Hey, CD: What's the PhilliePulse on...?

<b><I>Hey! CD</b></I> is a regular Q&A column by California Dreamin, a Phillie die-hard from SoCal. His unique perspective on Phillie baseball issues & events draws grassroots interest from Phillie fans spread all over the country. Hop on the good ship PhilliePulse and send your questions to CD at <a href=mailto:connectthedots@earthlink.net>connectthedots@earthlink.net</a> and read his response on a future edition of this column.

Q: On Trading a Top Pitching Prospect for a Slugger, from Donald Schell

Hey! CD, I think the Phils should consider trading a top-pitching prospect to get someone who can hit behind Bobby Abreu and Jim Thome. What's your take on this?

CD says...
Hi, Donald, welcome back to the Phillie Pulse and thanks for the question. 

Actually, I think the Phillies already have the hitter you are seeking and I do not think he should hit behind Abreu and Thome, but between them.

His name is Pat Burrell and I fully expect him to come back and be the hitter he was in 2002.  The early reports on him coming from Clearwater are quite promising, and the pictures I have seen of his stance shows a markedly different hitter.  His hands are much higher in the stance than they were last year and this should allow him to have better hitting balance at the plate.

Phillie fans just need to have some patience with Burrell; his career has been much too successful to think he won't come back to his former form.  I would look for him to hit about .270-280, with 35-40 HR and 110 RBI.

Another reason he should hit between Abreu and Thome, instead of after them, is the obvious one that having back-to-back left-handed sluggers only encourages an opposing team to use a lefty reliever to retire two hitters, instead of one. With Burrell firmly entrenched between the two hitters, the chances of the situational lefty coming into a ball game are made less likely.

One other thing... under NO conditions would I trade another top pitching prospect, meaning Cole Hamels, Ryan Madson or Gavin Floyd.  The Phils immediate future is firmly committed to those three pitchers becoming dominant hurlers at Citizens Bank Park, and having young hurlers like these three allows a team to have some fiscal flexibility to pursue a third baseman or catcher.

Hope this answers your question, and stay with the Pulse as Spring Training kicks off in a week!

Q. On Prospects to Watch at the Minor League Level, from David, Vermont

Hey! CD, who are the prospects to watch at the AAA, AA and A Level?  Can you give me some names to watch for this year?

CD says…
Good question, David, and one that Phillie fanatics are always interested in finding out.  As someone who always enjoyed watching the Phillie farm system during the lean years in hopes that things would soon improve, I still follow them intently.

With that in mind, here are some names to keep an eye on during the spring and summer months, with their likely location.  Please keep in mind that there will be a whole new crop of prospects joining the organization in June, after the amateur draft, and I will discuss them after the draft.

At the Triple A level, the SWB team has several players worth watching. On the pitching side of the ledger, keep an eye on Ryan Madson, probably the first pitcher who would be called up if the Phils found a need for another starting hurler.  He is a top prospect, and may someday be the Phil's closer; his "bulldog" mentality seems very appropriate for a future closer.

Other hurlers to focus on are starters Josh Hancock and lefty Bud Smith, and relievers Eric Junge, Greg Kubes, Geoff Geary and Dave Coggin.  Smith and Coggin are familiar names, with some major league success.  Also, keep in mind that at least one of these hurlers will probably garner the 11th spot on the Phil's pitching staff coming out of Spring Training.

At the position level, the Phils have four players worth watching intently at SWB. Third baseman Juan Richardson, shortstop Anderson Machado, right fielder Jorge Padilla and catcher AJ Hinch all may have a future at CBP. 

Richardson is the heir apparent to David Bell at third base if his power bat continues to improve and Machado is a "Davy Concepcion" clone defensively at shortstop.  Padilla is a former top prospect, who was once compared to a young Sammy Sosa. His biggest problem has been staying healthy, and like Richardson, he must display a power bat as a corner outfielder.

Hinch is worth watching because it is this writer's opinion that if anything major were to happen to Mike Lieberthal in Philadelphia, it would be Hinch who would replace him.  His forte is defense, yet he has shown unfulfilled offensive potential and a rejuvenated Hinch would be a real boost to an organization that is quite catcher scarce at the minor league level.

At Reading in the Double A level, some players to watch are righty Keith Bucktrot, a pitcher with a huge upside who is just now learning to pitch, and Seung Lee, the high-priced Korean righty who may be ready to blossom.

Of course, the two players who will create the biggest stir this summer at Reading are prize righty, Gavin Floyd and first baseman, Ryan Howard.  Floyd is one of the top five pitching prospects in baseball and could move up quickly if he shows an ability to handle Double A hitters.  Howard has "Willie Stargell" like power, and will either make a very good trading chip for a position player of need, or the first baseman in Philadelphia should anything unforeseen happen to Thome.

Other players to watch are catcher Russ Jacobson, shortstop Danny Gonzalez, third baseman Jim Deschaine, and young righties Rob Tejeda and Elizardo Ramirez.

Reading has the makings of a solid club, and should be an enjoyable team to watch this summer.

No mention of Phillie prospects would be complete without mentioning the best prospect in the organization, and one of the top 10 in baseball.  Lefty Cole Hamels will try to dominate Single A hitters at Clearwater, as he did at Lakewood in 2003.  If he shows the aptitude for pitching well at this level, he may be advanced to Reading by August.

Other players to watch this summer at the Single A level include pitchers Nick Bourgeois, Francisco Butto, Alfredo Simon, Matt Stevens, Lee Gwaltney, Darrin Naatjes, Scott Mathieson, Jean Machi and Joe Wilson.

Position players of interest this summer at Clearwater, Lakewood or Batavia include third basemen Terry Jones and Kiel Fisher, shortstop Carlos Rodriguez, and infielders Welinson Baez, Tim Moss and Jason Crossland as well as outfielders Jake Blalock, Michael Bourn and Javon Moran.

These are just some of the more outstanding names to keep an eye on. Other players will undoubtedly become prospects and PhillyBaseballNews.com will keep everyone well informed of the farm system in 2004.

Thanks for the question, David, and stay with the Pulse all season.

Q. On Ranking the Young Pitching Prospects at the Major League Level, from Chad Ridge, PA

Hey! CD
, I think the Phils have a deep bullpen and should try out Geoff Geary, Josh Hancock, Ryan Madson, Eric Junge and Bud Smith for a spot with the club.  How would you rank these pitchers, and their chances of making the Phils out of Spring Training?

CD says
The Phils have very few openings on their 25-man roster entering Spring Training, but they do appear to have one spot open for a relief pitcher. With that in mind, I will attempt to answer your question based on the names you mentioned.

Please keep in mind that the best pitcher in this group is not necessarily going to make the club in the spring, but rather the pitcher who can best serve the Phil's needs for an occasional pitcher out of the bullpen.

This situation would seem to eliminate Madson or Hancock, both of whom would be better served by going back to SWB and getting regular turns as starters.  The same probably applies to Smith, although he is out of options, which may make for an interesting scenario for him. 

Clearly, he needs to pitch regularly to not only regain his velocity but his confidence, after two arm surgeries in less than a year.  However, if he is throwing well, and has a good spring, he could be the Phil's situational lefty out of the bullpen, replacing retired veteran Dan Plesac.

Geary and Junge are both pitchers ready for a chance to pitch at the big league level. I can tell you that the Phils seem to favor Junge over Geary, yet no pitcher has climbed the minor league level with greater tenacity and versatility than has Geary. He is certainly a personal favorite of mine and I hope he makes it.

However, if it comes down to Junge or Geary, my instincts tell me the Phils will select Junge, as they see him as having a higher upside to his potential.

To answer your question on how I would rate their chances of making the club, I would rate them this way… Junge, Smith, Geary, Hancock, Madson.  In terms of their future upside and ability, I might rate them accordingly… Madson, Smith, Hancock, Junge and Geary.

However, the beauty of baseball is in its unpredictability and this list could be completely turned upside down by September of '04. Oh, and one more thing… I think all five will eventually be contributors at the big league level, though probably not all in the City of Brotherly Love!

Q. On The Whereabouts of Travis Chapman, from James B. Eshelman, Scranton PA

Hey! CD, what happened to Travis Chapman? I noticed that the Phillies non-tendered him a contract in December, and then tried to sign him to a minor league deal.  Did he sign elsewhere?

CD says
Sadly for many Phillie fans, but probably not for Chapman, he did sign a minor league contract with the Kansas City Royals, and will open the 2004 season at Omaha in the Pacific Coast League.

As an unabashed Chapman supporter, I am disappointed to see him go. I remain convinced that his good glove, solid batting eye, and steady performance will carry him to the major leagues. I always felt that a Phillie minor league brass that often valued style over substance under appreciated him.

With such prospects as Juan Richardson, Terry Jones, Kiel Fisher and Welinson Baez coming through the system, Chapman always seemed like a forgotten afterthought.  Yet, he produced at every level, and many are unaware that a shoulder injury, which curtailed his 2002-year at Reading, was probably a factor in his reduced power and extra base totals.

Nevertheless, he had a solid season at SWB last year, and even made the Triple A All-Star team as the starting third baseman.  Many Phillie fans, who followed his career from Batavia, and on up through Clearwater and Reading, were convinced that he could have helped the big league club last September during the Phils futile chase of a wild card birth.

To be fair, the Phils were aware of his shoulder miseries, and tried to sign him to a minor league deal in December. Chapman showed real courage as he declined the fairly lucrative offer, and ventured out into the free agent market.

Happily, the surgery repaired his shoulder, and several suitors came calling. After some deliberation, and a study of the rosters, Chapman chose the Royals over Cincinnati and Montreal. It appears that things will work out well for him as the Royals management, from manager Tony Pena on up, have been very encouraged by Travis's improvement and abilities.

Though I will personally miss seeing him perform at Citizens Bank Park, the reality is that this was probably a move that was best for all concerned. Assistant GM. Mike Arbuckle always appreciated Chapman's ability to make the most of his skills, but seemed reluctant to project him as anything more than a utility infielder at the big league level.

The Royals are a young team, with a 34-year-old third baseman, Joe Randa.  It would appear that this may be a wonderful opportunity for Travis, and I expect to see him in Kansas City in September of 2004.  I also think he will have a solid career as a major leaguer with the Royals,

I do think I speak for all Phillie fans in wishing Travis nothing but the best in his future with Kansas City.  He was a hard-working and dedicated player in the Phils system and deserves only the best.  It will be fun to chart his progress this year, so stay with Phillie Pulse to find out how he is doing!

Q. On the Return of Scott Rolen to Philadelphia, from Neil Dorval, CA

Hey! CD, you may think I am crazy but I would offer Pat Burrell, David Bell and a pitching prospect to bring back Scott Rolen from St. Louis. Appreciate your thoughts, CD.

CD says
First, let me welcome you to the Phillie Pulse, a place where dedicated Phillie fans across the nation get their Phillie questions answered.  I hope you stay with us through what promises to be a most exciting season in 2004.

Now, my friend, about your proposal!  Crazy?  I wouldn't go that far, but I will say that there are probably not five players in baseball less likely to return to Philadelphia than Scott Rolen.  Maybe, Travis Lee, certainly Bobby Estalella, and perhaps Jose Mesa.

In fact, I think there is a greater chance of lefty Dan Plesac returning to the Phils than in Rolen ever manning the hot corner at CBP.  The reasons are complicated, and have been rehashed more times than was necessary.

However, to answer your question directly, this trade could never happen for many reasons. First, Rolen has a 90 million dollar contract, and this is much more than the Phils could afford, given their already bloated salary of nearly 100 million.

The Phils increased revenues have given them some financial flexibility, but not financial suicide.  Rolen would just about do that to the bottom line.

Also, I am not so sure the Phils don't think that Burrell's long-term future is greater than Rolen's future. Just ask yourself this question… after the 2002 season; would you have traded Burrell for Rolen?  I wouldn't have done it then, and I wouldn't do it now.  Burrell fits Philadelphia like a glove, whereas Scotty always seemed a bit uncomfortable with the limelight.

As for the rest of your deal, I am convinced that no team would take a chance on Bell until they seem him perform. Remember that he is coming off a fairly serious back injury and many people, yours truly included, have some doubt as to how well he will recover his former talents.

Finally, when you mention a top-pitching prospect, my thoughts immediately go to Hamels, Floyd and Madson.  I honestly doubt that the Phils care to part with any of these hurlers, especially after reluctantly trading Taylor Buchholtz, Ezequiel Astacio and Brandon Duckworth to acquire ace reliever Billy Wagner from the Astros.

The Phils minor league pitching riches are deep, but not bottomless.  I suspect they will be very reluctant to part with any more youngsters before the year 2005 at the earliest.  One of General Manager Ed Wade's greatest strengths is his understanding of the importance of a strong core of minor league hurlers.  He is not likely to alter this philosophy any time soon.

So, my friend, in conclusion, although I respect your passion to bring back a former Phillie hero, the chances of it happening are slim, and the chances of your trade proposal occurring are none.

I hope you will write again soon, it's always nice to have new Phillie homies here at the Phillie Pulse!

To My Co-Fans: Thank you for your undying interest on our beloved Phillies. Keep the questions coming and I'll keep responding. Until next time! CD from the Left Coast

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