Major League Baseball is a copycat league. All the teams now will be trying to copy the Kansas City Royals model to get to the World Series by having enough hitting, good pitching, great defense and a two or three base runners with speed pinch running on the bases at the right time.
Let’s have some fun. Baseball Betsy and I saw several hundred Phillies minor league spring training, extended spring, league and instruction games this past season. We visited all the Phillies minor league parks. Let’s build the Phillies from within using the Royals as a model.
I still and will always like an offense built around the three-run homer and the “bloop and a blast” especially in a ballpark like Citizens Bank. But let’s be honest the Royals have put together an interesting team. Yes, they have hit the long ball when needed but it has been the ability to win the one run games by various means and holding the lead close and late. The Royals bullpen is so dominating that they can shorten the game to six innings or if need be win in extra innings.
As we know the Phillies are stuck with an old team with players well past their prime in most cases so it will be important to focus on the few young players they have and the minor league system to supply the talent needed to bring the team into contention in the future. Short of outright releases or paying other teams to take the old players away, too many of the Phillies in the current lineup will be there until the 2017 season. Everything needs to be focused on the 2017 and 2018 seasons for breakout years for the Phillies. Until then it will not be pretty in the Won/Lost column.
Let’s see if the minor league system can fill any of the Phillies needs by 2017. They will have two more drafts until then and will pick tenth next season so they will get the chance to draft major league ready prospects just like the Royals did this season with pitcher Brandon Finnegan as the 17th pick overall in the June draft.
The Phillies minor league department has been trying to find talent by constantly moving players in and out, by the draft, signing international and American free agents and releasing players who have not measured up. For example, on the March 10th Phillies minor league workout list, including the nine players they released last week, showed that 56 players have been released from that list over the season.
Though the Phillies minor league system led the 30 MLB systems in last place finishes in 2014, on several occasions they showed something special during the season. Reading, to start the season went 18-1 in one run games. The reason was they got a lead and Ken Giles in April and Tyler Knigge in May shutdown the opposition. When they were called up to higher levels the team fell a part.
In August the GCL Phillies went 18-5 to almost make the Gulf Coast League playoffs with great starting pitching from teenagers like Elniery Garcia, Franklyn Kilome, Denton Keys and Lewis Alezones.
The Clearwater Threshers finished 40 games under .500 for the season but in their last 33 games went 17-16 because of outstanding starting pitching. Threshers starters picking up wins during that time for the included Aaron Nola, Jesse Biddle, Colin Kleven, Miguel Nunez, Jordan Guth and Mark Leiter Jr.
The Phillies minor league system lacked major league ready hitting in 2014.. Willians Astudillo did hit .333. He finished second in batting the South Atlantic League. The problem is he does not have a set position. Mark him down as a potential utility player at third, first, left field and catching in 2017.
Up the middle J. P. Crawford will take over at short by 2017 and should be good for a long time there. He hits and is developing power. His swing will be ideal for Citzens Bank Park. Look for 15 homer in the 2017 and hit .280 in the major league season from J.P.
Let’s say they somehow move out old Chase Utley by the 2017 season. Grenny Cumana could be playing at baseball age 20 and take over at second. Yes I can dream. I have no doubt he can play a major league second base defensively and hit .250 and go deep seven or eight times in his rookie season.
At the infield corners I like Maikel Franco at third and Rhys Hoskins at first for the 2017 season. They will give the lineup right handed power. Franco will provide a strong glove at third. He will be a 25 home run 100 RBI man. Hoskins will come close to doing the same with the bat.
In the outfield my corners for the 2017 season would be Cody Ashe in left and Aaron Brown in right. Asche and Brown are 15 plus home run guys. They will give the lineup left handed hitting balance and pop. In center, I am going with Roman Quinn. He will supply the speed needed on the bases. Don’t forget Carlos Duran and Dylan Cozens for center and corner outfield positions as well if they can have break seasons in the next two seasons. Carlos Tocci and Jose Pujols are weight training and could put themselves into major league prospect contention as well in the outfield.
Behind the plate for the 2017 season will be Andrew Knapp. He is a switch hitter with pop and has shown to have a great arm on his throws to second base in the Florida Instructional League.
Pitching is harder to project. Arms are unpredictable. Cole Hamels will still be under contract unless he is dealt. After that building from within is a challenge and free agents are expensive. Certainly Jesse Biddle has to be in the equation as does Aaron Nola. That leaves two spots open but as they say you can never have enough pitching. That leaves the likes of David Buchanan and Severino Gonzalez available.
At the level below I see potential breakout seasons next year from right-handers Colin Kleven, Miguel Nunez, Jordan Guth and Mark Leiter. The best lefty starters at the low A ball level are Yoel Mecias, Matt Imhof, Brandon Leibrandt and Elniery Garcia and the top righties are Ranfi Casimiro, David Whitehead and Ricardo Pinto. All the Phillies need is for a couple of these starting pitching prospects to have breakout seasons over the next two years to get in the 2017 major league rotation.
The bullpen is the great strength of the organization right now. Ken Giles is the closer of the future with Justin DeFratus, Jake Diekman and Mario Hollands setting him up. Nefi Ogando now in the Arizona Fall League can throw hard. I have been impressed with Edubray Ramos this season. Arms out of the pen are the least of the Phillies problems for 2017.
Here’s my projected Phillies 2017/2018 starting lineup all building from within: 1) Roman Quinn CF, 2) Cody Asche, LF, 3) Maikel Franco 3B, 4) Rhys Hoskins 1B, 5) J.P. Crawford SS, 6) Andrew Knapp C; 7) Aaron Brown RF; 8) Grenny Cumana, 2B.
It’s nice to dream but if the Kansas City Royals can do it to get back to the World Series so so can the Phillies. Let’s just hope it won’t take the Phillies as long as it has taken the Royals. All it takes is some good young players who provide a little hitting, good pitching, great defense and some speed on the bases.