MLB Power Rankings/Team Preview Series – #30 Philadelphia Phillies

#30 – Philadelphia Phillies (73-89) in 2014, my 2015 projection (67-95)

When Ruben Amaro Jr. took over the GM responsibilities in 2009, after serving a decade as Assistant General Manager, he was taking over a Phillies team, largely assembled by Ed Wade and Hall of Famer Pat Gillick, coming off their first World Series Title in 28 years. The Phillies have been on a steady decline ever since. Amaro has often scoffed at the use of analytics, been combative with the Sabermetrics community, and even criticized other front offices for being unrealistic and overvaluing prospects.  All the while, the other 29 organizations watch on as the Phillies sit on declining, overpriced veterans as Amaro waits for an offer that allows the Phillies to ‘win the deal’ in his eyes. This team isn’t going to compete in 2015. It’s clearly time to tear down this Phillies team and start a rebuild, but many question if Amaro is the man to oversee that process. In July 2014, ran a poll, with over 10,000 votes recorded, asking Phillies fans if Amaro should ‘stay or go’ with just a touch under 94% of the voters wanting Amaro to go. That’s high even for Philadelphia standards. If Amaro wants any shot at retaining this position, the Phillies need to move some of these veteran contracts this season, and show fans they’re progressing towards building another contender in Philadelphia.

Hitters to watch: One eye needs to be kept on Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, the two most obvious candidates in the Phillies lineup to be traded.  Now that Amaro has waited for the season to begin, he needs both players to play well and stay healthy for the Phillies to expect anything of value in return for the two remaining stars of the 2008 Championship team.  The other eye needs to be focused on the Phillies future.  The one hitter on the current Philadelphia 40-man roster that I could see being a significant contributor for the next contending Phillies team is Maikel Franco.  The 22-year old corner infielder has flashed impressive power throughout the Minors, smacking 31 homers across two stops (High-A and Double-A) in 2013, and 16 homers at Triple-A in 2014, at just 21 years of age.  Franco doesn’t have particularly strong plate discipline, but makes up for it with higher than normal contact rates for someone with his power.  It’s reasonable to think, if he can gain a slightly better understanding of the strike zone, he can make solid contact with more consistency and unlock the power he flashed in the lower minors and be a 25-homer guy in the Majors.  That’s a valuable commodity in today’s offense starved environment.

Pitchers to watch: Again, like with Howard and Utley, one eye needs to be kept on Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon, two popular trade targets.  The greater the early season performance, the greater the potential trade return.  As far pitchers likely to be with the team past August 1, Jake Diekman (28) and Ken Giles (24) are two very exciting arms in the Phillies bullpen.  The Lefty/Righy combination has been dominant at times, both posting strikeout rates well over a batter per inning.  With the year-to-year performance and health of relief pitchers being extremely volatile, the Phillies have an interesting decision to make with these two power bullpen arms.  Do you hold on to both, hoping they’ll still be effective, late-game relievers when this team is once again ready to compete?  Or, do you decide dominant bullpen arms are a luxury not necessary for a rebuilding team, and flip them now, while both may be at their peak value, for pieces that could potentially accelerate the rebuilding process?  It’s an easy decision for me to make, from the safety of my couch, behind this computer screen.  It’s a more difficult decision for members of a front office, who’s jobs are on the line when making decisions like this.

3/13/2015 – Ryan Perry, @OCBrooks7 on Twitter

MLB Power Rankings/Team Preview Series – #30 Philadelphia Phillies

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