FanGraphs has released their projections for the 2016 season and, once again, the Philadelphia Phillies are predicted to be the worst team in baseball.
It is hardly shocking to see Philadelphia back in the basement after a dreadful 2015 campaign. The Phillies had the worst record in baseball at 63-99, Philadelphia’s worst record since 1972. It was also a year of roster movement that saw franchise cornerstones(Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley) traded to make way for the franchise’s rebuilding process.
Disheartening as it was to see these players go, it was essentially. The Rollins trade has not amounted to very much as of yet, however, both Zach Eflin and Tom Windle are ranked as the Phillies’ 9th and 14th best prospects respectively. The Chase Utley trade brought back a possible every day contributor in Darnell Sweeney. Sweeney, 24, has been described as a “super utility man” who can play both middle infield positions as well as the outfield. Will Sweeney fill the shoes of the once great Chase Utley? Doubtful, but he will have plenty of time to develop on a young Phillies’ roster. The Utley trade also landed, Jon Richy, a 23 year old pitcher who currently ranks as the Phillies’ 29th best prospect.
On July 31st, a deal sending, starting pitcher, Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers became official. The Rangers would receive Hamels and, relief pitcher, Jake Diekman in exchange for five prospects and, veteran lefty, Matt Harrison. Harrison, mainly acquired so that the Rangers could dump payroll, will have an opportunity to pitch in 2016 after battling injuries over the last three seasons. Hopefully, the 30 year old lefty can regain enough form to increase his trade value come June.
This trade was a win-win for both sides as the Rangers got a much needed piece for their 2015 playoff run while the Phillies received a nice haul of prospects in return. This group, highlighted by Jake Thompson, Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro(The Phillies’ #3,#4 and #5 prospects) performed well during the latter half of 2015 with the exception of Alfaro, who was limited with an ankle injury. Thompson and Williams will be joining the Phillies in Spring Training as non-roster invitees. Philadelphia also received, starting pitchers, Alec Asher and Jerad Eickhoff who have already made contributions at the Major League level.
The Phillies will also be looking for a new closer in 2016 as they sent young Ken Giles to the Houston Astros in exchange for Brett Oberholtzer, Vincent Velasquez, Mark Appel, Thomas Eshelman and Haraold Arauz. The Phillies would also send SS Jonathon Arauz(no relation) to the Astros. This was a magnificently orchestrated trade by, Phillies’ President, Andy MacPhail and, General Manager, Matt Klentak. Oberholtzer, 26, has spent parts of the last three seasons in the majors and will be able to hold down the rotation until younger prospects can take his place. Velasquez and Appel, who were both rated as top three prospects in Houston’s organization at some point, were the steals of the trade. Velasquez, 23, saw time in the majors this year pitching to a 4.13 ERA over 19 games. Appel, 24, was the number one overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft and is held in high regard as a prospect.
Eshelman and Arauz are just an added bonus to an already nice haul. Eshelman, who saw limited playing time at any level this season, will be afforded the chance to develop in the Phillies’ system in the next few seasons. He will not contribute right away but will hopefully join the rotation in the future. Arauz is a long shot prospect who has yet to surpass the High A level.
The Phillies could be a surprising team in 2016. Will they be World Series contenders? Highly unlikely. However, they showed some promise towards the end of the 2015 season and may be able to put up a decent fight in a weak NL East.
Super Two Sports Prediction: 3rd place, NL East, 72-90