The Rain Delay

Hard-Hitting Baseball Analysis

2016 MLB Team Preview: Philadelphia Phillies

This is part of my 2016 MLB team preview series. I will preview each team before Opening Day, unveiling teams in reverse order according to my power rankings. 

Previous: 30) Braves

29. Philadelphia Phillies2016 Philadelphia Philles preview

  • 2015 Record: 63-99, 5th in NL East
  • Key Additions: SP Jeremy Hellickson, SP Charlie Morton, SP Vince Velasquez, RP David Hernandez, OF Peter Bourjos, OF Tyler Goeddel, SP/RP Brett Oberholtzer, RP Edward Mujica
  • Key Losses: CL Ken Giles

Not too long ago, the Philadelphia Phillies were the preeminent team in the National League, a quasi-dynasty built on the shoulders of a rock-solid core: Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard. After a string of five consecutive NL East titles that netted one World Series ring, the Phillies finally relented in 2012, plummeting to 81 wins. Since then, the Phillies have been in full-fledged rebuild mode. Handicapped by the onerous contracts of declining veterans, Philadelphia has had to wait idly as its team devolved into the laughingstock of Major League Baseball. Rollins, Utley, and Hamels are now gone while Howard will be on his way out after 2017 when his albatross contract mercifully expires.

The Phillies figure to struggle mightily again in 2016, but reinforcements are on the way. Uber-shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford will soon join intriguing youngsters Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, and Aaron Nola at the big league level. He will be followed by a bevy of gifted prospects already in Triple A: outfielder Nick Williams, shortstop/center fielder Roman Quinn, catcher Jorge Alfaro, and pitchers Mark Appel and Jake Thompson. Philadelphia will be counting on these players to coalesce into the next great Phillies core.

Projected Line-Up (with 2015 Slash Lines)2016 Philadelphia Phillies Lineup

This line-up elicits about as much excitement as a Bill Belichick speech, save for the precocious Maikel Franco and the emergent Odubel Herrera. Franco tore the cover off the ball after being called up on May 15th last year, and continues to do so this spring. Every indication suggests Franco will be a cornerstone player for Philadelphia. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit 30 home runs this year. The Phillies hit Rule 5 gold last season with their selection of speedy Odubel Herrera. Herrera slapped the ball across all fields and chased down fly balls with aplomb en route to amassing 3.9 fWAR. Despite his wildly successful rookie year, Herrera was snubbed in NL Rookie of the Year voting, failing to receive even one third-place vote. If Herrera picks up where he left off last year, pundits won’t be able to ignore him for much longer.

Philadelphia Phillies 3B Maikel Franco

3B Maikel Franco has all the makings of a future star.

The remainder of the Phillies’ lineup is comprised of washed-up veterans – Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz – and disparate pieces. Peter Bourjos and Rule 5 draft pick Tyler Goeddel – or whomever claims the corner outfield jobs – are nothing more than placeholders for Nick Williams and Roman Quinn, who should both join the Phillies around the middle of the season. None of these veterans appear likely to fetch anything of value in a trade, but a strong first half of the season could change things quickly. Once J.P. Crawford, Williams, and Quinn set foot in Citizens Bank Park, this team will become much more dynamic and compelling.

Projected Rotation (with 2015 Stats)2016 Philadelphia Phillies Starting Rotation

The Phillies’ 2016 rotation forecasts to be among the worst in baseball, but there is some upside here, highlighted by 22-year old Aaron Nola, who impressed in his first taste of big league action last year. While Nola’s fastball only sits around 91 MPH, he locates it well and is able to induce groundballs. Once he has two strikes on a hitter, watch out for his devastating sweeping curveball. Of his 68 punch-outs, 43 came from the curveball. It bodes well for Nola’s future that he already has an identity and a bona fide out pitch.

Veterans Charlie Morton and Jeremy Hellickson should slot in behind Nola in the Phillies’ rotation. Morton and Hellickson, a pair of craft soft-tossers, endeavor to improve upon disappointing 2015 campaigns. If they are able to do so, they could yield a nifty return for Philadelphia near the trade deadline. The other rotation spots project to go to Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez for now. After coming over from Texas in the Cole Hamels deal, Eickhoff had success in a small sample size. He doesn’t have the kind of talent that jumps out at you, but he could prove to be a capable back-end starter. Velasquez, easily the hardest thrower of the group, is a player I’m very bullish on. Just 23 years old, Velasquez is accoutered with a fastball with late zip and a nasty slider that is unhittable at times. Velasquez is still raw and has to beat out left-handed pitcher Brett Oberholtzer for the final rotation spot, but I believe he has the innate ability to break-out this season.

Projected Bullpen (with 2015 Stats)2016 Philadelphia Phillies Bullpen

The Phillies entered 2015 with stability at the back-end of their bullpen in the form of Jonathan Papelbon and Ken Giles. After sending covert double-agent Papelbon to division rival Washington and having him torpedo the Nats’ clubhouse chemistry, the Phillies shipped Giles, a howitzer of a reliever, to Houston in the offseason. Now, it appears free agent signee David Hernandez will man the closer role for Philadelphia, at least initially. One guy to keep an eye on is Cuban Dalier Hinojosa, who posted a sparkling 0.73 ERA after coming over from Boston last year. Hinojosa doesn’t possess overpowering stuff, but could prove himself to be a cost-effective building block for Philadelphia. Even if Hinojosa proves to be a diamond in the rough, this bullpen is still rife with middling talent and is liable to cause consternation for Phillies skipper Pete Mackanin in his first full season at the helm.

Conclusion

2016 will be another lost season for Philadelphia, but its fans can take solace knowing foundational players are on the way. J.P. Crawford has all the makings of a superstar and should team with Maikel Franco to give the Phillies one of the best left sides of the infield for at least the next half-decade. Ideally, Charlie Morton and Jeremy Hellickson will perform well and then be shipped out to make room for promising minor leaguers Jake Thompson and former number 1 pick Mark Appel. The present is gloomy, but at least Phillies fans can start to see the dark clouds slowly move away.

Prediction: 4th place, NL East

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