The regular season in the MLB has concluded and the World Series is now underway.
The Phillies are not playing in it.
This comes as not much of a surprise for Phillies’ fans as they know it’s been a rough 5-6 year stretch without playoff baseball in Philly. However, for the latter part of the 2017 regular season there has been some excitement in Philly for the first time since probably 2011.
From exciting young prospects making a big league impact, to rumors of big name players coming to Philly, to even a full out debate on the next manager, it’s starting to become an exciting time to be a Phillies fan.
With no Phillies playoff baseball to watch, its a perfect time breakdown next year’s potential roster.
Starting with outfield, which could become quite complicated. As it stands, the outfield should feature Aaron Altherr in left, Odubel Herrera in center, and Nick Williams in right. Such an outfield would be very favorable as it includes three young talented players that provide solid defense in the field and a spark at the plate. It gets complicated when trade rumors start swirling.
Those trades rumors mostly surround Marlins’ slugger Giancarlo Stanton who has reportedly drawn interest from the Phillies. Such reports have surfaced several times throughout the season and for good reason. Derek Jeter and the new Marlins’ ownership are headed in a new direction and Stanton has made it clear he doesn’t want to be apart of the rebuild. The Phillies are also in a rebuild but much more advanced in the process. Adding him would certainly help expedite the process.
Stanton has been getting most of the attention, but he hasn’t been the only Marlins’ outfielders rumored to be drawing interest from the Phillies. Christian Yelich’s name has also surfaced in these rumors.
Both players have pros and cons if the Phillies were to acquire them, as I outlined here in one of my previous posts, but in either case, acquiring one of them means the Phillies need to clear a spot in the outfield.
The debate of who to get rid is very complex but one worth having. The easiest player to pick is Herrera. Herrera has been a thorn in the side of some Phillies fans as his lack of focus blunders have been incredibly frustrating to watch. However, he has been one of, if not the best, offensive players on the team over the last few years, including this year in which he posted career highs in both doubles and RBIs.
There is also reason why Altherr should be the guy to rid of as well. Altherr is a good young outfielder that puts up good numbers but has had trouble staying on the field. His injuries throughout is big league career has limited his action but when he is playing, he is effective. This past season, he appeared in 107 games and slashed .272/.340/.516 with 19 homers and 65 RBIs, career highs in all categories.
There is little reason to move Nick Williams. The reason being is that he is young player that has a high ceiling. His trade value, although decent, is low right now because he is still rather unproven. His MLB service time is less than one season but in his first 83 games he slashed .288/.338/.473 with 55 RBIs. At this point, it is better to hang onto him and see a larger sample size of playing time.
The infield is also a bit of sticky situation. At first base, you can lock in Rhys Hoskins after the unbelievable stretch he put together once being called up August 10th. His home run barrage in August and September up will be remembered for a long time as his name sits in the record books. He is the fastest player to hit 18 home runs, accomplishing the feat in just his first 34 games.
The other three infield positions are still up for grabs. JP Crawford saw limited time this season after being called up near the end of the season in September. I would expect him to get a good deal of playing time next year as the Phillies get a good look at one of their top prospects of the last few years. As for his position, it depends on what the Phillies do in the offseason. He has shown he is pretty versatile as he has been effective playing second base, third base, and of course his natural position, shortstop. If the Phillies find a way to package up Freddy Galvis and trade him, Crawford should be the starter at shortstop but if not, I would expect to see Crawford at second or third.
At second base, you probably won’t see Caesar Hernandez as I fully expect him to be in a trade package that nets the Phillies a starting pitcher. The vacancy he leaves at second base should eventually be filled by Scott Kingery but he will most likely not be called up before at least the first month of the season. In the mean time, Crawford would probably fill in, if he’s not already starting at shortstop.
As mentioned before, a lot of this plan for second base and shortstop, hinges on whether Galvis and Hernandez are traded. The third base position is no different. If both of them are gone, expect the Phillies to continue to give Maikel Franco the chance to prove himself. If Franco doesn’t produce, consider him just a placeholder for the season before the Phillies try to make a run at Manny Machado or another third baseman to take over for Franco. If both Hernandez and Galvis are still here come opening day, Crawford would slot in nicely as the opening day starter at third.
The Phillies’ offseason is still only just beginning so there is a great deal of time for moves to be made. However for the time being, Hoskins and Crawford are the only ones that can seemingly be locked in as opening day starters in the infield.
The starting pitching rotation was a major weakness for the team this past year. Aside from Aaron Nola, there isn’t much major league talent for the Phillies to work with. Pitchers like Jerad Eickhoff, Mark Leiter Jr., Jake Thompson, Ben Lively, and Vince Velazquez have all shown flashes of greatness but all have struggled to be consistent. The depth at this position is immense but the elite talent is not.
Velasquez has shown the most promise but has struggled with injuries and short games due to a high pitch count. A healthy Velasquez will probably continue to get playing time as the Phillies work to return him to the form that led him to a complete-game shutout with 16 strikeouts in the 2016 season.
The rotation is a major need that should be filled this offseason. Whether it’s a trade for a young controllable starter or a small deal in the free agent market, the Phillies are likely to make some moves. However, don’t expect the Phillies to pay out a major contract to one the big ticket pitchers like Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish. They are looking to stay young which means acquiring starters like Marcus Stroman, Chris Archer, or Gerrit Cole, just to name a few.
As a result, come opening day next year, expect Nola to be the number one ace. Behind him should be one of the newly acquired starters mentioned above, Velasquez, and some arrangement of depth starters like Eickoff, Thompson, Lively, and Leiter Jr.
The Phillies’ bullpen really came on strong towards the end of the season as a few guys finally found their stuff. Hector Neris was a little shaky all year as closer but his stuff is undeniably good, especially his splitter. Aside from him, Adam Morgan and Luis Garcia were able to find their stuff and closed out the season in dominate fashion. Garcia finished the season by pitching to the tune of 2.13 ERA and 1.263 WHIP in his final 12 appearances. His late performance last season, leads me to believe he will be the 8th inning setup man for Neris next year.
Morgan, who spent much of his career struggling as a starting pitcher, has transitioned well to a reliever. In his final 10 appearances, he posted a 2.92 ERA and 0.730 WHIP. Expect him to have a big part in the bullpen next year.
Next year should be an exciting year and one that will probably see the Phillies win more games than the last few seasons. However, this off season should include quite of few moves to get there. In any case, the future core is here and a few moves should get them back to the playoffs in the next few years.