Former Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr., now the Red Sox’ first base coach, discussed the perception that his regime in Philadelphia was well behind the curve in terms of analytics in an interview with David Laurila of Fangraphs. Amaro makes the claim that while his club may not have been as progressive as some of the most aggressive adopters of statistical analysis, the Phillies may also have been more up to speed than they let on. “You can’t ever deny the numbers,” said Amaro.“That’s true for every GM and every baseball person, regardless of whether you’re ‘old school’ or ‘new school.’ … I’ve always believed in analytics. I just didn’t make it all public (in Philadelphia). I thought it was more of a competitive advantage for me to keep our thought-process about analytics closer to the vest. … I didn’t think it was anybody’s business but our own as to how we evaluated.” That is, of course, a fairly bold claim to make, especially in the face of years of stories to the contrary, which highlighted the Phillies’ adherence to more traditional means of evaluation. Amaro goes on to discuss the balance between data and scouting as well as new data from Statcast and evaluating players at different age levels. Regardless of whether one believes his initial claims (and I’d expect that most will not), the issue the comments raise is interesting, as there certainly could be some value to keeping operational methodology close to the vest for a big league organization. The interview is well worth taking a few minutes to read.
Here’s more from the NL East…
- Cody Asche is in danger of opening the season on the Phillies’ disabled list, writes Ryan Lawrence of PhillyVoice.com. The former third base prospect, who converted to the outfield last year to accommodate Maikel Franco, was originally shut down two weeks ago due to an oblique issue, and an MRI conducted on Wednesday showed little progress. Asche is battling a Grade 1 strain in his right oblique, and manager Pete Mackanin says that the 25-year-old is still not cleared to hit. Aaron Altherr’s unfortunate injury — he’ll miss up to six months following wrist surgery — seemed to have created a window for Asche to get some more playing time, but his own health problems could now stand in the way of that. As a result, Lawrence notes, Rule 5 pick Tyler Goeddel’s chances of sticking with the club become even stronger.
- Phillies GM Matt Klentak implied to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki that it’s unlikely he’ll look outside the organization to replace Altherr. “We owe it to the guys in camp to give them that chance to fill that spot,” said Klentak. “We’ll survey the market. If there’s something out there, we’ll explore it, but we feel pretty good about the guys we have here.” As Zolecki notes, the Phillies do have top priority on the waiver wire, so they could add an outfielder late in camp if one becomes available in that manner. In addition to Goeddel, the Phillies have Odubel Herrera, Peter Bourjos Darnell Sweeney and Darin Ruf as 40-man options, with veteran David Lough in camp as a non-roster invitee.
- Denard Span, who signed a three-year, $31MM contract with the Giants this offseason, spoke fondly of his time with the Nationals to James Wagner of the Washington Post in a recent interview. Within, the 31-year-old Span reveals that he and former agent Joe Urbon of CAA Sports approached the Nationals about a potential extension back in 2014, but the team wasn’t interested at the time. Despite the fact that his interest was spurned, Span had nothing but glowing things to say about the organization. It’s not necessarily a surprise that the Nats weren’t keen on a long-term deal, as Bryce Harper is a fixture in the outfield, Jayson Werth is locked up through 2017, and the team undoubtedly hoped at the time (and still hopes) that Michael A. Taylor can shift into the center field slot as a more cost-effective long-term option.
- Braves general manager John Coppolella tells MLB.com’s Mark Bowman that he’s not ruling out Major League debuts for top outfield prospect Mallex Smith or shortstops Dansby Swanson and Ozhaino Albies in 2016. “They have all been very impressive, and I don’t think they could have shown any better than they have,” said Coppolella of the trio’s first week of Grapefruit League action. Coppolella went on to say that service time implications (i.e. delaying a player’s free agency) won’t be a factor for him if a player deems that he is ready for MLB action in 2016. “You can always sign young guys to long-term deals,” said the GM. “Sometimes, when you bring up prospects early, they’re more willing to sign long-term because they know you didn’t hold them hostage or try to manipulate them in any way.”