Phillies Offensive Woes are Nothing to Worry About
Wednesday afternoon in the finale between a three game series between the Marlins and the Phillies was another offensive clunker for the Phillies. In recent days, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has used phrases like, "too many bad at bats" and referred to the Phillies offense as being "like a broken record". The Phillies scored no runs on Tuesday and one on Wednesday, and if social media is any indication, Phillies fans are frustrated. However, this is only temporary.
The 2016 Phillies season was meant to accomplish two things. First, the players under Phillies control would have to play to show that they are either going to be part of the future of the Phillies franchise, or that they are not going to be part of the future of the Phillies franchise. The second thing the season would accomplish would be to allow players developing in the minor league system to continue to develop and get closer to the big leagues. The season shows that perhaps as few as two of the current Phillies are part of their future.
Maikel Franco seems to be the one true lock for a future Phillies lineup. Batting just .260, Franco often has been the victim of a lack of lineup protection and has slumped a couple times. With 18 home runs and 55 runs batted in, Franco has shown that he definitely is a piece that the team can use long-term. But the other piece is still somewhat of a question mark.
There is no doubt about it: the Phillies made out very well selecting Odubel Herrera in the Rule 5 draft prior to the 2015 season. Herrera took center field, and for lack of a better option, was named to the National League All-Star team. Herrera is good enough to start on a Major League team. Two questions remain: what position will he play, and can he walk enough? Herrera focused on walks early, but his batting average has greatly declined as the walks also declined.
The reason Herrera might get squeezed depends on Phillies prospects in the system. Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams, Roman Quinn, Dylan Cozens, Carlos Tocci, and a handful of others are highly-regarded outfielders. There is not room for all of them. With Williams, Altherr, and most recently Cozens getting time in center field, the Phillies may end up squeezing Herrera, whom the Phillies may be able to to trade. But, until he's squeezed, Herrera likely will remain in center field.
Up the middle the Phillies may have ruled out both Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez as starting infielders. It is hard to believe, but the highest batting average on the Phillies belongs to Hernandez right now. But with baserunning blunders seemingly all the time, Hernandez negates a lot of his value. Galvis has shown he struggles to hit as a right-handed batter. Both players may be quality back-up options on a good team. They could stick around, but the Phillies are probably giving shortstop to J.P. Crawford any day now, and the Phillies could add a second baseman if Jesmuel Valentin or Scott Kingery do not work out.
At the catching position, Cameron Rupp has done a decent job, but in no way has he showed that he is a top-line Major League catcher. With the upside of Andrew Knapp and then Jorge Alfaro coming up the line, Rupp is more likely to serve as a backup catcher for the Phillies or be traded. A position change for Knapp or Alfaro is not out of the question, but Alfaro's value is best if he is behind the plate. Catchers play five days a week usually at the most and Rupp may stick around, but the job will likely go to Alfaro at some point.
First base is still very much unresolved. Tommy Joseph has opened many eyes this season, going from a player outrighted off of the roster to becoming a starting first baseman. Joseph will get a chance to develop his skills further the rest of this year and probably next season, too. However, the jury is still out on Joseph, who has hit 13 home runs, mostly in bunches here and there. Once Ryan Howard moves on, he will start most days and get a chance to work through his slumps without Howard getting some starts against right-handed pitching.
So, all in all, as many as seven of the Phillies starting offensive spots have yet to be decided. The placeholders in the Phillies organization right now have their moments, but there is no real need to worry about the team's future yet. The Phillies will get to look at one of those potential pieces as soon as today, when Aaron Altherr is due to return from the disabled list. The Phillies hope to get a long look at Altherr to see if indeed he is one of those pieces.
Meanwhile, the Phillies pitching prospects are developing along nicely, making the 2016 season a success.