Analysis

Heading into 2018, Phillies have a clear path to contention

J.P. Crawford/ Photo by: Lauren McLaughlin

For the last three days we’ve tackled some of the bigger questions we had going into the 2017 season. 

Our third question: Will the Phillies finally define some roles?

One of the benefits, we hoped, of offering up the 2017 Phillies season to the baseball gods was that we’d figure out who and what this team is and be able to run into 2018 with a team of players carrying clearly defined roles.

While that has happened in some important and even surprising places, it hasn’t been a complete success, and at some positions there are more questions heading into 2018 than there were starting 2017.

Let’s run through them quickly.

CATCHER: Jorge Alfaro has probably shown enough to be the starter, with Andrew Knapp backing him up and Cameron Rupp out the door to back up somewhere else in 2018 and surface for the Sugar Land Skeeters in 2020. Status: DEFINED

INFIELD: Well, this is messy … but in a kind of good way. Hoskins is locked in at first and everything else in undefined. Cesar Hernandez will be challenged by Scott Kingery at second (although not until May – no way Kingery starts the season in the majors), or the Phils deal Hernandez and move J.P. Crawford to second base in the interim. There may be talk of moving Freddy Galvis off short and to a bench-utility role to allow Crawford to play short, or they can put Crawford at third and move Maikel Franco to a first base/third base bench role. Kingery may also get some third base talk. That also leaves Tommy Joseph without a job, and unfortunately, that’s just way it’s going to be. But these are the chess pieces the Phillies will need to move before and during the 2018 season. Status: UNDEFINED

OUTFIELD: Three have emerged: Odubel Herrera in center, Aaron Altherr in left and Nick Williams in right. If you think that combination is good for .270/.340/.490 with 90 doubles, 60 homers and slightly better than average defense in a full season with room to grow each of the next five years (and I think that’s a pretty good projection with a more consistent Herrera) then pencil it in, start Roman Quinn and Dylan Cozens in Allentown and make them earn their way up. Or make some kind of trade to free up space. This is an obvious position of strength right now, so this is probably where the Phillies will need to dip into to acquire good starting pitching. Status: DEFINED

STARTING PITCHING: Yeesh, at least at the other positions if there is no definition, there is an abundance of talent. With what the Phillies have in-house right now, the rotation may as well start a band and call themselves “Nola and the Space Cadets” going into 2018. No one else has earned a spot in 2018, and it’s obvious there will have to be some out-of-the-organization answers to fill out the rotation. Jerad Eickhoff will still be around, Vince Velazquez will be curiously in the conversation and then so will the gaggle of No. 4 or 5 starters that pitched this year (Ben Lively, Nick Pivetta, Jake Thompson, Zach Elfin, etc.). On the bright side, Clay Buchholz won’t. But clearly, something needs to be done here and least part of it won’t come from within the organization. Status: WOEFULLY UNDEFINED

BULLPEN: If you would have told me in June that going into 2018 this would be the most solid, defined area of the team, and the one I feel most confident in, I probably would have smacked you in the head for lying to me. But Hector Neris (closer), Luis Garcia (RHP No. 1), Adam Morgan (LHP No. 1), Holby Milner (LHP No. 2) and Victor Arano/Edubray Ramos (RHPs No. 2 and 3) proved in the last two months that this group doesn’t really need to be touched, and the Phillies can concentrate their efforts and resources elsewhere. Bring in some non-roster invitees in the spring to make competition, but – and I can’t believe I’m typing these letters – I’m more than fine with this group starting the year. Status: DEFINED

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Jaron B

    October 11, 2017 at 10:34 am

    Agreed but we need depth in the ‘pen.

    Also, I think defined vs undefined is confusing until you read the whole article.

    And you never discussed your headline.

  2. betasigmadeltahag

    October 11, 2017 at 10:40 am

    There is absolutely no reason to keep Kingery in the minors except for money, not starting his arbitration clock, and this way of thinking has got to stop. He is ready and should be in the starting line up from April on. Deal Hernandez, Joseph and possibly Franco, but I like how he played down the stretch. If you can have an infield of Franco, Galvis, Crawford, Kingery, and Hoskins, and getting some playing time for Freddie in the outfield if need be, would, should be a contending offense and defense. Hernandez trade value will never be higher, and if you can package him with a few prospects or even Joseph and Rupp, I think you should be able to get something in return to help this team’s pitching.

    • Justin McElroy

      October 12, 2017 at 6:21 am

      Joseph and Rupp have very little trade value.

  3. Ray emhardt

    October 11, 2017 at 11:31 am

    If everyone of the regulars played 150 plus games we would have !00 plus K’s for each and every one of them!!! Galvis is not a gold glove SS anymore, Williams Hoskins Hernandez Altherr(when not on DL) are the building stones, Franco Herrera Galvis Rupp Joseph need to go. 31 games out of first place, way more needed to right this ship. It is now 2018 next year. More Kool Aid to be had. Nice arms in Bullpen, and a 3rd and 5th rotation SP is what they have. Lets not be Lemmings in tiny silver boxes.

    • schmenkman

      October 11, 2017 at 4:04 pm

      100 Ks is the norm now, not the exception.

      59 guys played in 150+ games this year. Of the 59, only 16 avoided 100 Ks.

      The average for those 59 was 121 Ks.

    • Justin McElroy

      October 12, 2017 at 6:29 am

      So the team’s best player over the past three years (10.5 WAR, 107 wRC+) “needs to go”?

  4. Patrick Thompson

    October 11, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    I think your wrong breaking up Galvis and Hernandez. The two have played together since kids and you arguably have the best defensive SS in the game with a solid leadoff man in Hernandez. Cut Franco start JP there but I don’t think he is a major league hitter so why get rid of something that already works well. I would actually trade Kingrey, Josheph, and Franco for pitching. When it comes to catching I think you keep Rupp as a mentor/ backup for Alfaro. After Alfaro is for sure te catcher of the future get rid of Rupp. Right now they need to focustomize on pitching and lock in what they already have for sure.

  5. Craig Glessner

    October 11, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    I hate to tell Ray but Galvis is in the running for a gold glove and Herrera is one of the best center fielders both defensively and at the plate. You can root for the team on the rise or cry about the past I choose to be a fan through it all someone get him a Kleenex

  6. loupossehl

    October 11, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Still waiting to hear about that “clear path to contention”. As good as it is to see – at long last – the Phillies becoming good, they still have a long way to go to “contending” status.

    If we should succeed in landing that No. 2 starter that we all talk about, then we’ll have an improved starting rotation that begins with Nola and the New Guy. And???

    We need to land the New Guy and, in addition, see one of our young arms have a breakout year. And our young position players will, hopefully, progress – and not regress.

    All of that, at minimum, is what we need before “Phillies” and “contending” can be used in the same sentence.

  7. Justin McElroy

    October 12, 2017 at 6:17 am

    Not exactly a clear path, but they’ll be better. When Amaro was fired I thought it would be 2020 at the earliest before they could be considered contenders and I still believe that.

  8. denzen

    October 12, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Ok, I’m going to sound like a broken record, but I would just put Roman Quinn on the major league roster, and be done with it. He would be an extra outfielder, pinch hitter/runner, and defensive replacement. He could spell Altherr, and maybe help preserve his health too. The most games Quinn has ever played in the minors is 88, and that was in 2014.

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