If you know anything about baseball, even the most simple of fans can notice that the Philadelphia Phillies are one of the worst, if not THE worst, teams in Major League Baseball. Of course, that is by design, as the team is in full “rebuild-mode” in 2015.
The every day lineup is filled with leadoff, No. 2, and No. 8-type
hitters, and is lacking any serious power threat outside of the shell of old 1B Ryan Howard that bats cleanup everyday. 2B Chase Utley is having a career-worst season, just getting his batting average above .200 on June 2. Needless to say, runs are few and far between for this team.
The pitching staff matches the offense, and features two reliable starters who will be both traded by the Trade Deadline, in P Cole Hamels and Aaron Harang. Closer Jonathan Papelbon is the most consistent arm in the bullpen but is also rumored to be in trade talks, with his contract being the main hurdle. The Phils trot out journeyman pitchers Jerome Williams and Sean O’ Sullivan every five days to soak up innings until the team’s younger pitching prospects are ready to compete at the major league level.
With the team ready to potentially trade six players (Howard, Hamels, Harang, Papelbon and OFs Ben Revere and Domonic Brown) before the trade deadline, there will be an influx of young players from the minor leagues, new talent acquired from other teams, and fringe-major league veteran types that will fill the void until next season.
So, the Phillies have the potential to get even worse as the rest of 2015 plays out, but that will open up playing time for their young players, like LF Cody Asche, 3B Maikel Franco, P Severino Gonzalez and OF Odubel Herrera. It is believed that if P Aaron Nola continues developing this season, he could make some starts in September for the non-competitive club. At best, oft-injured prospect P Adam Morgan and P David Buchanan get their arms right and come up to gain some experience against big league competition. Yet, the team should still finish as one of the bottom three teams in all of MLB.
So, what is the big picture? Developing young talent, shipping out the old, overpriced veterans for prospects, and acquiring key veterans to help build the club for the future. This process will really take shape after the Trade Deadline, when we are able to see what talent GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. is able to add to the farm system. After that, it will be determined where the acquired players will play, whether it be the major or minor leagues. Obviously, based on the players’ performances for the rest of the season, it will set the team up for the beginning of next season.
I’d expect Nola, Buchanan, Morgan and Gonzalez to be competing for rotation spots next year, with an outside shot of P Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Philippe Aumont pushing for a chance to be starters if they can finally figure themselves out. I’d expect that one of the prospects the Phils acquire will be a nearly-ready major league starting pitching, and I would expect him to be in the mix for the rotation next season. Top prospect Ps Ben Lively, Zach Eflin and Tom Windle all could make their major league debuts in the latter portion of 2016 and have the potential to be impact arms down the road. In terms of free agent additions, I could see the team signing a veteran pitcher in the mold of the Harang move this past off season. Think Ps Mark Buehrle, Marco Estrada, or Bud Norris. These are veteran pitchers that probably wouldn’t cost more than $5-8 million on a one-year deal, have the ability to pitch a lot of innings, and if they are pitching well, can be used as trade chips come trading season when contenders are looking to top off their teams.
Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, Darin Ruf and Utley will be the main holdovers beginning next season, which leaves a lot of at-bats for young players to come up and get experience at the big league level. Top prospects SS J.P. Crawford and OF Roman Quinn should be ready to make their respective major league debuts sometime in 2016, but surely not to begin the year. Oft-injured prospect OF Kelly Dugan has shown his potential in flashes, but hasn’t been able to stay on the field consistently. His bat could definitely find a place in the Phils’ lineup. As part of the team’s 2015 Trade Deadline haul, I would expect a nearly-ready major league position player to be in the mix for at-bats this year and in 2016. Outside of that, most of the Phillies’ hitting prospects are more than a year away from possibly making an impact at the major league level. The team will probably take a similar route in free agency towards veteran hitters that they currently do pitchers, signing players that have the potential to be trade chips down the line. While I’m one that would pine for SS Jimmy Rollins to return on a one-year deal to help mentor the younger players (especially Crawford), I’m sure the team is thinking someone along the lines of IF/OF Daniel Murphy, utility men Sean Rodriguez and Jeff Keppinger, and OFs Gerardo Parra and Matt Joyce.
Overall, the plan is to bide time while sprinkling in the major league debuts of several top prospects over the next 2-3 seasons. If all goes well, I fully expect 2015 to be the low point of this Phillies’ rebuild, with exciting steps moving forward in the rest of 2015 and 2016, as younger players of the next up and coming core will get to mature in front of our eyes at the major league level.