Phillies: A positive outlook shines through a muddled season

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 17: Aaron Nola
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 17: Aaron Nola /
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There was one goal for the Phillies in the 2017 season, and it appears they will achieve it.

There were no expectations for the Phillies to make a playoff run deep into October. Manager Pete Mackanin told reports and fans before the season started that they would play for a .500 record. None of that matters. What does, is the youth that is starting to shine.

For most fans, the main focus of the season was on the players down in the minor leagues and few in Philadelphia. We knew that guys like Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders would not be parts of the long-term puzzle despite taking roster spots at the beginning of the year.

However, there were hopes for Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph to be answers of the future, neither of which have given much confidence.

When watching the “future” of the Phillies this season, it has been an up and down year. Questions surrounded J.P Crawford during his lackluster first half, and anger toward General Manager Matt Klentak arose when names were not being called up. It all changed on June 30th when the first domino fell; the debut of Nick Williams.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – AUGUST 17: Phillies Nick Williams
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – AUGUST 17: Phillies Nick Williams /

Since being called up, Williams is in the top-10 for hits, home runs, RBIs, and runs scored on the Phillies roster. His .288 batting average must have been a good sign (and a wake-up call) for Klentak and the rest of the organization by showing that the prospects in the minors could hold their own at the big league level.

Williams is no longer the only member of the roster to make their highly anticipated major league debut. Potential future first baseman Rhys Hoskins was the most recent big name call up, and he too has yet to disappoint. After hitting a Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs record 29 home runs in a single season, in just 12 games with the Phillies, Hoskins has hit six home runs. Although his .238 batting average needs to be improved, the bright sign is the consistent power surge from the minor to the major leagues.

Williams and Hoskins may be two of the most exciting signs for the Phillies this season, but the early success in the careers of catcher Jorge Alfaro and outfielder Aaron Altherr cannot be forgotten. If you are just focusing on the record of the club, you must not be a happy fan. But if you look past the wins and losses, there is much to be excited about with this club.

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Of course, there are still many questions that need to be answered. Are these young hitters just fooling pitchers with their lack of scouting reports? Perhaps the biggest question of them all, surrounds the pitching staff and what it’ll look like when it is time for the Phillies to compete?

Fans are currently watching the resurgence of the career of Aaron Nola after a disappointing 2016 season. Although some of these stats may not say much due to the staff as a whole, the numbers that Nola has posted can be compared to some of the best pitchers throughout baseball. Nola’s 3.58 ERA is easily the best of all starting pitchers on the Phillies roster, but it also stands in the top 20 for best in all of baseball.

After Nola, it seems like most of the answers currently reside down in the minor leagues. Jeremy Hellickson was the teams Opening Day starter but has called Baltimore home since being traded before the deadline. Zach Eflin seems to be on the disabled list every other month, and who knows whether or not Nick Pivetta will amount to anything more than a fifth starter in a big league rotation.

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Here’s what the opening day starters could look like in 2018:

"SP: Aaron NolaC: Jorge Alfaro1B: Rhys Hoskins2B: Cesar Hernandez/Scott Kingery3B: Maikel FrancoSS: Freddy Galvis/J.P CrawfordOF: Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr"

However, if you look past the rosters of the Phillies and their minor league organizations, free agency will grow to be an option. Currently, the team is paying the 9th fewest amount in overall salaries. With trade rumors surrounding Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton continuing to surface and the potential buying of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado after the 2018 season, the Phillies could find themselves in the thick of it all.

If there is anything that you have learned in recent years of being a Philadelphia sports fan, it is that we are in a period of patience. The Sixers were not the only team that told us to “Trust the Process.”

Like this city’s basketball team, the Phillies have looked to grow their young talent and build through the draft until they have enough pieces to make that big free agent splash. For now, fans should focus on the young talent that is being showcased down in South Philly.

Next: Phillies top 25 under 25: Ranking young players

If one thing is for sure, the 2018 season should be far more entertaining for Phillies fans across the Delaware Valley.

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