2017 Fantasy Baseball Recap: Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies finished last in the National League East for the third time in four years and hasn’t reached the postseason since 2011, but a slew of talented, young players have created a solid foundation for the future. Team president Andy MacPhail said he was very encouraged by what he saw from the team this season, citing Philadelphia’s record over the last 70 games (35-35) and winning mark against division opponents (39-37) as part of the reason for optimism.
As you might suspect from an executive with that level of cautious optimism, much of the excitement for the team comes from the performance of its young prospects. In particular, rookies Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams came up from the minors and energized the offense
Hoskins, a 24-year old left fielder has seven multi-RBI performances in September and smacked five doubles to go with his 18 home runs in 39 major-league games. His patient approach was on full display in this one, as Hoskins saw a game-high 30 pitches in his four plate appearances in his second-to-last game of the season (against the New York Mets). His .259 batting average an .396 on base percentage is nothing to scoff at moving forward.
Fellow 24-year old outfielder Nick Williams finished the year in exciting fashion, going 2-4 with a home run and three RBI in Philadelphia’s 11-0 win over the Mets on the final day of the regular season. That gave William 33 RBI since August 1st, and marked the 10 time in 14 games that he had a base hit. Williams will need to work on his staggeringly-high strikeout totals opposite all of those hits, but his spot in the heart of the batting order in 2018 and beyond looks solidified.
But amidst the new guys, let’s not forget “veteran” third baseman Maikel Franco (who’s still only 25 years old). In his fourth season with the Phillies, he hit a team-high 24 home runs and 76 RBI this season. However, Franco didn’t get to enjoy quite as much buzz at the end of the year as some of his teammates, considering he had a grand total of only four hits in the second half of September, registering as many runs (12) as he did strikeouts. But considering his final 2017 numbers were actually a slight dip from the career-best marks he put in 2016, there’s still plenty to be excited about with him.
The second-busiest pitcher for the Phillies this year was Nick Pivetta, who finished with an 8-8 record over 133 innings this season. Pivetta fanned seven and walked five while tossing five scoreless frames in a winning effort against the New York Mets this Sunday. He cruised to an easy win, thanks to a robust 11 runs of support (including a six-run fourth) provided by the Phillies offense. The outing lowered Pivetta’s ERA to 6.02 for the season, and he’ll likely report to spring training in February with an opportunity to compete for a spot in the back of the rotation on the strength of his 140 strikeouts in 133 innings at the big-league level this season.
As they continued to build back from a full roster teardown, the Philadelphia Phillies finished the 2017 season with a 66-96 record, good for last in the NL East. But their rebuilding process has begun to bear fruit. Thanks in part to contributions from some exciting young rookies, Philadelphia finished the season strong by posting a winning record in September (15-13).
The Phillies already announced in late September that Pete Mackanin will not return as manager in 2018, but will instead assume a role in the front office. Part of the organization’s focus this offseason will be to find a replacement manager who can get the most out of a very young group of players as they develop at the major-league level. Based on their record after the All-Star break (37-38), it seems as though the worst could finally be behind the Phillies after five consecutive losing seasons. Whoever GM Matt Klentak hires as Mackanin’s replacement will likely be managing the next contending team in Philadelphia.
One of those reasons for optimism for the Phiillies was the contributions of players like Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr and Aaron Nola. Herrera led the team in total bases last year (238), finished second among all “full-time” players in batting average (.281), and finished third in total runs with 67, despite playing in only 138 games last year. Altherr finished third on the team with 65 RBI, despite playing only 107 games. Nola racked up 9.9 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9 along with a 49.8% ground-ball rate in his 27 starts, showing career-best numbers in average fastball velocity (92.5 mph) and swinging-strike rate (10.8%).
The Phillies also saw impressive contributions from many players promoted during the 2017 season. Rhys Hoskins, Andrew Knapp, Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams all showed well in their first taste of major-league action. Stud shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford saw some playing time in September as well; it’s widely expected that he and fellow infield top prospect Scott Kingery will make major contributions at some point in 2018.
Hoskins, in particular, looked like a star-in-the-making. He made headlines for his power — which shouldn’t be in doubt given that he set a Triple-A Lehigh Valley record for home runs in 2017 and placed second in all the minors in 2016. But it’s his plate discipline, the near 1-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, that sets him apart in today’s MLB. He could be a top-10 pick among all first basemen for the 2018 fantasy baseball season.
Knapp’s ended his rookie season with a .257 average and an above-average .368 on-base percentage in 171 at-bats. He was on his way to an very good rookie season as the backup before missing time with a fractured right hand.
After a brief stint in the majors in 2016, Jorge Alfaro, one of the prized pieces in the Cole Hamels trade, made his presence known for the Phillies. In Triple-A before his promotion, Alfaro played 84 games batting .241 with seven home runs and 43 RBI. Alfaro’s power numbers and average dipped with the jump from Double-A to Triple-A, as he had eight fewer home runs and 24 less RBI in Lehigh Valley than he had in Reading in 2016. Alfaro was called up Aug. 4 after Knapp injured his hand after being hit with a foul ball. In 29 games in 2017, Alfaro batted .318 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 107 at-bats.
After being a top prospect many were anxious to see at the big league level, Williams made his highly anticipated Major League debut in 2017. Williams’ final 2017 stat line was .288/.338/.473 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs. In 343 plate appearances, he struck out 97 times and walked 20 times. His 113 OPS+ was second-highest among qualified hitters on the team behind only Altherr.