April 03, 2017
It’s opening day and the Phillies (and PhillyVoice’s Ryan Lawrence) are in Cincinnati as MLB Opening Day, Part Deux gets underway on Monday. None of the national baseball writers are predicting a World Series for the Phillies (fools!), but I figured we would round up what they’re predicting for the Phils heading into the 2017 MLB season.
The Phillies begin the season sitting 24th in ESPN’s power rankings. And according to former GM Jim Bowden, Matt Klentak’s biggest short-term goal is the Phillies’ veteran players (especially the two corner outfielders) having a strong first half to set up a busy trade deadline:
They have to hope that veterans such as Clay Buchholz, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeanmar Gomez, Joaquin Benoit, Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders can stay healthy and perform to their highest standards in the first half so they can trade many of them for prospects at the trade deadline.
In the meantime, the Phillies should debut a stream of prospects this year, hence the long-term concern that those prospects are developed properly and in a timely manner.
SI has anonymous scouts taking shots at J.P. Crawford (“needs to stop reading about how good he is and start working to show everyone how good he is”) and Jay Jaffe writes that Odubel Herrera is the best reason to watch the Phillies. The latter at least seems fair:
It's a rare day that a Rule 5 pick turns into a foundational piece, but Hererra has been one of the most pleasant surprises amid the Phillies' long-overdue rebuilding effort, going from being buried in the Rangers' organization to becoming an All-Star centerfielder inside of two years. In 2016, Herrera hit .291/.353/.419 and showed off significantly more power (15 homers, up from eight in '15), speed (25 steals, up from 16) and patience (an 8.6% walk rate, up from 5.2%); including his above-average defense in centerfield, he was worth 4.2 WAR. He'll be an important part of the next contending Phillies squad
Grant Brisbee is more bullish on the Phillies than most, predicting a third-place finish for the Phillies:
The Phillies can pitch! A little. When healthy. Possibly. But they're on the right track, and I'll reward them by being a little aggressive with this prediction. They could win 84 or 85 games, which would mean that we'd pay attention to them all the way into September. When they fell, they fell hard, but they didn't stay down for that long.
For his bold prediction, Jorge L. Ortiz believes that the Phillies will finish with a winning record:
Hellickson heads an improving rotation that knocked nearly a run off its ERA last season — down to 4.41 — and could continue to get better if 2014 first-round draft pick Aaron Nola bounces back from a rough year. The Phillies also get strong defense up the middle from shortstop Freddy Galvis, second baseman Hernandez and Herrera, a Gold Glove finalist in center field who earned a five-year, $30.5 million extension.
More help will be on the way, with top prospect J.P. Crawford and catcher Jorge Alfaro being groomed at Class AAA, but there should be enough talent on the big club for Philadelphia to post its first winning season since 2011.
The former Rule 5 pick has been a hit for the Phils. In addition to flashing a plus glove in center, Herrera’s put up an OPS+ of 111 in each of his two seasons. Last season, he showed a more patient approach at the plate and made progress as a base-stealing threat. He’s going into his age-25 season.
1. PREDICTIONS: Ryan explains why he doesn’t see the Phillies flirting with .500 and Chase Utley will ride off into the sunset with a World Series trophy. Oh yeah, here are our staff predictions as well.
2. Opening Day Roster: Here are the 25 players who will kick the MLB season off today in Cincinnati.
3. Brock Stassi: Even if you’re one of those people who (like me) don’t get too sentimental about your sports, this is one of the cooler things that you will see.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann