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Philadelphia Phillies Dynasty

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To The Reader

At best, I am a casual observer of Major League Baseball. I follow one team, and I really do not care about the rest. However, the Philadelphia Phillies have always interested me. Back in 2008, the talent that the Phillies had developed and accumulated during their World Series run impressed me. With names like Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, and Ryan Howard, it seemed like the sky was the limit for Philadelphia and they were on the precipice of becoming one of baseball's storied dynasties.

Unfortunately, the Phillies never lived up to what I thought was there potential. Like I said though, I really only follow one team -- not the Phillies -- so I am not quite sure what went wrong. However, I do know that Ruben Amaro Jr. is not the best General Manager in baseball. From what I can gather, it is as-if he brought too deeply into the "playoff window theory," and mortgaged his team's future in order to improve their chances at making, and winning, the World Series. In some ways, it seems as though the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox took the same path -- feeding what Theo Epstein called the "Monster" -- and both turned up empty-handed.

Ben Cherington’s tenure at the helm of the Boston Red Sox, particularly after the famous Dodgers trade involving Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto, has focused primarily on redeveloping Boston’s prospect pipeline that historically brought them much success. It is not hard to imagine 2007 and 2013 never happening if the Red Sox had not developed the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Jon Lester. In many ways, I hope that fictional GM Nicholas (Nick) Hoff can do for the Phillies what Ben Cherington did for the Red Sox.

That’s enough about the direction that I plan to take dynasty for now. It’s time to write about how I plan on doing updates, etc. I will be covering the team as a journalist named John Rawls (of no relation to the philosopher of the same name). Periodically, I will do sit-down interviews with Nicholas Hoff where he will give his thoughts on the team. Otherwise, everything written will be from Rawls’ perspective. Since I find it difficult to multi-task and follow more than one team, Rawls’ writing will focus exclusively on the Phillies. If you want to know about another team in the league, then ask about them. I will be more than happy to oblige your request. Otherwise, the standings and/or league leaders will hardly receive attention.

Moreover, I also plan to take advantage of OOTP 15’s game sound and experimental text-to-speech feature so I can watch (and listen) to every game as it unfolds. While I will set the team’s lineup and strategy, I will never take control of the team or attempt to manipulate a game’s results by abusing the take pitch function, etc. My hope is that doing this will immerse me in the league to the to the point where I feel like a fan (or beat-writer) of an individual team.

I think that covers everything that I wanted to cover. Game settings, for the most part, remain unchanged. I did enable a posting fee for the Korean and Cuban international leagues as well as disable the generation of established international free agents. Other than that, I cannot think of any noteworthy changes that impact gameplay. Anyways, let this be the beginning of a wonderful dynasty and good fortune for the OOTP 15 Philadelphia Phillies!

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Nicholas Hoff wasted no time in making his presence felt around the Phillies front office, as he announced the firing of Director of Scouting Marti Wolever. The casual fan may not know much about Wolever, but the learned fan is very familiar with the Scouting Director’s work as he is the man responsible for drafting Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, and Kyle Kendrick, along with several other established big league players in other organizations.


“It’s a major blow to the organization,” said an anonymous source. “Marti was a great guy, liked by everyone, and real good at his job too.” When asked why Hoff thought it necessary to fire someone well regarded by most in the Phillies organization and across Major League Baseball, Hoff declined to comment. Instead, he chose to announce that Wolever’s replacement had already signed a contract and that nothing would slip through the cracks during the transition from one Director of Scouting to the next.


Replacing Wolever is former Orioles’ General Manager Andy MacPhail. MacPhail, 60, is up there in age but many still consider him one of the wiser minds in the game. While the Orioles never achieved much under his watch, many of Baltimore’s core players acquired under MacPhail’s leadership, including Chris Davis and Adam Jones. “He’s a good choice,” said an anonymous AL executive that previously worked with MacPhail. “When he came into Baltimore, he said, “Okay, we need to stop patching this roster. Let’s start developing our own guys.” It took time, but Baltimore’s now reaping the rewards of his labor.”


That same executive remarked that the Orioles, when they first hired MacPhail, were in a similar position to the one the Phillies are now. In fact, he said, bringing in MacPhail is about his player evaluation skills as much as it is about experience. “You cannot dig the Phillies out of their hole overnight, so to get someone on your side that’s done it before is a big plus.”


How does MacPhail stack up compared to Wolever? First, they have different philosophies when it comes to selecting players. Wolever prefers 'toolsy' players, like Cole Hamels, whereas MacPhail prefers players with lower ceilings but higher floors. In other words, MacPhail would rather take a sure Major Leaguer than the guy who may wake up one day hitting like Mike Schmidt or never wake up at all. Moreover, MacPhail is better at evaluating present-day big league talent and players in the minors than Wolever is according to the sources I interviewed.


In summary, while the Phillies fired one of their most-beloved executives, they replaced him with someone that brings just as much, if not more, to the table. Not only that but the hiring of MacPhail also shows that the front office is embracing a new philosophy. What that philosophy is, and how successful it will be, we do not know. But we should be patient. In Hoff We Trust.

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ESPN’s Buster Olney reported on Twitter that the Phillies are nearing a deal with free agent relievers Octavio Dotel and Pedro Feliciano. In 2013, the pair combined to throw 15 major league innings as they each struggled to come back from injury. Prior to their injuries however, both Dotel and Feliciano were serviceable bullpen arms—if not elite—and should drastically improve a hurting Phillies’ bullpen if they can return to their career norms.

However, I suspect that this deal is not about improving Philadelphia’s chances at contending in 2014. Instead, I suspect that the Phillies want to give Dotel and Feliciano each a chance to show that they are both good relief pitchers and may be able to offer something to a contending team during the hunt in August and September. In other words, it seems to me as if they are being brought in to be flipped for prospects near the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of July. If so, what can the Phillies expect to get in return for Dotel and Feliciano?

Back in 2010, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Octavio Dotel to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two players: SP James McDonald and OF/1B Andrew Lambo. James McDonald became one of Pittsburgh’s more respectable starters that year, as he mustered up a 2.84 FIP in 64 innings for Pennsylvania’s other baseball team. In other words, he showed a lot of promise until injuries derailed the starter’s career. Is it realistic to expect the Phillies to receive the next James McDonald for Octavio Dotel at the deadline? No—but MLB teams have a history of overpaying in prospects for relief help at the trade deadline. Assuming that this trend holds in 2014, then the Phillies should be able to pick up valuable pieces for both Feliciano and Dotel, which will definitely help this franchise reinvigorate its failing farm system.

Yet, this all seems too far away; as you are aware, the trade deadline is another four months away. A lot can go wrong—players can get injured or not perform—and even the best plan on paper can go up in flames. Thus, it seems best to focus more on the impact that this trade has on the Phillies now than what it may do for the team four months from now. That is, who will Dotel and Feliciano replace on the 25 man roster, and do they represent significant upgrades over either of those player?

To answer the first part, it is expected that the Phillies will send RHP Brad Lincoln and LHP Cesar Jimenez down to make room for Dotel and Feliciano respectively. Lincoln, acquired during the off-season from Toronto, is 28-years-old and has two option years remaining. While his arsenal features a plus changeup, his other offerings are just average, so he has not had much success as either a starter or a reliever. Like Lincoln, Cesar Jimenez has not had much success throughout his major league career. Unlike Lincoln though, Jimenez does not have a plus pitch to turn to get himself out of a jam. This made it likely that Jimenez would have found himself in the mop-up role in 2014. Are these descriptions of Lincoln and Jimenez exciting you? No? I thought so. That’s why signing both Dotel and Feliciano is so important—worst case scenario with them is still better than best case scenario Lincoln and Jimenez.

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The 2014 Major League Baseball season may officially begin today in beautiful Sydney, Australia, with a game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, but that game, and this Opening Day, does not interest us here at the Philadelphia Inquirer. We care about the Phillies! We want today to be March 31! We want to see Cliff Lee carve up the Texas Rangers.


Unfortunately, March 31 is not yet upon us so us baseball fans have to settle with watching two of the most uninteresting teams in the sport. This is fine though, as it gives us Phillies fans a time to learn about the most important part of this club: the farm system. Of course, this new front office regime no longer refers it to as the farm system. Nicholas Hoff calls it “the pipeline” to emphasize that the players we discuss today may not arrive in Philly today or tomorrow, but they will do their part to help bring a winner back to America’s greatest city.

Before I begin, I want to emphasize that the mere arrival of these players will not instantly turn Philadelphia into a contender. Player development occurs in phases, and one such phase is the transition from the minor leagues to the major leagues. To borrow from Paul Krugman, the idea that a player making the majors solves all our problems is an example of a cockroach idea. Sometimes, prospects do not live up to their potential; other times, a player that no one expected blossoms into a star. In short, we have to be careful about leaning too heavily on one of these guys, or any combination of them, to turn Philadelphia back into a contender overnight. That – becoming a contender – is a gradual process and having a strong “player pipeline” is an integral part of it.

Without further ado, Philadelphia’s Top 10 prospects:

3B Maikel Franco – The 21-year-old third baseman from the Dominican Republic projects to begin the 2014 season in Double-A Reading, but it would not surprise many if he plays himself into the big league starting job before the season’s end. While Franco could stand to be more patient at the plate, he should not struggle to reach base as his hitting and power tools grade out as plus-plus. At his peak, it would not surprise me if Franco bats .300 and slugs 25 home runs. Baseball America ranks Franco as the #33 prospect in the game. MLB Comp: Adrian Beltre

RF Bryan Martelo – The 17-year-old Venezuelan is one of the youngest on this list, but he may have more potential than anyone else in the system does. In baseball, there are few things more coveted in a prospect than projection, and baby, does Martelo have it. Standing in at 6’2 and weighing 180 pounds it is easy to envision Martelo metamorphosing into a hitter in the mold of Miami’s Marcell Ozuna as he matures. Baseball America ranks Bryan as the #62 prospect in the game.

3B Luis Encarnacion – The 16-year-old Dominican Luis Encarnacion is younger than the man above him, Bryan Martelo. Born in 1997, this right-handed batter compares well to fellow prospect Maikel Franco. That is, they are both about the same size physically and project to have similar skillsets at the Major League level. The main difference between the two has to do with their defense. Encarnacion’s defense is below average, and as he nears Philadelphia, may have to move across the diamond to first base.

SP Yoel Mecias – This left-handed starting pitcher, born in Venezuela, dominated A-Ball last season to the tune of 70 strikeouts in 57.1 innings pitched. At 6’2 and weighing 160 pounds, Mecias will have to add on some weight and tack on some velocity to his fastball to reach his ceiling as a #3 starter. If he cannot do this, then Yoel may be able to carve out a decent career as a reliever as he does have one plus-plus offering: a deceptive changeup. 

3B Lucas Rojo – This is the third, and final, third baseman on this list. Just a few days shy of his 20th birthday, Rojo, born in Brazil, is set to make his stateside debut in the New York Penn League. He measures in at 5’6, so he is not long for third base at the Major League level. At the plate, Rojo presently has average power and may one day develop plus power, but it is unlikely that he adds any additional tools to this game.

SP Shane Watson – I am not too sure what to make of right-hander Shane Watson, but I do envision a future where he is starting for the big league club. Just 20 years old, Watson already displays impressive velocity as he comfortably sits in the 92-94 mph range. Moreover, Shane’s pitch arsenal is quite large, including a cutter, curveball, changeup, and splitter. Unfortunately, none of these pitches—not even his fastball—projects to be nothing more than average at the big league level. If he wants to move beyond the ceiling of a back of the rotation starter, then he either needs to add a few miles to his fastball or work on his secondary offerings or both.

SP Perci Garner – At 25-years-young, time is not on Perci Garner’s side. He has a three-pitch arsenal – a fastball, curveball, and changeup – but struggles to control his pitches. While he can generate swings and misses, he cannot do so on a consistent basis. At this point, it is more likely that Garner spends his career on the MLB to Triple-A shuttle, subbing in for injury, than it is that he ever harnesses control over his pitches and enjoys a nice career.

MR Ken Giles – Giles is the definition of a live arm, as he can dial his fastball up to over 100 MPH and make even the best batters look foolish. To go with superb stuff, Ken has mediocre control and movement over his pitches. This makes him susceptible to both the walk and long ball. While he may never be a closer or quality back of the bullpen guy, Giles should be a serviceable major league bullpen arm that can keep his team in the game.

SS J.P. Crawford – Crawford is one of the newest editions to the player pipeline, and he is the organization’s #1 overall pick in the 2013 amateur player draft. He has considerable speed and nice power potential with great contact skills. While his defense is not quite the same caliber as his offense, Crawford should be an average defensive SS in the mold of present-day Jimmy Rollins.

C Cameron Rupp – Rupp is presently in Triple-A LeHigh. Last season, he received a cup of coffee with the big league squad but failed to impress. He is the club’s third-string catcher, and barring an injury to Ruiz and Nieves, unlikely he ever suits up behind the plate for the Phillies. Despite this, the Texan displays well-above average offensive skills (relative to his position) and is a competent—but not excellent—defensive catcher. He strikes me as the most obvious trade candidate on this list.

The one name you are going to want to watch on this list is the club's #1 guy, Maikel Franco, but he should hopefully be up with the big league club sometime in June after the super-two clock expires. Outside of him, the system has potential but industry insiders do not care too much for most of it. If I had to guess which player on this list is most likely to improve on his ranking for next year, I would choose J.P. Crawford. He is a very talented kid, defensive questions aside, and should be able to fill Jimmy Rollin's shoes when the time comes.

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