Jeremy Hellickson of the Phillies

End of season post-mortem: 2016 Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies gutted their roster of most veterans over the last year-plus, with Ryan Howard standing as the final member of the 2008 World Champion Philadelphia squad. And while the Phillies will finish under .500 again, they’re not going to lose 100 games, and could end up surpassing their win total of 73 from both the 2013 and 2014 season, meaning this rebuild could be progressing faster than anyone really expected.

Preseason Prediction: The Phillies are going to be competing for the basement in the NL East this year with the Braves, but I think they’re much closer to contention than Atlanta is. The Phillies’ young talent is already starting to break through into the majors, while the Braves young talent is mainly still in the minors. This will be the last year of the Howard/Ruiz era in Philadelphia and this season will also start ushering in even more young talent that the Phillies hope will build the core of their next World Championship team. As long as it works out better than the short-lived Scott Rolen era, the Phillies should be in good shape going forward. (Joe Lucia, March 21st)

Tommy Joseph and Maikel Franco of the Phillies

PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 21: Tommy Joseph #19 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates with Cameron Rupp #29 after his two run home run in the bottom of the third inning against the Chicago White Sox at Citizens Bank Park on September 21, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

What Went Right: Odubel Herrera made the All-Star Team and shocked the world by hitting .288/.363/.426. Cesar Hernandez also supplanted himself as a potential building block, hitting .291/.362/.393. Freddy Galvis homered 20 times (!!!!!!!), and while his .240/.273/.403 line is nothing to write home about, it’s right on with his career line – though with more power. The team also got strong production behind the plate from Carlos Ruiz (before trading him to the Dodgers) and Cameron Rupp, with Ruiz hitting .261/.368/.352 in 48 games and Rupp putting together a productive .256/.309/.453 line with 15 dingers.

Tommy Joseph, left for dead as a prospect following concussion issues in recent years, burst onto the scene with 21 homers, but we’ll talk more about him later.

On the mound, the Phillies rotation did very well overall. In 30 starts, Jeremy Hellickson pitched to a 3.57 ERA, and is a candidate for a qualifying offer this winter in a weak free agent market. In their first full seasons with the Phillies, Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez both impressed – Eickhoff had a 3.75 ERA in a team-leading 187 1/3 innings, while Velasquez’s ERA was 4.12, though he added 152 strikeouts in 131 innings. In the bullpen, the trio of Hector Neris, Edubray Ramos, and Jeanmar Gomez all had strong years, especially Neris, who has punched out 97 hitters in 76 2/3 innings.

What Went Wrong: Ryan Howard launched 22 homers, but hit a paltry .193/.250/.439. Rule 5 pick Tyler Goeddel stayed on the roster all year, but slashed a miserable .192/.258/.291. Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos, and Darin Ruf all couldn’t hit a lick. Aaron Altherr missed roughly 2/3 of the season because of a broken wrist, and struggled upon his return, slashing .203/.297/.308. Maikel Franco homered 22 times, but his overall .248/.299/.417 line was a disappointment.

Past the top three, the rotation was a mixed bag. Aaron Nola made just 20 starts and pitched to a 4.78 ERA before being shut down with an elbow injury. Adam Morgan, Jake Thompson, and Zach Eflin combined to make 49 starts, and all had ERAs north of 5.00. And like the rotation, the bullpen was weak past the aforementioned top three – Brett Oberholtzer, Colton Murray, Elvis Araujo, Andrew Bailey, and Michael Mariot all had forgettable years.

Most Surprising Player: Just mentioning the trade makes Phillies fans cringe: Hunter Pence to the Giants for Tommy Joseph, Seth Rosin, and Nate Schierholtz. Rosin threw two innings with the Phillies before being non-tendered. Schierholtz lasted a bit longer, 73 plate appearances, before the Phillies dumped him. That left Joseph as the last hope for the Phillies to extract value from the Pence trade, and unfortunately, a series of concussions pushed him from behind the plate to first base, limiting his playing time in every season since the deal.

In the minor leagues with the Phillies before this season, Joseph played a total of 149 games over three and a half seasons. Any future in the majors looked like a longshot. Then, a funny thing happened – he got healthy, and started raking. In 27 games with AAA Lehigh Valley, Joseph homered six times and hit .347/.370/.611. The Phillies called him up on May 13th. He collected his first major league hit on May 16th, and hit his first homer on May 17th. After that, he didn’t look back. In 98 games, Joseph has smashed the ball, hitting .262/.311/.522 with 21 homers, just one back of Franco and Howard for the team lead.

At just 25, it’s not as if this is it for Joseph – the Phillies will pencil him into their lineup as their every day first baseman next season, and will look for him to be a key part of their offense for the next few years. And by the way – Hunter Pence hasn’t hit 21 homers in a season since 2013.

Maikel Franco of the Phillies

MIAMI, FL – SEPTEMBER 06: Maikel Franco #7 of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on during a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on September 6, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Most Disappointing Player: After a strong rookie season in 2015, Maikel Franco was expected to take a step forward. He just turned 24 last month, so it’s not as if Franco is a lost cause, but his 2016 season wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring. Franco did stay healthy, playing 142 games after appearing in just 80 last season. But the broken wrist he suffered near the end of 2015 appeared to still be an issue – Franco homered a team-leading 22 times, but his .248/.299/.417 line is way down from his 2015 line. Much of that can be attributed to Franco losing 30 points of BABIP, but his walk and strikeout rates also ticked in the wrong directions.

However, the fact that his stats fell off in the second half could also simply indicate fatigue from his first season in the majors. Regardless of that, the Phillies and their fans probably expected more in Franco’s second year in the majors.

The Future: Philadelphia’s rebuild is moving along faster than expected. The only significant players they’re losing this winter are Hellickson and reliever David Hernandez. Their entire committed payroll of $24 million is going to three players (Howard, Matt Harrison, and Charlie Morton) who won’t contribute to the team next season. The only money they owe after next season is to Harrison, and is just a $200,000 buyout. If Matt Klentak and company want to spend some money in this poor free agent market to supplement their youth, they can. If they want to eat bad contracts to bring on some more talented prospects (like the Braves have been doing over the last year), they can do that. If they simply want to operate like a small market team and push their minor leaguers next season, they can.

The future looks bright for the Phillies because of how blank the canvas is going forward, and how the team’s minor league system has improved over the last two years. There will likely be some hard times on the horizon for the team as this rebuild continues, but the next golden era in Philadelphia is coming.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.