While the outlook of the present day team may look bleak, the future of the team does have its bright spots. Phillies President Pat Gillick stated that the fans may have to wait until 2018 for this organization to put a competitive product on the field again. Gone completely will be the players that put the city on their collective backs and led them to five consecutive playoff appearances. A new era of Phillies baseball is on the horizon, which gives us hope and a reason to watch in 2015 with the development of the new core.
For any team looking to compete for a championship in the big leagues, you need three key ingredients: an ace to anchor your starting rotation, a little bit of power potential, and great defense. The Phillies future of right handed starter Aaron Nola, shortstop J.P. Crawford, and third/first baseman Maikel Franco fit all of those elements.
Nola, a three-year starter out of LSU, was the Phillies first round draft pick in 2014 (7th overall). He was the highest pitcher taken by the organization since Gavin Floyd was drafted 4th overall in the 2001 draft. Since arriving in Philadelphia, Nola has been on a fast track to the major leagues. While he isn’t likely to start the season at the major league level, Aaron just may get his shot to debut come September when minor league call-ups are made. Nola boasts a deceptive, low-90’s fastball with a plus changeup and slider. I’ll liken him to Tim Hudson in his prime when pitching for the Athletics given his size and pitching arsenal. Aaron was recently named the #37 overall prospect in baseball for 2015 by MLB.com. Regardless, Nola is the type of the pitcher that the Phillies will need to anchor their rotation if they have any chance of competing by 2018.
Franco, a corner infielder signed in 2010 out of the Dominican Republic, and Crawford, the high school standout and 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft, fill the offensive and defensive backbone the Phillies will need moving forward. They were ranked respectively as MLB.com’s #55 and #21 top prospects for 2015. Phillies fans caught a sneak peek of Maikel Franco this past season as he was called up in September. While struggling in his 58 plate appearances at the big league level, Franco has excelled across all minor league levels, hitting for both power and average. With his bat, Maikel has the ability to drive to ball all over the field. J.P Crawford is what many scouts deem as the total package. He hits well for average, has good speed on the base paths and just enough power. Where Crawford really excels however, is with his defense. His plus arm and range make him comparable to the player that he will be replacing in Philadelphia, Jimmy Rollins. While Phillies fans may have to wait another year on J.P. Crawford, Maikel should get his opportunity to head north and start 2015 in Philadelphia.