Jays From the Couch brings you 2016 MLB Wrap Ups. This time, we sit down with Joe Piazza and talk Philadelphia Phillies
Jays From the Couch is kicking off a little series of wrap ups of teams around MLB. We’ll sit down with writers from all over the league to get their thoughts on teams we might not have been paying attention to in Blue Jays Land. This time: Philadelphia Phillies!
This MLB Wrap Up features a discussion on the Phillies, who were the victims of much snickering during the 2016 season. In a year where they were expected to be pretty bad, they finished 20 games under .500 at 71-91 and 24 games back of the NL East winning Nationals. Only Atlanta’s worse year saved them from the basement. Aside from their showing in the standings, the Phillies also said “goodbye” to long time slugger, Ryan Howard. We asked Joe Piazza a few questions about the team he covers over at That Ball’s Outta Here.
You can follow Joe Piazza on Twitter @gofredemption and check out his work over at his own site- The Game of Redemption
JFtC: If you could sum up Philadelphia’s season in a paragraph, what would you say?
Joe: The Phillies started the season off surprisingly well, peaking at a record of 24-17 on May 19th. From there it was all downhill, as the Phillies went on the finish the season at 71-91. Several hitters showed promise, as did a few of the young pitchers on the staff. Manager Pete Mackanin received a good deal of praise for his work with the young and inexperienced players on the roster, though ultimately this team is still a few years away from contention. Of course, it was Ryan Howard’s final season in Philadelphia. He didn’t produce all that well, and was benched in favor of Tommy Joseph when things were said and done. Still, the season was capped off nicely by an emotional speech from the Big Piece in his last game as Citizen’s Bank Park.
JFtC: What went right for them this year?
Joe: This Phillies’ season was one of progress. Newly-minted GM Matt Klentak spent the year acquiring prospects left and right, and that has resulted in the Phillies being ranked the best farm system in the league by MiLB.com. Big name prospects such as J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens, Andrew Knapp, Jorge Alfaro, Cornelius Randolph, Mickey Moniak, and Roman Quinn have quickly turned around what was once one of the worst farm systems in all of baseball.
JFtC: What went wrong for them?
Joe: Health was not a strength for this team, and the pitching staff suffered several injuries that hurt the Phillies chances of winning in 2016. Their bullpen was one of the worst in baseball, and collectively put up an ERA of 5.05 (28th in the league). The offense as a whole was also well-below par, and scored fewer runs than any team in the game.
JFtC: Who stood out on the roster?
Joe: Players such as Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez, Tommy Joseph, and Cameron Rupp made offensive strides this year. Hernandez in particular took a major step forward, improving his OBP of .339 in 2015 to .371 in ‘16. Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Nola, and Hector Neris all showed flashes of brilliance on the mound as well. Though he’s not on the roster, I think it’s worth mentioning that Pete Mackanin’s first season as a non-interim manager was a major success. He developed a good rapport with his players, and handled the Ryan Howard situation very well.
JFtC: Who went under appreciated?
Joe: If one player went underappreciated in 2016, it was Cesar Hernandez. Poor base-stealing has gotten in the way of him utilizing his speed, but his contact skills are advanced and he knows how to get on base. For reasons tied to his mental approach, Hernandez was benched in mid-June. At that time he had a .291 OBP, and was hitting the ball in the air much too often. A reality check from bench coach Larry Bowa seemed to put him back on track, and Hernandez finished out the season with a .291 batting average and an even more impressive .371 on base percentage. His performance was good for a 3.3 WAR, but the media and fans have never been very fond of Cesar Hernandez.
JFtC: Who underperformed?
Joe: Ryan Howard wasn’t expected to play well in ‘16, so it wouldn’t be fair to say he underperformed. Instead, I’d say Maikel Franco had the most disappointing season for the Phillies. His SLG % plummeted from a year ago, and his poor selection at the plate got in the way of Franco being a difference maker. He’s shown the ability to hit major league pitching for power, as evidenced by the 25 home runs he hit last season. Still Franco’s overall stats in 2016 – .255/.309/.427, 25 HR, 88 RBI, 1.4 WAR – spell a disappointing season for a promising young power hitter.
JFtC: Where does Philadelphia go this offseason? What do they do?
Joe: GM Matt Klentak has wasted no time this offseason, already making two trades in less than a month’s time. Pat Neshek was acquired from the Astros to help bolster the team’s bullpen, and longtime second baseman Howie Kendrick was brought over from the Dodgers to play left field. Judging by the acquisitions of Peter Bourjos and Kendrick over the past year, it’s safe to say that Klentak isn’t going to shy away from going after players he’s familiar with from his time in the Angels front office.
They may look for another bat in the outfield, as many have speculated that Kendrick was picked up to play second following a trade of Cesar Hernandez. Since Jeremy Hellickson accepted the team’s Qualifying Offer, the front office is no longer expected to pursue a veteran starter this offseason. Matt Holliday, Brandon Moss, Mitch Moreland, and Chris Iannetta are all players to keep an eye on this winter.
JFtC: What can fans expect from the Phillies in 2017?
Joe: Philly Phans can expect much of the same in 2017. The team is going to continue giving the young guys a majority of the playing time, that’s where the team is in the rebuilding process. J.P. Crawford is likely to be called up soon, and he should be expected to stay. This means that Freddy Galvis is either going to move to second, or ride the bench. Nick Williams has a legitimate shot to start in the outfield next year, as do Roman Quinn and Dylan Cozens. Jake Thompson will probably get every chance to make the Phillies rotation, and at the very least will spot start for anyone who’s injured. The team’s record in 2017 should be an improvement on last year, and they will finish with somewhere between 74-78 wins.
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