It is opening day! In previous years that statement meant something, but today it is meant with a sad shrug. Sure, people are excited baseball is back, but come May, there wont be too much excitement in the Delaware valley. So in a season that is all but guaranteed to be a rough one lets look at some things to keep an eye on as the Phillies tank for a kid who just got his drivers license last month.
1) Cole Hamels Trade:
Phillies fans are waiting on the edge of their seats to see where Cole Hamels will end up. The Phillies have coveted the Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts and catcher Blake Swihart but the Red Sox have been reluctant to part with them. Betts has been compared to Andrew McCutchen, with teammates already predicting he will be an All Star this season. Swihart is close to Major League ready and will begin the season in AAA. Maybe the Red Sox really don’t want to part with their stud prospects, or maybe they are simply playing hard to get. Now Phillies fans just have to sit back, wait, pray Cole Hamels avoids the pesky injury bug, and see where Hamels ends up.
2) AA Reading Rotation:
A few years ago Phillies fans in AA Reading had “The Baby Aces”. It was 2011, Citizens Bank Park was packed on a daily basis and fans were guaranteed to see an “ace” four out of the five nights. It was much of the same an hour up the turnpike as the Reading Phillies rotation had Jared Cosart, Trevor May, Brody Colvin, and Julio Rodríguez. Cosart was a key piece in the Hunter Pence deal, while May was the key piece in the Ben Revere trade. Rodríguez and Colvin never panned out. This season we are turning back the clock to 2011, at least in Reading.
This seasons Reading rotation features last years seventh overall pick Aaron Nola, and former first round pick Jesse Biddle. You also have Tom Windle and Zach Eflin, both were high draft picks, both came in the deal that sent franchise staple Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers. The last piece in the Reading rotation is Ben Lively, who is no slouch himself. Lively was a Carolina League All Star before having success at AA last season. When the Phillies traded outfielder Marlon Byrd to the Reds during the offseason Lively was who they got in return. If you don’t want to watch a dumpster fire this season, take the family and head on out to Reading for affordable family fun.
3) Maikel Franco:
Maikel Franco burst on the scene in 2013 hitting 31 home runs for 103 RBI between High A Clearwater and AA Reading. He immediately became the Phillies top prospects, and his raw power had Phillies fans salivating at the thought of him playing the hot corner, or even first base as the heir apparent to Ryan Howard. Franco’s 2014 season saw him struggle for the first time in his career as he played the entire season at AAA Lehigh Valley. In 556 at bats in Lehigh Valley he hit a mere .257 with just 16 home runs. His season ended in Philadelphia, but his 2015 season will start in AAA Lehigh Valley after struggling this spring.
Franco is just 22 but some fans are already starting to worry that the Phillies have another bust on their hands (as ridiculous as that sounds). The Phillies have not produced a home grown stud in quite some time, and even most of the prospects they traded away in deals to get superstars have not panned out. Franco will be one to watch to see if he can rebound from a sub par 2014, and also if he can transition to first base.
4) 2015 MLB Draft:
The Phillies had the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft and they took pitcher Aaron Nola out of LSU. It was the most important draft since the 1998 draft when the Phillies held the #1 overall pick and selected Pat Burrell. Amazingly the Phillies improved in 2014 and they hold the #10 overall pick in this June’s draft. The Phillies have an extremely depleted farm system thanks to trades, and overall poor drafts. The one guy that I am praying falls to them at #10 is Vanderbilt 2B/SS Dansby Swanson, but he is projected to go around 7-9. Either way this is yet another important draft for the Phillies, and one that fans wont want to miss as the Phillies are clearly in a rebuilding mode and the easiest way to do that is through the draft
5) Phillies Serving Hard Alcohol:
Its going to be a long LONG season, and this team is going to drive people to drink…..heavily. In another example of the Phillies infinite wisdom they decided that this season they will serve hard liquor at the ball park. That is either the stupidest idea, or simply great fan appreciation.