The Phillies have been in a rebuild mode now for the better part of five seasons, dating back to 2013, which was the first year since 2002 that the team finished with a sub-.500 record. The team has since rid themselves of big names and bigger contracts and replaced those talents with younger, cheaper players. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Roy Halladay have become Cesar Hernandez, Tommy Joseph, Freddy Galvis and Aaron Nola. The latter names have come at a much cheaper price, but also have delivered far less success.
Eventually, however, one would have to imagine that the stockpile of talent sitting in the minor leagues, acquired through trades and high draft picks, will turn the fortune of the franchise around. I like to consider sports very cyclical, with highs balancing out lows, for the most part. Of course, we know that baseball can be a cruel game sometimes, as the Phillies have the most losses ever and only two World Series rings in 134 years ( comparable to the Florida Marlins, who won their second championship just ten years in). The Cubs saw a drought stretch over 100 years and the Red Sox suffered a lengthy gap of their own. But, in most cases, the rise and fall of a team generally runs every five to eight years.
The Phillies won the NL East five years in a row. Assuming they miss the playoffs this season, that’ll be five in a row the other way. Now, the team isn’t ready to make the playoffs next year, but they could get closer. So since they likely aren’t a 2018 playoff team, let’s make our assumptions based on two years from now, in 2019, when the team may have a chance at competing if the young minor leaguers progress the way they’re supposed to. Assuming that two more years could be enough, let’s take a look at the current 2017 roster and see what players will still be around for the better times that we all hope 2019 will hold.
Before we get started, I want to put a twofold caveat on this piece. First, it’ll be broken down into two parts: positional players and pitchers. Second, if I say go, I don’t necessarily always mean not be in the Phillies organization at all. There are some players who are very young and currently on the 25-man roster that may be able to be sent back down to AAA instead of being traded or outright cut.
With that, let’s get started.
Catchers- Andrew Knapp, Cameron Rupp
Andrew Knapp Stay
The Phillies drafted Knapp in the second round of the 2013 MLB Draft. That means he’s gotten all the way to the Major Leagues in just four years. There’s clearly something the Phillies like about Knapp’s backstop abilities. He’s taken over the every day catching duties from Cameron Rupp, who has struggled mightily this season, and there are no signs of Knapp giving that starting job up any time soon (Or at least until Jorge Alfaro is ready to play at the big league level every day). Knapp has hit .264 in his first season as a Major Leaguer, putting together a .354 on base percentage to go along with it. More importantly, he’s been effective calling games behind the dish. Note the correlation between the recent Phillies pitching improvement and Knapp taking over the starting catcher duties. It’s clear he’s building a good relationship with the starting pitchers, as Aaron Nola, Jeremy Hellickson and Mark Leiter all have had recent success with Knapp behind the plate. Knapp’s contract is up at the end of the season, but the Phillies would do well to re-sign him as soon as possible.
Cameron Rupp Go
For all the reasons I just mentioned about Andrew Knapp and the looming emergence of Jorge Alfaro, Cameron Rupp isn’t long for this Phillies’ roster. Rupp opened the 2017 season as the unchallenged starting catcher, but has hit just .205 and has since been bypassed by Knapp on the depth chart. I know that Rupp has good blocking ability behind the plate and calls a fairly decent game, but he won’t get any additional playing time if Knapp continues to play well. I would be shocked to see Rupp on the 25-man roster next season after his contract is up. The Phillies would like to resign him to a minor league deal, I bet, but Rupp will likely try to find a Major League contract. Don’t be surprised to see Rupp with a completely different organization next season.
Infielders- Tommy Joseph, Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis, Maikel Franco, Andres Blanco, Ty Kelly, Howie Kendrick
Tommy Joseph Stay
I think it’s hard to see why Joseph would be a good candidate to stay on the roster two years from now when there is a log jam at first base between Joseph, Dylan Cozens, Rhys Hoskins and even Andrew Knapp, but bare with me here. While many want to see Cozens and Hoskins make their way onto the Major League roster, myself included, I think it would behoove the Phillies to find a way to keep all three on the roster. First Baseman Rhys Hoskins has been playing a good share of outfield recently in anticipation of all three remaining in Philadelphia. Joseph and Cozens (who hasn’t spent time at first base in the minors) would be able to split time at first base, Hoskins could play the outfield and any one of them could DH when it came time for interleague play. But Joseph has definitely done enough to remain on the team. Over the course of two years, Joseph has now played in just over a season’s worth of games, hitting .253 with 35 homeruns. That’s a homerun every fifth game. I’ll take 32 homeruns over a full season any day of the week and twice on Sundays (and double headers!). It’ll be a challenge for Pete Mackanin, or whomever is managing the club in two years, to dole out playing times for the three, but those are the good kinds of problems to have. Joseph has an incredibly team-friendly contract in which he’s under team control for another two seasons. He can’t become a fully unrestricted free agent until 2023 either when he’s 31-years-old.
Cesar Hernandez Stay
These next two were very difficult for me to decide between. I think one of Hernandez or Freddy Galvis will make the team in the coming years, and I have to give a very slight edge to Hernandez at this moment despite being on the DL. The two bring opposite strengths to the Phillies, and if there was a way to combine the two players into one, they’d make a perennial All Star every season. Of the two, Hernandez is a better hitter; Galvis, the better fielder. Over his 440 game career spanning parts of five seasons, Cesar Hernandez has amassed a .280 career batting average, nearly 40 points higher than Galvis’ .243. While Galvis has more pop in his bat, as he hit more homeruns last season than Hernandez has in his career, the fact that Hernandez has a career batting average that is just three points lower than Galvis’ career on base percentage, the offensive swing plays in Hernandez’s favor. There are players nipping at the heels of both players, but with the heir apparent at second base possibly moving to another position, (we’ll get to that briefly) it would make more sense to keep Hernandez around over Galvis. Both could potentially make the team, and one serve as a bench player, but my money would be on just one staying. Both players’ contracts are up at the end of this season, but the Phillies have more control over Hernandez with three arbitration years remaining to Galvis’ one. That team control will likely put Hernandez in the driver’s seat.
Freddy Galvis Go
Of course I just mentioned this a few sentences ago, but it’s worth noting again at how difficult this call was to decide. While Hernandez has the superior offensive numbers, it’s worth mentioning that Galvis is a defensive specimen and a joy to watch play shortstop. Comparably to the shortstops I’ve been able to watch put on a Phillies’ uniform, defensively, he’s the best. Jimmy Rollins had more range than Galvis, but the glove work that Galvis portrays on a nightly basis tops Rollins. Last year, Galvis was snubbed for the Gold Glove at shortstop by Giants’ Brandon Crawford. Bias aside, Galvis was the best defensive shortstop in the league last season. As I said, Galvis has the rise of J.P. Crawford behind him to consider as the Phillies try to retool for the future. Crawford hasn’t been as successful as many fans had hoped he would be, but it wouldn’t make much sense for the Phillies to offer such high praise for the 22-year-old and then kick him to the curb because of recent struggles. Crawford is currently hitting just .212 at Lehigh Valley, but has a .326 on base percentage thanks to an astounding 44 walks in 70 games. Galvis has 21 walks in 82 games. While Crawford may not be the defensive stud that Galvis is, the fans want to see what the young shortstop can do. I think the Phillies resign Galvis on a one-year deal at the end of the season to see if Crawford can make the jump to the majors in 2019. Galvis, however, is making $4.5 million this season. It would be expected that he’ll make more next year, especially on a one-year deal. Past that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Freddy Galvis win a Gold Glove for another organization before he hangs them up.
Maikel Franco Go
Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t often like to brag about certain things I say as an analyst and writer, especially when it comes to correct predictions on Phillies under-performing, but I saw this one coming. If you’ve read my piece on Franco from a few weeks back, you’ll be able to see just what is wrong with Franco’s swing. It’s all out of whack and it doesn’t appear he’s doing much to fix it. In each of the last three seasons, his batting average, on base percentage and slugging have all steadily declined. While he’s driving in a surprisingly high amount of runs (42) for a guy who is hitting .218, he does have two grand slams this year, so eight of those have come on two swings of the bat. That means in the 76 games he hasn’t hit a grand slam this season, he has 34 RBI’s. Over a full season, that’s just over 70 runs driven in. Remember that player I mentioned earlier that was potentially moving to another position? Well that player is Scott Kingery, who has caught the admiration of Phillies’ fan this season in his time split between Reading and Lehigh Valley. It won’t be long before Kingery is up in the big leagues in some facet, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Franco go at his expense. Franco’s contract is up at the end of this year. There’s almost no chance they don’t re-sign him. It probably would do Franco some good to clear his head back down in AAA, but he’ll almost definitely be in the organization next season in some aspect.
Andres Blanco Go
This one is a pretty easy one. The Phillies signed Andres Blanco to a minor league deal back in 2012 and it’s worked out well for both parties over the last five years. Despite not playing at all in 2013 due to injury and not making the Phillies Major League roster until June, 2014, Blanco was given a chance to prove himself a big league player again after being cut by the Nationals. The next two seasons proved to be productive for Blanco and he got a nice payday this year on a one-year deal. Blanco’s production has slipped this season, and he’s been replaced by Ty Kelly as the Phillies go-to bench player. Blanco assuredly won’t be offered another contract at the end of 2017, at least not by the Phillies. Blanco is only 33 though, and another team could use a veteran utility guys’ services. He’ll find a minor league deal somewhere with an invite to spring training.
Ty Kelly Stay
Two months ago when the Phillies acquired Kelly from the Blue Jays, I’d have said this was a sure-fire “go”, but now, I’m not as convinced. There’s something about Ty Kelly that the Phillies really like. Maybe it’s his ability to play multiple positions. Maybe it’s, despite the fact that he’s hitting under .200, he has an uncanny knack for delivering big hits in timely spots. Whatever it is, Kelly has it. He’s a perfect bench player for the Phillies moving forward as he could contribute in a few different ways. He can spell Hernandez, whomever plays third base and the three outfielders too. Kelly’s contract is extremely Phillies-friendly, as he, just like Tommy Joseph, is team controlled for the next two seasons, and he would be 34-years-old before he becomes a UFA. If Kelly isn’t on the big league roster in 2019, there’s no way he’s anywhere but Lehigh Valley. He’s going to be within the organization somewhere for quite a long time.
Howie Kendrick Go
The Phillies are hoping on all hope that Kendrick gets healthy in the next three weeks. All they want is Kendrick to come off the DL, play a few productive games, and generate enough attention to find a trading partner. It becomes more difficult to trade Kendrick, on top of his injury concerns, because of his contract only having one year left on it at $10 million. He becomes a free agent in 2018 and will get some decent money in the offseason with whatever team he signs with. But, right now, the Phillies want to find a trade partner, a GM who is willing to give up two mid-tier prospect for the services of Kendrick for a stretch run. What makes Kendrick so desirable is his ability to play both corner outfield spots, as well as first, second and third base. There is certainly a team out there that needs a player like Kendrick. His numbers this season also indicate success every time he can stay healthy. Kendrick is hitting .349 with an OBP up over .400 in the 33 games he’s been able to play this year. He’s a professional hitter with experience. I’d be shocked if Kendrick was on the roster come August 1 this summer.
Outfielders-Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera, Daniel Nava, Nick Williams, Cameron Perkins
Aaron Altherr Stay
Another pretty easy one here, but this time, it puts a player in the stay category. Altherr has been a lone bright spot in an offense that has struggled to find consistency this season. His career numbers don’t indicate what kind of a player he really is. In his first full season as a Major Leaguer, Altherr is providing offensive production, hitting .275 and leading the team in a handful of statistical categories. He currently has 13 homeruns and 41 RBI’s, good for second on the team in both categories. Altherr gives the Phillies outfield flexibility, as he can confidently play all three positions. You’ll get above average defensive play from Altherr and a well above average arm from the 26-year-old who should settle into left field for years to come. He can also hit anywhere in the order and give you a solid at bat. When the team is playing at a high level a few years from now, Altherr will be a very productive six-seven hole hitter for the Phillies. He is under team control for another season still and won’t be a fully unrestricted free agent until 2022.
Odubel Herrera Go
I’m fed up with Herrera’s antics on the field at this point. There’s no denying that Herrera is a fantastic athlete but there’s also conclusion evidence that he’s not a baseball player. Herrera has continuously made blunders in the outfield and on the base paths that have hurt the Phillies. His batting average has dipped in all three of his Major League seasons and his on base percentage has plummeted this year. He has just 16 walks in 311 at bats in 2017. He reminds me of a less consistent Shane Victorino. Victorino is beloved by Phillies fans, but we must not forget his inability to read a fly ball in the outfield. Both players often times made up for their poor defensive positioning with speed and athleticism, allowing them to make many catches despite being in the wrong spot. The difference between the two, however, is that in Victorino’s seven full seasons with the Phillies, he had an on base percentage of .340 or better in five of those years. Herrera hasn’t shown any signs of being a consistent .340 OBP, top of the order kind of guy. With Altherr, Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens, Mickey Moniak and Adam Haseley all set to be staple outfielders for the franchise, there isn’t a spot for Herrera despite his five year deal with over $23 million left on it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Phillies try to find a trade partner for Herrera who is willing to take on his contract. He may still be in Philadelphia because of the contract in 2019, but I doubt it.
Daniel Nava Go
The Phillies signed Nava this past offseason to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Nava made the most of his opportunities and made the big league club out of camp. Since then, he’s been an integral piece on the Phillies bench, providing offensive production from a pinch hit and off day spell standpoint. Nava is having a career year, hitting .298 in 55 games played, but it’s his nearly .400 on base percentage that has kept Phillies fans happy with Nava. While he’s having a good year for the Phillies off the bench, he was brought in for a specific reason: to be a stop gate between the old bench regime and the future one. Nava only signed a one-year deal with the Phillies this offseason, and his productivity has proven he deserves another contract, but I don’t know if the Phillies are willing to pay him when there are similar players in the minor leagues who could provide like production for a cheaper price under more team friendly contracts. Nava won’t have a problem finding a job in 2018 if he continues to perform the way he has this season. There are plenty of team that will want the services of a veteran bench player who can play multiple positions.
Nick Williams Stay
Nick Williams arrived on the scene just a week ago wearing Pat Burrell’s old number and playing his old position. The Phillies are hoping Williams can have as productive of a career as Burrell had in Philly. He’s off to a good start so far, hitting .278 in 18 at bats. He’s also only struck out three times. That 16 percent is a far cry from his career average of nearly 30 percent. I know it’s a small sample size, but it’s promising. In a previous article, I raved about Williams’ success with the bat in the minor leagues. If that can transition into Major League success, I think the Phillies have a cornerstone outfielder to build around. given that he isn’t even 24-years-old yet. It’s a no-brainer contract extension that the Phillies will make to keep Williams around long-term. If he’s smart, he’ll bet on himself and try to play for a shorter deal, but the two sides will likely come together and find a middle ground to keep Williams a major cog in the bigger picture.
This is one of those “go’s” that I put that caveat on earlier in the article. Cameron Perkins will be in the Phillies organization in two years. I would put a bet down on that. I just don’t believe he’ll be on the Major League squad in 2019. He’s struggled in the big leagues since being called up a few weeks ago, hitting just .172 and striking out 10 times in 29 at bats. He’s already been passed by Nick Williams for playing time, and will likely be sent back down if, or when, Howie Kendrick finds his way off the DL. The Phillies may be in a bit of a predicament with Perkins, but I don’t think it’s something they can’t manage. That quandary is whether to keep Perkins on the 40-man roster when they re-sign him in the offseason or not. If they choose not to, they’re risking losing him to the Rule 5 Draft. I think some teams would be interested in trying Perkins out in that draft. If they do protect him, it runs the risk of leaving another player unprotected. All things considered, I think they’ll run the risk of leaving Perkins off the 40-man for now and take their chances. I’m taking a chance and saying he isn’t taken in the Rule 5 and is back in Lehigh Valley for the next few years.
So far, we’re looking at a team that may be extremely different in 2019 than the one we are seeing take the field in July, 2017. Of the 14 positional players that are on the 25-man roster, I believe that only six of them will be with the big league club in 2019. That’s not a great percentage. Or maybe it is, if you’re viewing the minor leaguers as the next round of success for the Phillies.
This concludes Part 1 of this article. Part 2 will feature the pitching staff on the 25 man roster.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports