Top 5 Bright Spots for the Phillies at the All-Star Break

The Phillies are heading into the All-Star Break with 62 losses–the most losses any Phillies team has had before an All-Star Break since the Midsummer Classic’s conception back in 1933. The club is the only team in MLB not to hit 30 wins, and have the worst record in baseball at 29-62. They have ten more losses than the second-worst team in the league, the Milwaukee Brewers (38-52), and sport a 10-29 record since June 2. The 2015 Phillies have been historically bad in all phases of the game. However, through 91 games, there have been bright spots scattered around the club. Very few of them, but bright spots nonetheless.

Let’s take a look at the top five bright spots for the Phillies so far.

5. Francoeur flourishing in minimal role: After signing with the Phillies as a non-roster invitee last November, veteran Jeff Francoeur knew that he would have to work hard to earn a spot on the regular season roster. His hard work has certainly paid off, and the 31-year-old journeyman has made his opportunities count. In only 184 at-bats this season, Francoeur has a .245 average with six home runs and 26 RBIs. Despite the low season average, Francoeur has thrived off the bench. In 15 at-bats as a pinch hitter, Frenchy has a .467 average with six RBIs and a 1.038 OPS. He has also come through in tie games. In 58 at-bats with the score tied, Francoeur has a .292 average with three homers and 10 go-ahead RBIs.

4. Hernandez and Galvis developing into everyday starters: With the departure of Jimmy Rollins and the absence of Chase Utley, 25-year-old middle-infielders Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis have gotten the opportunity to play everyday. While both have had their ups and downs, they each have shown the potential to be everyday Major League starters. Galvis came out of the gates swinging one of the hottest bats in MLB, recording an average of .355 through 22 games in April. He crashed back to earth hard in May and June, however, batting 219 between the two months. Galvis has seemed to find his April swing through 12 games in July, as he has a .370 average in 46 at-bats this month. Since Utley was placed on the DL back on June 24, Hernandez has had the opportunity to be the Phillies’ starting second baseman. With Ruben Amaro’s comments stating that Hernandez is the team’s best second baseman, it looks like that won’t change anytime soon. Hernandez has certainly taken full advantage of the opportunity. Since June 22, the switch-hitter has a slash line of .363/.427/.425 with seven RBIs. What has been impressive about Hernandez, though, is his ability to get on base. His .364 OBP and 25 walks both lead the club, while his OBP ranks third and his walks rank fifth in the NL among second basemen with 200 or more at-bats.

3. Papelbon and Giles shutting down opposition: Going into the season, the Phillies’ bullpen was anticipated to be the team’s strength. That has not been the case this season, as the bullpen’s 3.79 ERA ranks 21st in MLB. While the bullpen collectively has been a let-down, the two pitchers at the back-end have been anything but. Jonathan Papelbon became the Phillies’ all-time leader in saves earlier this season, notching his 113th save with the club. The right-hander will also be the team’s lone representative at the All-Star Game tomorrow night in Cincinnati. The 34-year-old veteran has converted all 14 of his save opportunities and has a 1.60 ERA in 33.2 innings-pitched. After struggling in May with a 4.50 ERA in 12 innings-pitched, Ken Giles has bounced back in a big way, posting a 1.04 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 17.1 innings-pitched since June 3. During that stretch, the 24-year-old has held opponents to a .164 average and a .261 OBP. On the season, Giles has a 1.86 ERA and has 49 strikeouts in 38.2 innings-pitched. While the Phillies’ bullpen has been disappointing thus far, Giles and Papelbon have been the anchors for the back-end of the bullpen through 91 games.

2. Hamels pitching like an ace: Okay, so his last start against the Giants wasn’t so hot. The left-hander surrendered a career-high nine earned runs in only 3.2 innings. Aside from that, Cole Hamels has been the ace of a dreadful Phillies starting rotation. Prior to his last start, the 31-year-old had a 2.42 ERA in his last four starts. On the season, Hamels has a 5-6 record with a 3.02 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 113.1 innings-pitched. Hamels has been a victim of the Phillies’ inconsistent offense with a 2.72 run support average, good for the third lowest in the NL among starting pitchers. With the July 31 trade deadline only a couple of weeks away, the former World Series MVP’s days in Philadelphia could be numbered. He will look to have a bounce-back start after the All-Star Break to restore any trade value he might have lost in his previous outing.

1. Franco living up to potential: Since his call-up back on May 15, Maikel Franco has been the main bright spot for the Phillies on offense. In 218 at-bats this season, the 22-year-old has a .284 average with 10 home runs, 34 RBIs, and an .834 OPS. The highlight of his season thus far came in June, where he hit .352 with eight home runs, 24 RBIs, and a 1.039 OPS. That stretch included a historic two-game stretch in Yankee Stadium where Franco enjoyed back-to-back five RBI games and blasted three homers. His stellar play earned him NL rookie of the month honors for June. Franco has come back down to earth in the month of July, batting .250 with zero home runs and only two RBIs. Pitchers have adjusted to the rookie. Now it’s time for Franco to make some adjustments of his own.

The performances of these players have given fans something to cheer about so far this season. While three of these players may not be on the roster come August 1, they have provided some much needed bright spots for this ball club through 91 games.

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