The 2015 season was another painful example of how the Phillies have bottomed out since the glory days of 2008. They climbed the ladder of baseball success and fell down the ladder like Clark Griswold in the “Vacation” movies.
There’s no more baby-faced Hollywood Hamels dominating October. The towering, moonshots Ryan Howard would clobber a few dozen times a year have shrank to mediocrity. Brad Lidge isn’t around to slam the door shut in the 9th. Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs aren’t coming off the bench to pinch hit. Harry Kalas’s voice has the same classic vibe as a Dean Martin record. And Chase Utley just doesn’t walk on water anymore.
Time hasn’t made 2008 feel nostalgic, it was only 7 years ago.
The lack of success since has.
They had some playoff births after that, but the NLDS against the Cardinals feels like it was a decade ago.
So when will playoff baseball return ? Good question
The two players headlining the Phillies promising young guns are Aaron Nola and Maikel Franco.
Nola is a bright spot on a horribly lackluster starting rotation. Nola had a productive rookie season going 6-2 in 13 games played. He had a 3.59 ERA over 77.2 innings. Not to mention 68 strikeouts paired with 19 walks. One of those 6 wins came against the Chicago Cubs when Nola went 7.2 innings. The LSU product should be at the fore-front of the rotation for the next few years
Maikel Franco is going to be a centerpiece of the lineup moving forward. The 3rd baseman is a righty who can hit for power, something that the Phils have lacked for a long time. He went for 50 RBI and 14 homers, in 80 games played. The pop in his bat resembles his fielding. Franco has a cannon, that can make him a top-notch defender at the hot corner. In 664 innings at 3B he had only 10 errors.
The other two pitchers that team can be excited about going forward are Jerad Eickhoff and Ken Giles. Eickhoff was part of the Cole Hamels deal, that gave the Phillies a huge boost in the farm system. Eickhoff appeared in 8 games, making his MLB debut on August 21st. The big righty went 3-3 with a 2.65 ERA in his first taste of the MLB.
Giles is the best aspect of a less-than-stellar bullpen. The 6’2 closer has a nasty slider to pair with a four-seamer that is in the high 90s. Giles posted a sub-2 ERA in 70 innings in his first full year in the show. There were rumors of Giles being dealt one point this year, and that is far from a good idea. The offer would have to be overwhelming for the Phillies to trade their promising closer.
Two pleasant surprises in the outfield were Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera.
Altherr was called up later in the season, only appearing in 39 games. Altherr posted a .240 BA to pair with 22 RBI and 5 bombs. He even hit an inside-the-park grand slam. Altherr was one of few to take Jake Arrieta deep in September during his incredible second half surge. The rangy 6’5 outfielder also has a quality glove. He played 323.1 defensive innings and has a perfect fielding percentage.
Odubel Herrera is an absolute steal. The 23 year-old was a rule 5 draft pick that exceeded expectations. The Venezuelan outfielder hit .297 in his debut season collecting 207 bases in total. The lefty had a strong spring training which landed him a spot on the team. Herrera’s surprising season should give him a position with this team moving forward in their rebuilding.
Freddy Galvis had his best hitting season yet. The switch-hitting middle infielder hit .263 which is his best by a decent margin. His glove is outstanding and will be an asset moving forward.
The rest of the roster is loaded with average players with a low-ceiling or ones that have already reached their peak. Darin Ruf was a promising prospect and has been pretty underwhelming. Ryan Howard is 35 and is nowhere near his All-Star days. Jeff Francoeur was hitting cleanup for crying out loud! I like Frenchy but he’s a vet that would be a backup on about 29 other teams.
The prospects in the farm system are the ones to get excited for.
J.P. Crawford is one of the best prospects in all of baseball. The shortstop in AA-Reading is the Phillies choice to succeed J-Roll at shortstop. The 20 year-old hit .288 and had an OBP of .380 in 2015. He’s the real deal and should see MLB action in 2016
The Cole Hamels trade was a huge part of shaping the farm system. The swap brought in Eickhoff and Alec Asher who saw some big-league time. The other three players; Jake Thompson, Nick Williams, and Jorge Alfaro should all get MLB consideration in the upcoming season. Thompson was the top pitching prospect in the Rangers organization and has a quality slider reaching into the upper 80s. Williams is a lefty outfielder who can really hit. He swung a hot bat hitting over .300 in the minors in 2015. Alfaro appears to be Carlos Ruiz’s successor at catcher. He’s known for his rocket-arm and a combo of over-aggressiveness and raw power at the plate. Tommy Joseph can never stay healthy so Alfaro looks like the top option.
The Phils have other potential-filled prospects, you can find them here.
Don’t expect any big moves in free agency either. The free agents the team goes after will most likely be middle of the road veterans to provide depth. Developing talent is more of a focus than winning in 2016. If you had hopes of signing David Price, Chris Davis, or Yoenis Cespedes you’ll be disappointed.
It’s going to be another year of wait and see with the Phillies and I think it’s another two or three years before postseason baseball returns to Philadelphia.