Well it’s finally time to start thinking about Baseball again in Philadelphia, especially after Fangraphs recently released their 2016 projections…AND It’s probably what you expected.
It’s hard to not look at the negatives with this team because there are just so many. However, there is whole a lot to look forward to as well. Pitchers and catchers are set to report February 17 which makes me one out of about a handful of people who are actually excited for this season. So much so that I prepared a list. So if you’re a psychopath like me and watch/listen to Phillies Spring Training games, here are a few things that should be on your mind.
1. Pete Mackanin
Mackanin certainly impressed as the Phillies interim to Ryne Sandberg. So much in fact, that they rewarded him with a contract through this season. That’s all fine and dandy, but 2016 is loaded with questions.
What will he do about Carlos Ruiz on the last year of his contract?
How will he handle Tyler Goeddel, Aaron Alther, Peter Bourjos, Darnell Sweeney, Odubel Herrera and Cody Ache all competing for the three outfield spots?
Does he trust Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez in the middle of the infield?
What will the starting rotation look like with no clear Ace?
Who will be our closer?
I am still not sold on this guy. He’s already been fired by this organization once. You will constantly read in the Philadelphia media how good his rapport is with the players, but I can’t hop on that bandwagon until I see some progress on the field.
2. Starting Pitching
2015 was a mess. The Phillies starting rotation averaged 5.5 innings per start and a quality start percentage of 41%, which ranked 2nd and 3rd to last in baseball. Newly acquired Charlie Morton, Jeremy Hellickson and Brett Oberholtzer, may not be that dream rotation that will guide us back to Playoff glory, but these are the cards you are dealt sometimes. What we get here are veterans who have the ability to carry us deeper into ballgames, which was the goal from day 1.
Younger arms Aaron Nola, Jared Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and David Buchannan will round out the rest of the staff competing for a spot in the rotation. Non-Roster Invitees include Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson and Mark Appel, who will all begin the year in Triple-A. Don’t expect much in 2016, just as long as they improve on the 4.69 Team ERA and 1.48 WHIP, I would call consider it a success.
3. First Base
The sad truth is that Ryan Howard has to play. You don’t put 25 million guaranteed dollars on the bench. You need to play to win. But… you also need to win… to play.
Mackanin will hopefully keep Ryan Howard as far away from a left hand pitcher as possible and platoon him with Darin Ruff. This does not sound like the Ideal duo, however the numbers do not lie. In 396 plate appearances vs. Right Handed Pitching, Howard hit .256 BA, 20 and 67 with a .802 OPS. In 114 plate appearances vs. Left Handed Pitching, Ruf hit .371, 8 and 20 with a 1.107 OPS.
I’m sorry, but .275, 25 80 and an .875 OPS is exactly what I am looking for out of the 1B position regardless of who is playing it. They just have to stick to this game plan and Mackanin has said on numerous occasions he is pretty committed to it for the 2016 season.
There isn’t a shot in hell he makes the Major League Lineup out of Spring Training this year, but he will get his opportunity to impress in Clearwater come Spring. The organization’s #1 prospect and #5 overall according to MLB.com, J.P. will have to pay his dues at Lehigh Valley this year. A superstar prospect with plus tools, he has the ability to wow at just 20 years old. Make sure your eyes are glued on this guy this Spring.
5. Mark Appel
Ok Mark, time to prove yourself. Everyone in baseball has written you off. Your velocity is down from College. You have no plus secondary pitch. You have a career 5.12 ERA to go along with a 1.43 WHIP over 3 Minor League seasons.
What you do have going for you now is you no longer carry the burden as an organization’s first overall pick. Houston basically gave up on you, so it’s time to prove them wrong. Let’s see if Big league camp and a change of scenery could provide the spark needed for you to turn things around. Just as long as you don’t turn into Matt Bush.