This season was all about the future in Philadelphia. While the team surprised early, the Phillies fell back to Earth as the season went on, eventually fulfilling those pessimistic preseason projections. But this was expected. Though the club’s eventual win/loss record won’t be pretty, this season was all about preparing the club for the future. The major-league club saw some talented youngsters make their debuts, while the team continued to develop its promising prospects in the minors. The Phillies may still be years away from contention, but it was a start.
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Like we’ll do with every eliminated team in our Game Over series, we’re about to examine what went wrong for the Phillies, what went right, what’s the best 2016 memory, what they need to fix and what the future might hold.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Early on, it looked as though the Phillies might have assembled one of the worst bullpens of all-time. That honor actually went to the Cincinnati Reds, though the Phillies’ 4.69 ERA out of the pen ranked 27th in the league. Promising 23-year-old pitcher Aaron Nola showed flashes of brilliance during his first full season in the majors, but was sidelined with an elbow injury in July.
While Ryan Howard’s playing time eventually decreased as the year went on, he posted an awful .194/.256/.445 line over 340 plate appearances. His tenure in Philadelphia is likely over, as the team can buy out with contract for $10 million in the offseason. (Chris Cwik)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Progress, thy names are Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez. After they both had surprising 2015 seasons, they continued to hit and generally improve despite lower expectations. Herrera, the former rule 5 pick, has been through a tough second half, but he’s starting to come around, and his first half excellence was no fluke.
On the pitching side, the Phillies took a flier on pitcher Jeremy Hellickson in November, trading for him and then signing him to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. It’s paid off tremendously — he’s had a resurgent year (3.57 ERA with 149 strikeouts in 30 starts) and been solid throughout. But the best story on the 2016 Phillies is first baseman Tommy Joseph. The former catcher was traded to the Phillies in 2012 for Hunter Pence, and after suffering through repeated concussions that kept him off the field, he was nearly out of baseball. But he switched positions and persevered, earning his call-up this season. He rewarded the Phillies’ continued faith in him by hitting .261/.309/.518 with 21 home runs. (Liz Roscher)
TOP OF THE FLAGPOLE (aka THEIR BEST MOMENT)
The Phillies were already long out of any serious postseason contention on Aug. 7 but they were still playing as a team. That’s hard to show sometimes in baseball when so many aspects of the game are individual, but Philadelphia managed to do it with this sleek triple play in a 6-5 win over the Padres. With runners at first and second and no outs Maikel Franco fielded a ball hit right to third base. Franco stepped on the bag and fired to Cesar Hernandez at second who made a good throw to first baseman Tommy Joseph to pull off the triple play. (Israel Fehr)
CHANGES THEY NEED TO MAKE
It’s time to inject some youth into the Phillies big league roster. It’s universally agreed that the Phillies are on the right track. General manager Matt Klentak has put together an impressive minor league system by squeezing value of his veterans and drafting well, which should add up to a bright future. The roster turnover will obviously continue this offseason with veterans like Ryan Howard on the way out. Now’s the time though to turn some of those prospects loose. We’ve seen it a little bit in September, but we’re ready for the J.P. Crawford’s and Nick Williams’ to take over next spring and lead Philadelphia into the future. (Mark Townsend)
WARP TO THE FUTURE
The Phillies may have been awful in 2016, but there’s actually a lot to like here. J.P. Crawford’s time should finally come next year. The 21-year- old has been touted as elite prospect for years now, and could be part of the great shortstop awakening.
Nick Williams had a poor season in the minors, but he also remains an intriguing prospect. Catcher Jorge Alfaro made his debut in 2016, and should play a more significant role in 2017.
First overall pick Mickey Moniak is someone fans will want to keep an eye, but he was a high school draft pick and isn’t projected to reach the majors for quite some time. The same can be said of 2015 first-rounder Cornelius Randolph. (Cwik)
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