We’re at that time when every fan is riddled with excitement and thinks to themselves, “Why not us this year?” If you haven’t been guilty of this, you’re kidding yourself.
As I was guilty of asking myself that question, I pumped the breaks and realized the Phils are still smack-dab in the middle of their rebuild. However, this is the year we’re supposed to see some of the top-notch prospects we’ve been hearing so much about. After the 2017 season, I believe the bigger picture will be much clearer as the Phils inch closer onto the back-nine of the rebuild.
Having said that, which prospects are expected to graduate from the minors into the Class of 2017? It appears that the Phils have quite a few players on the verge, but we won’t see most of them in April; instead, they’ll be in Philadelphia probably by mid-season. This time around, I envision General Manager Matt Klentak being the aggressor in trade discussions to clear room for the young players.
The Phils have a minimum of five attractive veterans they can deal by the July 31 deadline. Outfielders Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders are both professional hitters contenders covet for a stretch run. Jeremy Hellickson is the reliable arm contenders look for in bolstering a pitching staff for a postseason berth. If Clay Buchhholz can stay healthy and channel his inner-2013 self (12-1, 1.74 ERA), he’ll be flipped for a much more fruitful package than Hellickson. Lastly, Cameron Rupp is a trade chip that could yield some decent value by the deadline for a team in need of catching help. Throwing Cesar Hernandez in the mix also isn’t out of the question, as the switch hitter has been subject to trade discussions over the offseason.
5 for 2017
The only prospect definitely breaking the 25-man roster in April would be Joely Rodriguez. The Dominican native, 25, is a hard throwing lefty who can make left-handed batters uncomfortable in the box. And a lefty specialist is always a commodity in a major league bullpen.
The backup catching position is Andrew Knapp’s job to lose, as we recently wrote. The switch-hitting catcher will have to fend off Bryan Holaday, Logan Moore and most recent invitee Ryan Hanigan. Knapp’s toughest competition will likely come from Hanigan, who’s the most experienced of the bunch and is known for his work behind the plate. If the Phils opt to go with the veteran, Knapp should not be ruled out later in the year.
Again, most other prospects are expected to make an appearance by, earliest, mid-season. Ben Lively is most likely fourth in line behind Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin and Alec Asher to get a crack in the rotation. With an anticipated active July, including trades and injuries, Lively’s consistency and durability will garner graduation status over someone like Mark Appel.
Roman Quinn teased fans last September with his blazing speed and cannon of an arm. The only player stopping Quinn from being a key outfield cog is himself – the outfielder’s inability to stay healthy has called his durability into question, and rightfully so. Quinn’s September call-up was cut short after 15 games because of a rib injury. If he can stay healthy, Saunders and Kendrick will keep a spot warm for Quinn.
A hot stretch before the all-star break garnered some chatter about Nick Williams, and if he deserved a promotion. The Phils didn’t pull the trigger, and Williams stumbled miserably in the second half, which included a couple of disciplinary-related benchings. The left-handed hitter will have to prove himself once again in order to earn a promotion. After a tumultuous 2016, Williams will live up to his billing.
2 more for 2017
Jorge Alfaro will not likely break for Philadelphia in April, giving him his last bit of seasoning in triple-A. Once the right-hander comes up (maybe by mid-season), he’ll be here to stay.
The Phils have been known for their patience when it comes to promotions, however, J.P. Crawford has moved through the ranks rather quickly. Crawford struggled with the bat upon his callup to Lehigh Valley, hitting just .244 in 87 games. The 22-year old drew 42 walks and struck out just 59 times. Crawford’s keen eye to go along with his contact ability will bring him to Philadelphia this season.