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God, I Love Baseball: Your 2016 Philadelphia Phillies Preview

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God, I love baseball. Opening day, baby. The single greatest day of year. Unfortunately, it’s the Phillies I root for, but that’s just all gravy today.

The Phils showed us quite a bit of progress this spring from their tumultuous 2015 season. The direction of this team is obligatory and the timetable to contend again will probably stretch beyond 2018. I know this. I think the whole town knows this. The attendance will sit at the bottom of the National League again and most likely remain there for the next few years. A projected win total of 65, a bullpen of nobody’s and a 4 hitter who will need Jobu to help him figure out how to hit a slider again. But, that doesn’t mean the Phillies won’t surprise.

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This isn’t a joke. This is the Phillies 2016 roster. I guess now is the best time to mention the organizational depth and top prospects again?

Watching the Phillies vs. Futures game on Saturday night, I saw a foundation. If you remember anything from the 2007-2011, you will recall a team of homegrown guys. Rollins, Utley, Hamels, Howard, Myers, Ruiz, Burrell were with the organization from day 1 and the fabric of that NL East run. We have something similar cooking in Lehigh Valley and Reading now and it’s just a matter of time before it’s here again. But for now, let’s look at the present and our only hope at survival.

Maikel Franco

Maikel, man. He barrels just about everything. And if he didn’t look like a certified all star this spring. 9, 26 and a 1.054 needs to translate into the season. He reminds me of Vlady a lot with his approach and considers the strike zone more a suggestion for his hacks. 3.58 pitches per plate appearance in 2015 is something that he will need to improve on further along his career, but when you have Ryan Howard hitting behind you, you need to swing at anything the pitcher gives you.

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Rotation

Jeremy Hellickson is our 2016 opening day starter and not one lefty. ¯\_(?)_/¯.

Look, he had a decent spring and I give the guy all the credit in the world for overcoming injury and a rough patch the last few years. I hope he goes out there and pitches lights out every 5th day. Along with Charlie Morton, all we need to be thinking about is their draft stock come the deadline. We made a crucial mistake last year not shipping Aaron Harang out last year after his shut down April. I trust Matt Klentak will see the writing on the wall.

On the other hand, Aaron Nola, Jared Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez – now that is something to be excited about. Nola reminds me so much of Maddux. The way he locates that two-seamer and stymies batters with that sweeping curve. Eickhoff changes speeds well and has great command and poise. An early Spring thumb injury seemed to be less concerning than originally anticipated. Vince Velasquez having not thrown 100 innings since 2013 is certainly concerning, with the Phillies in tank mode for at least another year, I have no problem with this.

Nola and Eickhoff will probably be capped at 180 innings and Velasquez at 130. Adam Morgan, David Buchanan, Alec Asher, Severino Gonzalez will see a lot spot starts. I don’t expect a Jake Thompson and Mark Appel arrival until at least after the trade deadline. In my opinion, keep them down all season, let me grow just a little bit longer.

The Bullpen

David Hernandez as the anchor with Hector Neris in the 7th and Jeanmar setting up in the 8th has potential to be one of the better bullpens in the National League.

via GIPHY

The Rest

I love Odubel and Caesar Hernandez at the top. Call me the minority, but they provided nothing but excitement even after Maikel went down last year. They have speed and gap power. They will get on base at a decent clip, steal bags and be the threat Franco needs.

A 2015, -0.4 WAR won’t cut it in 2016 for Ryan Howard. Pulled grounders into the shift, strike outs on obvious slider situations and never walking will finally be eliminated from the lineup after this season. A platoon with Darin Ruf is expected and as long as they stick to the platoon, I see good things out of the 1b position.

The outfield will be interesting. So sad that Aaron Alther went down after hurting his wrist early in the spring. The dude has serious potential and reminds me of a young Jayson Werth, who also had wrist issues early in his career. Peter Bourjos, Rule 5 pick, Tyler Goeddel, and my man Cedric Hunter round out the rest of the outfield. After an outstanding spring, Hunter, a minor league lifer with a total 6 games played in his major league career, makes his first opening day roster.

Cameron Rupp and Carlos Ruiz round out the catcher position. Ruiz’s contract is up after this season and Rupp will be a nice, consistent fill in until top catching prospect, Jorge Alfaro takes over.

Your 2016 Phillies.

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I see a lot of losses looking at that schedule, but you know what, bring it on. The team isn’t the best, they aren’t the most disciplined, but they are young and impressionable. Mackanin has all the cards and it is up to him, how he wants to deal them. The season will be frustrating. It will be long and arduous. But like a true Philadelphia fan, we need to trust the process. I think we are moving in the right direction finally. 162 games in front of us to truly tell.

Just keep going. Everybody gets better if they keep at it.
-Ted Williams

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