The Philadelphia Phillies will kick off the second-half of their 2018 campaign Friday against the San Diego Padres. Before the Phillies enter their first pennant race since 2011, let’s give out some first-half awards.
MVP: Aaron Nola
We could make the argument that you could give Aaron Nola every award on the list. One of the emerging star pitchers in baseball, Nola leads the National League in wins with 12 and is in the conversation for the National League Cy Young Award. Having a total of 20 starts, Nola has 16 quality starts, a 2.30 ERA, 2.60 FIP, a WHIP of 0.977 and a 4.2 fWAR. At 25, Nola looks as though he’ll be at the top of the Phillies rotation for some time to come.
Non-Aaron Nola Cy Young: Seranthony Dominguez
Nola’s the obvious choice here, so at the risk of being anti-climatic, let’s exclude him from this category. Dominguez has thrown 33 innings and has been incredible for a rookie reliever. With only six earned runs allowed, 43 strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.652, Dominguez figures to finish in the top five in National League Rookie of the Year voting. Dominguez has the best pitching repertoire of any Phillies homegrown reliever since Ryan Madson.
Rookie of the Year: Gabe Kapler
It’s pretty amazing that given the start Kapler’s tenure has had, we’re having this discussion at the All-Star Break. But at the unofficial halfway point of the season, Kapler’s squad has 53 wins, is 11 games over .500 and is in first place in the National League East by a half game over the Braves. Given that the Phillies offense hasn’t consistently clicked, and the bullpen has been hit-or-miss, Kapler deserves credit for the impressive start to his tenure. It stands to reason that both the bullpen and starting lineup could be even better in the second-half of the season, making it entirely possible that the Phillies top 90 wins in 2018. For all of you gamblers out there, that would mean that the over would be a winner (the preseason over-under: total wins – 75.5).
Most Improved: Zach Eflin
Even after signing Jake Arrieta this offseason, it’s Eflin who has been the team’s second best starter. With a 7-2 record, 3.15 ERA, 3.03 FIP and 1.9 fWAR, Eflin’s gone from starting the season at Triple-A to being in position to be in a postseason starting rotation. This from someone who had a 5.85 career ERA in 22 starts between 2016 and 2017. Finally healthy, Eflin has seen an increase in the velocity of his fourseam fastball, sinker and slider.
Honorable Mention: Maikel Franco
Still just 25, Franco has bounced-back from a disastrous 2017 season that saw him slash .230/.281/.409 with a -22.3 offensive WAR. While he may never develop into the player that his 80-game stint in 2015 led some to believe he could be, he’s at least bounced back to the form he showed in 2016. He brought his average up .039 points from .230 to .269. Along with that relatively impressive average, he has 13 home runs and 47 RBIs batting toward the bottom of the order. He’s also seen an increase in his on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. It’s still unclear if the Phillies view Franco as part of their long-term future.
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