Phils start 2016 with eye on future
PHILADELPHIA — For the Philadelphia Phillies, spring training is all about the future.
The rebuilding Phillies accumulated a plethora of young talent in various trades over the past year. Many of those prospects will get ample opportunity to show their stuff this spring.
The Phillies restocked their farm system by trading away most of the players who led them to five straight NL East championships and the 2008 World Series title. Only Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz remain from that club.
Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley were gone before Philadelphia finished 63-99 last season. Young closer Ken Giles then was dealt to Houston in the offseason to add more prospects.
Catchers Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp, outfielders Nick Williams and Roman Quinn, right-handers Jake Thompson, Mark Appel and Zach Elfin and shortstop J.P. Crawford are among the promising youngsters who will be in camp.
Manager Pete Mackanin starts his first full season after replacing Ryne Sandberg last summer and new general manager Matt Klentak begins his first spring with the team.
Here's some things to look for in spring training:
Star power: Third baseman Maikel Franco showed in half a season why he could anchor the middle of the lineup for the next decade. Franco hit .280 with 14 homers and 50 RBIs in only 80 games. He's also solid with the glove and already has drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt.
Last stand: Howard and Ruiz are almost certainly entering their last season in red pinstripes. Howard will make $25 million this year and the team has a $10 million buyout on his deal for 2017. He had 23 homers and 77 RBIs last year and didn't start much against lefties in the second half. He'll likely platoon with Darin Ruf at first base. Ruiz will make $8.5 million this season and is coming off his worst season at the plate. Cameron Rupp should get most of the playing time until Alfaro or Knapp are ready.
Newcomers: The Phillies added veteran starters Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton to lead a rotation that includes former first-round pick Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff. Appel, Vincent Velasquez and Brett Oberholtzer — all acquired in the Giles' trade — will compete for the fifth spot along with holdovers Adam Morgan and David Buchanan. Veteran relievers David Hernandez, Andrew Bailey, Edward Mujica and Ernesto Frieri were brought in to compete for spots in the back of the bullpen. Each has closing experience. Outfielder Peter Bourjos will get a chance to show he can be a regular.
On the rise: Center fielder Odubel Herrera, a Rule 5 pickup last year, blossomed into a consistent player. Herrera led the team with a .297 average and 30 doubles. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez made the most of his opportunity after Utley left. He batted .272 with 20 doubles and 19 steals. Shortstop Freddy Galvis had an inconsistent first year as a full-time starter. He could turn into a supersub when Crawford takes over. Outfielder Aaron Altherr had 20 extra-base hits in 137 at-bats and will get a chance to play regularly.
Low expectations: It was World Series or bust for most of the past decade. Now, fans expect very little from the Phillies. They started rebuilding a couple years too late and they were locked into several big contracts that slowed down their transition. Now, all eyes are on the kids and possible contention in 2017.