The Future of the Phillies: Unapologetically Optimistic

Authored by Ben Reese

Maybe it's these new glasses with the rose-colored lenses, but the Phillies' future doesn't look too bad.
OK, they won't win the pennant this season or next or the one after that, but they will improve. Maybe not this season where they will still inhabit the cellar of the National League East unless they can get past the Atlanta Braves who are also "rebuilding."
However, for the first time in quite a while, the Phillies have good prospects in the minor leagues. But they won't be in Citizens Bank Park in 2016, at least not from the start of the season. 
In fact, they have good prospects, even some great prospects, at just about every position. They have pitchers, a couple catchers, infielders and outfielders who have the potential to be good major league players.  This hasn't happened since the early 1970s in Philadelphia. You'll remember these names and the statistics that go with them.
In 1972, the Phillies brought up a young shortstop named Larry Bowa, who many thought wouldn't be able to hit his weight, and a slugger named Greg Luzinski. The next year, Mike Schmidt, Bob Boone, Dick Ruthven and Larry Christianson arrived in Philly.
These players didn't immediately bring home a pennant. It took them several years before they all got going.
Actually, the first season for some of them was less than sterling. Schmidt, who was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995, hit only .196 in his debut season with 18 home runs.
These players formed the nucleus of the 1980 team, which won Philadelphia's first World Championship, beating the Kansas City Royals in six games.
By the way, that 1980 team had some other youngsters worthy of mention. Lonnie Smith added speed and some comedy in the outfield, Keith Moreland backed up Boone behind the plate and Bob Walk, Marty Bystrom, Randy Lerch and Dickie Noles spent quality time on the mound.
That said, the in-coming class of prospects might be as good or better. Some are already in Philadelphia and some are maybe one or two years away. But they are coming.
Maikel Franco is already in Philly. The young third baseman is expected to hold down that spot for many years to come.
Tops on the prospect list is shortstop J.P. Crawford, the team's No. 1 draft pick in 2013. He has been steadily moving up through the farm system and is one of the top 10 prospects in all baseball right now.
Crawford suffered an injury in the Arizona Fall League but it won't affect his 2016 season. That season will probably begin at Lehigh Valley with at least a September call-up in his future.
There are also pitchers, a lot of them. The Phillies' front office traded away many of the "old guard" of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, etc., and got back arms.
From Texas, in the Cole Hamels deal, they got right-hander Jake Thompson, who helped pitch Reading into the Eastern League playoffs. They got Zach Eflin from the Dodgers in the Rollins trade and Mark Appel, the first pick in the 2013 draft by Houston, from the Astros.
If anything is certain it is that pitchers take more time to mature than position players. These three and the others coming up in the minors will be no exceptions. Don't look for them this season.
Behind the plate, there are two highly rated catchers in the system. Jorge Alfaro, who also arrived from Texas, has been one of the top catchers in the minors for several seasons. He was injured last season and will probably start the year in Reading.
The other backstop is Andrew Knapp, a second-round pick of the Phillies in 2013. The switch-hitter was having a decent 2015 at Clearwater in the Florida State League (High Class A) but exploded when called up to Reading, hitting .360 with 11 home runs and 56 RBI in 55 games. That alone could propel him to Lehigh Valley this season.
There are outfielders also. One of the keys to the Hamels deal was outfielder Nick Williams.
Williams is a five-tool players. He has speed and power and can play all three outfield spots. He played only 22 games in Reading after the trade and may end up back there to start the year.
Another outfielder with an intriguing resume is Roman Quinn. He was a second-round pick of the Phils in 2011 who started out his career as a shortstop.
Injuries have hindered Quinn's rise through the system, however. He missed a lot of 2015 with a hip injury.
When he is healthy, he is the ideal leadoff hitter. The switch-hitter hit .306 and stole 29 bases in 58 games for Reading in 2015 before his injury and probably will join Williams in the R-Phils' outfield to start 2016.
The newest addition to the prospect list in second baseman Scott Kingery, drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft. Kingery has a quick bat (he was the top hitter at the University of Arizona and led the NCAA in hitting for much of his senior season) and good speed. He will move quickly through the system but may arrive in Philly after the others.
These are just a few of the prospects rising through the Phillies' farm system. There are more, some closer to the majors than others.
But it does bode well for Phillies' fans, even without these glasses.


Copyright © 2012 FOR BASEBALL JUNKIES.