Friday, March 24, 2017

2017 Pre-Season Profile: Philadelphia Phillies


The Philadelphia Phillies made great strides in 2016 in their rebuilding process.  How far are they away from making their way back to the top of the National League?

My 2016 Predictions
5th in NL East
This will be Ryan Howard's last season in Philadelphia.

2016 Results
71-91, 4th in NL East
The Phillies were the worst team in baseball in 2015 as the rebuilding process has been in full effect.  2016 saw the last of the holdovers from the 2008 season say farewell to Philly as the team completely moves on.  Carlos Ruiz was traded mid-season, and (as I predicted) Ryan Howard ended his time with the Phillies.  With this transition complete, the Phillies made great strides as the new young core started to grow together.

Additions / Subtractions
As I already mentioned, Ryan Howard has moved on.  Most of the acquisitions made by the Phillies this offseason were of the veteran variety to fill in some holes in the lineup before the rest of the kids are ready for the big time.  Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders are now manning the corner outfield spots.  They traded for Clay Buchholz to fill out their rotation.  They also signed Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek to bolster their bullpen.

Most Important Hitter
Maikel Franco
Odubel Herrera has emerged as a budding superstar for the Phillies.  However, for a team to be good, they need more than one superstar.  Maikel Franco is the closest to that level.  If he takes some steps forward this season, the Phillies could have the core they want to anchor their lineup for the next decade.

Most Important Pitcher
Clay Buchholz
Clay Buchholz at one time was a budding ace of the Red Sox.  Now he has been sent off disgraced to Philadelphia.  The Phillies made the deal banking on a bounce back season for Buchholz.  If he has that resurrection in his career that they are hoping for, the Phillies' rotation looks pretty strong.

Player to Watch
Jorge Alfaro
With last year's Player to Watch, J.P. Crawford, still waiting for his big league debut, I could have easily gone with Crawford again.  However, Jorge Alfaro is the more intriguing pick for this season.  Alfaro is one of the best catching prospects in the league, having been acquired in the 2015 Cole Hamels deal.  He got a taste of the show last season, and the only thing keeping him from breaking out is current starting catcher Cameron Rupp.  If Rupp struggles, gets injured, or gets traded, look for Alfaro to get his big shot.

2017 Prediction
5th in NL East
The Phillies are definitely taking some steps forward, and they are on their way to being elite.  The problem is the rest of the NL East is either elite or on the rise at the same time.  I could see the Phillies improve their record again this year, but drop down in the standings due to how the division is shaping out.  I really like where this team is headed though.

Fearless Prediction
The Phillies will have more than one All Star this season.
The last time the Phillies sported more than the minimum one All Star was 2013.  This year has enough star power that they could get a second All Star sent to Miami this year.  Look for Herrera to return to the game, with Franco, Buchholz, Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eikhoff, or closer Jeanmar Gomez all having a chance to make the roster if their season goes the right way.

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