For three glorious weeks, the Philadelphia Phillies were the best team in baseball.
But as Isaac Newton may or may not have actually said, “what goes up, must come down.” Since starting the second half 16-5, the Phillies have come way, way down.
The second-half Phillies looked like a different team, led largely by a strangely potent offense and an equally strange string of average pitching performances from a club whose 4.70 ERA is the second worse in baseball. The worst, the Rockies, sent Kyle Kendrick out as their opening day starter, to give you a barometer as to the depth of their pitching staff.
Since that MLB-best 16-5 start, however, the Phils have begun to falter, losing two of three to the Diamondbacks before being swept by the Brewers—both teams with sub-.500 records. The Phillies were outscored 45-15 in those two series combined, putting on display the exact lack of hitting and poor pitching that Phillies fans have come to expect this season.
However, there may be hope on the horizon.
Granted, the horizon is far away, and we’re in a sailboat and are therefore moving very slowly towards it, but it’s there.
I’m talking, of course, about the future.
And, while maybe my awards predictions won’t be perfect (Pederson has been slumping hard since the break, while Duffy has not), I can say that my outlook for the future of the Phillies will indeed be perfect.
I’m hoping that at some point in the next few years Cameron Rupp will be relegated to backup duty. Jorge Alfaro, one of the players acquired in the Hamels deal, will ideally ascend to the majors in the next few years. Though his defense is sub-par, he has the potential to become one of baseball’s better hitting catchers if he can work on making solid contact more often. Andrew Knapp, the Phillies second round pick in 2013, is another top catching prospect with similar peripherals. Given that stockpiling talented catchers isn’t normally in a team’s best interest, it’s entirely possible that either could get dealt, or, frankly, not pan out. I’d place Alfaro above Knapp in terms of the likelihood of sticking around at catcher (Knapp could transition to first, theoretically, but that’d be a waste of a damn good arm).
With the money the Phillies will have going into the next few offseasons, it’s a possiblity that the Phils could sign a catcher (Weiters is still young-ish), but I’d like to see them stick with Ruiz to help Alfaro and Knapp with their defense behind the plate.
100 Percent Guaranteed to be Starting in 2018—Jorge Alfaro
Guaranteed stat line (average/homers/RBI)— .261/14/63
I would have loved to have seen Darin Ruf turn into something. But Ruf has shown that he can’t be an everyday player, so that’s that. While the Phils will certainly buy out Howard’s contract come 2017 if his legs haven’t fallen off yet (which I assume would void his contract), the $25 million he’s owed per year until 2018, combined with his poor play, makes him essentially untradable. This leaves an obvious hole at first that could be filled by signing a free agent, or calling someone up. With a lack of first base prospects in the Phillies farm system, they may need to turn to free agency.
Mitch Moreland and Pedro Alverez are both free agents in the near future, and could serve as a solid (and not overwhelmingly expensive) option at first.
100 Percent Guaranteed to be Starting in 2017/2018—Mitch Moreland
Guaranteed stat line (average/homers/RBI)— .272/26/83
Asumming JP Crawford continues his torrid hitting and reaches the majors sometime in the next few years, Caesar Hernanez will likely transition to second base. Hernandez has hit surprisingly well this season, spraying to all fields at an almost perfectly even rate, and hitting more line drives than he has in the past. He has shown more discipline at the plate and is making more contact that he did last season—meaning that the Caesar Hernandez that we’re seeing now might be the real Caesar.
I’d much rather see Hernandez play here over Galvis, of whom I have never been a fan.
100 Percent Guaranteed to be Starting in 2017/2018—Caesar Hernandez
Guaranteed stat line (average/homers/RBI)— .278/3/39
This is all Crawford. Barring a horrific injury, I would imagine Crawford should be the Phillies starting SS by 2017 or so. Given that he’s sitting at AA at this point in 2015, I don’t see him necessarily moving quickly enough up the ladder to reach the bigs by next season. The team’s No. 1 overall prospect, Crawford has shown the ability to get on base at every level he’s play thus far. He’s a plus runner with a glove that will make Phillies fans fondly reminisce about J-Roll. This is one of the positions that I feel extremely confidently about—the Phillies will be starting Crawford at SS by 2017.
100 Percent Guaranteed to be Starting in 2017/2018—JP Crawford
Guaranteed stat line (average/homers/RBI)— .282/11/44
The left half of the infield in particular is a strong one for the Phils. The tandem of Crawford at short and Maikel Franco at third should have fans salivating, metaphorically. Though billed as an average fielder, Franco has shown flashes of fancy glovework in his first year in the majors to add to his power bat. Though Franco has been looked at as the big power hitter in the Phillies system, he seems to me to be more of a line drive hitter with the potential to go yard. I could see 25ish homers out of Franco sometime in the near future, with a solid 285ish average to boot.
100 Percent Guaranteed to be Starting in 2017/2018—Maikel Franco
Guaranteed stat line (average/homers/RBI)— .264/26/81
This is where things get a bit more tricky. Aaron Altherr was just called up today to replace the Franco, who was put on the 15 day DL with a fractured wrist (thanks Jeremy Hellickson). Altherr is one of those players who can do a little bit of everything. He’s shown flashes of both power and speed, though his ability to hit for average leaves something to be desired. He’s a bit like Drew Stubbs (or what people hoped Drew Stubbs would be) in that he has good speed, good power, but strikes out a ton and struggles to get on base at a solid clip.
Ahead of Altherr on the list of Phillies prospects is Roman Quinn, a guy with insane speed and the ability to get on base, where he can then use said speed to turn singles into doubles. This assumes that he is able to stay healthy, which is asking a lot, given that Quinn has suffered from injuries to his wrist (2013), Achilles tendon (2014) and hip (2015). Quinn is the prototypical leadoff hitter who should break into the bigs in the next year or so, health notwithstanding.
The last prospect that could round out what might be a brilliant Phillies outfield is Nick Williams, another player who came over in the Hamels deal. Williams has shown plus speed and power, and the ability to hit around .300 in the minors so far.
However, it isn’t a given that all three prospects will be occupying the outfield for the Phils in 2017/2018. In fact, I’d like to see them use some of the money they’d shore up by ditching Howard to sign someone like Carlos Gomez or even the much less expensive Peter Bourjos. Though the latter would likely be better utilized in a reserve role, when he’s not hurt, Bourjos has shown flashes of the ability to hit for average and a little power to go along with plus speed.
100 Percent Guaranteed to be Starting in 2017/2018—Quinn, Williams, Carlos Gomez
Guaranteed stat lines (average/homers/RBI)— Quinn- .276/9/31 (and 49 steals)
I’d love to see the Phillies go out and sign a star in free agency one of the next few years—obviously someone young enough that they’ll be around and not Jamie Moyer-aged when they begin to contend again. Jordan Zimmerman and Brandon Beachy both come to mind, as both free agents come 2017, though the latter has already had Tommy John, he’s shown the potential to be an ace when healthy. Next would come Aaron Nola, of course, who will have more experience and hopefully evolve into the ace everyone hopes he’ll become., and Adam Morgan. Rounding out the rotation will be a mix of prospects the Phillies have acquired via trades, including Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff, Tom Windle, and/or Nick Pivetta. Ideally, by this point the Phillies will also have given Jesse Biddle a shot, though injuries and ineffectiveness have plagued him in the minors. The bullpen will be some mix of wily veterans and Ken Giles closing out games.
100 Percent Guaranteed to be Starting in 2017/2018
Jordan Zimmerman, Aaron Nola, Adam Morgan, Tom Windle, Zach Eflin