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Phillies will make crow eaters out of critics in 2017

Old-Crow-Bourbon.jpgYahoo: 23rd.

ESPN: 24th.

Fanrag: 24th.

CBS Sports: 29th.

The Phillies aren’t getting much love right now. And funny enough, consistently, the team directly above the Phillies (or even a couple spots above) is the Braves. A team that added two pitchers in their 40s, a decent starter who shifts from very good to not very good, a second baseman past his peak, and a veteran reliever the Phillies had in 2016.

Sure they have some young talent, but only one of those young players is starting the season in Atlanta. But they played well in the second half of 2016, and hey, Bartolo Mania, right? So the Braves are suddenly even a wild card threat to some.

Fine. Let them talk.

I believe the Phillies are going to make people eat crow this year.

Not that this is the goal. No, the goal this year is to see real development, to see prospects take big steps, whether as major leaguers or in their respective levels on the farm. Plus we hope to see established players ensure their place in the future. Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph, Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez and Jerad Eickhoff – our eyes are on you.

Some of these things probably won’t happen; that’s merely the nature of baseball. But some other things may happen, such as offensive improvement from Freddy Galvis, a scolding year from Michael Saunders or the good side of Clay Buchholz. And trust the boys this time: some good things will happen this year. Matt Klentak wisely packed the roster with players whose floors aren’t found through a hole in the basement. If Saunders falls short there’s Aaron Altherr, and if he falls short there’s Daniel Nava. Then there’s Roman Quinn. Then there’s Nick Williams. But chances are we won’t get to the lowest point (not that Williams is low – please …). The point: The Phillies, for the first time in what seems like decades, have depth.

Remember the 63-win 2015 club? The only positive offensive developments there were a half season of Franco, a quarter season of Altherr, a surprise Odubel Herrera campaign and Andres Blanco’s bench mashing. Remember that pitching staff? We endured 88 starts from Chad Billingsley, Kevin Correia, Sean O’Sullivan, Jerome Williams, Severino Gonzalez, David Buchanan, Dustin McGowan and Aaron Harang. That’s not happening this year. We now have several young pitchers at our disposal, and they all have potential that exceeds much of the list there.

Things are getting better.

The 2017 Phillies aren’t likely to win 81 games or threaten the wild card race, but stranger things have happened. Instead, expect somewhere between 74 and 78 wins. If it’s fewer, then it doesn’t mean the Phils need to rethink this rebuild. And if it’s more, then it doesn’t mean the Phils are surprisingly cured of bad baseball.

But this much is true: The Phillies are now beyond the worst of it. Regardless of the final record, regardless of what happens on paper, the team is on an upward trajectory.

And that alone will make people eat crow. See, while writers fawn over the Braves emerging prospect haul and 40-something starters, the Phillies have quietly built the kind of depth that finds you angry at 40-man roster moves.

When was the last time we were angry about 40-man roster moves? (By the way, former Phillie Chase d’Arnaud is on the Braves’ 40-man roster.)

But again, let’s stay focused on the goal at hand.

The Phillies are going to be exciting and interesting, and mark my words, they’re going to make people eat crow this year.

Let’s just start a hashtag now: #EatCrow.

Or not.

Whatever. Get ready for good stuff.

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