As we stand today on the eve of Independence Day, our beloved Phillies, as a whole, have a lot of problems. Their 27-53 record is the worst in baseball. Their offense and their bullpen are quite possibly the most inconsistent in the game. Players having good seasons like Cesar Hernandez and Howie Kendrick can’t seem to stay healthy. 3 of the team’s 5 starting pitchers heading into the year currently sit on the DL (Velasquez, Eickhoff, & Buchholz). The list could go on forever. This team is having a miserable campaign.
Although the current product of our Phils isn’t where we’d like it to be, we have talked countless times about the bright future of this organization. With a farm system filled with prized prospects, this team could be awesome sooner than later once the higher-ups pull the trigger on calling up all these players to the big leagues.
Staying on the topic of problems for this team, they have almost as many good problems as bad ones.
“What do you mean good problems?”
Well, not every problem is a bad one to have. The Phillies are so stacked at certain spots that once certain players are ready for their call to the show, there will be problems, and those problems will be that there are too many players in certain positions to keep them all on the team.
One position that this is much more evident than the others in this area would be in the outfield. This organization is filled with young studs roaming around the outfield at every level.
Let’s start from the top. Currently, the Phillies have Odubel Herrera (bear with me here), the breakout Aaron Altherr, and the newly promoted Nick Williams.
Herrera is a 25-year-old coming off his first All-Star appearance last season, and he also signed a 5-year contract extension in December of 2016, making him one of the only players signed long term for this team. As many problems as he has had this year, this team has committed to him long term (for now).
Aaron Altherr has come virtually out of nowhere to be virtually the best hitter on the Phillies this season. The 26-year-old will enter tonight’s game with a .277 batting average along with 13 home runs and 41 RBI. His month of June was not quite as good as his month of May, but he has still maintained a solid bat and excellent defense at all 3 outfield spots.
Nick Williams, who was one of the bigger parts of the Cole Hamels trade, finally made his way onto the big league roster this past week, making his MLB debut on June 30th against the Mets. He has started his major league career by going 4-11 at the plate in 3 games with 4 singles, 1 BB and 2 runs scored. Prior to his call-up, the 23-year-old lefty was hitting .280 for the IronPigs, along with 15 home runs, 44 RBI and 5 stolen bases.
If Williams pans out, Herrera can return back to his 2016 form, and Altherr maintains his solid play, then this could be a solid starting outfield for years to come. It would be easy to run these guys out there every day for the rest of this season and more. The thing is, though, that there are even more outfielders in the minor leagues who are going to play their way into the big leagues.
With Williams now in the majors, the IronPigs outfield currently consists of Dylan Cozens, Roman Quinn, and Andrew Pullin.
Dylan Cozens has been showcasing his power for the past year-and-a-half at two different levels of the Phillies organization. We talked about last year’s minor league home run leader back in Spring Training. So far this year, the 23-year-old’s .233 batting average is a drop off from his .276 average last year, but he is still amongst the league leaders in home runs with 18 bombs so far to go along with 51 RBI.
Roman Quinn, who already had a cup of coffee in the big leagues last September, has transitioned smoothly from the infield to the outfield over the last few years. His 75 stolen bases over the last two-and-a-half seasons is by far the best in the Phillies organization over that span, and he has hit over .300 in each of the past two seasons. The 24-year-old is currently on the DL, but should be back very soon speeding around the base paths and the outfield for Lehigh Valley.
Andrew Pullin, a 5th round pick for the Phils in 2012, isn’t a big name amongst the Phillies top prospects. Similar to Cameron Perkins, though, who is now in the majors, his extended time in the Phils system could lead to him one day seeing a call-up. The 23-year-old just recently made it to AAA after hitting 14 home runs and driving in 46 RBI in 67 games with the Double-A Reading Fightin’ Phils before being called up on June 22nd.
Down in Double-A now, we find 21-year-old outfielder Carlos Tocci. Signed as a free agent out of Venezuela in 2011, Tocci hasn’t hit lower than .284 in the last 2-plus seasons, combining average and speed to make him the catalyst for the Reading Fightin’ Phils. Although his power is almost non-existent, with just 10 HR’s in his entire minor league career, he’s been a promising player in other areas for the Phils since he was signed as a 15-year-old.
You think the outfield talent finally stops at Double-A, right? Nope. Just look at the last two drafts for the Phillies.
In 2016, the Phils took advantage of having baseball’s worst record in 2015 by using the first overall pick in the 2016 draft on outfielder Mickey Moniak. The 19-year-old is still a few years away from the bigs, but any time a team uses the first pick in the draft on you, it’s obvious that you figure into their future plans. So far in his short minor league career, he has hit for a .277 average to go along with 4 home runs, 57 RBI, and 17 stolen bases between the GCL Phillies last year and the Lakewood Blue Claws this year.
This past month, the Phillies used the number 8 overall pick in the 2017 draft on University of Virginia outfielder Adam Haseley. In his Junior year this past season at Virginia, Haseley hit for an outstanding .390 batting average in 58 games. He hit 14 home runs and drove in 56 RBI in that span while also stealing 10 bags. This was enough for the Phils to pull the trigger and use their early pick on the 21-year-old. So far in his short time with the Phillies organization, he is 11-23 at the plate in 6 games for the Williamsport Crosscutters and the GCL Phillies.
So, let’s look back at who we just discussed. We’ve got Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens, Roman Quinn, Andrew Pullin, Cameron Perkins, Carlos Tocci, Mickey Moniak, and Adam Haseley. That is 10, yes, 10 players, who could easily make an argument that they belong in the Phillies long term plans.
Yes, this is a problem. No, it is not a bad one.
One of the best problems to have in baseball is depth. There is no doubt about it that this team has plenty of outfield depth. There’s also no doubt that they can’t play 10 guys in the outfield, so what happens next?
Well, let’s take a stab at it. Let’s make a Phillies outfield for the future.
…..okay. I give up. It’s too hard. Other than knocking out players such as Perkins, Pullin, and Tocci, who aren’t talked about near as much as some of their teammates, it’s way too tough to single out who should stick around for when this team returns to their winning ways.
Right now, things are okay. The current outfield of Herrera, Altherr and Williams can certainly hold it down for the moment. What happens, though, when Dylan Cozens hits so many home runs that he forces his way up? What happens when Roman Quinn shows that he’s ready to steal 40-50 bags in the big leagues? What happens when Odubel Herrera never really returns to his 2016 form? What happens a few years down the road when Moniak and Haseley are ready for their call?
Things will happen. Trades will be made. Position changes could make things easier. Changes will come.
One thing is certainly true, though. This team has a problem, and that problem is their outfield depth. Out of all the problems for this team at the moment, this is one to actually be proud of. The Phillies organization has done a great job of drafting and developing young studs who will roam around the Citizens Bank Park outfield for years to come.
Notice that I purposely mentioned the ages of these players. The oldest of this group is the 26-year-old Altherr. With every one of these players ranging from the prime age of 26 all the way to 19 years old, these guys are young, hungry, and still growing into their own. They have time to pan out, and we hope that they all will turn into stars.
This all brings us to the question, “Who will ACTUALLY be those players when all is said and done?”
Well, only time will tell. For now, let’s enjoy the fact that this team has some of the best young talent around, and pretty soon it’s going to turn itself all into success for the Phillies, not just in the minors, but in the majors.
Photo: Ian D’Andrea (Via: Flickr)
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