The Phillies, undoubtedly, were the biggest surprise in Major League Baseball – for the first 41 games. A 24-17 start to the 2016 regular season defied all the odds to what this team was expected to be. As of late, those expectations have caught up to them.

The Phillies rank second to last in the MLB in hits, runs, RBI’s, and batting average, and are also fourth to last in home runs. The pitching carried what has been a struggling offense this entire season.

After a brutal 8-1 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday afternoon, in a game where Vince Velasquez left after just two pitches that registered 10 mph below what he pitched earlier this season, the team is now struggling to string together wins. Series’ against the Detroit Tigers, Washington Nationals, and Chicago Cubs have showed this team right now lacks the talent to compete at a high level.

However, as Ryan Lawrence of said, this season wasn’t about the major league talent.

“There’s a lot of optimism for the team, but it wasn’t necessarily because of the major league team. You had to look at what they did in the last year to bolster the farm system, and how that’s going to impact AA and AAA – and if you look at [Double A Reading] they’re just ridiculous this year. I think they have the best record in the Eastern League, their offense is stacked.”

And he’s right, the Phillies minor league system is the real place to look to get a sense of how successful this team can be in the future. Hitting has been a huge struggle for the major league team thus far, meanwhile, their farm teams have almost had an excess of offensive power.

Roman Quinn - Elsa/Getty Images

The duo of Dylan Cozens (RF) and Rhys Hoskins (1B) at Double A Reading are leading the Eastern League in home runs with 16 and 14, respectively. Roman Quinn (CF) shows the potential for more base stealing speed at the major league level with 25 stolen bases, ranking second in the Eastern League. Jorge Alfaro, a hard hitting catcher acquired in the Cole Hamels trade, totes a .313 average.

Those players still require a little more refining and are likely more than a year away from seeing the major leagues. Players at Triple A Lehigh Valley also show real potential at the plate, and could get September call-ups later this year.

Nick Williams hopes to solve the Phillies problem at outfield in the coming years. The 22-year-old outfielder has seven home runs and holds a .294/.330/.478. His teammate, highly regarded shortstop J.P. Crawford, was recently promoted to Triple A, and is well known for his watchful eye and talent to draw a walk.

Add the fact that the Phillies go into tonight’s first-year player draft with the number one overall pick, and the future of the franchise seems incredibly bright. Even if half the players in the Phillies minor league system develop into who they believe they can be, the team will once again be contending for National League East Championships quite soon.

Here is my non-expert prediction of the 2018 Philadelphia Phillies lineup card for Opening Day

1. Odubel Herrera CF
2. J.P. Crawford SS
3. Maikel Franco 3B
4. Tommy Joseph 1B
5. Nick Williams RF
6. Jorge Alfaro C
7. Freddy Galvis 2B
8. Roman Quinn LF
9. Aaron Nola P

Matthew Shinkle, author of this article, is a Communication major at Waynesburg University, studying Sports Broadcasting and Sports Information. He is an intern with 97.3 FM ESPN.  His thoughts and opinions do not reflect those of the station.

Hear what Ryan Lawrence had to say about Velasquez injury Wednesday, Ryan Howard's fan support and more Phillies talk