Well, the Phillies are off today – so they can’t lose, right? OK, a bit of a low blow for sure, but this team has been dreadful since its 11-9 start and has been reminiscent of the 2015 debacle that resulted in Ryne Sandberg quitting in the middle of the season and the worst record in baseball.
Since writing about the Phillies makes us nauseous, let’s talk about some real winners that reside in Lehigh Valley. The IronPigs are an astounding 21-3 in their last 24 games, upping their record 35-16 with a comfortable five-game lead over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the International League North. Leading the charges as of late has been right fielder Nick Williams. When will we see Williams in pinstripes?
This is the format we’ll use to gauge Williams’ arrival:
Stats: Their current stats.
Service time: How much time they’ve spent in the majors, which, like it or not, influences the decision on when a player should be brought up. And before you complain about how this makes a franchise look cheap, remember, a team holds a player’s contractual rights for a finite amount of time. After that time, a player can go anywhere. The player may love, love, love his team, but may have a wife that wants to move back home to Chicago. Or the need to be close to one of the best children’s hospitals in the country – a reason the Phillies got Cliff Lee back. The longer the player stays in the minors, the longer the team controls that player’s future, period.
Are they ready?: More than just stats, are they doing the things the franchise has asked from them to do?
Major league hole: Is there a spot to bring them up to without disrupting their development with limited at-bats or a position change?.
Stats: .282/.317/.511, .829 OPS, 10 HR, 31 RBI. These numbers looked very different the last time we spoke to Williams. The 23-year-old has been on fire his last 13 games, hitting .375 with 8 home runs, 19 RBI and an OPS of 1.296.
Service time: We’re close to the Super Two cutoff (the point in the season in which, if a prospect is called up, he wouldn’t be among the top percent of players eligible for four years of arbitration). The Phils have typically played it safe around the cutoff, so imagine the Phils will wait at least another week to call up any new prospects. If, let’s say, the Phils call up Williams after a week from now (and thus pass the cutoff), it’s likely he’ll be under team control until after 2023.
Is he ready?: Not quite yet. After a tepid April and beginning of May, Williams has certainly flipped the switch. That said, it’s going to take more than 13 games to warrant the call. Last year, after a strong first half, Williams was eyeing a September call-up from the Phils, but a dismal August and early September scrapped those plans. Consistency will be the determining factor in the decision to bring up the outfielder. He doesn’t have to bang out eight home runs every 13 games, but keeping his batting average between .270-.300 will prove he’s staying within himself.
Williams also drew five walks in the month of May, compared to just two in April, and he’s hitting .263 against left-handed pitching. Those two important elements of discipline will also be under the microscope when assessing Williams’ game. Playing all three outfield spots also doesn’t hurt his resume either.
Major league hole: As of now, all of the outfield spots are spoken for with Odubel Herrera in center and $21 million manning the corners in Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders. By the time Williams comes up, space should be cleared because of Kendrick’s infield versatility or a trade and Saunders being traded or benched due to poor play. Manager Pete Mackanin will have to juggle playing time between Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams and possibly another likely call-up in speedster Roman Quinn.
Prediction: Williams will get the call in August, after the trade deadline.
Quick updates on Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro
Check all of the boxes for Rhys Hoskins. He’s ready, but he’s blocked of regular playing time by the emerging Tommy Joseph. Hoskins has recorded an RBI in as many May games (28). He’s currently hitting .314/.412/.634 with 13 home runs, 40 RBI and an OPS of 1.045. He won’t be down for long, even if he has to split time at first base with Joseph.
After a hot April, hitting .333 with three home runs and 12 RBI, Jorge Alfaro took a nose-dive in May. He hit just .247 with no home runs and 32 strikeouts in 21 games. Alfaro appears to have some work to do, as he only has drawn three walks in 161 at bats. The catching prospect must clean that up before he steps foot in Philadelphia.