As the Philadelphia Phillies wrap up play in the Grapefruit League, regular season predictions begin to arrive.
The good news for the Phillies and their fans is that ESPN has predicted that the club will win five more games in the 2016 season than they did a year ago. The bad news is that still leaves them with just a 68-94 record, and again with the worst record in baseball.
In their MLB 2016 season preview released today, ESPN picked the Phillies to finish 30th among the 30 teams in Major League Baseball, just behind the division rival Atlanta Braves who were picked in the 29th spot.
The ESPN piece, penned by Jerry Crasnick, pretty much reflects the thinking of most reasonable Phillies fans.
“President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak will have lots of maneuverability to improve the roster when the salaries for first baseman Ryan Howard and catcher Carlos Ruiz come off the books after this season. Right now, it’s all about giving the kids a chance.”
Highlighted as the Phils’ strengths were young 3rd baseman Maikel Franco, the organization’s top prospect in J.P. Crawford, the “nice haul” received from Texas in the Hamels deal, and the steady hand of manager Pete Mackanin.
Weaknesses cited in the piece included one that seems nebulous at best. The piece said “The Phillies’ rotation ranked 29th in the majors with a 5.23 ERA last season and 28th in innings with a mere 892, so the bullpen could be taxed again.“
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Excuse me, but that only says why they were bad in 2015, and absolutely nothing about the coming season. In fact, right after making that statement, the piece goes on to say “Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton are an upgrade over Aaron Harang and Jerome Williams,” which would seem to indicate that the rotation will be better than a year ago.
The piece gets the other major weakness right on when it describes the Phillies’ offense as “a work-in-progress.” With the likelihood that only center fielder Odubel Herrera, 3rd baseman Franco, and possibly 2nd baseman Hernandez will be around through the rebuild, there will likely be much change in the coming months.
We’ll be releasing out staff predictions for the coming season over the weekend and into early next week, and sometime during the next few days, I will release my own 2016 Phillies prediction. I agree overall with ESPN that the Phillies should show modest improvement this season, and I believe that will be driven by improved pitching and some late season prospect promotions.