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

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