April 24, 2023
Back-to-back series wins over the White Sox and then the Rockies last week have the Phillies to within a game of .500 as of Monday.
It's been a rocky start to 2023 for the Phils, certainly not a start anyone imagined after last season's miracle run to the World Series, but it's a long season, and hopefully, the showing from the past few days is a sign that the club is beginning to steady up.
There have been encouraging signs, for sure, with the major ones coming from younger players who weren't expected to carry the lineup the way they have so far.
But hey, baseball can be anything but predictable right?
Here's what they're saying about the Phils:
Brandon Marsh is leading the majors in OPS, Alec Bohm is leading the Phillies in runs batted in, and Bryson Stott has settled into the leadoff roll with more two-strike hits than anyone in baseball.
Who had all that on their bingo card?
While the Phils have struggled out of the gate to start 2023, the daycare trio has been doing more than their part to keep them afloat, showing tremendous strides in the process.
They won't stay hot like this forever – struggles and slumps of their own are almost inevitable – but hitting coach Kevin Long and the rest of the club have more than enough reason to believe that what the three are doing at the plate right now isn't just some flash in the pan either.
Wrote The Athletic's Matt Gelb:
The Phillies have been heartbroken by most of their hitting prospects for more than 15 years now. There is a natural predisposition to believe it’s not real. The hardest thing to find in baseball is a dependable everyday player. It is easy to typecast Bohm, Marsh and Stott as solid players who do enough to merit regular at-bats on a good team. Solid. But nothing more than that.
Maybe they are more.
“I mean, these guys were really, really talented,” Long said. “And when talent meets what they find out they can do, it becomes pretty scary.”
Long, the veteran hitting coach, is a believer. He is also a realist. He knows regression will hunt down his three young hitters because it spares no one.
“They’re going to have weeks, months of it,” Long said. “It’s going to come. I know it’s coming. They’re just, all three, in a really good spot right now. But they’ll go through some scuffles.”
But they’ve proven enough to convince Long that they’ll survive. [The Athletic, $]
Logan O'Hoppe, the catching prospect who the Phillies sent to the Angels for Marsh last season, was finding his way out in Anaheim.
No longer blocked by an elite catcher already at the position, and with clear major-league playing time up for grabs, the 23-year old seized the opportunity and was slashing .283 with four home runs and an .886 OPS to start the year.
But his momentum came to a screeching halt this past weekend, when he was put on the shelf for 4-6 months with a torn labrum.
Wrote the LA Times' Sarah Valenzuela of the shoulder injury:
Logan O’Hoppe has not been a major leaguer for long but has impressed early this season. Then his season was put on pause, the Angels’ rookie catcher tearing the labrum in his left shoulder last week. He was told this weekend that he will need surgery to repair it.
“It’s like, you wait your whole life and you get here,” O’Hoppe said Sunday, “and you get a taste at the end of last year and then you work even harder and then you get a taste of hopefully what the whole year has in store, and I think that’s the toughest part to deal with.
“Gonna do everything I can to get back here and help this team win.”
It will be a long road back for the 23-year-old. The timeline for O’Hoppe’s recovery and return is anywhere from four to six months, manager Phil Nevin said. [LA Times]
Bryce Harper has been speedrunning through his rehab from Tommy John surgery.
He's swinging the bat, doing baserunning and sliding drills, finally started throwing again for the first time since last April, and is even trying to learn first base now.
Sliding remains the biggest hurdle to clear for his return, but if you ask manager Rob Thomson, he's ready to take at least minor-league at-bats right now, and depending on how a doctor's visit goes at the beginning of May, a return to the Phillies' lineup might not be much further behind.
The NLCS MVP is moving incredibly, but carefully, fast, and helping him do it – to the point where he might not even need a rehab assignment in Lehigh Valley – is some cutting-edge pitching tech.
Wrote The Inquirer's Scott Lauber:
But there is one corner that Harper does intend to cut. He isn’t interested in a minor league assignment. Manager Rob Thomson doesn’t see the sense in it, either. Never mind that Harper missed spring training. Why bother sending him to Lehigh Valley to face triple-A pitching when there’s a robotic major league pitcher in the bowels of Citizens Bank Park?
No joke. The Phillies are among a dozen teams this season that are using the Trajekt Arc, a next-gen pitching machine and video projection system that is programmable to replicate the pitch mix and delivery of every major league pitcher more accurately than any known baseball training tool.
“Nothing is ever going to be real life, but it’s about as close as you can get to it,” Phillies left fielder Kyle Schwarber said. “Say you want to see a guy’s breaking ball before a game. You can go in there and see his breaking ball. It’s pretty cool.”
In spring training, Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott tested the Trajekt Arc by booting up Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara and standing in against the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner.
“It’s pretty accurate, actually,” Stott said. “The Sandy video, he was throwing his sinker. It spun how his sinker spins. The video’s clear, and it’s pretty much on time. It was really good.”
Good enough to, say, replace the need for a minor league assignment?
“I don’t see why not,” Stott said. [The Inquirer, $]
We'll end with the other club from Philadelphia's baseball past, and the one that seems locked in for a move to Las Vegas now.
Late last week, the Athletics signed an agreement to purchase the land in Vegas where they intend to build a new ballpark, marking a clear indication – after years of reports and rumors – that the organization's days in Oakland are numbered.
Wrote ESPN's Jeff Passan on the current state of the franchise:
It's not a done deal. But it almost certainly will be soon. The team's purchase agreement on a 49-acre parcel of land off the Strip made clear what people around the sport had long speculated: After more than two decades of failures to build a stadium in Oakland and the surrounding area, the A's are close to becoming the latest major professional sports team to move to Las Vegas -- following the NFL's Raiders, who also relocated from Oakland in 2020.
The shovels to break ground on the new ballpark aren't quite ready. Some not-insignificant details that involve politics remain. But the A's are confident, and in an interview with ESPN, team president Dave Kaval said: "This is a massive deal for our franchise and for the whole league." [ESPN]
When those details are finally ironed out and the move is made, they'll still be the Athletics by the end of it.
"We've been around since 1901," Kaval told ESPN. "Charter member of the American League, the Athletics. We've already been in three markets. We feel strongly that the A's are such a powerful brand, it's something we're going to continue with the Las Vegas A's."
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