Behind All-Star Odubel, The Phillies Future Shakes Out Before Our Eyes
Last night, we learned that Odubel Herrera would represent the Philadelphia Phillies as their All-Star in the 2016 MLB All-Star Game. It’s a well deserved honor for the Phillies center-fielder, who is slashing .302/.388/.441/.829 with 10 homers, 21 extra-base hits, and 12 stolen bases. While his defense hasn’t been quite as spectacular this year as last, Odubel is a deserving All-Star, and could draw comparisons to former Phillies’ center-fielder Lenny Dykstra for his all-around game, and Shane Victorino for his Rule 5 status.
On that same night, a 22 year-old right-hander whom the Phillies picked up in the trade that sent franchise hit-king Jimmy Rollins to Los Angeles after the 2014 season, won his first MLB game. Zach Eflin not only got his first win, but did so on a 92 pitch complete game. The young righty pitched right to his game plan, rolling grounders and keeping hitters from squaring him up.
There are other good signs too. Maikel Franco’s got his average up to .261, and he hit his 16th homer last night. Cesar Hernandez has his average up to .284, and leads the league in triples. Cody Asche and Cameron Rupp are showing major signs of life with their bats. Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez have 3.30 and 3.34 ERA’s halfway through the season, respectively. Aaron Altherr is about to return from injury, and hopefully strengthen the outfield.
It’s worth noting that not all is well though. The team is still 39–46 and 11 out of first. Aaron Nola is a mess right now and is getting a “mental break” for his next start. There are still a lot of questions about some of their top prospects, with Mark Appel having surgery recently that will end his season, Nick Williams getting benched, and Alec Asher getting suspended. There are lots of questions.
Fortunately, this season was never expected to end in a championship parade, and there is still plenty of baseball within to figure out the future of this club. Just a month ago, Maikel Franco was struggling to the point of people calling for him to be sent down, Cesar Hernandez was being written off, and Tommy Joseph was about to be coronated as the new king of the city. This is why baseball seasons last as long as they do- it’s an endurance game. We don’t take small sample sizes, not even a month’s worth, to determine if a player has a future. Sometime at the end of September, Phillies fans will look back over the full body of work, and determine if they believe a player has a part in the future. So will the front office, a group that is in it’s first full year of evaluating the talents they have. They need time, which is why I suspect they won’t go doing anything too crazy at the trade deadline, at a point when they probably don’t have enough data and scouting time to really know what the players they have are, yet.
We are watching the future develop though, and I must say that it’s exciting. While I’d argue that only Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera of the current line-up are locks for the future, we are watching other players go out and make their case with every day playing time. We’re watching a potentially good rotation develop. We’re watching a minor league system that is absolutely stacked develop multiple contenders for positions around the diamond. As a Phillies fan, i’m quite excited. I hope all of you are too.