It’s going to be a fun summer for Phillies fans. New faces in the field, a new manager, and the emergence of the light at the end of the long rebuild tunnel have created an undeniable sense of excitement and optimism that we haven’t had for quite awhile. The Phillies are loaded with young talent, and we will finally get to see full seasons from some of the highly touted prospects that have been teetering on the edge of the big leagues for the past couple of years. J.P. Crawford is primed to take over as the everyday shortstop after the trade of Freddy Galvis, and Rhys Hoskins is about to embark on the most highly anticipated season for a Phillies player in recent memory. Is it possible that the Phillies could have their first Rookie of the Year winner since Ryan Howard won the award in 2005? The most recent Baseball America rookie rankings seem to think so.
Let’s take a look at a few of the names.
Number one on the list is Japanese phenom, Shohei Ohtani. It seems like the easy pick to make, as Ohtani has been playing professionally in Japan since he was 18 years old, however I wouldn’t be surprised if the now 23 year old struggled to adjust to MLB level competition. The dual threat Ohtani will be the most intriguing player in baseball this year, and with that comes an enormous amount of media attention and pressure to perform. Playing in a somewhat smaller market and with the best player in the world, Mike Trout, should help him adjust, but lets not hand over the trophy just yet. He’s had an up and down spring so far, and I think his season could go similarly.
Ronald Acuna of the Braves, Lewis Brinson of the Marlins, and our very own J.P. Crawford, are all in the top five of the rankings. The NL East is not going to be a weak division for much longer. The Nationals probably have one more year before undergoing major changes to personnel, including likely losing Bryce Harper to free agency (I personally think he would look great in red pinstripes), and potentially taking a step backwards in the win column. Acuna is leading a very strong group of Braves prospects that will be ready to break out soon, and could end up giving nightmares to the rest of the division. If the Mets starting pitching can stay healthy they can compete every year with that staff. The Phillies are a couple starting pitchers away from seriously contending for the National League Wildcard and if all goes well should be flirting with .500 baseball this season. I’ll admit, the Marlins traded almost every good player on their roster this offseason, so it could be awhile for them. If things keep trending in the current direction, the NL East should get very competitive again, and soon.
Not taking anything away from JP, and we took a look at his season outlook yesterday, but the name that got me most excited on the list was Scott Kingery. I know Kingery isn’t going to be on the opening day roster, but he will be up early in the season. Waiting a couple weeks gives the team an extra year of control before Kingery can hit the open market, and it’s really a no brainer to have him start in AAA. While in theory Cesar Hernandez is blocking his path to the majors, if Kingery plays at the level he has so far this spring, the Phillies will find a place for him. Whether it’s a trade of Cesar or a benching of Maikel Franco and shifting of infield positions, you cannot let a talent like Kingery go unused. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted that scouts have told him that Kingery is Dustin Pedroia, but better, and that is the kind of guy you make room for.
Heard this observation about Phillies' infield prospect Scott Kingery: "He's Dustin Pedroia, but with more talent." https://t.co/KFDiC16e5D
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 8, 2018
Depending on when he gets the call, Kingery has as good a shot as anybody at taking home the ROY award. The guy does everything on the field and is crazy fun to watch. The future is bright, and its starting this season. Opening Day can’t get here soon enough.
Image: Bryan Green (via Flickr)