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The Phillies roster will see another major shift this offseason with a new coaching staff looking to put their mark on the Phillies record.

After a disappointing season, the Phillies have appeared to have made a psychological change by firing Gabe Kapler and hiring Joe Girardi. The organization will continue to use analytics and evaluate players using new -school technology, but they will not overload players with as much information as Kapler and his staff did.
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Orlando Arcia vs. Luis Urias

Several of the players who struggled under the Kapler regime were the young players Philadelphia needed to take a step forward if they wanted to be a part of the next era of winning baseball. Some, if not all, of those players were either stagnant or took a major step back in 2019, and are unlikely to return in 2020.

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has a directive to win now, and he has a history of pulling off multiple trades in an offseason.

Here are five players Klentak will likely trade this offseason to ensure the Phillies win in 2020.
Nick Williams

One of the last additions of the Ruben Amaro Jr. era was supposed to be a cornerstone for the Phillies. Nick Williams was projected to be a five-tool corner outfielder who’d hit in the middle of the Phillies lineup for the next decade.

Williams has had his opportunities in Philadelphia, getting nearly 800 plate appearances in his first two seasons. Despite hitting 17 home runs in 2018 Williams was surpassed on the depth chart by Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper. Philadelphia gave Williams opportunities off the bench in 2019, but he couldn’t produce given the limited at-bats.

Williams just turned 26-years-old and has potential that could be unlocked by the right coaching staff on a team not expected to win. His value is at an all-time low since he was traded to the Phillies in the Cole Hamels package, but Philadelphia might be able to get either a reliever or international bonus pool money.

Look for teams like the Orioles, Royals, or Tigers to kick the tires on Williams as a reclamation project.

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Major League Baseball’s free-agent class is about to get bigger. This year’s deadline for offering arbitration to eligible players is set for Monday, Dec. 2. Teams have a couple choices, barring a trade involving the player in question: they can offer arbitration — thus opening themselves to the possibility of a hearing — or they can pass, relinquishing their rights to the player and setting them free. Those who shake loose tend to then sign one-year pacts, making them attractive targets for other clubs.

In preparation for the tender deadline, we’ve compiled a list of eight players worth watching. That doesn’t mean every player will be non-tendered — indeed, some might be traded; or simply tendered — but it does mean there’s sufficient reason to believe the players in question could be elsewhere come 2020 Opening Day.

Do note that the players are presented in alphabetical order, and that arbitration prize projections are courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors.
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Jackie Bradley BOS • CF • 19
BA.225
R69
HR21
RBI62
SB8

Jackie Bradley Jr. (and his projected $11 million arbitration prize) has been an obvious non-tender candidate ever since the Red Sox set their eyes on avoiding the luxury tax. Whomever lands Bradley Jr. will be getting a useful player with one year of team control remaining. He remains an above-average center fielder thanks more to his feel for the position than his athleticism. Meanwhile, at the dish, he’s best used in a platoon role, as he can threaten a league-average on-base percentage and run into 40-plus extra-base hits versus right-handed pitching. The overall package adds up to an average player, albeit one who should serve as someone’s most-days starter.
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C.J. Cron MIN • 1B • 24
BA.253
R51
HR25
RBI78
SB0

You have to feel a little bad for C.J. Cron, who could well end up on his fourth team in four years due to a projected arbitration prize of nearly $8 million. He’s the same player he’s ever been: strong enough to run into 25-plus homers with enough playing time, yet otherwise limited. He doesn’t walk, he hits a lot of pop-ups, and he’s not exactly blessed defensively. Cron will probably end up making it five in five, and perhaps even six in six barring an unexpected turn of events.
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Maikel Franco PHI • 3B • 7
BA.234
R48
HR17
RBI56
SB0

It’s fair to conclude that Maikel Franco’s career has not gone according to plan. Once a top prospect, he’s likely headed for the open market due to a slew of underwhelming performances a projected prize nearing $7 million. He’s been a below-average hitter in three of his four full seasons, and he does himself no favors with subpar glovework. Franco did walk more in 2019, but he’s all but helpless against any pitch with a wrinkle. He’ll get another look because that’s the way the game goes; just don’t be surprised if, based on his larger body of work, it ends up being his last substantive big-league run. (Keep an eye on Franco’s teammate, Cesar Hernandez, as well.)
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Kevin Gausman CIN • SP • 46
ERA5.72
WHIP1.42
IP102.1
BB32
K114

Kevin Gausman would probably be safe on the Reds roster were it not for a projected prize of nearly $11 million. He showed promise late last season as a reliever, posting a 5.80 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 22 innings in Cincinnati (most of which came out of the bullpen). Gausman leaned on his fastball and splitter throughout the year, but could retrieve his mothballed slider if some team wants to give him a look-see in the rotation. He’s not too far removed from being a decent starter, so don’t discount the possibility.
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Corey Knebel MIL • RP • 46

Were these decisions made with only performance in mind, then Corey Knebel (projected prize of more than $5 million) would have nothing to worry about. Over his last two seasons, he’s struck out nearly 15 batters per nine innings while accumulating a 169 ERA+. Yet “his last two seasons” do not include 2019, as he missed the duration of the year due to Tommy John surgery. Our guess is that Knebel will be tendered, but it’s at least possible the Brewers, who have to add multiple starters this winter, could look to save some coin here or elsewhere — especially if they have any concerns about how his rehab is coming.
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Jurickson Profar OAK • 2B • 23
BA.218
R65
HR20
RBI67
SB9

Jurickson Profar looked like a savvy acquisition by the Athletics last winter. He then had a miserable first half, hitting .212/.276/.370 while battling the yips. He was better down the stretch (.228/.342/.479 in the second half), but the Athletics always have to be mindful of their expenses — especially now that they’re no longer receiving revenue-sharing money. Profar is projected to make $5.8 million through arbitration. The A’s could look to move Profar and fill their second-base void with someone else. (Blake Treinen is another arbitration-eligible Athletic who could be on the move.)
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Addison Russell CHC • 2B • 27
BA.237
R25
HR9
RBI23
SB2

The Cubs shouldn’t have tendered Addison Russell last winter. He’s projected for a $5.1 million arbitration prize this go around, and it seems unlikely they repeat their mistake.
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Aaron Sanchez HOU • SP • 18
ERA5.89
WHIP1.62
IP131.1
BB68
K115

Aaron Sanchez (and his $5.6 million projection) probably would have been safe were it not for September shoulder surgery. There’s at least some chance he doesn’t pitch next season, which was slated to be his final under team control. He’ll presumably end up signing a one-year pact with a club option — with Houston, at a reduced rate, or elsewhere.
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At a news conference announcing his appointment earlier this week, new Phillies manager Joe Girardi talked about the importance of filling the open pitching and hitting coach roles with the right people.

The Phillies locked down Bryan Price as pitching coach. He’s been pitching coach with Seattle, Arizona and Cincinnati — he also managed the Reds — and is about as highly regarded in baseball circles as they come.

It’s not known who the Phillies are targeting for hitting coach, but here’s a thought:

Kevin Long was hitting coach for much of Girardi’s time as manager of the New York Yankees from 2008 to 2017. Girardi has admitted publicly that he is a fan of Long’s work.

It’s doubtful that the Phillies could orchestrate a Girardi-Long reunion in Philadelphia. Long just completed his second season as Washington Nationals hitting coach by raising the World Series championship trophy over his head. No way the Nats let him go.

But how about his assistant?

Joe Dillon is the Nats’ assistant hitting coach and he’s gaining recognition around the game for marrying new-age science with old-school principles in coaching hitters. Long, in fact, has called Dillon “the best assistant hitting coach in the baseball.” Anyone of that distinction, coming off a World Series title, would seem to be in line for advancement in the game.

Would Long talk up his trusted assistant to his old pal Girardi for an opportunity in Philadelphia?

You never know. Maybe something to watch.

• It’s remarkable that just two years after hiring first-time manager Gabe Kapler and one year after hiring first-time pitching coach Chris Young, the Phillies have done a complete about-face and hired a manager and pitching coach who are both loaded with big-league experience.

General manager Matt Klentak said experience was prioritized in hiring Girardi because, “We’ve reached a place where it is time to win … and that lends itself to a guy who has done that … and that’s by and large why we placed such a premium on prior experience.”

The Phillies improved by one game from 2018 to 2019 to finish .500 and in fourth place in the NL East. With their lack of top starting pitching and overall lack of starting pitching depth, it’s difficult to envision them competing for the division title next season — barring a major upgrade in pitching this winter, which we would not rule out given owner John Middleton’s hefty checkbook and desire to improve.

Regardless, the Phillies’ sudden obsession with experience in important field-level leadership roles seems to be tacit acknowledgment that previous hires were viewed as mistakes.

The firing of Kapler was engineered at the ownership level and Klentak was against it. He admitted that he was a big fan of Kapler at that remarkable press conference announcing the manager’s firing. The mandate to seek experience in the new manager clearly came from above, and it appears two other significant hires this offseason were encouraged from above, as well. Pat Gillick, who owns a small piece of the team and still serves as an adviser in the organization, is a big believer in Price, who was the Mariners’ pitching coach when Gillick was that team’s GM. Sources say Gillick pushed for Price. Girardi and Klentak were very much on board with the hire, but it is notable that Gillick flexed some influence.

Earlier this month, the Phillies hired Brian Barber for the important position of amateur scouting director. Barber, a top scout with the Yankees for many years, beat out in-house candidate Greg Schilz, who had seemed to be in line for the position when he came aboard as the No. 2 man in the department in the fall of 2016. Passing over Schilz was a surprise to many observers, but in this case the Phils went outside the organization and, again, appeared to rely on experience, or at least experienced eyes, in making that call. Word is Barber came very highly recommended from well-regarded Yankees front office man Jim Hendry. Hendry is very close with Phillies president Andy MacPhail. The two were together in Chicago when MacPhail was president of the Cubs and Hendry was GM. In fact, Hendry was mentioned as a candidate for the Phillies’ GM job after MacPhail joined the organization in 2015. Ultimately, the Phillies, at the behest of an ownership group looking to move into baseball’s new world, targeted a GM with more of a background in analytics.

That ended up being Klentak. His job is now on the line and he needs these new hires to help save it.

• Sources have confirmed multiple reports that infield coach Bobby Dickerson is headed to San Diego, where he will become bench coach. It’s not a surprise as Dickerson was a personal mentor to Manny Machado when they were together in Baltimore.

Dickerson’s departure is real loss for the Phillies. He’s an outstanding baseball man and tireless worker.

In other coaching matters, Young had a year left on his deal when the Phillies dismissed him as pitching coach. He was offered a chance to stay in the organization in another role, but sources say he will move on.

• Curious to see where Maikel Franco ends up. The Phillies will need spots on the 40-man roster soon and Franco’s time is clearly up in Philadelphia. A team like Texas, Baltimore or Detroit could look to acquire Franco in a deal. The Tigers scouted the Phillies extensively over the final weeks of the season, making you wonder if something possibly bigger could be brewing between the two clubs.

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The Phillies will pursue Gerrit Cole. The Phillies have an interest in Madison Bumgarner. The Phillies would love to sign Stephen Strasburg. Cole Hamels would love to return to Philadelphia.

It’s going to be all pitching all the time for the Phillies during this Hot Stove season, and since super agent Scott Boras is once again running the show — both Cole and Strasburg are his clients — you should probably be prepared for this to go on for a while.
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For the good of the game, let’s hope it doesn’t drag into spring training again this year.

You’re signed up to get this newsletter in your inbox every Thursday during the Phillies offseason. If you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @brookob. Thank you for reading.

— Bob Brookover ([email protected])
Phillies catcher Deivy Grullon hit 42 homers the last two seasons in the minor leagues.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Phillies catcher Deivy Grullon hit 42 homers the last two seasons in the minor leagues.
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The 26th man

It’s not nearly as sexy as acquiring a Cy Young Award-level starting pitcher for $250-$300 million, but Phillies general manager Matt Klentak and his team of decision makers will have a new situation to ponder in 2020 when rosters expand from 25 to 26 players.

Klentak talked at length about that addition this week at the general manager meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“I think it’s going to be fun to watch because I think you’re going to have different teams that approach that very differently,” Klentak said. “You may have some rebuilding clubs that are going to use that as an opportunity to give maybe an unproven player more playing time. For contending teams, you might find they are using that roster spot on some sort of specialist. Not necessarily a pitcher, but a pinch runner or pinch hitter or a defensive specialist.”

While rosters will expand to 26, pitching staffs will be limited to 13, which had become the most common number for almost every major-league team in recent years.

One possibility for some teams is to keep three catchers, although that seems unlikely for the Phillies since they have J.T. Realmuto, who started a major-league-leading 130 games at that position last season.

“Given that J.T. plays as much as he does, I think if we were going to carry a third catcher, we would want that player to probably be able to play somewhere else and/or be more of an offensive bench threat,” Klentak said.

Andrew Knapp, the Phillies’ backup catcher each of the last three seasons, has come under fire for a lack of offensive production, but his .318 on-base percentage was actually higher than 14 of the 21 backup catchers who had between 100 and 200 at-bats last season.

Deivy Grullon, who got his first big-league cup of coffee in September, appears to be more of an offensive threat than Knapp. Grullon hit 21 homers each of the last two seasons at double-A Reading and triple-A Lehigh Valley. His 77 RBIs last season were tied for eighth in the International League, a remarkable rank for a catcher.

Both Knapp and Grullon have the ability to play first base.

Klentak was asked if the Phillies needed to upgrade at backup catcher from Knapp.

“To be fair to Andrew, J.T. relative to just about anybody is going to be a huge gap,” Klentak said. “More than anything, the reason J.T. played so much is because J.T. is really good and he’s really durable and he wants to play.

“I think it’s really difficult for any player, but especially a relatively young player like Knapp, to adjust to a bench role when they’ve been a regular most of their lives. I was encouraged by the way he played in the last week to 10 days when he had a chance to play a little more regularly. I thought his at-bats were good.

“The other thing I’ll say on Knapp is, he’s a really strong and influential guy in the clubhouse. He’s very close to his teammates, he’s a leader in the clubhouse, and that’s another thing we have to make sure we appreciate with whatever decision we make. I think the pairing of Realmuto and Knapp is generally pretty good and can continue to be, particularly with the 26th man, which is likely going to add another bat off the bench and limit the number of pinch-hitting opportunities for the backup catcher.”
The rundown

Nothing like Scott Boras Day at the GM meetings and winter meetings, and the first installment came Wednesday in Scottsdale, Ariz. While rumors have swirled that Houston All-Star pitcher Gerrit Cole would prefer to sign with a West Coast team, Boras indicated his client would happily accept a check signed by Phillies managing partner John Middleton.

Surprise, surprise, look who’s back in a managerial chair. Well, Gabe Kapler actually prefers a standing desk in his office, but you get the idea. Kapler was hired by the San Francisco Giants and Scott Lauber listened to him field a lot of tough questions Wednesday at his introductory news conference. The Phillies will face Kapler and the Giants from April 27-29 in San Francisco, and Kapler and his team will come to Philadelphia for a four-game series from Aug. 6-9.

If Middleton wants to spend big again on free agents this offseason, which seems likely when you have a class that includes Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner, Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson, among others, he can probably do so without taking the Phillies over baseball’s luxury-tax threshold of $208 million. Scott Lauber examined the Phillies’ payroll commitments already in place.

Matt Klentak knows pitching is the team’s No. 1 priority this offseason, but he also knows that it’s not just about dollars and years. The GM has concerns about giving up too many draft picks by signing high-level free agents.

Former Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is looking for work after leaving his advisory role with the New York Mets. Amaro told me he would love to return to Philadelphia in some capacity, and that might be possible in some sort of broadcasting role.

Juan Castro, best known around here for making a terrific play at third base to complete the late Roy Halladay’s 2010 perfect game in Miami, was hired as the Phillies’ infield instructor late last week. He replaces Bobby Dickerson, who left for a job in San Diego.
Important dates

Nov. 20: Teams must set their 40-man rosters for the Rule 5 draft.

Dec. 9-12: Winter meetings in San Diego.

Feb. 11: Phillies pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

March 26: Opening day against the Marlins in Miami.
Baltimore Orioles infielder Jonathan Villar originally signed with the Phillies for $105,000 as an international free agent in 2008.
Julio Cortez / AP
Baltimore Orioles infielder Jonathan Villar originally signed with the Phillies for $105,000 as an international free agent in 2008.
Stat of the day

If you are still an avid reader of the print edition, you will find an extensive story in this Sunday’s Inquirer about the Phillies’ quest for an international superstar like Washington’s Juan Soto and Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. Some of the Phillies’ best international signings have helped them acquire players via trade, with the most recent example being the deal that brought them All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto from Miami. The two key players going the other way were catcher Jorge Alfaro and pitcher Sixto Sanchez, both of whom had good seasons.

Alfaro hit .262 with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs for the Marlins, and Sanchez went 8-6 with a 2.76 ERA in 20 starts at high-A Jupiter and double-A Jacksonville. Sanchez struck out 103 and walked just 21 in 114 innings.

The Phillies’ best international signing from the past was infielder Jonathan Villar, who hit .274 with 33 doubles, five triples and 24 home runs with Baltimore. The Phillies traded Villar, 28, to Houston as part of the Roy Oswalt deadline deal in 2010.
From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.

Question: After demolishing AFL pitching this Autumn, it is indisputable that Alec Bohm is the real McCoy. After applying himself diligently, Bohm has made solid improvement in his defense at 3rd base. His lateral movement is improved and there is no questions about his arm. Still, some scouts (who likely haven’t seen Bohm since last Spring Training) say he is destined for 1st base. The Phils need a 3rd baseman badly. Yet, Bohm will be in the Show by May. Why are the Phillies said to be considering Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson when Bohm is so close? If Bohm’ s future is at 1st base, what does that mean for Rhys Hoskins? Even though his slump extended to the end of the season, he still is one of the best power hitters in MLB. Where are they going with this? Thanks so much for your excellent insight. I look forward to you covering Hot Stove.

— Roger S., via email

Answer: Thanks for the question and for being such an avid reader, Roger. Alec Bohm did follow up a stellar minor-league season with a great showing in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .361 with a .925 OPS in 19 games against top competition.

With Hoskins at first base and Bohm knocking on the big-league door, it does create an interesting situation for the Phillies. I personally don’t think the Phillies will sign either Rendon or Donaldson because they will spend the big bucks on pitching. Maybe they’ll try to sign Mike Moustakas on a short-term deal and continue to let Bohm develop for one more year while also finding out if Hoskins can overcome the problems he had in the second half of last season.

There is one important thing to remember. It seems likely that the designated hitter will be coming to the National League in the not-too-distant future, and under that scenario, every team in the league is going to want another hitter capable of putting up big power numbers. So if the Phillies did decide to sign Rendon or Donaldson to long-term deals, they could have a middle of the order in two years with Bohm, Hoskins, Bryce Harper and either Rendon or Donaldson.

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Since 2012, the Phillies have non-tendered contracts to three arbitration-eligible players; Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez could soon join that list.

As Thanksgiving has come and gone, the next important date of the Major League Baseball offseason is just days away: Monday’s 8 p.m. deadline for clubs to decide whether to “non-tender” their arbitration-eligible players.

When an arbitration-eligible player becomes “non-tendered,” their previous club is declining to offer them a contract for the upcoming season; therefore, the player is immediately made a free agent.

Players are up for non-tender consideration if they are on the 40-man roster and have fewer than six years of Major League service time. Reasons players could be no-tendered include that the club believes a salary increase they would receive in arbitration exceeds their on-field value, and/or that the club simply wants to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

The Phillies have nine players eligible for arbitration this offseason: LHP Jose Alvarez, RHP Zach Eflin, 3B Maikel Franco, 2B Cesar Hernandez, C Andrew Knapp, LHP Adam Morgan, RHP Hector Neris, C J.T. Realmuto, and RHP Vince Velasquez.

While Eflin and Realmuto are surely locks to be tendered contracts by Monday’s deadline, the same cannot be said for Franco and Hernandez.

The Phillies have been rumored to be trying to trade either player, and have already explored options for their replacements in the infield, such as Didi Gregorius, Mike Moustakas, and Josh Donaldson, among others.

Click through to see the three most recent players, since 2012, that the Phillies have decided to non-tender and the avoid arbitration process with.

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manager
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Nov 26, 2019
Mitch Rupert
Sports reporter
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SUN-GAZETTE FILE Williamsport Crosscutters manager Pat Borders speaks with members of the media during media day in 2016 at Bowman Field.

Pat Borders will return as manager of the Williamsport Crosscutters for the 2020 season, the team confirmed Monday. It will be the former World Series MVP’s sixth season at the helm of the Cutters, the longest tenure of any manager in franchise history.

Borders is scheduled to be in Williamsport on Jan. 15 for the Crosscutters’ annual Hot Stove Banquet. He will be appearing at the event along with ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian and former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Greg Luzinski Kurkjian is returning to the banquet for a second consecutive season.

No other member of the Cutters’ coaching staff has been announced.

In five seasons leading the Philadelphia Phillies’ short-season Class A affiliate, Borders has accumulated a 191-185 record and is the franchise’s career leader in managerial wins. In 2019, Williamsport finished 32-43, but was tied for the league’s best record over the season’s final 38 games. The Cutters also finished third in the league in team ERA.

Five former Cutters under the tutelage of Borders have gone on to play Major League Baseball — Adam Haseley, Seranthony Dominguez, Cole Irvin, Ranger Suarez and Jacob Waguespack.

In his first season with Williamsport in 2015, he guided the Crosscutters to the league’s best regular-season record and a Pinckney Division championship. His 46-30 mark that season is the third-best record in club history. It was the team’s first division title since 2001.

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The Phillies on Thursday announced that they had claimed reliever Robert Stock on waivers from the San Diego Padres.

Stock, 29, is a power-armed right-hander who has racked up some big strikeout totals in his career. He’s also allowed an abundance of hits, particularly in 2019.

Stock pitched 10 2/3 innings in the majors in 2019 and struck out 15. He walked eight.

He struck out 12.7 batters per nine innings in 28 1/3 innings at Triple A, but also allowed 11.4 hits per nine innings.

Stock has appeared in the majors the last two seasons with the Padres. He had a 2.50 ERA in 32 games with the Padres in 2018.

Stock missed time in 2019 with a biceps injury. He will compete for a spot in the Phillies’ bullpen in 2020 — if he stays with the club. The Phillies in recent seasons have made several waiver claims at this time of year only to lose the player on waivers a few weeks later.

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies closer Héctor Neris will appeal Major League Baseball’s three-game suspension and fine for intentionally hitting Dodgers first baseman David Freese with a pitch Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Neris drilled Freese in the middle of his back with a 95-mph fastball after he allowed a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to pinch-hitter Matt Beaty to hand the Dodgers a two-run lead. The Phillies scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to win the game, 9-8.
Must C: Phils stun Dodgers in 9th

Jul 17th, 2019

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3:15
Must C: Phils stun Dodgers in 9th

Neris and Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said afterward that the pitch was not intentional.

“I wanted to throw inside, and I hit him,” Neris said. “I didn’t hit him on purpose.”

Neris can continue to pitch until the matter is resolved, typically with a hearing.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .

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Wins. ERA. WHIP. Strikeouts. Those are the only things you should care about for starting pitchers. That is, if you are playing fantasy baseball.

I looked at standard, advanced, batted ball, and plate discipline stats across every single pitcher in 2019. The stat for wins had no other stat that was more than 50% correlated with it (besides counting stats like games played). Not even K/9, ERA or WHIP.

Look at your K-BB% leaders from 2019 among qualifiers:

Gerrit Cole
Justin Verlander
Max Scherzer
Jacob DeGrom. (Do I need to continue?)
Shane Bieber
Lucas Giolito
Walker Buehler

K-BB% is heavily correlated to ERA (57%) and WHIP (70%). Swinging strike % is an excellent metric as well but is only 40% and 47% correlated to ERA and WHIP respectively.

Other metrics such as K/9, line drive %, HR/FB, and every single batted ball and plate discipline metric all have a correlation of under 50% with respect to ERA and WHIP.

K-BB% is king.

Now let’s get into the history portion of this tutorial…
Everything you need to get ready for the 2020 MLB season

Rankings, face-offs, sleepers; we got it all! Yes it’s early, but can you blame us?

Let’s just get an obvious point out of the way: strikeouts have risen dramatically in recent years. As a result, the number of pitchers with a K-BB% of at least 18% has risen. I’ve used 18% as my arbitrary line in the sand.

From 1990 through 2014 (25 years), there were only six pitchers with a K-BB% at least 18% but produced an ERA of 4.00 or above. We are talking single season and at least 80 IP. Let’s go through them:

1995 – Sid Fernandez (18.0% K-BB, 4.56 ERA). This was a split season between a terrible portion in Baltimore and a very good portion in Philadelphia. His struggles were with the long ball but could not play a full season the next year even though he continued some success over 11 starts, posting a 3.43 ERA and 11.0 K/9 in 1996. This is an example of a very talented pitcher who has tapped out his physical resources.

1996 – Francisco Cordova (18.1% K-BB%, 4.09 ERA). Cordova’s season was mainly as a reliever in 1996. He was converted into a starter the next year and played only five seasons in total. He followed this season up with two decent seasons but never possessed the strikeout ability as a starter.

2003 – Randy Johnson (20.0% K-BB%, 4.26 ERA). Again, the case of a post prime season that was riddled with injury. The Big Unit was so immortal he mustered up one more elite season after this, but this is an example of the K-BB% skill set being so strong during one’s prime that it remains elite even when other elements are faltering.

2006 – Jake Peavy (18.1% K-BB%, 4.09 ERA). This was a season sandwiched in between two elite years prior and two elite years afterward. His prime was short-lived, but in 2006 his swinging strike rate was still 12.2%. After 2008, the swinging strikes fell below 10% as he fizzled out.

2008 – Josh Beckett (19.0% K-BB%, 4.03 ERA). This was a Red Sox season which he was past his prime yet produced the best K-BB% of his career. The swinging strike % was down to 8.7% which was a steep decline from his Marlin days.

2009 – Ricky Nolasco (19.2% K-BB%, 5.06 ERA). This was his second full season coming off an incredible rookie campaign. Close your eyes, Snell owners. His swinging strike rate was 10.4% which was not far off from his career average. Open your eyes, Snell owners. The issue was that over the next three seasons his fastball velocity fell from 92.5 mph to 92.0 mph to 91.5 mph to 91.0 mph. He was pretty much finished after that and bounced around over the next few seasons, never posting any quality numbers. He was always a pitcher that relied heavily on breaking pitches and those get easier to hit when your fastball velocity declines. Close your eyes, Kershaw owners. It’s frightening when someone like Kershaw has a drastic decline in velocity and must resort to throwing more offspeed pitches. If you have recently become a fantasy baseball fan, google Felix Hernandez.

Over the next five years, between 2015 and 2019, it happened 40 times! Some players have done it multiple times.

Honorable mention goes to Tyler Glasnow in 2018, with a 4.27 ERA but just missing with a 17.7% K-BB%.

We have a couple of categories:

The sun setter (Big Unit, Beckett, Sid Fernandez)
The flash in the pan (Nolasco)
The blip in their prime (Peavy)
The legit breakout (Glasnow)
The reliever compiling the requisite innings (Cordova). We will ignore these for the most part.

Let’s take a closer look at the recent years.
2015

1. Raisel Iglesias (19.2% K-BB%, 4.15 ERA). Mostly a starter that year but turned into a lights out reliever. He’s a mix of a legit breakout and the reliever factor. Overall, this gives us confidence that the K-BB% is positively correlated to excellent fantasy production.

2. Michael Pineda (20.2% K-BB%, 4.37 ERA). We will come back to Pineda because he makes two more appearances on this list.
2016

3. Michael Pineda (20.4% K-BB%, 4.82 ERA). Wait for it. He’ll be back.

4. Chris Archer (19.5% K-BB%, 4.02 ERA). Wait for the K-BB% to improve and the ERA to get worse.

5. Vince Velasquez (19.4% K-BB%, 4.12 ERA). This was probably his best year to date, and for someone who strikes out so many batters, has not repeated a K-BB% over 18% due to the control issues. His fastball velocity has maintained itself and his secondary offerings have increased in velocity. However, his swinging strike rate has never been elite, and he has not attempted to alter his pitch mix over four seasons. More than likely he makes his way to the bullpen.

6. Aaron Nola (19.1% K-BB%, 4.78 ERA). We saw him break out over the next two seasons. Despite his regression in 2019, he is a legitimate breakout performer that indicates K-BB% should be focused on. It is worth noting that in 2019, he had a 17.5% K-BB%, a swinging strike rate better than his 2017 season, and his highest velocity to date. This was the signs of a legitimate breakout and I expect his 2020 to be closer to the near Cy Young 2018 season.

7. Robbie Ray (18.9% K-BB%, 4.90 ERA). This was a legitimate sign of a breakout which did occur in 2017. However, there was some regression in 2018 and 2019 as he reappears on the list in 2019 and almost made the list in 2018 with a 3.93 ERA. Stay tuned.
2017

8. Danny Salazar (23.0% K-BB%, 4.28 ERA). Salazar has not been able to stay healthy enough since 2017 to make an assessment. He had some relief appearances and still walked 10% of the batters. What he lacks in control, he makes up for in stuff. He only threw four innings in 2019 but his average fastball velocity was down about 10 mph, so he carries enormous injury risk and reliever risk going forward. He will be 30 years old on Opening Day, Cleveland has incredible depth at starting pitcher, and he has not been healthy for three years. He is not someone to target in standard leagues.

9. Chris Archer (22.2% K-BB%, 4.07 ERA). I told you his ERA would get worse as his K-BB% improved. The problem is the long ball. His swinging strike rate has maintained but he’s suffered a 1 mph dip in velocity in his awful 2019 season. I see him sun setting.

10. Jeff Samardzija (20.4% K-BB%, 4.42 ERA). This was the start of a serious decline, partly due to injury and partly due to skill set. He was one that never reached his full potential. Looking at the drastic decline in K%, stick a fork in him with respect to his 2020 outlook. He falls somewhere in between a flash in the pan and a sun setter.

11. Masahiro Tanaka (20.4% K-BB%, 4.74 ERA). He did have a decent rebound in 2018, which was a risky bet despite the nifty K-BB%. However, home runs are his nemesis, and by the end of 2019 his ability to strike batters out has diminished as a result of a decline in velocity and swinging strike rate. I am not certain that he has stopped trying to throw his sinker. However, according to Fangraphs, his sinker usage is nonexistent in favor of a four-seam fastball. Stick a fork in him for 2020, as he has been sun setting for years.

12. Kenta Maeda (19.0% K-BB%, 4.22 ERA). Maeda is going to pop up again. Stay tuned.

13. Jose Quintana (18.5% K-BB%, 4.15 ERA). Quintana outperformed his peripherals on several occasions and was a very durable pitcher that typically did not produce enough strikeouts to make this list. He was an above average pitcher for a span, but is sunsetting here. The K-BB% is really an anomaly for Quintana.

14. Trevor Bauer (18.2% K-BB%, 4.19 ERA). Legitimately broke out in 2018 as many expected, but regressed enough in 2019 so he could reappear on the list. Stay tuned.

15. Lance McCullers (18.0% K-BB%, 4.25 ERA). He was on his way to a breakout in 2018 with an increasing swinging strike rate at 13.5% with an excellent K/9 and a 3.86 ERA. He does carry some reliever risk, but he could be a legitimate breakout candidate again in 2020.
2018

16. Nick Pivetta (19.7% K-BB%, 4.77 ERA). A sleeper for many in 2019 that crashed and burned. The swinging strikes and velocity were only down ever so slightly, but he threw a lot more curveballs. Batters were making more contact out of the strike zone than before. Perhaps he can improve by throwing more fastballs, but he is a flash in pan as of now.

17. Shane Bieber (19.6% K-BB%, 4.55 ERA). A legitimate breakout.

18. Joey Lucchesi (18.6% K-BB%, 4.08 ERA). He produced a similar season in 2019 with less strikeouts per inning. He was on the cusp of this list in terms of K-BB% and ERA so I believe he can continue to be a league average pitcher. For fantasy purposes, he is replaceable in standard leagues.

19. Noe Ramirez (18.5% K-BB%, 4.54 ERA). Reliever.

20. Domingo German (18.5% K-BB%, 5.57 ERA). Legitimate breakout to start the year and regressed. Overall improved substantially. Stay tuned for 2019.

21. Andrew Heaney (18.0% K-BB%, 4.15 ERA). Making the list two years in a row is not necessarily good. Ask Chris Archer. However, stay tuned for my take on 2019.
2019

If you have read this far, you are probably wondering who the breakout candidates for are 2020…

22. Chris Sale (29.6% K-BB%, 4.40 ERA). We know Sale can be a super elite pitcher. We know that this is the highest K-BB% by far for any pitcher with an ERA over 4.00 since 1990. However, the only super elite pitcher in the last 30 years to have an ERA over 4.00 while posting a K-BB% over 18.0% is Randy Johnson at the age of 40. There was something going on health-wise. Chis Sale is no sure bet to return to elite form, however his upside is colossal.

23. Blake Snell (24.3% K-BB%, 4.29 ERA). Snell dealt with injuries, but his velocity was not an issue when he was on the mound. His swinging strike rate was 17.7%, which is preposterous, and he was generally unlucky. He is one year removed from a Cy Young and has the pedigree. This was a blip in his prime and I expect a return to elite form in 2020.

24. Matthew Boyd (23.9% K-BB%, 4.56 ERA). He has never had a good ERA because he doesn’t limit his walks and gives up more than his share of home runs. His velocity was significantly up in 2019 and a swinging strike rate of 14.0% was a career high. He was also limiting contact better than ever. Of all the pitchers I profiled, he was one of the only ones to increase the number of fastballs he threw. We will find out very soon if Boyd is a mainstay in the Tigers rotation. Matt Manning, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Alex Faedo and Joey Wentz should be up at some point in 2020. Moreover, Michael Fulmer should be back and could be excellent. Finally, Boyd’s splits were off the charts—3.87 ERA vs. 5.51 ERA in the first and second half respectively. Also, for everyone citing the division as an asset for pitchers like Bieber, Clevinger, Berrios, etc., look at this stat: Boyd vs. the AL Central—5.87 ERA; Boyd vs. everyone else—3.47 ERA. What gives? He gave up 39 homers. If he could have cut it down to a respectable 30, he would have had a maximum ERA of 4.13 in 2019. Boyd, despite the many warning signs, is a breakout candidate.

25. Robbie Ray (20.2% K-BB%, 4.34 ERA). He has a K-BB% in excess of 18% in each of the previous four seasons. His swinging strike rate is elite. His issue is walks. The only flaw in his arsenal is diminished velocity in 2019, but this should not correlate into the biggest weakness in his performance—control. He did replace the changeup with the curve in 2017, which helped. However, he has reverted to his sinker more with the reduced velocity. His best season was one in which he utilized his curveball and fastball combination the most. Over the last two seasons, he has mixed more of the sinker and slider in. Like Boyd, at 28 years old, he is at a crossroads. Fantasy owners are not paying an enormous price for his upside. I am a buyer, in the hopes that he had a two-year blip in his prime.

26. Matt Strahm (19.7% K-BB%, 4.71 ERA). This year’s Pivetta.

27. Carlos Carrasco (23.5% K-BB%, 5.29 ERA). At 33 years old entering 2020, there is a risk that he sun sets. His fastball usage and velocity were down, but his swinging strikes were still elite. He does have the health concerns and likely a different prioritization of baseball in his life. Ignoring the health scare as I hope he is fully recovered; I believe he is not ready to decline yet. However, comparing the risk to his price tag, I will stay clear of Carrasco this season.

28. David Price (21.0% K-BB%, 4.28 ERA). The injury risk is enough to tell me he’s been sun setting. Although his swinging strike rate rebounded from 2018, his velocity has declined too much. The variance in velocity from his fastball to changeup has declined from 12 mph to 8 mph. However, he is utilizing the changeup more than ever and basically ignored his curve. I believe 2019 was Price’s season like Randy Johnson had in 2003.

29. Drew Pomeranz (20.4% K-BB%, 4.85 ERA). Velocity was the best it has been in four years, and set a career high in swinging strike rate. However, did most of the damage as a reliever in Milwaukee. He’s a reliever.

30. Freddy Peralta (20.4% K-BB%, 5.29 ERA). Awful as a starter and throws almost 78% fastballs, as he is a two-pitch pitcher. Fastball velocity was up almost 3 mph, however, and the swinging strike rate was 13%. There is room in the rotation in Milwaukee as of now. He’s likely a reliever or an opener, but there is some upside here.

31. Wilmer Font (18.5% K-BB%, 4.48 ERA). Mainly a reliever.

32. German Marquez (19.4% K-BB%, 4.76 ERA). His velocity and swinging strikes have climbed and his he still 25 years old on Opening Day. His home-road splits are a legitimate concern which limit his upside, but this could be a blip in his prime. His upside is an SP2.

33. Domingo German (19.2% K-BB%, 4.03 ERA). German makes it back-to-back years on the breakout list even though he made significant strides in 2019. Some would say he had a mini breakout already, and even fell off a bit in the second half. His swinging strike rate is 14.9% and 13.0% the past two seasons which is incredible, but he did experience a dip in velocity last season. He could be set to improve once again in 2020.

34. Kenta Maeda (18.9% K-BB%, 4.04 ERA). Maeda barely makes the list but could be a mainstay due to his huge swing and miss ability and consistent velocity. He may have been misused in LA, as he has made 34 relief appearances over the last three seasons. It is interesting to note that he has performed better as a reliever. He does not really fit the mold of a breakout, rather he is a rich man’s Joey Lucchesi.

35. Trevor Bauer (18.8% K-BB%, 4.48 ERA). He had a better K-BB% and K% than his 2017 season in which everyone tabbed him as a breakout candidate. His swinging strike rate is 12.2% which is still excellent, and he has shown no signs of diminished velocity. His peripherals appear superior than 2017, yet he’s taken steps back in all measures from his ridiculous 2018 season. I foresee a “re-breakout” in 2020, but not to the extent of 2019. I’ll bank on a 3.40 ERA and about 225 strikeouts. Good for a Round 3-4 pick you can get in rounds 6-7.

36. Noah Syndergaard (18.4% K-BB%, 4.28 ERA). His velocity and swing and miss are still awesome despite minor drops. Health is the only thing that scares me, but he should bounce back nicely and provide some draft day value, albeit small. He’s still too established to be considered a breakout.

37. Kevin Gausman (18.2% K-BB%, 5.72 ERA). He’s got a 14.8% swinging strike rate. This is good. His velocity is down from his time with the Orioles, but he still throws 94 mph and has pedigree at 28 years old. On the other hand, he fared much better as a relief pitcher. His role depends on where he signs, and it is difficult to rely on him for a breakout given all the opportunity he has been afforded.

38. Max Fried (18.0% K-BB%, 4.02 ERA). Fried posted a very good swinging strike and showed that he can miss bats. He surely has upside to post an ERA under 4.00 but cannot see him as a truly elite arm.

39. Michael Pineda (18.7% K-BB%, 4.01 ERA). Pineda squeaked his way onto this list for the third time with an ERA of 4.01. He’s shown big potential in terms of strikeout ability. He’s dealt with injuries which erased his 2018 season and he’s been on the list in both 2015 and 2016. He just missed in 2017 with a 17.3% K-BB%. In 2016, he had his worst ERA at 4.82 but also struck out 207 in 175 2⁄3 innings (the only season besides his rookie year that he had over 9.0 K/9). He has also shown a decline in fastball usage throughout his career. Despite this, in 2019, he had the second highest swinging strike mark of his career and he went back to more fastballs while using his changeup more frequently at the expense of the slider. However, we saw a dip in velocity that was quite substantial when compared to when he last pitched in 2017.

40. Andrew Heaney (21.5% K-BB%, 4.91 ERA). Heaney makes the list in consecutive years battling more injuries and a higher ERA. He posted a career high 14.1% swinging strike rate and his velocity was better than ever. I am calling for a legitimate breakout from Heaney in 2020.
Honorable Mention

41. Dinelson Lamet (24.0% K-BB%, 4.07 ERA). Just missing the innings by 7 IP to qualify for the list. Coming off Tommy John Surgery, his fastball velocity was 96.1 mph in 2019 vs. 95.1 mph in 2017. Swinging strikes were up to 14.0% from 11.8%. Love everything about this. He is a legitimate breakout candidate next season.

42. Griffin Canning (17.2% K-BB%, 4.58 ERA). Just missed the K-BB% by 0.8% to qualify for the list. Canning consistently posted more than a strikeout per inning and is a legit breakout candidate next season.
Bonus Material

Minor league pitchers with a K-BB% over 18% in 2019 that could make a big MLB impact in 2020 (min 40 IP in Double-A/Triple-A):

Tarik Skubal – 37.2%
Brendan McKay – 30.2%
Jose Urquidy – 26.5%
Cristian Javier – 25.9%
Daulton Jefferies – 24.8%
Tyler Ivey – 24.5%
Zach Plesac – 23.5%
Lewis Thorpe – 23.3%
Alex Faedo – 23.0%
Justin Dunn – 21.5%
Matt Manning – 20.9%
Deivi Garcia – 20.8%
Mitch Keller – 20.2%
Nate Pearson – 19.2%
Cory Abbott – 19.1%
Sixto Sanchez – 19.0%
Ian Anderson – 18.6%
Aaron Civale – 18.5%
Dustin May – 18.1%
Casey Mize – 18.0%

In summation, my Top 10 Breakout Candidates for 2020:

Dinelson Lamet
Andrew Heaney
Dustin May
Lance McCullers
Spencer Howard (not mentioned yet, however 34.4% K-BB% in High-A and 23.8% K-BB% in Double-A in limited innings with a minuscule ERA)
Robbie Ray (re-breakout)
Domingo German (further breakout)
Matthew Boyd (further breakout)
Max Fried
Griffin Canning

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It was the team’s first division title since 2001.
The Phillies added four pitchers to their 40-man roster on Wednesday night, including Cristopher Sanchez, who was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Sanchez, 23, is a 6-5 left-hander from the Dominican Republic who pitched mostly at the Single A level in 2019. The Rays were out of room on their 40-man roster and believed Sanchez would be lost in next month’s Rule 5 draft so they peddled him to the Phillies for infielder Curtis Mead, a 19-year-old from Australia who played in the Gulf Coast League last summer.

Sanchez will come to big-league spring training camp in February, but he needs more development time in the minors as he has pitched just 1⅓ inning above the Single A level. Sanchez’ fastball can reach 97 mph. The Phils might have something if the lanky lefty can put it together.

The Phillies also added JoJo Romero, Garrett Cleavinger and Mauricio Llovera to the roster. Romero and Cleavinger are both lefties and Llovera is a power-armed right-hander. All three could figure in the big club’s bullpen picture at some point in 2020.

Romero, 23, was the Phillies’ fourth-round draft pick in 2016. He struggled as a starter at Double A and Triple A in 2019 but pitched well out of the bullpen in Arizona Fall League, giving up just one earned run in 10⅔ innings.

Cleavinger, 25, was a third-round pick by the Orioles in 2015. The Phillies acquired him for Jeremy Hellickson in the summer of 2017. Cleavinger has strikeout stuff — he punched out 83 batters and allowed just 32 hits in 51⅔ innings at Double A Reading in 2019 — but control is an issue as he walked 34.

Llovera, who turns 24 in April, has long impressed club officials with his power arm. He struck out 72 in 65⅓ innings at Reading in 2019.

Players added to the 40-man roster by Wednesday’s deadline cannot be selected in the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings next month. The Phillies’ roster stands at 39.

The Phillies left a couple of notable young players unprotected. Catcher Rafael Marchan and power-hitting outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz will both be eligible for the Rule 5 draft. If selected by another club, they must spend the entire season in the majors. Both Marchan and Ortiz will play at 21 next season. Neither has played above the Florida State League and both are in need of more development time so the Phillies stand a good shot of hanging on to both.

Ortiz made headlines in the summer of 2015 when the Phillies signed him out of the Domincan Republic for $4 million. He has big power — 19 homers at Single A Clearwater in 2019 — but contact is an issue. He has racked up 297 strikeouts in 835 at-bats while hitting just .212 the last two seasons at the Single A level.