May. 30, 2016
Philadelphia Phillies Preview
With the first team in the National League East, I will be discussing a team that slowly but surely, like their NBA and NFL brothers, are rebuilding. Yes, the Philadelphia Phillies are on the upswing once again, and for the first time in about a decade they will be without their star first baseman Ryan Howard. Although it's never fun to see the last member of a World Championship team leave your roster, it's also a sign of a new start, which is what the Phillies put in motion a few years ago. Although they are still a year or two away, I'm considering them to be somewhat of a playoff darkhorse.
PROJECTED ROTATION: Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Nola, Vincent Velasquez, Clay Buchholz
I'm not so sure the Phillies' pitching staff is where it needs to be yet, as none of their top seven prospects are pitchers. And, I'm not big at all on the trade for Clay Buchholz, as he has struggled and/or been injured in the past five seasons or so. All he does is block the younger guys from getting a chance right away, like Jake Thompson, Alec Asher, Zach Eflin and prospect Mark Appel. The foursome of Hellickson, Nola, Eickhoff and Velasquez all have had their moments in the past two seasons, and the group of them could conceivably give the team a middle of the pack rotation in the National League.
BULLPEN: Jeanmar Gomez (CL), Joaquin Benoit, Pat Neshek, Hector Neris, Edubray Ramos, Luis Garcia, Joely Rodriguez, Alec Asher
Which players will make the bullpen is a relatively safe bet for the most part, with the eighth spot tentatively going to the sixth starter in Alec Asher. The closer's job is also up for grabs with the addition of journeyman Joaquin Benoit, but despite a bad ERA first year closer Jeanmar Gomez converted 37 of 43 saves, and should be the favorite to win the job. Pat Neshek is another quality setup man, and bringing him in from Houston was huge for this young bullpen. Neris, Ramos, Garcia and Rodriguez will likely round out the bullpen.
CATCHERS: Cameron Rupp, Andrew Knapp
Catcher is a bright spot for the future here in Philadelphia, with Cameron Rupp listed as the starter, but is only a mere placeholder. One of the better catching prospects in the game in Jorge Alfaro is going to show up at some point in 2017, but I'm guessing they would like to put him in the minors to maintain an extra year of eligibility. Also, the 11th rated prospect in the Phillies' system is currently listed as the backup, so the future at catcher in Philadelphia could be set for a long time. Rupp does have a quality bat though, as he hit .250 with 16 home runs in relatively limited playing time. They also have veterans Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan as non-roster invitees.
INFIELDERS: Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis, Tommy Joseph, Andres Blanco
This infield has a moderate ceiling in my opinion, but everybody here is at least average at their positions. Maikel Franco is the star of the lineup right now, and he led the Phillies in home runs and RBI's last season. Hernandez and Galvis make up a good middle infield, and both have good gloves and a decent bat. Tommy Joseph is a power hitting first baseman, but not much else. Andres Blanco is a decent backup in the infield, and should have the edge for winning that job. They also have non-roster invitees Pedro Florimon, Taylor Featherston and top prospect JP Crawford.
OUTFIELDERS: Howie Kendrick, Michael Saunders, Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Roman Quinn
The outfield finally is starting to look promising for the Phillies, and they probably haven't felt that way since Pat Burrell was in the outfield. Odubel Herrera might be the best rule five draft pick in MLB history, and he is the everyday centerfielder. Offseason additions Michael Saunders and Howie Kendrick are both better bats than gloves, but they are better than what other options Philadelphia had. Altherr was a starter the past two seasons, and is going to be a solid fourth outfielder. Prospect Roman Quinn has the edge on the fifth spot, but non-roster invitees Chris Coghlan and Daniel Nava, along with prospects Tyler Goeddel, Dylan Cozens, and third overall prospect Nick Williams are all in the hunt.
LINEUP: Hernandez (2B), Herrera (CF), Franco (3B), Kendrick (LF), Joseph (1B), Saunders (RF), Galvis (SS), Rupp (C)
There shouldn't be a ton of flux with moving this lineup around, and until the depth from the minors comes up there won't be a lot of everyday changes. With that said, that's isn't the end of the world as this group is pretty good. Overall, the Phillies look like a team that is decent all around, partially due to youth and mostly due to talent. I think they have an (very) outside chance at a postseason appearance, but they will need to start out hot and trade for more help at the deadline. I'm thinking that is unlikely, but I'll still go with 77 wins on the season.