We look at that 3 biggest Philadelphia Phillies stories
It began in 2007 when Ryan Howard wasn’t feeling the power of the shift, Jimmy Rollins was an MVP candidate, and Cole Hamels was in his first full year, succeeding quite well. Over the next 4 years, the Phillies won the division each year, getting more wins each year. They added major talent in the rotation, including Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Roy Oswalt. They won the World Series in 2008. Since 2013; however, they’ve been pursuing a slow rebuilding effort. That effort continues in 2017.
1st Story: Do any of the top prospects join the big league club?
The prospect that jumps out first, and probably draws the most excitement, is J.P. Crawford. With high rated plate discipline and a frame that will develop as he ages, Crawford is another exciting shortstop prospect. He projects to be a decent leadoff man, possible a traditional number 2 hitter. The big test will be ensuring that he gets his average up in AAA, and has developed a little power in his swing. Currently, Crawford is hitting .194, which is not setting the world on fire. Unless Crawford picks it up, he will not see a major league field this year.
Jorge Alfaro is different up the middle threat. His arm behind the plate, rated at 70 by Minorleagueball.com, will easily play at the next level. He’s reportedly improved his other facets of defense (receiving, throwing accuracy, awareness), which is an incredibly helpful step forward. With a rating of 60 for his raw power, he could hit 20-25 HR in a season fairly regularly. It would not be a stretch to see Alfaro a little later in the 2017 season.
2nd Story: Has the rebuild produced anything of value for the Phillies?
The Cole Hamels trade injected a huge booster shot in the Phillies farm system. Bringing in Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, and Jake Thompson has provided an infusion of new talent to a system that was in desperate need for players to develop to help the big league club. Maikel Franco has been a nice signing (more on him later). Aaron Nola passing on the Blue Jays draft choice has benefited the Phillies immensely since he’s been able to be a solid starter for them.
Ultimately, the rebuilding efforts haven’t produced enough starters. Yet.
3rd Story: What about Maikel Franco?
Maikel Franco sparked some major excitement when he played 80 games in 2015, hit .280 with 14 HRs. Was he going to the next power threat, middle of the lineup bat the Phillies desperately needed? Unfortunately, the verdict is still out. Franco followed up that 2015 season with a lackluster 2016. Franco improved his HR total, up to 25; however, his average dropped 25 points to .255 in 152 games.
So far in 2017, it appears that the 2016 Franco has returned. With a .224 average and 7 HR’s, he’s not hitting the ball out of the ballpark enough to warrant excitement. He’s also grounded into 12 DP’s, which is already almost matching his 2016 total of 13. Needless to say, Franco is struggling.
Looking at some of the deeper stats, it’s interesting to see some of the shifts in Franco’s game. In 2015, Franco hit line drives 18.2% of the time, ground balls 47%, and fly balls 34.8% of the time. In 2017, he’s actually hitting line drives 22.2% of the time, ground balls 49% of the time, and 28.8% of the time. His hard hit percentage is also up, from 28.5% in 2015 to 31.8% in 2017. He also saw an increase from 2015 to 2016.
It’s possible that Franco is experiencing a little bad luck. Considering he’s hitting the ball a little bit harder since his successful 2015 season, with more line drives, and more Medium % hitting, Franco should have seen an improvement from his 2016 season so far. It’s still a bit early, but hopefully, Franco can turn it around and become the exciting the player the Phillies and baseball thought he could be during that 2015 season.