2015 State Of The NL East: Philadelphia Phillies


After looking at the Miami Marlins earlier this week, today we take a look at a team that is projected to finish at the bottom of the NL East. This is a team that the Washington Nationals did only go 9-10 against last year. The team I am talking about is the Philadelphia Phillies. When you look at this Philadelphia team heading into 2015, it is more about which players that are on the team will actually remain in a Phillies uniform when the season is over.

Last season, in the first year with Ryne Sandberg as manager, the Phillies went 73-89, which was last in the division. This offseason, it was more about the players that were traded to different teams. The most notable name was Jimmy Rollins. The Philadelphia shortstop since 2000 was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitchers Zach Elfin and Tom Windle. Also, the team dealt Marlon Byrd to the Reds for pitcher Ben Lively.

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When you look at the Phillies rotation, it starts and ends with Cole Hamels. The 31-year old went 9-9 with a 2.46 ERA last season and has been the subject of many trade rumors this offseason. The rotation also has taken a hit with Cliff Lee possibly out for the season with a strained flexor tendon.

The team still has Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard in their lineup, but Howard has been one of those players that Philadelphia is trying to get rid of to get younger. One of those young players is third baseman Cody Asche. The 23-year old hit .252 with ten home runs and 46 RBI’s in his first full season last year.

Some of the offseason acquisitions made by Ruben Amaro Jr. this winter were the signings of outfielders Grady Sizemore and Jordan Danks and pitchers Aaron Harang and Chad Billingsley. Otherwise, this seems to be a fan base that is waiting for the re-build process to continue.

To answer some of the burning Phillies questions, I spoke with Tim Kelly, the co-editor of Section 215 to get his thoughts on what to expect from Philadelphia, including the latest injury to one of their key players looking for a bounceback year, Domonic Brown:

Ricky: With Cliff Lee out due to a strained tendon, do you think that it is more likely that Cole Hamels will get traded this season? In your opinion, will Hamels last the entire year with the Phillies? Why or why not?

Tim: Whether this should be the case or not, I don’t think Cole Hamels is more likely to be traded because of Cliff Lee’s injury. The Phillies have been steadfast on getting their return or holding onto Hamels, and I’m not sure that will change because of Lee.

Due to what could be a loaded free-agent starting pitching class next off-season, I do believe that Cole Hamels will be traded before the trade-deadline this summer. I would caution fans to consider the idea that the Phillies may have to take on some of Hamels’ remaining money to get the return that they expect. But, the Phillies are in a holding pattern until they move Hamels for some sort of substantial return because holding onto him in hopes of building a playoff team with him is vastly unrealistic.

R: What is your take on how the Phillies have discussed Ryan Howard publicly, including GM Ruben Amaro Jr. saying they are better off without him back in February?

T: Amaro has since apologized for those statements, but his message was well received. And for one of the few times during his tenure as General Manager, he wasn’t wrong. But you don’t say that publicly when you are trying to drum up value on a player who has a very limited market from the start.

Howard posted a -7.7 Offensive WAR in 2014, while also posting a -14.5 Defensive WAR. Some of his traditional stats, his homeruns and RBIs, suggest that he wasn’t really that bad in 2014. He was. And his average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage back that up for those who don’t believe in advanced stats.

So if Amaro felt that way, he was justified. And if it got to the point that he said that publicly, it’s probably because he realized a trade was unlikely. At that point, the Phillies should have just released Howard. They would be eating nearly all of his deal in a trade anyway, and keeping him on the roster to tarnish his legacy and prevent the team from moving on on-field makes little to no sense.

R: Who have been some of the Phillies that have stood out to you this spring in Clearwater?

T: Odubel Herrera, who the team selected in the rule-five draft, not only appears to have earned a spot on the roster, but appears likely to be the team’s opening day center-fielder, pushing Ben Revere to left-field.

He has batted .357 this spring, while swiping five bags in as many attempts. He isn’t a core player, but the Phillies may have found a diamond in the ruff, relatively, in Herrera.

R: With the lineup aging, are Phillies fans expecting more out of Domonic Brown this season after a disappointing 2014? What’s the latest on his injury?

T: I think most fans that I’ve spoken to expect something in between what he did in 2013, when he was an All-Star, and in 2014, when he was anything but.

Expecting Brown to hit 15 homeruns and drive in 65 RBIs feels fair this year, if he plays enough to get the amount of at-bats it would take to produce those numbers. With Revere likely sliding over to left, Brown will get looks in right, but if he doesn’t hit off-the-bat and his glove continues to be abysmal, he may not get enough at-bats to produce those numbers.

According to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, Brown was diagnosed with moderate tendinitis late last week. CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury suggested that he could start the year on the DL, throwing a wrench into what is a crucial season for Brown.

R: Most experts are not picking Philadelphia to have a great 2015. If that is the case, who are some younger players that fans should want to check out this season at Citizens Bank Park later in the year?

T: Ken Giles and Jake Diekman would be the obvious ones. As the season goes on, Maikel Franco may get a chance to get some serious big-league at-bats as well.

R: What do you expect in year 2 from Ken Giles? Will the 24-year old get more opportunities to close this season?

T: I expect him to continue to perfect his slider to pair with his electric fastball. He’s really the one player on the major-league roster that feels like a long-term core piece for the organization.

Giles could get some closing looks early in the year as the Phillies attempt to prevent Jonathan Papelbon from getting closer to his 2016 vesting option. If Papelbon is traded, Giles undoubtedly would become the club’s closer.

R: Who is your X-Factor for the Phillies both offensively and pitching wise this year?

T: Offensively, Cody Asche is an X-Factor. Asche hit 10 home runs and 43 RBIs last season, and many feel that he can improve on both of those numbers. I feel he projects more as a very good bench player long-term, but the Phillies certainly won’t be in a position to consider that anytime soon.

Pitching-wise, the Phillies have a chance to have an elite bullpen. Jonathan Papelbon had a nice bounce-back year last year, and Ken Giles is one of the best young arms in the league. Jake Diekman has tremendous stuff, but took a step back in 2014. If Diekman can put it all together this season, the back-end of the Phillies bullpen will be rock-solid.

R: Two-part Prediction Question: How many wins do the Phillies finish with this season and which key veterans are dealt between now and July 31?

T: I believe the Phillies will finish with 68 wins this season, give or take. As for veterans traded, I believe that the Phillies will ultimately move Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon. Aaron Harang, Chad Billingsley and Domonic Brown all could be moved as well. Poor contracts will prevent the Phillies from moving Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard, in my estimation.

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