Phillies Climb ESPN Future Power Rankings
This past week, ESPN released their bi-annual future power rankings, and in their opinion the Philadelphia Phillies are on the rise.
The ESPN panel of experts includes Jim Bowden, who assesses each team’s needs from the perspective of a former general manager. Keith Law looks at players primed to make a leap in the team’s minor league system. Buster Olney looks at how the full team stacks up on the field.
These experts score each team across five different categories – the Majors, the minor league system, its financial capabilities/health, the ability of its management, and “mobility”, which takes into account young, cheap players or old, immovable contracts, as per the site.
These categories are scored 1-30, based on the number of teams in MLB. A ‘1’ is the worst team in the opinions of the experts, and a ’30’ being the best. It is highly recommended that you read the entire post at the above link in order to get a good sense of the full baseball landscape.
The Phillies were ranked 16th overall by the experts, meaning they are believed to be middle of the road when it comes to the future. While at first glance this may not seem too good, consider that in March, they were ranked 30th, dead last in the game, and they finished with the worst overall record in baseball in the 2015 season.
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Much of this improved ranking is due to the incredible leap which the farm system has made. Previously, the Phillies received a score of ‘5 when it came to the minor leagues, and deservedly so. Coming into the season, much of their minor league talent was unproven, injured, or some combination.
The only key prospect who figured to have any real chance of impacting the 2015 roster was Maikel Franco, who did just that. Aaron Nola, who was widely considered the best pitching prospect, was known to be spending much of the season in the minors, and thus wasn’t counted towards minor league ability to impact the major league roster.
Fast forward to today, and you’ve got a farm system stuffed with players who could get a chance to appear in the big leagues in the 2016 season. Much of that has to do with trades made by former general manager Ruben Amaro. But it also has to do with players such as Andrew Knapp, who made a big leap forward. Add it all up, and the team scored a ’23’ out of that possible ’30’ in the area of minor league talent.
Most every other category remained the same. However, the management category did receive a bump from a ‘2’ to a ‘7’, reflecting changes in the team direction following the season.
Many Phils fans might feel that score should be higher simply because Amaro no longer draws a Phillies paycheck. But keep in mind that new general manager Matt Klentak is largely unproven. He said all of the right things at his introductory press conference, but until we see him in action, he remains largely an unknown.
Andy MacPhail will oversee the moves Klentak makes, but MacPhail himself has been away from the game for a while. This means we can’t be too sure of his thinking going forward either. He wants to incorporate analytics more often in the evaluation of the roster, which should be a big help. Any usage of statistical analysis would be an improvement over the previous regime.
The financial health of the team is robust. The new Comcast TV contract money will begin pouring into the team coffers. Contracts of Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, and Carlos Ruiz are mercifully coming to an end, meaning there will be even more money available to spend.
The key to managing all of these perceived advantages and resources, and turning them into concrete positive results, will be Klentak. Will he spend his money on free agents, doling out more contracts to players on the free agent market? Will he flex that financial muscle in the international spending pool and amateur draft, assembling talent the old-fashioned way? Some combination? Only time will tell.
The fact that outside analysts now seem to believe that the Phillies as an organization are back on the rise is a great sign for the fans. Having someone such as Law, a vocal critic of most of the moves Amaro had made, consider them to be on the upswing says a lot about the position the team is in going toward 2016 and beyond.
It is very possible that next season might feel like Groundhog’s Day, a repeat of the losing 2015 campaign in the standings. But that fan base can take solace in the fact that help is on the way. With the first overall pick in the June amateur draft, as well as the first choice in the Rule 5 draft, the team is well positioned to keep adding to a growing stable of young, controllable talent. Hopefully, the benefits begin to show up quickly at Citizens Bank Park.