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Philadelphia Phillies 2015 Team Preview

It’s going to get worse before it gets better for the Philadelphia Phillies.

After winning 102 games in 2011, the Philadelphia Phillies have won 81, 73, and 73 since. With a lot of pressure to improve this offseason, especially with teams like the Nationals and Marlins upgrading in a big way, Philly went the opposite way and arguably got worse.

Getting rid of Jimmy Rollins, A.J. Burnett, and Kyle Kendrick was just the start of a long rebuilding phase for the Phils and it’s likely to get worse before it gets better in the city of Brotherly Love.

 

Last Season:

Record: 73-89

Runs: 23rd

Batting Average: 24th

ERA: 20th

WHIP: 20th

 

Off-Season:

Notable Additions: Aaron Harang, Jeanmar Gomez, Jeff Francoeur, Kevin Slowey, Jordan Danks, Chad Billingsley

Notable Losses: Antonio Bastardo, Jimmy Rollins, A.J. Burnett, Kyle Kendrick, Marlon Byrd, Mike Adams, Tony Gwynn, Jeff Manship, Wil Nieves,

 

2015:

1B: Ryan Howard, Darin Ruf

Howard finally lasted a full season in 2014 after being limited to just 71 and 80 games in 2012 and 2013. Though the results weren’t always pretty as he led the NL with 190 strikeouts, he did crush 23 home runs, drove in 95 runs, and scored 65. At this point Howard isn’t going to hit 40+ home runs or carry an offense but he’s still good for 20+ and 90+ RBI if healthy.

After hitting 14 home runs in just 251 at-bats in 2013, Ruf was limited to just 52 games last season and was pretty underwhelming as he batted .235 with three homers, eight RBI, and eight doubles. The Phillies desperately need Ruf to stay healthy and produce after the 28-year-old hit as many as 38 home runs in a single season in the minors and owned a stellar .295 career BA and .867 career OPS. If Ruf can finally come on, he’ll massively change the look of this lineup. He can play in the outfield as well so a healthy Howard and Ruf in the middle of the order would be a huge boon for Philly.

2B: Chase Utley, Cesar Hernandez

It’s been a very long time since we’ve seen Utley hit more than 30 home runs but he managed to stay healthy for the first time since 2009 last year and looked stellar for a 35-year-old second baseman as he hit 11 home runs, 36 doubles, drove in 78, scored 74, and added 10 steals. He’s walking more and keeping his strikeouts low, giving him surprising longevity in his mid-30s. He still has a solid glove and proved that he can still produce if healthy. Of course, if he is healthy, he’s a good candidate to be traded by the deadline in the final guaranteed year of his contract.

Hernandez is trying to make the team out of spring training after 100 MLB games over the last two seasons. Though he’s been very underwhelming in the Bigs, batting just .264 with eight extra-base hits and one steal, he was highly promising in the minors, batting .294 in 645 career games and stealing as many as 33 bases in a single season while hitting as many as 44 extra-base hits. There’s certainly promise and with Rollins out and Utley possibly on his way elsewhere, Hernandez might finally get a shot to play every day.

3B: Cody Asche, Maikel Franco

Asche is slowly progressing, batting .252 with 10 HR, 46 RBI, 43 R, and 25 2B in 434 plate appearances last year. He strikes out a lot and doesn’t walk enough but he’s a good extra-base hitter, hitting as many as 15 home runs, 33 doubles, and six triples in a single season in the minors. At 25, he’s still developing but the raw abilities are there to be one of the better hitting third basemen in the NL.

Of course, Franco, a top-20 prospect last season, is the guy the Phils hope to have at third for the longterm. Franco has hit as many as 31 home runs and 36 doubles in the minors and doesn’t strike out nearly as much as you’d expect from a power hitter. He doesn’t always hit for a high average but he draws walks and has a good approach. He’s struggled in his limited time in the Majors and spring training so he’s likely not quite ready yet but, at 22, there’s no need to rush.

SS: Freddy Galvis, Odubel Herrera

With Rollins gone, Galvis has short all to himself but that’s not necessarily a good thing. He has a solid glove but his .176 BA through 43 games last year and his .218 BA through 171 career games has to make fans’ eyes water. He’s never going to be a good hitter but the Phillies have to hope he can play a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop if he’s going to stick.

Herrera, on the other hand, offers the Phils an intriguing option for the future. He doesn’t hit a ton of extra-base hits but he has speed for days, swiping as many as 34 bases in a single season in the minors while batting a strong .294 through 610 career games. He’s mostly a singles hitter but he’s good at drawing walks and terrorizes the basepaths when he gets on. With a good spring training, the Phils would be remiss if they didn’t give Herrera a chance to be the everyday shortstop, even if he’s never played above Double-A.

C: Carlos Ruiz, Cameron Rupp

Ruiz is a great veteran presence behind the plate and added 32 extra-base hits last season, not bad for a 35-year-old catcher with 445 plate appearances.

Rupp showed double-digit home run power in the minors but doesn’t hit a lot of extra-base hits and struggles to hit for a good average.

 

Outfield:

Domonic Brown was one of the biggest disappointments of 2014 as his 27 home runs from 2013 fell to just 10, his 83 RBI dropped to 63, and his .272 average plummeted to .235. He doesn’t hit a lot of doubles and doesn’t draw a lot of walks so he needs the power to remain consistent if he’s going to produce. The former top-5 prospect has now proven that he has the power to be an elite hitter but has also shown that he can’t be relied upon.

Ben Revere was a rare bright spot for the Phils last season as he led the NL with 184 base hits, finished fifth with a .306 batting average, and swiped a career-high 49 bases. He’s really come on since coming to Philly, batting .306 with 71 steals in 239 games. He doesn’t walk or strike out and is very similar to vintage Juan Pierre but if he can keep getting singles and terrorizing the basepaths he’ll remain one of the top speedsters in the game.

Grady Sizemore is apparently being looked at as a potential starter after playing 112 games between the Red Sox and Phillies last season. He looked solid in 60 games in Philly, batting .253 with a .701 OPS. He can still hit for extra bases, draws walks, and doesn’t strike out a lot. Whether he can stay healthy and productive is another story.

Jeff Francoeur has managed to play just 91 games over the last two seasons with the Royals, Giants, and Padres, batting a combined .193 with 18 RBI. So…there’s that.

Jordan Danks doesn’t have a great glove, is a career .227 hitter, and strikes out a ton. So, there’s also that.

 

Starting Rotation:

Cole Hamels was one of the few Phillies to impress last year as he posted a career-best 2.46 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 198 K to just 59 BB in 30 starts. Hamels has now pitched over 200 innings in five straight seasons and has been one of the consistently great lefties in the game. Of course, without Cliff Lee behind him, the talent level in the Philly rotation drops off a cliff after Hamels.

Aaron Harang had a highly impressive comeback last year, going 12-12 with a 3.57 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 161 K to 71 BB for the Braves. It’s a nice bounceback from the 5.40 ERA he posted in 2013 with the Mariners and Mets but not surprising given that he put up a 3.61 ERA for the Dodgers in 2012 and a 3.64 ERA for the Padres in 2011. We know that Harang keeps the walks down but he also gives up a ton of hits and has been known to surrender many home runs, even if he didn’t last season. He can be a mid-3 ERA pitcher at his best but if the park dimensions get the best of him, this is a 5+ ERA season waiting to happen.

David Buchanan pitches to contact like Harang but doesn’t usually have his propensity for the longball so he could be mildly successful if he continues to develop. He posted a solid 3.75 ERA and 1.29 WHIP last season and kept his walks low. He doesn’t strike batters out but he limits the damage and could be a solid middle-of-rotation arm for years to come.

Jerome Williams returned to the Majors after a four-year hiatus in 2011 and has since put up a combined 4.54 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 466 innings. He did do well in nine starts for the Phillies last year after spending time with the Rangers and Astros, posting a 2.83 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in a limited sample size. Like Harang, Williams gives up a ton of hits and can be susceptible to the home run ball. That’s a big negative in Citizens Bank Park and it’s hard to see the Phils’ many iffy veterans succeeding there.

Chad Billingsley is perpetually injured and once again is not expected to be healthy by Opening Day. He’s managed to make just two starts since 2012 and even at his best struggled with his control. Billingsley in his “prime” put too many batters on to be successful. It’s hard to imagine Billingsley after two years out of baseball being any better.

Miguel Gonzalez played in all three levels of the minors last year and while he did post a 3.13 ERA in 46 combined innings, he also struggled with his control and ended the season with a 1.44 WHIP. Through seven innings in spring training, Gonzalez has surrendered three home runs and seven runs. This is all problematic as the Phils were hoping for a quick transition to the Bigs by the Cuban 28-year-old. There’s all the opportunity in the world for him to get into the rotation, being what it is, but he’ll need to actually put up some good games to do so.

 

Bullpen:

Jon Papelbon blew seven saves in 2013 but bounced back strong last season, saving 39 of a possible 43 games while posting an impressive 2.04 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 63 K to 15 BB and allowing just two homers. His 2013 season aside, Papelbon has been one of the best closers in the game since his early time in Boston and is one of the few members of this team management need not worry about.

Ken Giles was extremely impressive in his first season, finishing fourth in Rookie of the Year voting despite being a middle reliever who pitched just 45.2 innings. Of course, during those innings, he posted a highly impressive 1.18 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and 64 K to 11 BB. It’s early yet but when you put up Craig Kimbrel-type numbers as a 23-year-old rookie it’s hard not to get excited for what’s to come. Can you say closer of the future?

Jake Diekman is on the other end of the spectrum, putting up a 2014 season that’s about as mediocre as they come. His 3.80 ERA through 71 innings is decent but his 1.42 WHIP and high hit and walk totals are all cause for concern. He has a good strikeout arm but that’s not enough to succeed in this league.

Justin De Fratus settled in nicely in Philly’s pen last year, putting up a 2.39 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 49 K to 12 BB in 52.2 innings. He consistently put up similar numbers in the minors after converting from a starter to a reliever.

Phillippe Aumont, a former top-100 prospect, got the call in June and again in July last year and proceeded to give up 12 runs and three homers in just 5.2 innings. He struggled as a starter in the minors and hasn’t been much better as a reliever save for a couple of stints in Double-A. Don’t expect much, unless you’re an opposing lineup, in which case, expect a lot of walks.

 

Grades:

Offense: C- to C

Defense: C

Starting Pitching: C-

Bullpen: C+ to B-

Overall: C- to C

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