The Philadelphia Phillies have suffered through five consecutive non-winning seasons.
The last time that the club fielded a winner was with the franchise record 102 victories of the 2011 campaign.
Phillies leadership spent much of the last three years turning the final pages from the previous championship era. With the trade of Carlos Ruiz and the buyout of Ryan Howard‘s contract, those final pages have now been turned.
The club has traded veterans for prospect packages. There have been high draft picks resulting from the losing campaigns. These have combined to provide a vastly improved farm system.
Some of those highly ranked young acquisitions and prospects have begun to emerge in the big leagues already.
In the every day lineup, the club has made a longterm commitment to outfielder Odubel Herrera. First baseman Tommy Joseph appears ready for a full-time shot as well.
Top prospect lists are being released for the 2017 season by a number of respected evaluation sources. These lists almost universally show shortstop J.P. Crawford, catcher Jorge Alfaro, and outfielder Mickey Moniak as the club’s top three prospects.
An examination of the club’s current prospect depth reveals a number of intriguing players beyond that trio.
In addition to what is already here, the Phillies will have the 8th overall pick in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft this coming June. And there is a very real chance that veteran starting pitchers Jeremy Hellickson and/or Clay Buchholz could bring back yet another decent piece in trade this coming summer.
REBUILD IS OVER, BUT VITAL STEPS REMAIN
The fact is that any “rebuilding” player who is likely to help the Phillies become a contender again within the next 2-3 years is already here. They can now be found either on the current roster or in the minor league system.
Much of the 2017 and 2018 seasons will be about the Phillies giving as many of the young players as possible a legitimate opportunity. The kids need a real chance to prove whether they can indeed contribute to a contender.
But the “rebuild” portion of the program is largely over. The players are here. It is now about them getting that shot, and at least a handful of them proving that they belong.
There will be two more steps that will be pivotal to actually contending. Those steps will come through trades, and through players added via free agency.
THE SUCCESSFUL PHILLIES REBUILD OF MY YOUTH
I grew up with the 1970’s Philadelphia Phillies teams, beginning to follow the club closely after the move to Veteran’s Stadium in 1971.
After fielding winning teams from 1962-67, including nearly winning the 1964 NL pennant, a similar rebuilding period was required. The club was going through that period as I began to follow them.
Bowa had been a scrawny shortstop signed as an amateur free agent back in 1965. Boone was picked by the Phils in the sixth round in the 1969 MLB Amateur Draft.
Schmidt was the club’s second round pick in the 1971 MLB Amateur Draft. He was chose after the selection of righty pitcher Roy Thomas in the first round. Only Luzinski, taken in 1968 at 11th overall, was a first round draft pick.
If Baseball America or MLB Pipeline had been around then, a Phillies top prospects list would have included the likes of Thomas, outfielder Mike Anderson (6th overall pick 1969), and lefty pitcher Mike Martin (5th overall 1970).
The point is that not every first round pick or highly ranked prospect is going to work out. Some lesser prospects, such as Bowa and Boone, will emerge to become vital to the team’s success.
1980 CHAMPS KEY TRADES AND FA MOVES
In 1972, a swap of talented starting pitchers saw the Phillies send right-hander Rick Wise to Saint Louis for left-hander Steve Carlton.
In 1978 and 1979 the Phillies signed Pete Rose and Del Unser, adding pivotal players to that World Series mix via free agency.
The modern-day Phillies have now largely completed the rebuilding portion of their return to contention program. The prospects will all sort themselves out over these next couple of years. Some will emerge, some will fall back, and some will be dealt away.
Now comes a just as important time for GM Matt Klentak and club president Andy MacPhail. They must make the trades and sign the free agents who will pull it all together into a contender once again.