Phillies latest loss underscores a not-so-secret problem

Dylan Cozens / Photo by: Lauren McLaughlin

The Phillies lost 8-2 to the Dodgers on Wednesday night, a game that never really seemed winnable for the boys. Zach Eflin (4 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 5 K, 1 BB) just couldn’t keep the ball in the yard while the Phils didn’t get much going against Ross Stripling.

Now they’ll try to split the series against Los Angeles, which would be great. Honestly, a split against the Dodgers – no matter how poorly they’re playing – is what you want.

But the loss underscored a key issue the Phils have been facing recently: lack of depth. They don’t have to remedy it as soon as possible, but we should keep it in mind when expecting playoffs from this group, because maybe it’ll help us come back to earth a little.


On Tuesday night the Phillies lost Pedro Florimon to a foot injury, so they did what I figured they’d do: call up Mitch Walding and put Jerad Eickhoff on the 60-day disabled list.

Walding’s major league career started as badly as any hitter’s: 0-for-4, four strikeouts. Frankly I’m surprised Gabe Kapler penciled him in. On Tuesday night he was in Allentown. He flew across the country, had to acclimate himself quickly to the clubhouse (it wasn’t like he was in big league camp for very long this spring), then had to get right into the mix at Dodger Stadium, a pretty cool place to start a career. I know Kapler wanted Maikel Franco to get a day off, but why not start Jesmuel Valentin at third? Or Kingery, then move Valentin to shortstop? Anyway, felt rushed.

Now, Walding won’t be getting many more plate appearances, I gather, since J.P. Crawford is coming back shortly. But we just found out Wednesday that Rhys Hoskins has a fractured jaw, so now he’s on the disabled list. Getting the call is slugger Dylan Cozens, the 24-year-old who can hit the long ball but can also strike out a lot (hitting .226/.325/.440 with 10 HR, 75 K, 25 BB in 168 AB).

Maybe it’ll work out really well, and Cozens turns into some version of Aaron Judge and we’ll curse the front office for not bringing him up earlier or something. But more likely Cozens will be further exposed in the majors. He seems like a quad-A type, like a Darin Ruf type (though Cozens does have actual defensive skill in the outfield and is faster than most sluggers), and to me, that just shows how little depth the Phils have right now.

And that’s a big reason why I’m not sold on this team being a playoff contender.

What if Cesar Hernandez goes down? Well, imagine Crawford is back, which means Scott Kingery slides to second base. But what’s beyond that? Valentin for now, but the Phils currently have Alexi Amarista and Dean Anna in triple-A. Not exactly intimidating.

The outfield situation is troubling, too. Cozens was on the 40-man roster, so he got the call once there was a pseudo-starting spot open. But what if, say, Aaron Altherr gets hurt (which happens sometimes)?  Then we’re talking about Danny Ortiz, a 28-year-old with 12 major league at-bats to his name.

Catching is even worse. Say Jorge Alfaro is hurt; Andrew Knapp would obviously start, which isn’t a great option but has to happen. Who’s next? Nick Rickles? Matt McBride? Hard workers, good guys, but never proven at the major league level.

The pitching staff is in better shape, since there’s still a decent crop of prospects and semi-prospects bubbling underneath the majors, from Enyel de Los Santos to Cole Irvin to Tom Eshelman, to the ever-present Drew Anderson, Ben Lively and Jake Thompson. I’d imagine one or two more poor starts from Eflin means one of those above guys gets a chance to prove himself in the fifth-starter spot.

The Phils didn’t run out there and nab offensive role-player types over the offseason, only focusing on a big-ticket name like Carlos Santana. That’s fine for now, because the goal should be figuring out who among this group can compete on a major league roster. Is Walding good enough? What about Cozens? Valentin, Nick Williams, Scott Kingery – even some of the bigger prospects are still trying out for a future spot.

This is the time to test roster depth. The roster is designed to fall apart a little bit. Maybe something great comes of it, but more than likely we’re about to watch a couple young players flail and fail at the highest level. Again, that’s fine. Because this team was always shooting more for 2019 and 2020 than it was right now.



  1. Vernon Dozier

    May 31, 2018 at 8:57 am

    I’m looking forward to seeing Altherr and Williams playing everyday for a while…I’m not really concerned with roster depth at this point.

    #BeBold #ElTorito

  2. Rabbi

    May 31, 2018 at 10:11 am

    I my mind, the Phils’ biggest problem is still the offense. I just don’t get it. Gabe and the coaching staff have adopted a philosophy of throwing high heat to the opponents. It’s a good philosophy, as most batters have trouble with high fastballs. The confusion comes from the fact that our own batters also have big problems with high cheese, and yet every night, nearly everyone in the line-up flails away at the above-the-belt fastball — with no good results. The hitting philosophy need to take a cue from the pitching philosophy. I always harken back to Sarge’s mantra as a hitting coach — swing at low fastballs and high cruveballS, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND!!!!!

  3. tom g

    May 31, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    As long as the injuries are not career threatening, I like seeing extended time for some young players.
    Cozens especially !
    He can become trade bait, a potential tool, or whither…any which way, nice to know!
    We have AB’s to give Williams and Altherr

  4. Craig Glessner

    May 31, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    Do you remember the last Mlb team to go through a 162 game schedule without an injury? ThatSARCASM.

  5. Les

    May 31, 2018 at 4:50 pm

    Ownership is terrible, should not have traded Freddy. or Rupp Knapp is the worse can’t hit should not have rested Franco last night stupid move, this team needs a hitting coach, play Herrera Williams and give Cousins a shot and quit moving the players around in the batting order maybe that has something to do with there batting averages

  6. Vernon Dozier

    June 1, 2018 at 9:37 am

    Aaron Altherr has now continued the Phillies’ 2018 tradition of basically no production from the two hole by going 0-4 last night. For the season, Phillies two hole hitters have slashed .152/.275/.260 for an OPS of .534. The OPS of batters hitting ninth is .570.

    The Phillies finished May with 31 wins. Last season they won their 31st game on July 18, which was a week after the All Star game.

    #BeBold #ElTorito

    • Ken Bland

      June 1, 2018 at 4:39 pm

      Without question, the 2 hole production to date is problematic.

      No denying that.

      On the less dim side, the OBP, still not good, is a lot less alarming at .275, and the BABIP, at .186 matches up with Kapler’s comments about how unlucky Santana’s been. The K rate out of this spot in the order is good, which, outdated as this thinking might be to the new kids on the block, is good since it means guys are putting balls in play.

      If you base this YTD situation and resolve that lineup changes may lend to improvement, it’s not real encouraging that only 1,3 and 4 are performing well. The 4 hole shows well because Hoskins was up in that spot, and Santana, upon replacing him there picked his poor start up. There are limited options, and if nothing is done, the worst is in arrears, and it will get better. No way it can’t.

      Of course there is one fast solution to it. Bring the Manny Machado trade rumors to reality, and bat him 2nd. But that’s a much more involved consideration than just improving a spot in the batting order.

      • Vernon Dozier

        June 1, 2018 at 8:34 pm

        Last year their two hole hitters slashed .280/.346/.425 for an OPS of .770. The most frequent player batting there was our old friend Freddy Galvis, who hit .272/.327/.379 while hitting second.

        Yeah I’d love Machado, but not at the price it will take to get him. I’m sure they’ll want Kingery and Dominguez just as a starting point.

  7. Vernon Dozier

    June 2, 2018 at 11:00 am

    This offense is definitely tough to watch sometimes. Stratton had an ERA over six in May to go along with a 1.75 WHIP and he looked like an All Star against the Phillies. They’ve now struck out over ten times in six consecutive games, which is a franchise record. Ouch.

    #BeBold #ElTorito

  8. teejayvee

    June 2, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    Depth is not the main problem. That implies the starters are good. Now that Herrera has gone in the tank, there is no place Gabe can turn for offensive production.

    • Vernon Dozier

      June 2, 2018 at 6:02 pm

      Herrera’s had a rough two weeks, but he’ll be fine. The reality of the situation is that this team is only doing as well as they have so far because of their pitching. When they allow more than two runs, their record is 10-21.

      They’ll probably end up around .500, which is quite a jump from last season – but there’s never been a point where I’ve looked at them as a playoff team for 2018.

      #BeBold #ElTorito

  9. teejayvee

    June 2, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    What does ‘he’ll be fine’ mean? .280 with 15 homers? Please. Come on, somebody in the OF has to put up some numbers. That ain’t cuttin it.

    • Vernon Dozier

      June 3, 2018 at 2:28 am

      Since when are BA & HRs the go to metrics to evaluate a player’s performance? Is this 1968? He’s led the team in WAR each of the past three seasons and he’s on track to do it again this year. He also leads the team with a 136 wRC+. He’s 11th in the NL in wRC+ and 13th in WAR. Of all the team’s offensive problems, you actually think he’s guy to single out? Really?

      #BeBold #ElTorito

  10. teejayvee

    June 3, 2018 at 7:28 pm

    I’m not singling him out, just pointing out that he isn’t doing anything either. HE may lead this team in offensive stats but that isn’t saying much.

  11. Ken Bland

    June 6, 2018 at 11:32 am

    The most unfavorable pitching matchup of the Cub series in on the W side, the first chapter of the post Arietta commentary is in the books. Degree of connection between the 2? I’d guess pretty big, but such things are hard to left to a lot of conjectural thinking. Not to mention the test of time spelled a lot longer than 1 game.

    But nearly 2 calendar days after the comments, my initial reaction appears way, way off base. I thought Jake would face consequences for taking his plight to the press. Be it a fine, or a good talking to (actually at, not to, but why play faves among propositions), I also felt Carlos Santana should, if not would, face some putting in his place for his ridiculous base running (or lack of same) Sunday. If anything happened in either case, public disclosure’s escaped me.

    I guess the question out of it is back in the day, would club/manager and fan reaction have been different and have made my initial thought less unique than it seems.

    But what singly matters are the results of both going forward. Since Pat Neshek got Kapler’s ear early on about his overuse of the pen with a lot of success, maybe Jake going to the media winds up productive as well.

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