Here’s the gist: Rank the 50 people most important to the success of the Phillies as an organization going into the season. They can be executives and administrators, coaches, players, prospects, entertainers or broadcasters. All parts of the organization are fair game. We at Phillies Nation individually ranked entrants, and averaging the ranks together – along with light tinkering – we settled on this list.
Today is the top-10.
10. Sal Agostinelli
Director of International Scouting
Agostinelli will be under plenty of pressure, with the Phillies having the largest allotment of money for any major league team in this year’s international signing period. That’s not to say money isn’t an issue, though, as Agostinelli and his staff will need to make sure to spend and distribute those funds in the best possible manner. Does that mean breaking the bank (and incurring a penalty) on one or two big and well-hyped names, or collecting a number of international assets with slightly less hype? That’s the ongoing challenge. – Jay Floyd
9. Aaron Nola
Starting Pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies
Is there a sure thing on the 2016 opening day roster? Aaron Nola is probably the closest thing. When he was selected in the first round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, Nola was immediately branded a likely No. 3 starter, sometimes a No. 2, sometimes a No. 4, but usually, definitely, at No. 3. Good command. Good poise. Advanced stuff. Open-shut. And as Nola coasted through Clearwater, Reading and Lehigh Valley over the course of one full season, he was again branded a likely No. 3 starter, same as before. Then, after 13 relatively successful starts in Philadelphia, starting in July 2015 (3.59 ERA, 68 K, 19 BB), well … you get it. Nola has been consistent, exactly as advertised, maybe even a tick better. If he stays that way he’s an obvious key to the future. Chances are decent.
8. Andy MacPhail
President of Baseball Operations
On June 29, 2015, MacPhail came into our lives to help move the Phillies from one era to another, but in a sense he’s here to help move the Phils from a long past with the same cast of characters, to a new future that could look substantially different in five to 10 years.
His job is to work with the tools in front of him and bring in the right people to help lead that future; so far he has enlisted former co-worker Matt Klentak, who has begun to enter the Phils into the analytics conversation. MacPhail has said he’s here to listen, work with his teammates and develop the best possible strategy for the future. He has ownership support, impressive coffers and the benefit of being in a large market, plus great fans, a fantastic stadium and training complex in Florida, and development pipelines throughout the country and internationally.
The goal for MacPhail is a championship opportunity for the organization. He has plenty of power – and tools – with which to do that, and he’ll have to rely on his teammates, but optimism is shining for the first time in a few years. Everything is starting to fall into place, but execution will be the ultimate challenge.
7. Matt Klentak
The Phillies’ new general manager is an Ivy League grad in his mid-30s. He embraces analytics while admitting the importance of organic scouting and hands-on technique. Only time will tell if it works, but Klentak looks like the right person to lead the front office into the future.
Obviously Klentak’s job is important – he is the general manager, the person responsible for acquiring talent and setting up the major league club to succeed. He oversees development and scouting, and works with countless directors, managers, associates and other employees to ensure the machine is humming with an eye to both the present and the future. He’s ultimately responsible for success and failure, and as general manager, is the obvious public target when things go wrong. As Ruben Amaro Jr. knows, the fans can and will quickly show their disappointment with you. And it all can become a spiral.
But we’re in the first year of Klentak’s run as general manager. He inherited a good farm system that he improved a little during the offseason. He inherited a major league team that stinks but is showing transition through some true young talent. And he inherited the opportunity to spend some money when the time comes, a first-overall draft pick, a large international spending pool and one of baseball’s biggest television markets that just struck a new deal, bringing the franchise even more money down the road. It’s not a bad start for Klentak.
This year is still heavily focused on the future, with that draft pick looming and plenty of prospect development occurring at every level. But if things go well enough, Klentak will begin to position his major league team for more immediate success. Maybe a trade down the road? Maybe a big signing? Maybe not for a while. But the work begins now. All eyes are on Klentak as a new day dawns, even if his full power won’t be exercised yet.
6. Mike Ondo
Director of Professional Scouting
Where the Phillies are headed, they’re sure to continue to beef up their roster through trades – deals for players like Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton could be on the horizon depending on their early success. Ondo, of course, will be a big part of the Phillies’ filling needs within, as they arise.
Ondo already deserves loads of credit for helping the organization add names like Jake Thompson, Nick Williams, Jimmy Cordero, Jorge Alfaro, Vincent Velasquez, Mark Appel and several other players that should be part of the core when things begin to turn around for the team that lost the most games in the majors last year. Look for him to remain a critical factor in the Phils’ rebuild as things move forward. – Jay Floyd
5. Maikel Franco
Third Baseman, Philadelphia Phillies
Over one weekend in Yankee Stadium last season, Franco showed Phillies fans just what he could bring to – let’s say – the 2019 National League Championship Series. With mammoth home runs, solid defense and the ability to spray the ball throughout the outfield, Franco has all the tools necessary to be a middle-of-the-order talent for a competitive first-division team.
For the 23-year-old who put up a .280/.343/.497 line with 14 HR and 37 XBH in 335 appearances last season, 2016 is a year to show steady growth while playing a full season, if possible. That means no great regression (it’s typically expected), static or better plate discipline, improving defense and no dramatic injuries (luckily Jeremy Hellickson is a teammate now). If this happens, Franco has the power to put his name into the core of the next great Phils team.
We certainly hope that’s the case.
4. J.P. Crawford
Projected Shortstop, Lehigh Valley IronPigs
So much has already been written about Crawford’s potential that there’s nothing new to say. He’s a brilliant hitter with good shortstop power potential, not speedy but fast enough to swipe his handful of bases each season, an outstanding fielder with a high baseball I.Q., and a clear leader who seems to always be having the time of his life. He’s even already in Jonah Keri’s top-50 trade value rankings. In short, the Phillies can build the future on his shoulders.
Of any person in the Phillies system who can take the field in Philadelphia today, tomorrow or in three years, Crawford is the most important. If he’s good he’ll bring fairweather fans back to the park. If he’s good he’ll get people to switch to CSN at 7:05 p.m. If he’s good the Sunday afternoon games will be packed. If he’s good our kids will be running around in Crawford shirseys at their fourth birthday party. If he’s great he may be the first player to hoist the Phillies’ third world championship trophy.
Yes there’s mammoth pressure on Crawford – from the organization, the coaches and players, the media, the fans, and certainly from projection-happy bloggers like myself. But for the first time in a generation, an everyday player has met and eclipsed all very high expectations before ever stepping onto the field in Philly. That’s why Crawford is important – because we made this so important to all of us.
3. Pete Mackanin
Manager, Philadelphia Phillies
With the Phillies in full rebuild mode, there is no one that will have a more hands-on impact on the future of the Phillies than Mackanin. With the daily flow of the organization surrounding him, it will be Mackanin’s job to keep the players focused and ready to go in every dimension of the game, at any given moment.
There is no better person in the organization that will have a more direct result on each individual player that comes through the Phillies’ major league team this year, and through the near future.The organizational morale has seen an uptick since the time Mackanin took over as manager, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down, since he was chosen for the job over multiple available candidates. Mackanin will have his mark on every player that is expected to be on the next winning Phillies team, and therefore earning himself a spot in the top-five of most of our writers’ rankings. – Matthew Gephart
2. Joe Jordan
Director of Player Development
The argument between our No. 1 choice and Joe Jordan is almost a coin flip. Both men are intensely involved in the planning of the Phillies long-term future, but for Jordan, the heaviest work may have already passed.
That’s not to say he’s not important – not at all; in fact, Jordan is typically one of the most important people in the organization. His goal is to ensure the amateurs that come through the developmental system come out prepared to be professional baseball players. But after starting in October 2011, Jordan was immediately under pressure. While his general manager took one final stab at championship contention, Jordan had to ensure the next era of Phillies baseball was in good shape. It took a couple years – for a number of reasons – but Jordan can be held responsible for players like Crawford, Franco, Nola, Roman Quinn, Andrew Knapp, Cameron Rupp, Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis, Cody Asche, Aaron Altherr and Ken Giles. That’s a good start; really, Jordan should be lauded for developing some working major leaguers despite the organization’s misplaced priorities from 2012-14.
There have been missteps, specifically Domonic Brown, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and first-round draft choices like Zach Collier and Larry Greene Jr., but even those four situations were much larger than simple player development. For the most part, Jordan – who, by the way, worked under Andy MacPhail in Baltimore some years back – has succeeded in giving the Phillies an opportunity to improve.
Now – for the first time since taking the job – Jordan has a stacked system, and plenty of those parts (Nick Williams, Jake Thompson, Mark Appel, Vincent Velasquez, Jorge Alfaro) are close to finished their amateur development, though there surely will be work to do with all of these players. For Jordan in 2016, it’s likely more important to look further down the line at Cornelius Randolph and Franklyn Kilome, two high-reward players with plenty of development left, and at whomever the Phils bring in with that first draft pick in June. Those may ultimately be the true legacy of Joe Jordan.
1. Johnny Almaraz
Director of Amateur Scouting
2016 is a special year for the Phillies. For the first time since 1998 they have the first-overall pick in the First-Year Amateur Draft. So even with all the development and prospect watching we’re doing this year, there may be no bigger date than June 9.
Almaraz, who runs amateur scouting in the organization, is the man ultimately in charge of that selection – and of every selection in the draft. Because his importance this year is paramount to so much of the Phillies’ present and future, he is our choice for the most powerful Phillie of 2016.
Our Jay Floyd takes it from here:
I strongly felt that failing to rank Johnny Almaraz in the top spot right now would be a complete swing and a miss at getting this list done properly. In a year when a rebuilding Phillies organization has the top overall pick in the draft, the team’s director of amateur scouting is under the most pressure to do his job right. The spotlight and focus of the entire draft is on such a spot, a pick the Phils have had only one time in their existence, when they selected Pat Burrell in 1998.
Mr. Almaraz, the spotlight shines on you.