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PN Debate: Will the Phils contend in 2017?

This piece was made in collaboration with Phillies Nation contributor, Mike Murphy.

Well what do we consider contention? We would say that vying for one of the two wild card spots in September. And we’ll also say that the team has to be within three games if they are not leading the wild card race.odubel

Two of Phillies Nation’s writers, Corey Sharp and Mike Murphy each gave us a piece of their mind for the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies.

First up, Corey Sharp’s case:

The Phillies got off to a hot start this year. There was the throw by Goeddel and the catch by Rupp that highlighted the happy times at Citizens Bank Park. That’s all it was, a hot start, unable to be sustained. It essence, a bunch of kids threw on big league uniforms and were having fun, and at first, they were successful. As time wore on, reality set in. The Phils were obviously not ready to win this season. But their improvement from last year has sparked debate for their wildcard aspirations next season. Could they compete? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Next season should mark the debuts of many prospects we had our eye on for awhile. J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Ben Lively, and Roman Quinn. Other possibilities include the “Bash Brothers” of Rhys Hoskins and Dylan Cozens. All of this is great, something to look forward to, for sure. I actually intend for the Phils to compete for a longer stretch of time next season compared to this season. But, in the dog days of July and August, reality will once again set in.

The inexperience will take over, lead to mental errors on the basepaths and poor at-bats. The core players on the team now are resting that case for me.

Maikel Franco hit .280 last year in 80 games. We expected him to hit at least that this year, right? In this being his first full big league season, he’s only hitting .244. Franco has had a tough go-of-it since the All Star break, mustering a .216 average while throwing in some questionable plate discipline and pitch selection.

Odubel Herrera has been a shell of himself since the month of May. His average has dipped to .278 after soaring over .300. In the months June, July, and August, Herrera walked a total of 22 times. His walk total in April, alone, was 23.

Aaron Nola and Vince Velasquez looked like bonafide aces in the early going. That has since changed. As I said in a recent article, the starters have left more questions than answers.

Here we are with guys that already had big league experience in 2015, not only struggle on the field, but struggle with staying on the field. It’s unfair to expect another, and this time, big wave of prospects with not a lick of experience to compete for a playoff spot. Yes, they may enjoy early success, but that wall will hit them harder than they think. 2018 may be the year we see rally towels at The Bank.

Mike Murphy’s case:

It is a great question to ask: Will the Philadelphia Phillies be in contention next season?

I do believe the 2017 Phillies are destined to compete for one of those two playoff berths. 2017 will be a clean slate for the team. For starters, the survivors of the 2008 World Series team (Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz) will be off the roster. This makes room for guys like Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp to play on a full-time basis. They are getting a good taste of what that is like now but next season we will really see their full potential. I am very impressed with the development of both

29 April 2016: Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard (6) comes home to congratulations and cheers after his walk off homerun in the bottom of the 11th inning during the MLB game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Cleveland Indians played at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)Joesph and Rupp this season. The power that both players possess could spell 20-plus home run potential.

In the beginning of the season we saw a glimpse of the potential of the pitching staff. Aaron Nola was lights-out in the first two months but his elbow injury caused him to go into a downward spiral. I truly think that he will come back even stronger in 2017 after finally seeing some true adversity. I also think there will be less restrictions on his pitch count if he is able to prove he in his most durable state.

Guys like Jerad Eickhoff, Vincent Velasquez, Jeremy Hellickson, and Jake Thompson should be much more efficient after a full major league season. Much like Nola we have seen each of these pitchers struggle during the season. That learning curve will only help this staff moving forward.

Since 2014 the team has struggled mightily with their starting pitching. Starters would maybe go four innings at best.

Not a recipe for success. And your bullpen certainly does not appreciate it either. There is a serious wave of dominance pitching coming to Philadelphia thanks in part to this core group of starters in the majors along with guys like Ben Lively and Mark Appel headlining the minors.

What I am most thrilled about is the outfield. Oh boy will we have a speedy outfield. Odubel Herrera covers so much real estate in centerfield. Then makes plays that will have you double taking so hard you might get whiplash.

Now lets add in speedy athletes like Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr to the mix. My goodness you’re going to need to hit it over the wall to put it past these guys.

Did I mention these guys can hit also?

Herrera will provide us with another .300-plus average season with at least 20 stolen bases. Altherr finally being healthy and given a full spring training will tear the cover off the ball. I expect 20 homers and 70 RBIs from him in 2017. Williams, given that it is his first season will probably hover around the 15 home run range with 50 RBI but that is low-balling it for him. Trust me if he comes out and has a ‘Rookie of the Year’ type season in 2017 with Nintendo numbers then you won’t hear me complain one bit.

Potentially this team could get back to being the power house of the National League East. Powerful guys like Joseph, Rupp, Miakel Franco, Williams, and Altherr can provide. Let us not forget the bash bothers of Rhys Hoskins and Dylan Cozens at AA Reading who have combined for 75 home runs this season…and counting.

So to come full circle, yes I do believe the Phillies will contend for a playoff spot in 2017.

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