It’s time for a Phillies Nation writers’ roundtable. Strap on in …
We’re just past the quarter pole of the season, and at 15-29, the Phillies have the worst record in baseball. Are you surprised their record is this poor?
DANIEL WALSH: I was never in the group expecting a .500 record or wild card run, but the record does have me surprised. I predicted something like 73 wins – a .450 winning percentage – and their current record has them at .341. I knew mediocrity was the ceiling, but I didn’t expect to see a month like this.
COREY SHARP: I expected the team to be around .500 at this point in the year. I really thought the bullpen was much improved with the additions of Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit to add to a developing Edubray Ramos, Hector Neris, and Jeanmar Gomez. Obviously, that hasn’t come to fruition and has been an epic fail to this point.
Okay. So “Epic Fail” … is that where this season is going? Is there more than, let’s say, two things to be excited about right now?
SHARP: Fortunately it’s not even Memorial Day yet. Last season started promising and ended as an epic fail. Maybe the roles will be reversed this year. Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera are too good to be .230 (or so) hitters. You’d have to think they’re going to turn it around, but basing it off what we’ve seen so far, it’s tough to picture that – and rightfully so.
EVAN GUSZ: I think “perplexed” fits best. They were six games over .500 at this point last year and now they’re 14 under? And the run differential is similar to last year as well. I expected improvement this year, not being discernibly worse. The bullpen has been unbelievably disappointing and the seemingly constant mismanagement of it doesn’t help.
MICHAEL SADOWSKI: I think what’s most troubling from a team aspect is that these guys look defeated every time they take the field. Almost all of them. I don’t see maximum effort on the field … I barely see minimum effort. With so many young players, it’s going to be up to someone on the team to step up and take command of the clubhouse to let everyone know, in no uncertain terms, minimum effort is not acceptable.
KIRSTEN SWANSON: Yeah, it’s not the record that has been incredibly disappointing, it’s the individual performances/efforts that have been disheartening. The two players (Herrera and Franco) who have the potential to be stars – at least for the Phillies – have looked completely lost and disinterested.
Well that seems to be the problem: There is no franchise star here, no guy willing to be “the guy.” Or is there? Anyone think there’s a franchise star on this roster?
SADOWSKI: I feel like a broken record, but this has been my gripe with this franchise for the last three years. Though the minor league depth is great, there isn’t a surefire No. 1 starter at any level, and there is no 40-home run, 120-RBI guy either. There are flies on everyone. Which is why it hurt to have the No. 1 pick last year be Mickey Moniak, whose main player comparison has been … Steve Finley? It’s going to be up to the front office to find that star/leader in a creative way.
OK, so now what? When should the Phillies start promoting prospects from triple-A? Rhys Hoskins … Jorge Alfaro … Roman Quinn … should there be a shakeup?
SHARP: New blood – as crazy as that sounds – needs to be up here. Since Daniel Nava was placed on the DL today, this should be Ty Kelly’s last game in the outfield. Roman Quinn should man the spot. Jorge Alfaro should also be up as well. Hoskins is a different story with Tommy Joseph’s recent turnaround. Makes for a tougher situation.
SWANSON: If they start messing with players’ developments just to shake things up and “save” the season, it could backfire big time. Players like Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro should stay where they are and continue to grow. As for Roman Quinn…he should be on his way to CBP as we speak.
WALSH: The major league club’s record is secondary to player development and individual performance this year. I’m in the same camp as Kirsten – only call the player up when it’s best for him. Plus, despite how it feels, there aren’t many players to call up who would solve immediate problems the day they showed up.
So what does everyone expect from the second quarter of the season? More of the same? Any changes?
SHARP: I don’t think it’s possible to have another 4-20 stretch, so I expect things to even out a bit. Do I see them making any kind of run? No, but I do expect a few more wins and more competitive games.
SADOWSKI: I think there will be improvement, if only in the mood of the clubhouse, which seems defeated right now. But if there is more of the same, then I expect changes. I would hope the precedent would be set now that if you aren’t here and ready to perform every day, then we don’t want you here.
WALSH: They’ll start winning more games simply by virtue of the law of averages. What I’m actually interested in will be if individual players can improve on and adjust to what happened in the first quarter of the season.
Then who’s your one player to watch in this second quarter? Who’s the one you expect to have a solid stretch over the next month and a half?
SWANSON: There’s just no way Herrera doesn’t turn it around, right? He has just looked completely lost at the plate. As bad as he has looked, however, it can take just one three-hit game for a player like Herrera to get out of his head and turn it around.
SHARP: Maikel Franco is the player to watch. He sat for two straight nights. As Pete Mackanin said, it’ll be interesting to see how he responds, both mentally and out in the field. Jim Salisbury said a demotion to triple-A can’t be ruled out.
WALSH: Franco has been my player to watch all along and will continue to be. He’s the player with the potential to be exactly what the Phillies need. As for who will have a good stretch, though, I’m looking at Aaron Nola.
SADOWSKI: My player to watch is Hector Neris. He’s looked very human during his time as closer, as compared to his inhuman time setting up last year. I don’t think the Phillies will think twice about putting him back in the eighth inning and trying out someone like Pedro Beato, or just waiting until Victor Arano is ready sometime in 2018. Or who knows, maybe they’ll just try Adam Morgan as closer, seeing it’s the only spot on the pitching staff they haven’t tried him at yet. I hope Cesar Hernandez has a good stretch here to get his trade value back up, because it seems like Scott Kingery could be ready pretty soon. I think I’d prefer him to Cesar.