All fans of the Philadelphia Phillies are hoping to see more from the team in the coming 2016 Major League Baseball season.
I usually like to keep my pieces more on the informational side and less on the I/me/my side. However, I wanted to lay out some of my New Year’s resolutions for the Phillies heading into 2016.
Now, when I say “resolutions”, I want you to understand that these are “hopes” of mine. I can’t actually resolve that the things I list are going to happen. But I can hope. With that, here are my “resolutions” for the coming year.
Health of the young-ins’
Perhaps the most important group of players in the Phillies organization will not be playing much baseball in Philadelphia this season. The minor league system, suggested by more than a few experts as now a top 5-7 organization in all of baseball, has several players crucial to the team’s dream of putting a championship caliber roster on the field by 2018.
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That group is headed by top prospect J.P. Crawford, and includes names such as outfielder Nick Williams, catchers Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp, pitchers Vincent Velasquez and Franklyn Kilome, and on and on. My greatest hope/resolution is that none will suffer a major injury causing them to lose a year of important developmental time.
Our Editor here at TBOH, Matt Veasey, recently wrote on his view that the team is tanking the 2016 season in order to secure a better long-term future. Whether or not you agree with him, the fact remains that in the coming season, it is more important to Phillies management that the young players continue to develop than it is for the team to spend on acquiring big-league talent.
Having a major injury occur to one of those pieces, such as Crawford, would mean that player loses valuable at-bats or pitching reps, as well as the potential that the team has to push back the opening of its future window of contention.
After two, possibly three, consecutive losing seasons, it’s doubtful that fans will be excited at such a prospect. Let’s hope we don’t hear the words “strained oblique” or “visit to Dr. Andrews” in the same sentence as one of these young hopefuls.
Continued progress of those young-ins’ already here
Last year, fans were treated to enjoying young players like Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco and Aaron Nola make a significant impact on the major league roster. Since Herrera’s impact was almost completely unexpected, he provided fans with the jolt that comes from having found a diamond in the rough.
Franco and Nola’s experiencing success gave fans hope that the minor league system was beginning to bear fruit after a few years of not producing anything at all. My hope is that this triumvirate, along with Aaron Altherr, continues to progress and doesn’t experience any of the dreaded “sophomore jinx” that sometimes occurs with 2nd year players.
With the possibility that the team will again face a losing season, fans will need something to cheer. When the Phillies began their run of division titles in 2007, fans had already begun to hold Utley, Rollins, Howard and Hamels close to their hearts because they came up together. Fans had seen them grow up and coalesce into a unit that would bring them a championship the following year.
They also got to watch as those players reached their peak together, which made the playoff run that much more special. While none of those three players mentioned previously hold the same ceiling as any of Philly’s own “Core Four”, they still possess the ability to be key components of a pennant winning team.
Fans should expect regression from each player as the league adjusts. That is only natural. But the hope is that the players also adjust, staying one step ahead of the league, continuing on their quest to reach their own ceilings as a baseball players.
Patience of the fans will continue
When the NBA’s local Philadelphia 76ers traded guard Jrue Holiday in 2013, it signaled the complete tear down of the roster in hopes that the plan that has come to be known as “The Process” would lead to championship basketball making a return to the city.
In the years since, as loss upon loss has piled up, many people have begun to lose faith in that “Process” with our Sixers. One of the problems, I believe, is that management has never come out and said what they were doing. More educated fans have been able to ascertain what is happening through the various trades and player releases that have occurred. But still, Sixers management has never fully and publicly explained what they are doing.
In comparison, credit belongs to the Phillies. They have been transparent in what needed to be done to their own roster. Even when Ruben Amaro Jr. was still general manager, he never shied away from the fact that once he started to trade veterans, it was to “rebuild” the team for a better future.
The new people in charge of baseball decisions have consistently said the same as well, which means that fans have been made and kept aware of the team’s intentions. So what would help? The fans themselves need to remain patient and trust that the front office has a plan and will intelligently execute it to the fullest.
Will it translate to wins? Recent MLB history suggests it should. The Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros each had top-tier farm systems heading into 2015, with young talent in the big leagues, and each made the playoffs.
The Kansas City Royals had an entire group come up together that eventually led to a World Series championship in 2015. Even the Twins experienced a winning season this year with young talent that had been growing in the minors leading the way.
In other words, there is precedent for teams with a strong farm system to win, and win consistently. Fans just need to hang in there a couple more years, especially with what is expected to be another long, losing season looming. Just stick with them – there is a real plan based on proven principles.
These are my hopes, my Phillies “resolutions” for the new year. Watching as they unfold will help get me get through the season to come. Hopefully whatever it is that you would reasonably like to see happen also leads to success at Citizens Bank Park as well. See you in 2016!