General - When Pat Gillick was general manager of the Orioles he tried to warn Peter Angelos the Orioles were getting older and he should consider rebuilding. Angelos fired Gillick, got one more playoff run before stumbling into a 14 year losing streak. Myworld has to wonder if Gillick gave that same warning to Ruben Amaro before he left the Phillies. After their last playoff appearance in 2011 they have felt they could make another playoff appearance with the same core of aging players that won their division for five years in a row from 2007 to 2011. They have not finished above .500 since their last playoff appearance in 2011. Entering the 2015 season the Phillies have finally recognized their playoff veterans just don’t have it anymore. Jimmy Rollins was traded to the Dodgers and Cole Hamels was dangled but Amaro found no enticing offers. They would love for a team to take Ryan Howard off their hands but he may be an albatross they are forced to keep until his contract expires. With the losing becoming endemic their consecutive game sellout streak has ended, good news for those who wanted to get tickets but were unable to because the games were always a sellout. Phillie fans can only hope it won’t take 14 years as it did with the Orioles to rebuild a winner.
2015 Key Additions - This is a rebuilding team trading aging players for prospects. One prospect, Ben Lively, obtained in the trade for Marlon Byrd, could see some time in the rotation by mid-season. The Phillies also signed two free agent pitchers, Chad Billingsley for the bullpen and Aaron Harang for either the bull pen or the starting rotation. For the most part they will throw out the same veteran starters with a few prospects sprinkled in.
Catcher - It is amazing this team is looking for a catcher for the 2015 season. Carlos Ruiz and his age has prevented him from playing 130 plus games behind the plate. His offensive game has dropped and he has fallen into the also rans that hit 36 year old catchers. One of the strengths the Phillies thought they had was catching depth. Sebastian Valle has been released and is now playing for the Pirates. Tommy Joseph has been struggling with concussion issues which is jeopardizing his career. He was the main character acquired in the Hunter Pence trade to the Giants. That leaves Cameron Rupp to fill the back up role for the Phils. Eventually, it may be Joseph and Rupp sharing the position as starters.
First Base - It isn’t fun being Ryan Howard. He gets a lot of abuse from Philly fans for making over $20 million and slugging just .380. He did lead the team in RBIs (95) and was second in homeruns (23) but his .223 batting average and 190 whiffs were despised. They thought they would give the position to Darin Ruf but his .235 batting average was too Howard like. By mid-season, this position may be turned over to Maikel Franco, who raked in the winter leagues. Franco did not match his 2013 season of 31 homeruns but after a slow start he hit 16 in AAA.
Second Base - The Phillies have held on to Chase Utley and he has been able to stay healthy for two years in a row, playing in 155 games last year. His OPS is down to .746 and he is not the feared threat he once was in the playoff years when his OPS was approaching .900. Utley could be traded before the season is over and the only viable alternative is Cesar Hernandez. His OPS did not even eclipse .500 last year. They also have Rule V pick Odubel Herrera, who had a good winter, but spent most of that playing the outfield.
Shortstop - Jimmy Rollins was traded and the Phillies are prepared to give the position to Freddy Galvis and his .176 average. He had such a good spring last year that he appeared to win the job away from Rollins. When he got hurt and returned after a month into the season he forgot how to hit, his average plummeting into the .050 range. Cesar Hernandez is another option for short, as well as a number of non-roster invitees such as Chase d’Arnaud and Andres Blanco. The big hope for the Phillies is J.P. Crawford, but they will probably have to wait until 2016 for him.
Third Base - Cody Asche has been the player here Phillie fans have found it hard to get excited about. He lacks power for the position, hitting only 10 homeruns last year and doesn’t really excel at defense to make up for his offensive deficiencies. Ideally, they would like to move Maikel Franco here, but as long as Asche has a pulse he will get the starting nod. Cesar Hernandez will get back up time, but Franco would be move here if the Phillies need someone for an extended period of time.
Left Field - Myworld watched a spring training game when a ball hit off the glove of Darin Ruf and carried over the fence. His outfield play is poor, which is why the Phillies would prefer to move him to first base. He does have a power bat but it was impotent for most of last year. Grady Sizemore is a better defensive option but his bat is not the force it once was. Odubel Herrera had a good winter playing outfield, but the Phillies view him more as a reserve player. Not a lot to work with here.
Center Field - Ben Revere was fifth in the league in hitting with a .306 average. He also proved to be a catalyst from the leadoff spot with 49 stolen bases. The only downside is Revere has the arm of a leftfielder playing center. Herrera and Sizemore can back him up, but Sizemore is not the defensive player he once was. The Phillies also claimed Jordan Danks on waivers and he can play here as well in a back up capacity. No one here to make Phillie fans forget Shane Victorino or Aaron Rowand.
Right Field - Dominic Brown had a break out year in 2013, making the All Star team. All that has been forgotten after a .235 season in 2014 with only 10 homeruns. Dominic was going to be a building block for future playoff seasons, but his offensive output has been a disappointment. Sizemore and Danks will act as backups. Jeff Francouer was an interesting signing. He played right field in his peak years, but the Phillies will try him on the mound. As long as they have him, perhaps they will convince him to play some right field.
Starting Pitching - This used to be an invincible lot. With Roy Halladay retired and Cliff Lee injured for only 13 starts the position self destructed. Cole Hamels is now their ace, but he wants to be traded to a playoff contender. He is easily the ace of their staff, pitching over 200 innings with a 2.46 ERA but only a 9-9 record to show for it. Cliff Lee hopes to be healthy for 2015 and will follow Hamels. After those two the rotation really gets ugly with Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, David Buchanan and Miguel Gonzalez all vying for the last three spots. Spring training should sort the rotation out. Williams last year could not even make the Astros starting rotation out of spring training.
Closer - Jonathan Papelbon with his 39 saves is the closer. He signed a lengthy contract about the time the Phillies transformed themselves into a below .500 franchise. Like Hamel, he would prefer to be traded to a contender. Ken Giles has the three digit velocity on his fastball and can replace him in the closer role if Papelbon sees better opportunities on the horizon.
Other Relievers - It was one of the worst bullpens in the league last year. Jake Diekman struck out over 10 hitters per nine innings. Mario Holland struggled from the left side (4.40 ERA), walking about four hitters per nine innings. Justin DeFratus was their most consistent pitcher (2.39 ERA), but last place teams do not get many save opportunities. Chad Billingsly and Aaron Harnag will make the pen if they fail to make the starting rotation. The rest will be decided by who has the most success in spring training.
2015 Rookies - The Phillies have not had good drafts, selecting players like Kyle Drabek, Joe Savery, Anthony Hewitt, Kelly Dugan, Michael Constanzo, Greg Golson, all first round picks who have gone nowhere. Maikel Franco is the big power bat who should make the most impact. His best position is third, but if the Phillies decide to keep Cody Asche there he may move to first. Jesse Biddle and Ben Lively are pitchers Phillie fans hope to see in the starting rotation. Jesse has had big issues with command, forcing him to take a leave of absence last year to clear his head. Severino Gonzalez has the small frame that may be more suitable for the bullpen. There is not a lot of depth in the outfield so expect Aaron Altherr and Cameron Perkins to both get an opportunity by mid season. Altherr played for Germany in the World Baseball Classic and both stand 6′5″, a trait the Phillies seem to be enamored with in their right fielders. Tommy Joesph can still recover from his concussion issues and find himself catching for the major league team.
2015 Finish - They still have a number of players from their 2008 World Series team, but they have lost the skills that got them there seven years ago. Another last place finish is in store for Phillie fans in 2015. That will be three consecutive losing seasons and counting.