Phillies 2016 Season Preview
Maya Hughes | 3/31/2016, noon
After winning five consecutive National League East titles, the Phillies fell to .500 in 2012 and then 73-89 the following two seasons. As they've entered a full-on rebuild, things bottomed out at 63-99 last season. That was the worst record in baseball and the worst in Philly since 1972. Along the way, Pete Mackanin replaced Ryne Sandberg as manager and was eventually named the permanent manager instead of interim. He'll man a still-rebuilding team in 2016.
With one of the worst rotations in Major League Baseball last season, things are actually looking better for the Phils heading into 2016. After posting a solid 3.59 ERA in 13 starts last season Aaron Nola looks poised to become the Phillies ace in 2016. The 22-year-old has the stuff to lead the rotation over the course of the season, but without any established star veterans, he may experience some bumps along the way.
Right hand pitcher Jerad Eickhoff (acquired from Texas in the package for Cole Hamels) also enjoyed success as a rookie starter last season, posting a 2.65 ERA in eight starts. Right hand pitcher Vincent Velasquez wasn't as good, but still had a 4.03 ERA in seven starts and he's only 23. With these three young pitchers the Phillies can form 60 percent of their rotation moving toward the future.
For the first time since 2001, the Phillies will have neither Chase Utley nor Jimmy Rollins in their Opening Day lineup. The other half of the best double-play combination in franchise history exited when Utley was traded to the Dodgers in August, following Rollins, who had been dealt to that club the previous offseason.
Shortstop Freddy Galvis’ first season as the regular was rather unremarkable as he recorded just a .302 on-base percentage and was inconsistent in the field despite the occasional highlight-reel play. Even a significant across-the-board improvement might not help Galvis hold off top prospect J.P. Crawford later in the season. Though not a standout, switch-hitting second baseman Cesar Hernandez does a lot of things well on both sides of the ball and will look to establish himself. But with top prospect Crawford ready to break into the majors at any point, expect Galvis to shift over to second base and Hernandez to take over the utility role
First baseman Ryan Howard returns for his final season with the club as third baseman. Maikel Franco gets set for his first full season in the majors. Franco, 23, could blossom into an RBI champ and the type of middle-of-the-order threat that Howard was in his prime.
The outfield is still a work in progress. Odubel Herrera had a solid rookie season in center field last year as he managed to hit for average and play decent defense. He could take several steps forward in 2016 as the team’s leadoff hitter. Peter Bourjos and Aaron Altherr will likely win the corner outfield jobs entering the season. Neither are sure things to stick all season – although Altherr does offer some upside.