The Questions Moving Forward for the Phillies


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I want to be the bringer of good news here- the Phillies 2015 season is over. That’s not the good news though. The good news is that the future is a lot brighter than the past. The 2016 Phillies will not be carrying around a mix of 2008 has-beens, never-was guys who are bad, and marginal prospects. They will have real talent, which can get better, and should bring about better days. Phillies fans should look at the Houston Astros and smile- in 2013, they lost 111 games. They’ll be playing in the ALDS this week. It doesn’t always work that way- look how long Kansas City and Pittsburgh suffered to get here- but there is a chance.

The 2016 Phillies are highly unlikely to be the 2015 Astros though. There’s a little ways to go to get there. First, they have to figure out who “the future” is at many of these positions. There aren’t a ton of locks right now. Here’s my position-by-position at the road ahead.

Catcher

The catcher of the future Phillies championship team is not on this major league 25-man roster at this time. Carlos Ruiz is on the back-end of a fine career here, and while Cameron Rupp exceeded my expectations in 2015, I don’t think it is him.

Andrew Knapp won the organization’s award for prospect of the year. Jorge Alfaro was a key piece in the Cole Hamels deal. They are the two names to watch here. Willians Astudillo and Deivi Grullon are both worth watching still, and Rafael Marchan will eventually be on the radar, but the Phillies big choice will be whether Knapp or Alfaro is the next catcher. If Knapp continues to hit, Alfaro can play first base, but that job is not locked in as his. Right now though, both are pretty serious prospects.

First Base

This is another situation where the guys on the MLB roster are not it. Ryan Howard will be gone sometime in the next twelve months. Darin Ruf has not won over the job yet, and really isn’t anything more than a platoon piece.

Despite another tough year with injuries and performance, I’m actually higher on Tommy Joseph as a part of the future than I was a year ago, because he is at first and not catching anymore. Joseph is one of the leaders for this spot because frankly he is still young. He is just 24 despite seeming older, and if he puts together a strong 2016 in AAA, he might still be the guy. He’s on the 40 man roster, for now, which helps his chances.

The favorite though, if you ask me, is 22 year-old Rhys Hoskins, a 2014 5th round pick out of Cal-State Sacramento. He hit a combined .319, with a .913 OPS in Lakewood and Clearwater this year, and could start next season in Reading. He’s a big 6’4″ player with some power, popping 17 homers out in his first full professional season.

If it’s neither of those two, you could get into names like Brock Stassi and Kyle Martin, but right now they seem somewhat blocked by the other two. Stassi was old for Reading, but did win their league MVP this season. Martin was drafted this year in the early rounds out of South Carolina, and he shows flashes of being a big bat.

Second Base

Ok, finally a spot where the potential replacements include guys on the team. Cesar Hernandez played reasonably well, well enough that the Phillies gave him the starting job at second and traded Chase Utley. He did not silence all concerns about him though, and will have to show he’s not a singles hitter with a weak glove to become the future. He’s also going to have to outplay Freddy Galvis to keep the job, something that is no lock. Galvis will eventually lose his shortstop spot to J.P. Crawford, but he has shown the potential to have a plus glove at second base, and hit well this season as a starter. This will be one of the more interesting storylines to follow into the off-season and 2016, but these two are essentially playing for the job. Don’t rule out Odubel Herrera here either. He came up as a second baseman, and there is at least some outside shot the Phillies will look at him there in the future.

If the future at second isn’t on the roster now, there are other options. 2015 second round pick Scott Kingery played well enough in Lakewood to maintain his prospect status. Despite a tough season off the field, Jesmuel Valentin could end up playing his way into consideration. Clearwater shortstop Malquin Canelo could end up over here too, if he hits the way he did in Lakewood earlier in 2015.

Shortstop

I hate declaring someone the guy before they arrive, but J.P. Crawford is the guy at short. With all due respect to Galvis and Canelo, they will have to win the second base job.

Third Base

Maikel Franco. Anyway….

Outfield

One could feel pretty comfortable with Odubel Herrera after his 2015. He’s not a lock yet for the future, but I liked what I saw. Aaron Altherr may or may not be a starter in the future, but he’s in the majors and played reasonably decent in his first real action. Cody Asche isn’t dead yet, but probably isn’t the guy to start out here. Jeff Francoeur, Dom Brown, Jordan Danks, and Brian Bogusevic are not the future.

So who are we watching? Nick Williams was a big piece in the deal for Cole Hamels, and I like his chances. Roman Quinn is definitely on the radar for the Phillies in the next year or two if he hits like he did in Reading this year. Kelly Dugan had a nice season in Reading before sputtering in AAA a bit. Dylan Cozens is a guy who has all the talent, and seems to be putting it all together now. Carlos Tocci finally seemed to have the offensive game that plays up to his youthful talent. Jose Pujols finally was showing the flashes we were waiting for, but has a long way to go in his game. Cornelius Randolph is forever away, but looks really good.

There are lots of options, but not all are all that close.

Starting Rotation

Ok, so Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff almost certainly locked up 2016 spots this year, and probably have a future in the Phillies rotations. Adam Morgan pitched well enough to be favored for a 2016 spot to start out, and should get a good long look next year.

Jake Thompson, Franklyn Kilome, Ricardo Pinto, and Zach Eflin are the top prospects on their way up, but they aren’t the only names worth watching. Nick Pivetta and Ben Lively of Reading’s rotation are both guys worth a look, and pitchers like Tyler Viza, Yacksel Rios, Brandon Leibrandt, and Victor Arano could be in the future plans. There’s plenty of options here.

And I’m basically not even getting into the unknown futures of David Buchanan, Alec Asher, Severino Gonzalez, and Joely Rodriguez who are on the 40 man roster, the injured prospect Jesse Biddle, and of course the injured Matt Harrison who will be in the rotation next year if he’s healthy.

If I had to guess right now, Nola, Eickhoff, Thompson, Eflin, and Pinto are the leading candidates for the future, though Kilome might be the most talented arm (he’s just so far away yet).

Bullpen

So Ken Giles is going to be the closer next year. Beyond that, Luis Garcia, Jeanmar Gomez, and Elvis Araujo are sticking around. One would think that Hector Neris, Dalier Hinojosa, Nefi Ogando, Colton Murray, and Mario Hollands are going to get looks in 2016 as well. Ken Roberts is remaining in the system, even though he was cut yesterday.

So, who else is worth a look? Rodriguez and Rios, both mentioned amongst the starters, are worth a look, and others could be converted as well. Tom Windle and Edubray Ramos are two names worth watching in the upper minors.

I suspect some of the starting depth will make it’s way to the bullpen in due time. Even if it doesn’t do so very quickly, I also suspect the Phillies have more than enough current talent and money to build a bullpen.

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