional sales. It affects the huge revenues that teams generate through national and local media deals (TV and radio) and sponsorships. Fewer dollars coming in will affect the overall pool and that could impact next winter’s free-agent market in the amount of money that teams have to spend.

So, Realmuto has a few things to think about. Some of it might excite him. Some of it might not.

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