So it is that magical time of year again. The time that most red blooded Americas cannot wait for, when those amazing words “Pitchers and Catchers report” are uttered. Spring Training is here, and the hills are alive with baseball!!! I personally took a trip down to the baseball carnival that is Clearwater Florida. My boss John Brocious thought about fronting the bill for the trip but then decided that me gathering great content for this blog was on me and he would have no part of footing the pennies for it. Just kidding he didn’t even know I went. But as I entered that beautiful facility, and gazed upon infield drills, and bunting practice (the only time of the year that any respectable major leaguer will be bothered with drills so elementary), I thought about the Phillies season to come. Here’s where I think we stand in 2018. Position by position I have marked the Phils for their current MLB grade.
Outfield – This is going to be one of our strengths this year, and while we don’t have the cash cow golden buyout outfield like the Yankees do, the Phils are looking at developing some seriously promising young talent in the outer rim positions this year. Left field will most likely be host to the most exciting prospect since the Utley, Rollins, & Howard era, Rhys Hoskins. If you missed the last 3 months of the 2017 season it’s time for you to climb out of the uncivilized crevice you call a home and enjoy the moon blast phenom that is Mr. Hoskins. Rhys was on pace to put up numbers that don’t exist in baseball. He clubbed HRs in 7 consecutive games in 2017, and is officially the fastest to hit 10 through 17 HRs in MLB history. He finished with 18 HRs and 48 RBIs and only played 50 games, which put him on a pace for 58 bombs, and 158 RBI’s. Numbers Phillies faithful cannot expect in 2018, but if the youngster can pump out something to the tune of 35-40 Hrs and anywhere in 100 RBI range, we will be just fine. He is “out of position” coming up through the farm system as a 1b, and only learning outfield in the majors due to a team need, but that shouldn’t be a problem, as we have learned in the past from greats like Pat Burrell (GOAT), Albert Pujols, and Carlos Lee to name a few. The red pinstripes look to develop young talents such as Nick Williams (acquired in the Cole Hammels trade) Aaron Altheer, and Roman Quinn as well during this ever critical 2018 season. And finally the ever controversial Oddubl “El Torrito” Herrera. As you read some of my blogs you will notice that there is no player in the majors that I find less appealing than this ignorant pompas d-bag, who refuses to learn/respect the game that has made his life that of a baseball dream. A player with immense talent for the position and a great propensity for the daily grind of hitting, Oddubel is a classic argument for why the new wave of “vibrant” baseball can be a negative as much as a positive. He constantly makes base-running blunders, and cannot seem to understand why the most basic of baseball rules has been established, and that is hitting the GD cutoff, as he consistently grants other teams free bases, and consequently runs. He is a real catch 22 as he drives doubles all over the field creating a spark the Phillies so desperately need, and then continues to show up the opposing pitcher, run into outs, and give up on at bats game after game. There’s no doubt that with the right leader, and mentoring he could be an everyday threat in any MLB lineup, and my hands to the baseball gods, I pray that we have found just the guy in Veteran Slugger Carlos Santana.
2018 Outfield Grade : B
Infield – The red and white are in a transition from lack luster to possibly productive, and are a few prospects panning out from being a damn good infield. Third baseman Maikel Franco is in the biggest “show me” season of his career, where he will need to improve on his abysmal .230 BA from 2017 if he wants to be a big leaguer past 2018. My hopes aren’t high, but like Herrera the thought is that a fellow Dominican Republic Veteran, can put him on the right path especially at the plate. Which bring us to the Phillies big FA signing at first base, Carlos Santana, who is a consummate hitters hitter. The man has batted from both sides for all of 8 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, and looks to show a young crew how it’s really done. He will be a big part of the success or lack there of in the upcoming season. The most important part of this infield for Philadelphia, will be the development of the middle infield. Cesar Hernandez looks to start the year as the everyday second baseman, but the two guys that everyone is ready to see step into starting roles, are long awaited prospect J.P Crawford, and upstart hotshot Scott Kingery. The obvious comparison being the all-time great pairing of Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley manning the middle. Hopes and prayers across the Delaware Valley look for these two to become any bit of what the 2008 heroes were to our double play portion of the infield. Kingery is making the minors look like high school, and history shows that Crawford needs about 200 at bats at every level before he settles into the contact on base machine we need him to be. Look for these two to be up the middle for years to come if Phillies fans get their way.
2018 Infield grade : C+
Catcher – When discussing catching there are a million intangibles, but the one that every fan, half a fan, and casual ballpark hot dog consumer, understands is, does that man have an absolute rifle behind the dish. And guys….Jorge Alfaro has just that. He needs to learn how to receive, and call the game a little bit better, which can be learned. And that is why I implore the Phillies suit and tie men to buy out Carlos Ruiz’ contract with Seattle and make that man a lifer in Red by giving him a fat Catcher coaches deal Let him teach this youngster how to play the position, because if he does look out. Jorge has something that Carlos never did, which is the ability to consistently launch the baseball off the damn video board in left field, I mean this man can really put a hurting on a fastball.
2018 Catcher Grade : B-
I wont bore you with the Bullpen, just know that Matt Klentak has bolstered it by bringing in young live arms and old veteran quirky arms that keep us afloat, and in the hunt. But no bullpen is complete without a closer, and we don’t have a great one so its still eeeehhhhhhh….
2018 Bullpen Grade : C-
Starting Rotation – I wrote this blog exactly 12 hours after the Phillies made their second big FA splash of this offseason, with the Signing of former CY Young winner Jake Arietta, this team’s rotation immediately moves from a work in progress with trouble at the back to a strong front steady rotation….with you know, trouble at the back. Aaron Nola, and Jake Arrieta have such an interesting combination of youth, experience, power pitching, and deadly control that they make one of this league’s best 1-2 punch at the front end. With Jarred Eickoff’s power curve, and electric fastball manning the middle, this team teeters on a hope that Vinny Velasquez (also a Cole Hamels deal acquisition) can find his form as a starter and yes, you all know it knock on wood. If the front end of this rotation holds up, and the phillies can pin together early series wins, they may just be looking at a team that is well above .500 come August. We may just be looking to buy rather than sell to give us fans some well-earned October baseball. That being said the battle for the 5th spot and looming possibility of a young arms still being inconsistent keep us dangerously close to being a very average team.
2018 Starting rotation Grade : B+
The Phillies are just as much bitten by the Super Bowl bug as every other team in this City, and I cannot wait to watch them take the diamond this season, which is why I have purchased the most amazingly gratifying deal ever (Phillies spring pass 15 games for $50). We are going to be watching what will hopefully be our 2007 first time playoff Phils launch into the magic that was 2008. I think we have one more year of maturing, but this team has a big opportunity to be great, and it’s going to be a blast to watch. Happy Spring Training everyone, can’t wait to hear that gentleman in blue say those beautiful words for the first time this April…”Play Ball!!!!”
Philadelphia Sports Content Creator