Phillies pay heavy price for overvalued Hunter Pence

70 Comments

The Phillies got their middle-of-the-order hitter Friday, picking up two-time All-Star Hunter Pence from the Astros for first baseman Jonathan Singleton, RHP Jarred Cosart, RHP Josh Zeid and a still undisclosed fourth player.

It’s the right-handed bat the Phillies felt they needed to slot in behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the order.  Pence, though, hasn’t been all that much better than Domonic Brown of late.  He’s batting .200 with just two RBI in 45 at-bats since the All-Star break.  Since June 1, he’s hitting .297/.344/.424 with three homers and 19 RBI in 172 at-bats.

Maybe now that he’s finished with the trade rumors, he’ll improve.  The Phillies are certainly banking on it after surrendering their top two prospects.  Singleton, who is just 19, was hitting .284/.387/.413 for Single-A Clearwater this season.  Because of Howard’s presence, the Phillies tried him in left field earlier this year.  But that didn’t take.  Singleton should be a 30-homer guy down the line, and he could be an upgrade over Brett Wallace by the end of 2013.

Cosart, 21, was also at Clearwater and was 9-8 with a 3.92 ERA and a 79/43 K/BB ratio in 108 innings.  He lacks polish for someone regarded as a top pitching prospect, but he throws in the mid-90s and shows a plus curveball.  He’s a definite candidate to flame out, but he has top-of-the-rotation potential.

Zeid isn’t so talented.  The 24-year-old had a 5.65 ERA and a 56/27 K/BB ratio in 63 2/3 innings while splitting time between the rotation and the pen for Double-A Reading.  If he makes it in the majors, it’ll be as a middle reliever.

Pence is the Phillies’ answer to Carlos Beltran, and the fact that he’s under control through 2013 necessated the big offer.  He will give the Phillies offense a lift, and he may well make a difference as a No. 5 hitter come playoff time.  Still, it’s debatable whether he was really enough of an upgrade to justify the investment.  He has a 119 OPS+ since 2009, which puts him a bit below fellow corner outfielders Nick Swisher and Josh Willingham and barely above Corey Hart and Bobby Abreu.  He is an above average defender and an asset on the basepaths, but he’s not truly a star and he’s about to get paid like one.

Aaron Judge says “there is no need” to participate in 2018 Home Run Derby

Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge won last year’s Home Run Derby, directly outslugging Justin Bour, Cody Bellinger, and Miguel Sano at Marlins Park, and beating Charlie Blackmon, Mike Moustakas, and current teamamtes Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton in the process.

Judge had a terrific first half of the 2017 season, batting .329/.448/.691 with 30 home runs and 66 RBI in 366 plate appearances. He appeared to slump in the second half. He was still productive, but hit a relatively lower .228/.391/.548 with 22 home runs and 48 RBI in 312 PA.

Last year, I tried to head off the claim that the Home Run Derby would be the cause of any player’s second-half struggles, but it didn’t work. Merely a week after the Derby, columns were being written about Judge’s struggles being attributed to the home run contest. Judge didn’t seem to be convinced, at least then, that the Home Run Derby impacted him negatively, saying, “You’re going to have your ups and downs. You’re going to have your times when you do everything right and you still get out. It’s just part of it. I’m happy with the swing. I’m happy with a lot of the swings I took the last couple of days. But you don’t get any results from it. That’s baseball. That’s the game we play.”

Judge might have had a change of heart. George A. King III of the New York Post reports that Judge said “there is no need” to participate in the 2018 Home Run Derby at Nationals Park. That’s not surprising, as he said on an appearance on teammate CC Sabathia‘s podcast back in March, “I think I’m one and done at the Derby.”

As King notes, when Judge was asked two months ago if the Derby impacted his need for offseason shoulder surgery, he said, “I would rather not say.”

Judge 26, is putting together another great first half. He enters Wednesday’s action batting .281/.412/.556 with 12 home runs and 36 RBI in 211 plate appearances. He’s one of 13 players in baseball with at least 12 home runs at the moment.