2016 State Of NL East: Philadelphia Phillies

Mar 21, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco (7) hits an RBI single during the sixth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 21, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco (7) hits an RBI single during the sixth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

We continue our State Of The NL East series by previewing the Philadelphia Phillies with Matthew Veasey of That Ball’s Outta Here

After previewing the Atlanta Braves on Monday, today we continue our preview of the NL East heading into this season by looking at the Philadelphia Phillies. Last season, Philadelphia finished with a 63-99 record, which was ten wins lower than their 2014 record. As for the Washington Nationals’ head-to-head record against Philadelphia last season, they went 12-7.

Their manager, Pete Mackanin, will enter his first full season with the team after taking over for Ryne Sandberg in June of last season. However, the Phillies have dealt with a few injuries early on in spring training.

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Aaron Altherr, who was projected to start in right field, will miss the next four to six months because of surgery on his left wrist and Cody Asche is currently out with a strained right oblique. This offseason, new general manager Matt Klentak went out and signed Peter Bourjos to a one-year deal to help the outfield.

The name to watch in this Phillies’ lineup is third baseman Maikel Franco. In 80 games last season, Franco hit .280 with 14 home runs, 50 RBI’s, and a .343 on-base percentage.

The other moves that Klentak made this winter was that he added to the club’s starting rotation. They signed Jeremy Hellickson (Opening Day starter) and Charlie Morton in free agency and traded for Astros’ starter Vincent Velasquez. Velasquez was one of the pitchers added in the deal that sent closer Ken Giles to Houston.

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To get more information on the Phillies’ offseason and their expectations for 2016, I spoke with Matthew Veasey, who is the editor for the Phillies’ FanSided site, That Ball’s Outta Here. We would like to thank Matthew for taking the time to answer our questions and be sure to follow their site all year long for the best Phillies coverage:

Ricky: How would you grade the Phillies’ offseason?

Matthew: I would give the Phils a ‘B’ for this off-season. An ‘A’ off-season to me would be one in which they add impact talent that could make a difference in a postseason race. This ‘B’ grade indicates that they accomplished what they needed to under their current circumstances. Bringing in Hellickson and Morton for the rotation, creating legitimate competition for bullpen roles. Finding athletic and inexpensive outfielders, such as Bourjos and David Lough, to serve as placeholders until the prospects arrive.

R: How big a loss is Aaron Altherr to the lineup and what are the team’s plans to fill his spot?

M: I am already on record with a piece at TBOH that the loss of Altherr is no big loss at all. Keep in mind, this is partly about where the Phillies are as a team. Altherr was not going to make a difference in them winning appreciably more games, and his loss will not make them any worse off. It should mean that Rule 5 draftee Tyler Goeddel gets more opportunity to play, which I believe benefits his development more than coming off the bench as a 4th or 5th outfielder.

R: With the reports of the team offering Maikel Franco a long-term deal, what impresses you the most about Franco’s game?

M: There are conflicting reports here in Philly as to whether such a deal was actually offered, or that the publicly released figures are correct. Franco was always going to be a top-notch addition to the lineup. He has tremendous talent, and could become an NL All-Star 3rd baseman in short order. He has been tearing up the Grapefruit League, and is a key to the rebuilding program. I am most impressed by his defense at 3rd, which has gotten much better to the point where a position switch is out of the question.

R: What were your thoughts on the veteran additions of Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton to the rotation?

M: Kind of covered that in answering the “grade” question above, but I think that they are nice additions for where the team is currently. Both are placeholders, Morton more so than Hellickson. With Nola and Eickhoff already here and looking like legit longterm #3-4 options in the rotation, now the Phils await the arrival of Vincent Velasquez, Jake Thompson, Mark Appel, Zach Eflin and other prospect arms. Velasquez may even yet make the rotation out of spring training, he has been VERY impressive so far.

R: How would you evaluate the Ken Giles trade and who is in line to be the next closer?

M: The Giles trade was definitely needed. He was a huge, valuable trade chip and a luxury for the Phillies at this stage of their development. Matt Klentak appeared to bring back a nice haul, especially with Velasquez. If Mark Appel can make the big leagues, even as a #3-type, the Phils should get a win in the deal. The closer role was given to David Hernandez by default in the winter. However, developments with his health and the performance of Andrew Bailey to this point have that up in the air. Bailey is actually the leader at this point.

R: When do you expect shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford to make his big league debut?

M: Would not surprise me at all if we do not see J.P. until a September cup of coffee, ala Franco back in 2014. However, Freddy Galvis is no deterrant. If Crawford really excels at AAA, and Galvis plays to his usual mediocre level, a mid-summer call up for Crawford would also not be surprising. In any event, the starting job has to be considered as Crawford’s no later than this time next year.

R: What are the expectations for Pete Mackanin in his first year as manager?

M: Mackanin gets a lot of respect for the steady hand that he showed in guiding the club after the Sandberg debacle last season. I like the guy. He has plenty of experience in coaching, has paid his dues, and has earned this shot. The longterm jury is still out, as expectations are low. Only time will tell if he is a caretaker manager until they are ready to actually win, or if he is much more than that.

R: X-Factors for the 2016 season?

M: There is simply not enough offensive firepower here for this team to win in the regular season as consistently as they have been in the Grapefruit League. However, I do expect the pitching to be improved from top to bottom. I would say that both Hellickson and Eickhoff are my X-Factors. If they have full, healthy, successful seasons, the Phillies should win a few more games than last year. If any of the top prospects get to the big leagues, they have a shot to be even bigger factors, and that especially includes Velasquez.

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R: What would you consider a successful 2016 season and how many wins do you think the Phillies will have this year?

M: Not quite ready to release my 2016 Phillies “wins” prediction yet, but a 70-win season is not out of the realm of possibility. That is a bump up from 2015, and would have to be considere dd a step in the right direction. Especially so if the season also includes a big league debut for a handful of the top prospects.