Can the Phillies follow in the footsteps of the Astros?

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LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Josh Reddick #22 of the Houston Astros holds the Commissioner's Trophy after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in game seven to win the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium on November 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Josh Reddick #22 of the Houston Astros holds the Commissioner's Trophy after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in game seven to win the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium on November 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /
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The Phillies are in the same position as the Astros were a few years ago. Are they able to follow in the footsteps of the 2017 World Series champions?

To be quite honest, it’s hard not to compare the Phillies to the Astros right now. With Houston on top as the 2017 World Series champions, everyone wants to be in their position right now.

What makes Houston so comparable to Philadelphia right now is the fact they are in the same position as the Phils just a few years ago. Just four years ago, Houston lost 111 games in one season, 45 games back in the AL West. Since then, it has been a complete turnaround for Houston.

2014 was a trend in the right direction for Houston as they finished 70-92, a 19-win improvement. The pieces started coming together that year as Jose Altuve led the team with 5.1 fWAR and Dallas Keuchel made 29 starts with a 2.92 ERA. George Springer made his debut that year.

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The Astros emerged as a new force in the league in 2015 thanks to rookie phenom Carlos Correa and a Cy Young season from Dallas Keuchel. They earned a wild-card spot and made it to the American League Division Series before bowing out.

After missing the playoffs in 2016, the Astros came back with a vengeance this season and fully completed their rebuild with a World Series title.

Altuve had a MLB-caliber season and the last-second addition of Justin Verlander bolstered a strong rotation for the playoffs. With the contributions of these players and many others, the Astros were finally able to win their first World Series in franchise history.

The question now is, what will it take for Philadelphia to follow in the footsteps of the Astros?

The good part is that the Phillies are more or less through the long stretch of losing. They’ve been in fourth or fifth place in the division every year since 2014, and the end of the season was a major turnaround for the team. Philadelphia’s 2017 was like Houston’s 2013 or 2014, depending on how much you buy into the success of the end of the season. That means 2018 or 2019 could be the year when they are able to return to the postseason.

However, before that can happen, the major pieces of the Phils need to fall into place. Looking at the Astros, that would require one, if not two MVP-caliber players (Altuve and Correa), at least a few hitters playing near or at an All-Star level (Springer, Bregman, Josh Reddick). Not to mention, a rotation headed by several effective starters like Keuchel and Verlander is always important, plus a bullpen that can shut down games in the postseason.

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Looking at Philadelphia, they are starting to meet some of these requirements. Aaron Nola could easily front a rotation and can pitch like a Cy Young contender, but otherwise the pitching staff still has a lot of work to do. Turning towards the position players, there are several who can perform at an All-Star level, like Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, and Rhys Hoskins. If you squint hard enough, maybe one of those guys can turn in an MVP-like performance, but it’s hard to say that for sure right now.

Like the Astros, the Phillies could also trade or use free agency to bring in talent from outside the organization.

They will likely be linked to every big-name free agent in the next few years, especially after the 2018 season. The team could use their prospect talent and/or large amount of salary space to plug some of the holes.

If this logic somehow makes any sense, a World Series could return to Philadelphia in the near future. Following the Astros’ timeline, this could mean playoff contention by 2019 and a World Series title in 2021.

Next: Phillies to introduce manager Gabe Kapler Thursday

Heard it here first, folks. Phillies 2021 World Series champions. Take that Sports Illustrated.

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