Philadelphia Phillies: Progress Pushes Playoff Hopes

Mar 13, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford (77) against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 13, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford (77) against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia Phillies ongoing rebuild created some success this season. Playoff hopes were pushed forward as a result.

The Philadelphia Phillies last ties to their second golden era were severed by season’s end. The August trade of Carlos Ruiz and the end of Ryan Howard‘s contract officially cut all connections with the 2008 World Series team. Five years removed from its last playoff appearance, Philadelphia must enhance a majority of its 25-man roster before being considered a post-season contender. But, 2016 can be considered a developmental year that pushed playoff hopes forward.

Jerad Eickhoff, Vincent Velasquez and Aaron Nola became three legitimate starting pitching options this season. Nola must be placed third on this list because of his existing elbow issue. If that’s resolved by the start of next season, he’ll be in position to challenge Eickhoff as the staff ace. Velasquez has the best arm of this trio, but hasn’t learned how to pitch yet. So, he slots second right now. The retention of veteran Jeremy Hellickson would be helpful. But, if he opts for free agency another veteran arm, or two, should be obtained in order to help shape young minds and eat innings. Alex Asher, Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson are leading candidates to take an open spot, or two, in next season’s rotation.

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Hector Neris appears to be a solid bullpen arm. Unless another option emerges, he could easily close next season. Veteran Jeanmar Gomez seemed to run out of gas in September. But, the 37 saves he unexpectedly earned this season likely makes him a good late-inning relief option next season. Other encouraging bullpen arms include rookies Edubray Ramos and Joely Rodriguez.

Cameron Rupp, Tommy Joseph, Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis, Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera are major league players. It’s unlikely that each man will be on the field whenever the Phillies actually qualify for the playoffs. But, a few of them could be. Whoever is counted out seems likely to be exchanged for additional assets at some point, be they major or minor league pieces.

Aaron Altherr, Tyler Goeddel and Roman Quinn are potential outfield options. But, each player needs to consistently produce before being considered a definite part of Philadelphia’s future. For now, Altherr must prove that he can hit major league pitching. Goeddel was the off-season Rule 5 pick who was taken from the Tampa Bay Rays who became Phillies’ property by remaining on the 25-man roster all season. He could use time in Triple-A next year after having only played at Double-A through last season. Quinn must add muscle to his frame. If he doesn’t, the likelihood of him being able to stay healthy for any significant stretch of time seems as slim. His five-year minor league career has been checkered with multiple disabled list appearances to-date.

Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs catcher Andrew Knapp, shortstop J.P. Crawford, outfielder Nick Williams and starting pitcher Ben Lively are all seen as players who could wear red pinstripes next season. Crawford appears to be on the same track as then-touted prospect Maikel Franco, who was promoted to the bigs early in the 2015 season.

Crawford, the Phillies 2013 first round draft pick, is set to turn 22 in January. He could open 2017 at shortstop, supplanting Galvis, or spend more time in Allentown before joining the parent club in the spring, or summer.

Next: Diamondbacks 2016 year in review

The addition of a player who’s considered to be the next core piece of the Phillies’ puzzle, and his subsequent success, would be another significant step toward contention.