Are The Phillies Close To Contending?

ToritoThe last five years of baseball in Philadelphia has been rather painful and miserable. The Phillies held onto their cast of champions well after their prime had ended and neglected to replenish their farm system. Matt Klentak, the new GM, completely overhauled the roster and rebuilt the farm system into one of baseball’s best. It’s also hard to now imagine that none of the 2008 World Champion players remain; it’s a whole new era.

With that being said, the Phillies 2017 campaign has shown a lot of promise, more so than it has in the last few seasons. Manager Pete Mackanin has become, in my mind, one of the better managers in the game, and definitely someone the clubhouse likes and is able to get behind.

New York Mets v Philadelphia PhilliesRight now, the Phils are in third place in the NL East, only eight games back out of first place. I still believe they have a ways to go before they can challenge the likes of the Mets and Nationals, but there is a lot of reason for optimism. For starters, players like Odubel Herrara in center field, Cesar Hernandez at second base,  and Aaron Altherr in right field are seeing their offensive and defensive games skyrocket. Herrara has been known as a solid bat for the team with great range in the outfield, but his production this season has been really solid. What has really been impressive is the play of Aaron Altherr. Altherr is batting .351 with 7 home runs and 21 RBIs. What’s even more impressive is the fact that he was an afterthought in the outfield picture and has done nothing but hit three-run home runs and drive in runs. It seems to me like Altherr is giving the Phillies a clearer picture as to who their everyday right fielder can be. Cesar Hernandez is on a tear himself batting .324 with a .378 on base percentage (OBP) Even Maikel Franco has contributed with 5 home runs and 25 RBIs. The only issue with Franco are the strikeouts and his wanting to swing for the fences in every at bat.

There is no doubt the Phillies lineup is starting to come together in some areas but the one area of the team that needs some ironing out is the pitching; both the starting rotation and the bullpen. I would argue Jerad Eickhoff has shown enough to at least be a strong number two option in the rotation and Vince Velasquez has shown he deserves a spot as well. The other three spots are wide open. Aaron Nola cannot stay healthy, Zach Eflin has been up and down and Jeremy Helickson is likely going to be dealt at the July 31st trade deadline if keeps up his success. The Phillies bullpen has been bad this year and if you remember that 2008 team, their bullpen was lights out, dominant. This is a far cry from that.

AAWith the Phillies having an astronomical amount of money to now spend and an extremely deep farm system, it’s fair to question when Matt Klentak and company will make a move or two to really propel this team. A lot of fans have their eyes on the 2018 free agency period when guys like Clayton Kershaw, Manny Machado, Andrew McCutchen, Eric Hosmer, and Carlos Gonzalez, to name a few, hit the market. I highly doubt they want to do anything right now, especially since the farm system has seen guys like Rhys Hoskins (1B) JP Crawford (SS) Nick Williams (OF) Dylan Cozens (OF) and Jorge Alfaro (C) tearing it up; even though Crawford has started slow he is beginning to turn the corner. With those guys, the Phillies could almost have a new lineup and team in late 2017 and beyond and what’s even more exciting is that they could be a young and dominant team if those young players transition their success from the minors to the big leagues. My guess is the Phillies will call those guys up sooner rather than later and see what they can do. It will also give them a better understanding as to what they would need to address in the Winter Meetings and possibly through a trade.

The way I see it, the Phillies are really close to coming back into the picture of a contending team. A lot does rely on those young players in the minors and players in the majors continuing their strong play. I really think the Phillies need to make a move or two to solidify their starting rotation. Maybe not as drastic as the Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay moves from years ago, but they should definitely explore the option of adding a proven, veteran arm to the top of the rotation as well as some arms in the pen. I think the lineup will take care of itself, especially with the high amount of young players and players who are producing at a high level. Only time will tell, but the Phillies have the money and assets to really ignite themselves into the playoff picture; they just have to remain a little more patient and those young guns down in the minors need to bring their swag over to the big leagues when their name is called up.

 

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