In 2015, the Philadelphia Phillies ended the season 63-99. That was good enough to claim the worst record in baseball. The future looked bleak, but in a twist no one saw coming, the Phillies currently sit at 25-19. While it’s still early, the Phillies are showing signs of a promising future.
A lot of the success can be attributed to changes in the front office. Last season Andy MacPhail taking over as team president and Matt Klentak signed on as GM this past offseason. They made strong moves, signing low-risk, high-reward guys like Jeremy Hellickson and Andrew Bailey. Then they traded closer Ken Giles to the Astros for Mark Appel, Vincent Velasquez, Brett Oberholtzer, Thomas Eshelman, and Harold Arauz. This was in addition to the Cole Hamels trade that brought over Matt Harrison, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Jake Thompson, Alec Asher, and Jerad Eickhoff. The farm system quickly went from depleted to one of baseball’s best. It’s also worth noting that the Phillies also have Baseball America’s sixth ranked prospect in J.P. Crawford.
But, the Major League team has exceeded expectations this year, as well. Aaron Nola, the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft has pitched well. Although his record is only 3-3, he boasts an impressive ERA of 2.85. He’s increased his strike out rate, amassing 64 in 60 innings. That’s a considerable improvement from last season, where he struck out 68 in 77.2 innings. Nola’s FIP has also dropped to 2.62, which according to FanGraphs, qualifies as excellent. Not bad for someone that’s still only 22.
Even with Nola’s success, Vincent Velasquez has been as successful, if not more, this season. He’s currently 5-1 with a 2.42 ERA. More of a power pitcher, Velasquez has 59 strike outs in only 48.1 innings. If he stays healthy, he may have the most upside of any Phillies pitcher.
It’s no secret that the Phillies pitching has been the key to their success this season, but Odubel Herrera deserves some credit. He’s currently hitting .325, with a .439 OBP. That’s good enough for fourth in Major League Baseball. The impressive part is that Herrera already has 31 walks. He had 28 all of last season. That’s a good sign since it looks like he’ll be batting at the top of the order for the foreseeable future.
Some other Phillies have also shown promise this season. Jeanmar Gomez leads the league in saves and Hector Neris has also pitched well out of the bullpen. Maikel Franco has struggled at times, but there have been flashes of his potential.
Ultimately, it’s unclear if the Phillies will finish the season as strongly as they’ve started it. But, it is clear that the next few years could be exciting for Philadelphia fans. Players are stepping up and showing what they can do. There are some promising prospects in the minors. They also have the first pick in this year’s draft. It may be a bit presumptuous, but it looks like the Phillies are going to be legitimate contenders sooner than expected.