Philadelphia Phillies 2017 Team Preview

2016 Recap: 71-91 4th in the NL East. We are all aware of The Process going on with the 76ers, but across the parking lot, the Phillies have their own rebuild going on. Despite their plan to be bad, the Phillies got off to a hot start in 2016 and were six games over .500 on May 22nd. By June 15th, the Phillies were six games under .500 and in the middle of a 9 game losing streak. The Phillies probably shouldn’t have won 71 games last season considering they were outscored by 186 runs, but that doesn’t matter much for this team as they currently have one of the best farm systems in the league as well as some good young players on their current roster. The future is not that far away for Phillies fans.

Offseason Moves:

Significant Additions: INF/OF Howie Kendrick, OF Michael Saunders, RHP Clay Buchholz, C Ryan Hanigan, INF/OF Chris Coghlan, RHP Joaquin Benoit, RHP Pat Neshek

Significant Subtractions: OF Peter Bourjos, 1B Ryan Howard (and his massive contract), INF/OF Cody Asche, RHP David Hernandez

Projected Lineup and Breakdown:

  1. 2B Cesar Hernandez
  2. LF Howie Kendrick
  3. CF Odubel Herrera
  4. 3B Maikel Franco
  5. RF Michael Saunders
  6. 1B Tommy Joseph
  7. SS Freddy Galvis
  8. C Cameron Rupp

The Phillies were last in the NL in runs scored last year, but there is reason to believe they could make a significant jump in 2017. Veteran Howie Kendrick should provide stability to the top of the batting order despite coming off his career worst season. Lefty Michael Saunders finally stayed healthy for the majority of a season and belted 24 homers and actually hit better against lefties than he did righties in 2016. This could be the year young third baseman Maikel Franco finally breaks out entering his age 25 season. Franco’s career .179 ISO is a sign of real power, but with room to improve as he enters his prime. The Phillies could end up being the only National League team where their 6-8 hitters all hit 20+ homers this year. Both Tommy Joseph and Freddy Galvis hit 20 or more a season ago while catcher Cameron Rupp hit 16 in 105 games in 2016. The Phillies could end up with a sneaky good offense in 2017. The first wave of kids led by JP Crawford and Jorge Alfaro will likely become regulars sometime in the second half, especially if the Phillies trade veterans like Kendrick and Galvis.  

Projected Rotation, Bullpen, and Breakdown:

Rotation –

  • RHP Jeremy Hellickson
  • RHP Jerad Eickhoff
  • RHP Clay Buchholz
  • RHP Vince Velasquez
  • RHP Aaron Nola

Bullpen –

  • RHP Jeanmar Gomez – Closer
  • RHP Joaquin Benoit
  • RHP Hector Neris
  • RHP Pat Neshek
  • LHP Joely Rodriguez

The real excitement with the Phillies (outside of their loaded farm system) is their pitching staff, most notably the young trio of Eickhoff, Nola, and Velasquez. Both Nola and Velasquez have super high ceilings, but both battled through injuries last year that shortened their season and affected their performance. You can almost pinpoint the date to when Nola got hurt last season, the young righty had a 2.65 ERA with a strikeout rate of 9.81/9 through his first 12 starts. In his final eight starts, Nola had an ERA over 9.00 and was shut down for the season at the end of July. Assuming Nola’s health is in check, he has frontline rotation upside. Velasquez doesn’t have quite the tale of two months story Nola has as he was inconsistent start to start, like when he backed up his 16 strikeout performance in early April last season with back to back 4 strikeout starts. Velazquez also had big home/road splits posting a 2.88 ERA at home and a 5.37 ERA on the road. Eickhoff might have the lowest ceiling of the trio, but established himself as a real workhorse last year throwing 197.1 innings in his first full season in the big leagues with an extremely efficient 1.92 BB/9. The future is bright for starting pitching in Philadelphia. The Phillies bullpen was terrible last season despite getting a big year from stud setup man Hector Neris. Neris struck out 31.1% of the betters he faced in 80.1 innings and has the makings of a future All Star reliever. Veterans Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek join the club this season and all though they are both past their prime will at least provide some stability and veteran leadership to an otherwise terrible unit.

Fantasy Analysis:

Stud: OF Odubel Herrera. Make no mistake, Odubel Herrera is not what we would normally consider as a stud, but he is currently the highest drafted Phillies player and he does offer plenty for fantasy owners. Herrera boosted his walk rate in 2016 from 5.2% to 9.6% and that more patient approach paid off as Herrera finished with a .286 average with 15 home runs, 25 steals, and 87 runs scored. A true five category player Herrera has a home in any lineup in any league type.

Sleeper: 1B Tommy Joseph. If you are looking for some late cheap power in your draft, this is your guy. In Joseph you have the chance to get a 30 homer player that won’t kill your batting average after pick 200. Joseph cranked out 21 homers in just 347 plate appearances last season, doing his damage against both lefties and righties. Joseph hit 14 of his home runs against righties and hit .281 against lefties. Grab Joseph as your corner infielder knowing there’s a chance he could become one of the more important hitters on your team this season.

Bust: RP Jeanmar Gomez. Gomez was effective most of last season saving 37 games, but the rest of his numbers did not help fantasy owners whatsoever. Gomez had a 4.85 ERA and just a 15% strikeout rate. Basically he was giving you saves and that’s it. No contribution in any other category and he probably hurt your ratios more than those saves helped your team. Gomez isn’t good. The Phillies are reportedly throwing him back out there in the closer’s role again to start this season, but I do not see how that lasts with a veteran option like Benoit ready to take his job or if the Phillies decide they’re okay with boosting Hector Neris’ arbitration numbers he could get saves as well. Do not take Gomez no matter how desperate for saves you might be.

2017 Record Prediction: The Phillies are inching closer to a return to the postseason, but despite adding a few veterans this offseason, they’re just not there yet. They’ll be fun to watch all summer however and could be a sneaky Wild Card team in 2018. 70-92. Fourth in the NL East.

-Randy Haines

Check out our other 2017 team previews here.

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher/USA Today

Statistics are courtesy of Baseball reference and Fangraphs

Projected rosters are courtesy of rosterresource.com and accurate as of 3/23

Fantasy ADP data courtesy of STATS.com and The NFBC

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