While we knew Jose Pujols had plenty of power while he was in short-season ball, he struggled to show it in game. While he flashed it, the keyword there is flash. However, he is starting to show more power in his start at Class-A Lakewood.
Considering he spent three seasons in short-season ball, it only made sense he debuted in full-season Lakewood this year. His seven home runs through 28 games already is more than any of his past seasons. While this torrid pace is most likely unsustainable, it shows that Pujols’s power is still there even as he continues through the minor league system.
What has helped the power spike is the fact his increased contact rate. His average is up from .238 in 2015 to .281 so far this year in Lakewood. Contact has been one of the major hurdles in Pujols’s development, and any improvement in the area would be great news.
However, upon some more inspection, we can see that all of Pujols’s home runs are to right field. Pujols hasn’t shown this strong of a pull tendency since 2013 when he was in the GCL. He has pushed some hits to the opposite field, but they haven’t been as frequent or as deeply hit. While the power has been there, it has been all to the pull side so far. That could change as Pujols adapts to the new competition level, but for now it’s something to keep an eye on.
Pujols’s contact is gilded as well. His strikeout rate has maintained its normally high percentage; it’s at 32.8% on the year. In the same light, Pujols’s BABIP has always been high, but it is especially high this year at .368. This could be fueling his as-noted average spike. Along with the heavy pull power, it is important to keep track of whether or not Pujols’s contact is truly improving.
Ricardo Pinto warms up at the Phillies Futures Game
Coming into this season, there was a solid chance the Phillies rotation was going to be rough. If the 2015 rotation was any indication, the Phillies weren’t going to have anything close to solid starting pitching. While Jerad Eickhoff and Aaron Nola were prepped to bolster the rotation, Charlie Morton and Jeremy Hellickson were big question marks.
However, this graphic put out by Fangraphs today shows the Phillies’ starting pitchers have the best FIP (Fielding-Independent Pitching) in the major leagues as of April 17th.
Jeremy Hellickson will take the mound, and Peter Bourjous will take the start in left field. Both are veterans and fall into the “traveled veteran” category of the Phillies roster. We will no doubt see plenty of them as the season progresses, with the injury bug sure to strike hard and necessitate the signing of more journeymen to the roster to fill in those spots.
Thankfully, that type of player won’t be the only one we will see this season. Catchers Andrew Knapp and Jorge Alfaro will start (Knapp as the DH). Today will provide many fans their first glimpse of the two young prospects. Watching them play with may veterans will give us a snapshot of what the Phillies future could be.
In addition, young outfielders Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr will also start today. Both had impressive rookie campaigns last season, and Herrera had perhaps the best season among any Phillies player in 2015. Both also could be part of the future full of young players we’re hoping for so dearly.
While we will several journeymen and traveled veterans in the red pinstripes this year, we should also see several young players that can provide Phillies fans hope. The juxtaposition of the two types of players will most likely be the storyline of the team through most of this year.
For the first time in at least two seasons, watching the Phillies play baseball could actually be bearable. Dare I say, even enjoyable.
The only game I remember watching last year in its entirety was Aaron Nola’s debut. The excitement of the future of the franchise coming to the majors was too much to resist. I enjoyed watching Nola’s start and I hope to be able see one in person this season.
This year, we could have the same thing happen, but several times over. Out of my Top Ten, six of those prospects could all reach the majors this season, including the crown jewel J.P. Crawford.
As I watched Nola’s debut, there were far more fans there compared to other games I had seen. Nola was the second-best prospect in the system before the 2015 season; imagine the fanfare around the best prospect the Phillies have had in years in his debut. Seeing Crawford at Citizens Bank Park could be the biggest moment of the year in sports in a city that’s missing a good sports moment.
When you study prospects in-depth, watching them reach the majors with a majority of their stock intact is one of the best feelings. This year we could see Crawford, Jake Thompson, Nick Williams, Mark Appel, Roman Quinn, and Andrew Knapp all reach the majors. All of them each could be large contributors for the next contending Phillies team.
Watching several talented, young players reach the majors may provide bright spots in an otherwise dismal season for the Phillies this year. Even though there will be a lot of uninspiring baseball played (especially while we wait for these young prospects), the debuts of top prospects should give Phillies fans something enjoyable to watch over the summer.