An Overwhelming Meh: Phillies First Half Grades

The 2019 MLB All Star week is upon us, and with it comes baseball’s artificial halfway point. At the break, the Philadelphia Phillies sit at 47-43, 6.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves for first place in the NL East and a half game in front of the Milwaukee Brewers for the second Wild Card spot. 

If the season ended today, the Phillies would play on the road in the Wild Card game against the Washington Nationals. That is very disappointing considering the expectations this team had coming into the year. It’s very clear that the Phillies have, with some exceptions, underperformed this season. 

So, here we’ll take a look at each player on the 25 man roster as of July 7th and assign an arbitrary letter grade that means absolutely nothing based on their performance in the first half. Why? Because there’s two whole days without baseball after the All Star Game, and I needed something to hold me over.  

Bryce Harper

Well, let’s get the biggest one out of the way first. Harper was, of course, signed to a then-record 13 year $330M contract in February. He was brought in to be a middle of the order bat for the foreseeable future and to be the Phillies’ star player.

And so far through the first year, he’s been…….okay. Harper owns a batting line of .253/.370/.470 with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs. He is also in the top ten in doubles with 24. Harper has by no means been a bust in the first year of his contract, but he also hasn’t lived up to the lofty standards he has set for himself with his past performances.

He has had some hot stretches and some cold stretches, but hasn’t quite hit the torrid stretch that he has been known to go on. Harper is in the top 10 in walks and walk percentage even though his strikeout percentage is still at 26.6% which would be a career high, but it has ever so slowly been trending down. 

But, signs point to that torrid stretch coming soon. Over his last 15 games heading into the break, Harper is hitting .309/.441/.582 with four home runs and 12 RBIs. He also has 12 walks to 11 strikeouts in that span. For the season, he has the highest exit velocity and barrel percentage of his career. Harper has his highest highest hard hit percentage (46.5%) since his MVP year in 2015. The only thing that’s been missing from Harper this season has been the home runs, but these factors seem to point to those coming soon. 

His biggest strength so far this season is his ability to hit with runners on base. With runners on, Harper owns a batting line of .366/.453/.680 with 18 doubles and ten home runs. Those numbers get even better with runners in scoring position, with Harper hitting .405/.511/.676 with 8 doubles and 4 home runs. However, without runners on, Harper is hitting a measly .156/.301/.291. 

Harper has also played some of the best defense of his career, with 5 outfield assists, the most he’s had since 2017 when he had 8. His aggressive baserunning, although sometimes turning into outs, has been a breath of fresh air and has led to many singles turning into doubles and runs scored after going first to third and second to home. 

Grade: B+

Aaron Nola

Nola was coming off of a third place finish in the Cy Young voting last year and was expected to be the staff ace. For the first month plus of the season, that was not the case, but he has begun to rebound heading into the break.  

Nola’s ERA by month is as follows: 5.68 in March/April, 2.73 in May, 4.31 in June, 0.61 in July. He has largely improved as the season has gone on and has finished the first half with a 7-2 record with a 3.74 ERA over 110 2/3 innings.

But, one thing still plaguing him is home runs. Through 19 starts on the season, Nola has already allowed 15 home runs. By comparison, he allowed 17 all of last year and 18 all of 2017. 

Over his last five starts, Nola has a 2.38 ERA in over 34 innings pitched. For the Phillies to make any form of the postseason, via winning the division or playing in the Wild Card game, they need Nola to continue to pitch like the ace he has proven capable of being. 

Grade: B-

J.T. Realmuto

The Phillies gave up a large amount to acquire Realmuto in the offseason, giving up top prospect Sixto Sanchez and catcher Jorge Alfaro. So far, he has rewarded them with being the team’s sole participant in the All Star Game.

On the season, Realmuto is hitting .273/.328/.438 with 10 home runs, 19 doubles, and 42 RBIs to go along with being one of the best defensive catchers in the league. He has thrown out a league high 26 baserunners attempting to steal, eight more than the next closest player. 

After a good start to the season, Realmuto went cold in May, putting up a batting line of just .239/.283/.446 across 99 plate appearances. J.T. rebounded in June and the first week of July, slashing a combined .293/.344/.431 with 2 home runs, 8 doubles, and 10 RBIs.

Despite not having the huge jump in offensive numbers that was expected from moving to a hitters park like Citizens Bank Park as opposed to the pitcher’s paradise that is Marlins park, Realmuto has been one of the most consistent players on the Phillies thus far this season and is deserving of his All Star selection. 

Grade: A-

Rhys Hoskins

After the addition of Harper, Rhys Hoskins was expected to form the right handed side of a potent righty-lefty three hole-four hole combination. So far, Hoskins has had a good but not great season, with a .263/.401/.530 batting line coming into the break. Hoskins has clubbed 20 home runs and 20 doubles and has 59 RBIs.

Where Hoskins has really excelled this season is working the count. He is tied for second in Major League Baseball in walks with 68 and is eighth in on base percentage. Hoskins leads baseball in pitches per plate appearance, averaging over four. 

One area where Hoskins has struggled is defense. Hoskins has 7 errors on the season, tied for third among first basemen and one more than he had all of last season.

Grade: B

Scott Kingery

Without question, Scott Kingery has been the biggest bright spot for the Phillies in the 2019 season. After looking completely lost during his rookie season in 2018, Kingery has hit .292/.344/.545 with 11 home runs, 27 RBIs, 5 stolen bases, and 31 runs scored.

Kingery has essentially taken over as the starting center fielder for the Phillies following Odubel Herrera’s suspension for a domestic violence incident. After Andrew McCutchen was lost for the season following an ACL tear, Kingery eventually assumed the leadoff position in the lineup and has been able to pick up some of the weight following McCutchen’s injury.

Despite entering the season as a super utility player who was going to play multiple positions, Kingery has vastly improved and earned a spot in the starting lineup everyday. 

Grade: A

Jean Segura

So far, Segura has underperformed from his career averages but has still put up decent numbers. After posting three straight seasons with a batting average over .300, Segura sits at .278 at the break. However, he has already matched last year’s home run total with 10. 

After being one of the best hitters on the team from March through May, Segura plummeted in June, slashing just .223/.261/.483 with a 10% strikeout rate. 

Segura has shaken off his slump in June by hitting .313 over his last 15 games with 3 home runs and 12 RBIs. The Phillies need him to continue this pace and be more of the player he was from March through May rather than June. 

Grade: B-

Jay Bruce

Bruce was acquired by trade from the Seattle Mariners on June 2nd. Since joining the Phillies, Bruce has been one of the best hitters on the team and a consistent source of power.

Through 28 games with the Phillies, Bruce is hitting .291/.308/.641 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs. Those ten home runs are the most on the team since Bruce was acquired. He has been the driving offensive force in multiple wins, including knocking in the winning run on more than one occasion. 

Without Bruce, it’s hard to imagine if the Phillies would’ve even been as close to the postseason as they are now following the loss of Andrew McCutchen. 

Grade: A+

Cesar Hernandez

Hernandez has turned in a solid, yet unspectacular, season at the plate. Coming into the break, he carries a line of .285/.339/.420 with 7 home runs, 18 doubles, and three triples. 

May was by far Hernandez’s best month. Through 108 plate appearances over 28 games, he hit .327/.380/.551 with 4 home runs and 19 RBIs. However, after McCutchen went down in early June, Hernandez was thrust back into the leadoff role for a short time where he has struggled mightily this season, hitting just .189 across 41 plate appearances. 

Hernandez has also continued at times to make crippling and avoidable mistakes in the field and on the basepaths that he has become known for. For better or worse, he has performed essentially as what could have been expected coming into the season, meaning he has performed as a slightly above average starting second baseman. 

Grade: B

Maikel Franco

Franco started off the season extremely hot, slashing .252/.339/.505 with 7 home runs and 22 RBIs. Franco also once led the league in intentional walks, turning into the Phillies’ eight hole Barry Bonds. 

But, as it has gone for the majority of Franco’s career, he then went ice cold. From May on, he has hit .211/.268/.355 with May being especially poor, hitting just .170. His numbers at the break are .227/.296/.413 with 13 home runs and 41 RBIs. 

Franco even seemed to had lost his starting job at one point, but with the shuffling that has resulted from the McCutchen injury and Odubel Herrera suspension, he has regained his starting job as of late. The Phillies made their bed by electing not to upgrade from Franco last offseason, and they now will most likely have to ride with him the rest of the year.

Grade: D+

Jake Arrieta

The Phillies pitching staff as a whole has not been very good this season, and Arrieta has been one of the biggest disappointments. On the season, the right hander is 8-7 with a 4.67 ERA. He has allowed 18 home runs after allowing 21 last year.

Arrieta had a decent March and April, but after that it has been all downhill. In 69 innings across 12 starts since, Arrieta has a 5.35 ERA and an OPS against of .875. 

He was recently diagnosed with a bone spur in his elbow, so it’s to be determined if Arrieta pitches again this year.

Grade: D-

Nick Pivetta

Pivetta was a favorite breakout pick before the season and was even getting some buzz as a dark house Cy Young candidate. But his season, much like most of his rotation counterparts, has been a massive disappointment. 

Pivetta is 4-3 with a 5.84 ERA over 11 starts. He has allowed 16 home runs in 61 2/3 innings. Pivetta was demoted to Lehigh Valley in early May. After he was recalled on May 28th, he had a few good starts including a complete game, but has overall continued to struggle to find consistency in the Majors.

Grade: D-

Vince Velasquez

Velasquez has bounced back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen and has not performed well in either role. He is 2-5 on the season with a 4.63 ERA. As a starter, he has a 4.70 ERA in 46 innings and as a reliever his ERA is 4.35 in 10 1/3 innings. 

But the underlying numbers paint a much bleaker picture than the standard stats. Opposing hitters have barreled up a staggering 12.2% of Velasquez’s pitches, which is in the bottom five percent of all pitchers. His opponent’s exit velocity (90.1) and hard hit percentage (42.3%) are both career worsts. 

Grade: D

Zach Eflin

Eflin has easily been the best non-Aaron Nola starter on the roster, although that’s not saying much. Through 17 starts, he is 7-8 with a 3.78 ERA. 

However, over his last 7 starts, he too has struggled getting hitters out. Over that span, Eflin is 2-4 with a 5.45 ERA and 9 home runs allowed in just 38 innings pitched.

Grade: C

Hector Neris

Neris has appeared in 37 games and is 1-3 on the season with a 3.16 ERA. He has converted 17 of 19 save opportunities as the Phillies closer. Despite sometimes struggling with command, Neris has been an effective closer and had a case to be in the All Star Game.

Grade: B

Adam Morgan

Before suffering a forearm injury in May and being placed on the injured list on May 29th, Morgan had been one of the best left handed relievers in baseball. He did not allow an earned run until May, throwing 11 2/3 scoreless innings in March and April. 

However, Morgan has struggled since being reactivated on June 21st. In six appearances since being taken off the IL, Morgan has allowed 6 earned runs in 3 1/3 innings pitched. 

Grade: C

Jose Alvarez

Through 32 2/3 innings pitched across 35 appearances, Alvarez is 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA. After a rocky start (7.20 ERA in 10 innings) in March and April, Alvarez has stabilized, pitching to the tune of a 2.38 ERA in since May 1st.

Grade: B-

Andrew Knapp

Knapp has barely played this season, having started only 14 games at catcher. Through 81 plate appearances, Knapp is hitting just .152/.291/.227. He has shown the ability to draw a walk at the plate, but not much else. 

Grade: D

Brad Miller

The Great Bambooino has been a fine bench bat, slashing .304/.407/.652 with 2 home runs in 27 plate appearances. But he gets bonus points for the bamboo plant

Grade: C

Sean Rodriguez

Rodriguez has mashed left handed pitching (.290/.389/.516) mostly coming off of the bench, but has made some pretty dumb mistakes in the field.

Grade: C

Roman Quinn

Quinn has already appeared on the 10 day injured list twice this season, once with an oblique and once with a groin injury. In 19 games and 50 plate appearances, Quinn is hitting .111/.200/.133. 

Grade: D-

Edgar Garcia

Garcia was called up on May 6th to help the Phillies’ injury riddled bullpen. In 23 1/3 innings pitched across 24 appearances, he has a 6.08 ERA. Garcia is still in the process of converting from a starter to a reliever and only had 21 innings of AAA under his belt before being called up.

Grade: D

J.D. Hammer

After spending just four days in AAA, Hammer was called up to the Phillies on May 25th. In 16 innings pitched across 17 appearances, Hammer is 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA. He has performed reasonably well considering his lack of time in AAA and has shown flashes of being dominant. 

Grade: C

Tommy Hunter

Hunter has only appeared in four games this year after starting the season on the injured list with a forearm injury and not being activated until June 28th. He has 5 strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings and has not allowed a run.

Grade: Incomplete

Yacksel Rios

Rios has been called up to the big league club twice this season, but has only appeared in 3 games, throwing just 2 2/3 innings.

Grade: Incomplete

Ranger Suarez

Suarez has appeared in 5 games this season, throwing 10 1/3 innings with a 3.48 ERA and 11 strikeouts.

Grade: Incomplete

Miscellaneous 

Here are some one liners about players who are not currently on the active roster but have played a role during the season.

Andrew McCutchen- arguably the best leadoff hitter in baseball before suffering season-ending injury. Grade: A

David Robertson- Struggled through 7 appearances before being placed on the injured list with elbow soreness. Grade: Incomplete

Pat Neshek- Barely pitched, and when he did, he struggled for the most part. Grade: D-

Seranthony Dominguez- Largely underwhelmed before being shut down for the year with an injury. Grade: C-

Victor Arano- Appeared in three games before landing on the injured list and has yet to return. Grade: Incomplete

Jerad Eickhoff- Allowed a career high 18 home runs in just 58 1/3 innings. Grade: F

Cole Irvin- Has no business being in a Major League rotation. Grade: F

Nick Williams- Struggled in limited appearances at the plate before being bounced back and forth from Lehigh Valley. Grade: D

Enyel De Los Santos- Roughed up in limited appearances, will most likely be given chance to win fifth starter job. Grade: D

Odubel Herrera- Was losing playing time before being placed on leave and ultimately suspended for a domestic violence incident. No Grade