31

Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Phillies Notebook: What did we learn?

Posted by Eric Fisher On October 4

The 2016 Phillies season wasn’t about making the playoffs. The purpose was to evaluate players in order to see which ones should be part of the team’s future.

So what did we learn from this season? We learned that some players look promising, while other do not. In the end, though, the Phillies are still left with far more question marks than answers.

The Phillies also have very little money committed toward next year. They have the payroll flexibility for a major overhaul, although it appears they will continue to try to rebuild from within their system.

Let’s take a look at the roster to see which positions seem to have pieces for the future in place and which ones still need replacement parts.

ROTATION

The Phillies tried a lot of different options, but the starting rotation still has a lot of question marks. Jerad Eickhoff looks like a solid major league starter. Plagued by a lack of run support for most of the season, Eickhoff deserved better than an 11-14 record. His 3.65 ERA is more indicative of his performance than his record.

The other solid starter was Jeremy Hellickson (12-10, 3.71 ERA). The question is whether the Phillies will pony up an estimated $17 million to keep the free agent pitcher and, more importantly, whether they view the 29-year-old Hellickson as part of their future or as potential trade bait next summer.

Phillies-VelasquezVince Velasquez (left) has electric stuff, striking out 152 batters in 131 innings, but he throws far too many pitches. Consequently, he frequently didn’t last beyond the fifth inning, even while limiting opponents to one or two runs. Velasquez (8-6, 4.12 ERA), who averaged 5½ innings per start, certainly didn’t convince anyone he should be a lock for the Phillies’ future rotation. There were trade rumors involving Velasquez this summer. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Phillies explore trade offers for him during the offseason. Another possibility is to convert Velasquez into a reliever.

The biggest question mark surround the rotation revolves around Aaron Nola’s health. After an encouraging rookie campaign, Nola got off to a good start this season, only to experience a precipitous slump before being shut down for the season with elbow problems. The Phillies have their fingers crossed that Nola (6-9, 4.78 ERA) won’t need major surgery.

Alec Asher (2-1, 2.28 ERA) looked good, but five starts is a small sample. Zach Eflin (3-5, 5.54 ERA) needed surgery on both knees, which isn’t a good sign. His name certainly shouldn’t be written in the rotation using a permanent marker. After an impressive season in the minor leagues, Jake Thompson (3-6, 5.70 ERA) didn’t seize the opportunity when promoted to the majors. Adam Morgan (2-11, 6.04 ERA) didn’t do anything to demonstrate he belongs in the rotation.

What did we learn? Unless the Phillies consider Hellickson more than an asset to be traded, Eickhoff is the only pitcher who justified being deemed a long-term answer for the rotation. It appears the Phillies will continue to experiment next season, giving opportunities to Asher, Velasquez, Thompson and Eflin while hoping that Nola’s elbow doesn’t require major surgery. A wild card is veteran lefthander Matt Harrison, assuming he can shake off persistent injuries. Trading Velasquez or converting him to a reliever are possibilities, but the reliever experiment would make more sense if the Phillies had a reliable replacement for him in the rotation.

BULLPEN

The performance of the bullpen was the biggest surprise for the Phillies this season. With Jonathan Papelbon and Ken Giles traded away, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez were fantastic – for most of the season. Both tailed off, however, toward the end of the season. Gomez suffered a steep decline, finishing 3-5, with a 4.85 ERA and six blown saves. The Phillies must hope that Neris (4-4, 2.58 ERA) and Gomez simply got tired after making 79 and 70 appearances, respectively.

The Phillies need Neris and Gomez to be solid because they don’t have many other reliable relievers. Michael Mariot (1-0, 5.82 ERA) displayed good stuff in his 25 appearances, but he walked 14 batters in 21 2/3 innings, which is far too many. Edubray Ramos (1-3, 3.82 ERA), David Hernandez (3-4, 3.84 ERA) and, in limited action, Joely Rodriguez (2.79 ERA in 9 2/3 innings) weren’t awful, but they weren’t good, either. The prospect of seeing Elvis Araujo (2-1, 5.60 ERA), Severino Gonzalez (1-2, 5.60 ERA), Colton Murray (1-1, 6.25 ERA), Luis Garcia (1-1, 6.46 ERA) Frank Herrmann (1-2, 8.40 ERA) or Patrick Schuster (11 runs in 6 innings) in the bullpen again next year isn’t comforting.

What did we learn? After Neris – and possibly Gomez – the Phillies don’t have any reliable relievers. It’s too early to give up on Mariot, but the bullpen needs an overhaul.

CATCHER

Cameron Rupp enjoyed a productive season, batting .252 and clubbing 16 home runs and producing 54 RBI. He also did a decent job defensively. Veteran A.J. Ellis, acquired in the Carlos Ruiz trade, appears to be a capable backup with a decent bat (.313 in 11 games).

What did we learn? This position is in find hands the next year or two with the burly Rupp until prospect Jorge Alfaro is prepared to take over.

FIRST BASE

With 21 home runs in 315 at-bats, Tommy Joseph made a solid case to be the heir apparent at first base, which has been primarily manned by Ryan Howard the past 12 seasons. There is some concern that Joseph only produced 47 RBI while hitting 21 home runs. He needs more productive at-bats when he’s not going deep. His backup could be Cody Asche, Andres Blanco or Darin Ruf, but Blanco is a free agent and Asche and Ruf are eligible for arbitration. It’s not even definite that the Phillies will make an arbitration offer to retain Ruf or Asche, although Asche seems the more likely of the two to be retained.

What did we learn? Joseph (.257 batting average) has earned a shot to be the first baseman of the future. But keep an eye on Rhys Hoskins, who had 38 home runs and 116 RBI for the Class AA Reading Fightin’ Phils this season.

SECOND BASE

Cesar Hernandez led Phillies regulars in batting average (.294) and on-base percentage (.371). On the other hand, he made 12 errors and had mental lapses in the field and on the base paths. Hernandez deserves to be part of the future. But his future role has a lot to do with Freddy Galvis’ future.

What did we learn? Hernandez is a solid option at second base. But he might be a short-term solution. His future with the Phillies could be as a utility player.

Phillies-Galvis swingsSHORTSTOP

Freddy Galvis (left)  is tremendous defensively. He also produced 20 home runs, a shocking increasing over his career high of seven, and was second on the team in RBI (67). So why is there any question that Galvis is the shortstop of the future? He batted .241 with a paltry .274 on-base percentage. With J.P. Crawford waiting in the wings, Galvis could be moved to second base.

What did we learn? Galvis is so good at shortstop that it would be a shame to take him out of a starting role. But, unless Crawford’s knee injury lingers, it would appear that Galvis’ future is at second base or in a utility role. If he can raise his batting an on-base averages next year while continuing to hit with some power, Galvis will make himself too valuable to be removed from the lineup. That would probably mean an eventual shift to second base.

THIRD BASE

Maikel Franco is locked in as the Phillies’ third baseman of the future. The question is whether that’s good news or great news. Franco tied for the team lead (with Ryan Howard) with 25 home runs and led the team in RBI with 88. But he only batted .255 and was an extremely streaky hitter. Hot weeks would frequently be followed by long dry stretches. He needs to become a more consistent hitter.

What did we learn? For better or worse, Franco is the third baseman of the future. “Worse” still wouldn’t be too bad, but “better” would be preferred.

OUTFIELD

Odubel Herrera (.286, 15 home runs) was a revelation during the first half of the season, earning an All-Star appearance. But he tailed off during an inconsistent second half of the season. Herrera seemed to lose his new-found plate discipline, which was one of the major reasons for his improvement during the first half of the season. Herrera had 11 assists, but also made nine errors and took bad angles on many other occasions. It will be interesting to see if the Phillies stick with Herrera or try to use him as a trade chip.

Nobody else even earned serious consideration as a long-term answer in the outfield. The Phillies could choose to re-sign free agent Peter Bourjos, a good-fielding, solid-hitting (.252) veteran, as a reserve outfielder and spot starter. But Bourjos will turn 30 before the start of next season.

Aaron Alterr received a fair shot after returning from an injury suffered during spring training. He responded by batting a disappointing .202, hitting just four home runs in 198 at-bats.

Jimmy Parades (.217), Cody Asche (.213) and Tyler Goeddel (.192) did nothing to indicate they should be part of the future. Prospect Roman Quinn displayed some flashes of excellence, but he only played 15 games before suffering yet another injury, which is becoming a pattern in Quinn’s young career.

What did we learn? With the possible exception of Herrera, the Phillies don’t have a starting outfielder on their roster. There is the possibility that Altherr fulfills his promise, but that’s far from a sure bet. Keep an eye on Dylan Cozens, who generated 40 home runs and 125 RBI for Class AA Reading this year. If Cozens (6-foot-6, 235 pounds) continues to develop and displays the mobility to play outfield, he could be a part of the future outfield.

Another player who could receive an opportunity to make the team in spring training is Nick Williams. The talented Williams batted just .258 and had a terrible .287 on-base percentage (19 walks in 497 at-bats) this season with the Class AAA Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs and had maturity issues, which led to benchings and certainly contributed to the Phillies’ decision not to call him up in September when rosters expanded. It will be interesting to see if he gets the message the Phillies delivered by not calling him up. For 2017, the Phillies almost certainly need to find a veteran bat, either through free agency or trade to play right or left field.

CONCLUSION

The lesson from this season is that the Phillies still have a lot of work to do in order to have a bright future. Their outfield and bullpen require major overhauls. They have some short-term stability at catcher and the infield, but the long-term starters at several of those positions may still be in the minor leagues in 2017. Perhaps most importantly, the starting rotation still has numerous question marks. This season produced more question about the rotation than it answered.

It appears that 2017 will be another season of searching for answers about the future.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply




Harper hits 1st home run as Phillie