Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock for the last month or so, which given the state of professional sports in Philadelphia you may have, you would know that the “professionals” don’t think so highly of the Phillies this year. ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield recently projected them for 67 wins, under 70 wins for the first time since the year 2000. Back when our pitching rotation was anchored by the likes of Randy Wolf and Robert Person and Bobby Abreu was entering his offensive prime. Jimmy Rollins wasn’t even affixed at shortstop yet as we were still relying on the Desi Relaford/Alex Arias platoon. Bleacher Report’s outlook wasn’t much better. Like ESPN.com, they had the Phillies ranked 29th out of 30 teams. As you can see, there are zero expectations for this team, but you should watch because it can only get better from here on out.
Let me make it clear. The Phillies are by no means a good team. I would even go as far to say that they are a long off from being average. But they have a plan in place: compete by 2018. While three years may seem like an eternity as a fan, this is a process that could/should have been started after the 2013 season. It just took a little bit longer for the front office to realize the decline that fans started to see back as early as 2012.
But are the Phillies going to be as bad as everyone is insisting they will be? I think 70+ wins is definitely an attainable number, which would prove all of the “experts” wrong. As it looks now, the Phillies will open the 2015 season with a rotation that is led by Cole Hamels, the lefty who had arguably his best professional season last year pitching for a bad team. They assume they’ll have a healthy Cliff Lee, who if he pitches the entire season, has the potential to finish with 10-15 wins. Jerome Williams finds a permanent place in the rotation after joining the Phillies late in the 2014 season and posting some great numbers. Another spot was filled through free agency with the addition of righty Aaron Harang. While his name alone doesn’t make you think championship, he’s an innings eater who pitched quite well in 33 starts for the Braves last season winning 12 games. Best case scenario for this team and those four especially is that they pitched well enough that the Phillies can deal at least two of them before the July 31st trade deadline for prospects that can continue to help the rebuilding efforts. On a one-year contract, Harang should be a great candidate for that.
With the offense, it’s all about taking strides towards the future and finding out what you have on your current roster to take you there. It’s a huge year for outfielder Domonic Brown. His power surge in May of 2013 solidified his starting spot and earned him a place on the all-star team that year, but he hasn’t done anything noteworthy before or after that month which is certainly cause for concern. At 27, Brown should be nearing the prime of career. It’s either time for him to develop into the team leader that Ruben has banked on or time to ship him out and bring someone else in. The same can be said for Freddy Galvis and Ben Revere. Galvis will get his first opportunity to be the starter at shortstop. By the end of this year, we’ll need to know if both are viable options for the future.
Rebuilding seems to be word used a lot in Philadelphia professional sports these days. 2015 will be the year to watch the Phillies as they determine who will be and who won’t be kept around as they build towards another championship with.