The Phillies have dropped a long way since their 102-win season of 2011. They hit rock bottom last year, going 63-99, and it doesn’t look like things are going to be much better for them in 2016, although they did stockpile some pieces for the future in a December trade with the Astros. The Phillies sent RP Ken Giles and minor league SS Jonathan Arauz to Houston in exchange for five players, including SPs Mark Appel, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, and Vincent Velasquez, who was in the majors for about half of the season in 2015. Other than that trade, which will help more in the next couple of years than it will this year, the Phillies’ offseason acquisitions included acquiring SP Jeremy Hellickson from the Diamondbacks and signing free-agent P David Hernandez, who may compete for the closer’s role following the departure of Giles.
Not surprisingly, the Phillies were near the bottom of the National League in key offensive categories last season, including the fifth-worst batting average (.249) and hit the third fewest home runs (130) and RBI (586). Their best hitter, by batting average, was OF Ben Revere — now with the Nationals — who hit .298. Veteran 1B Ryan Howard was the team’s home run leader with 23, but the Phillies got some decent production out of rookies, including 3B Maikel Franco, who hit 14 home runs despite playing in just 80 games at the major league level, and OF Odubel Herrera, who hit .297 in his rookie campaign. On the mound, not counting SP Cole Hamels — who was traded during the season — the team’s best pitcher was another rookie, SP Aaron Nola. He started 13 games, striking out 68 in 77.2 innings while posting a 3.59 ERA.
Looking ahead to 2016, the Phillies could see some improvement as their young players start the season in the majors and get better with more experience, but there still question marks offensively, including at RF, where OF Peter Bourjos takes over for departed OF Jeff Francoeur. Bourjos hit just .200 with 4 home runs for the Cardinals last season, a significant drop-off from Francoeur’s .258 average and 13 homers. The acquisition of Hellickson should help the rotation, but outside of him and fellow acquisition SP Charlie Morton, there’s not much experience among the team’s starting pitchers. Nola, Velasquez and SP Jerad Eickhoff are expected to fill the No. 3-5 slots in the rotation, but they have just 40 total major league starts between them. And the bullpen could also present problems for the team, with no standout reliever and not much experience other than Hernandez.
The Phillies will likely compete with the Braves for fourth and fifth place in the division this year, and I think the Phillies will end up in last place for the third straight season. But if Phillies fans can get through another bad season or two, they should be rewarded with good teams in the future, with Appel likely a couple years away from being a star at the major league level, and guys like Nola and Franco also likely on that kind of a path. But for this year, I can’t see the Phillies winning more than 65-70 games, which would be an improvement over last year but not good enough to make much headway in the division.