What Matters for the Phillies Down the Stretch


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In case you were buying into the hysteria of some Phillies fans that followed the team coming out and playing .750 ball over their first 20 games after the All-Star break, the double-digit losses of the last two nights should have put a stop to that. The Phillies won’t play an actual meaningful game of baseball down the stretch. They won’t make the 2015 playoffs. The odds of them being a playoff team in 2016 aren’t good either. This is a rebuilding team that will take time. They should improve, and they’re already showing signs of improvement, but it’s still not going to happen over night.

The remainder of the 2015 season, and really the outlook for the 2016 season, is for the Phillies to look at as much of the talent as they have assembled in their recent trades, waiver claims, and Rule 5 picks, and to figure out who has a future, and doing what. How Ryan Howard does playing out the remainder of his tenure only really matters if you think the Phillies can or will trade him, and the same is true for Carlos Ruiz. Chase Utley has already cleared waivers, so his play is only as important as you think his trade value could possibly be. These guys really make up the only link to the past greatness that is left, and that sentimentality should take a back seat. Much the same should be said for Harang, Williams, and Francoeur, none of whom fit into the long term.

It is not a mistake that the Phillies have played reasonably better of late, and young players like Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis, and Maikel Franco have been the best players on the team. That is a very good sign if you want this team to improve faster. Aaron Nola and Adam Morgan are throwing the ball better than anyone in the rotation, which is also crucial to how fast you think this team will get good. Ken Giles looks like a legitimate closer of the future now that he’s in the role too, which also helps you piece this thing back together.

There’s a next tier of players who have crucial stretch runs in front of them too, who are also young, but haven’t sold anyone on their major league futures yet. Cody Asche probably is back next year, but his hold on being a starter in Philadelphia is weaker than ever. Darin Ruf is coming to the end of the line as a “bat off the bench” guy, and if he doesn’t show he can actually hit in the major leagues, probably doesn’t have much future left. I would have already cut ties with Dom Brown, but to the extent he wants to be a starter in the majors, having a good finish to this season could help him stick around, or increase his trade value. David Buchanan’s last two clunker starts have put him really on the bubble of having a future or not here. Cameron Rupp could solidify his role on this team with a good finish. Andres Blanco has had a nice year, but enters arbitration. Justin de Fratus has been terrible this year, and faces arbitration. Luis Garcia, Elvis Araujo, Jeanmar Gomez, Dalier Hinojosa, Hector Neris, and Adam Loewen are all pitching with a shot to solidify roles next year, or be let go.

The point is that the younger, cheaper guys are what the end of this season is all about. That and the minors. If you’re not watching Reading, you should be, as that team is about as fun to watch as there is in minor league ball. Lehigh Valley currently has a bunch of starters like Eickoff, Biddle, and Asher who are pitching for a shot at the 2016 team, and a player in Aaron Altherr who has taken a leap forward this season with his overall play in the outfield. What is happening on the farm is really crucial to what you believe will happen in Philadelphia over the course of next season. I think my high end expectation is that the 2016 team wins around 80 games. That can only happen if the younger talent continues to progress. While we’re going to spend a lot of time discussing older players on waivers in the next few days, it’s important to keep our eye on the actual important stuff in the coming weeks.

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