Though this year will likely be painful to watch for Phillies fans, it will be interesting to see how the club tries to develop its talent.
One interesting player to watch may be Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, the Cuban defector whose ascent to the majors was delayed multiple times by shoulder concerns. Though the question of whether he can last a full season in the majors remains to be answered, the Phillies made an interesting move on the depth chart — Gonzalez is no longer listed in the bullpen, but rather as the fifth starter.
With A.J. Burnett and Kyle Kendrick departing, Gonzalez will get another shot at a starting role this year.
Though no move is impending and the team needs a good return, Cole Hamels is on the trade block, and it wouldn’t be surprising if a team needing an ace ponied up the prospects to acquire him.
All that uncertainty means the Phillies will be looking to cobble together a rotation. If Cliff Lee is healthy, he’s the No. 1 or 2, depending on if Hamels is still around. Jerome Williams is a back-end option with a one year deal in place. David Buchanan seems likely to start the year somewhere in the middle of the rotation.
The farm system holds a few promising starters, but they’re likely a few years away — recent draft picks Aaron Nola, Jesse Biddle, and Matt Imhof top the list, but a few more could come into play with recent trades. Lefty Joely Rodriguez is an intriguing potential middle rotation arm, and it seems like the pending Rollins trade could bring Zach Eflin and Tom Windle to the club.
That’s a good start for an organization whose farm system has been depleted in recent years by a number of short-sighted moves. But six or seven promising young arms are just that — a start. I’d like to see at least twice that number before declaring the farm system on the rebound.
And that’s not even mentioning the shortage of solid position players in the organization. While Maikel Franco could have some impact in the infield, I don’t see a high ceiling there. Freddy Galvis is an adequate infield backup and temporary shortstop while J.P. Crawford develops.
But beyond Crawford, Roman Quinn, and Aaron Altherr, there aren’t too many potential high-impact players in the wings. In terms of potential, some players go up and some down, but it tends to even out. The number of solid major leaguers coming from the current pool of prospects isn’t likely to increase drastically.
There is some promise for the pitching staff as soon as 2017, but it’s fairly clear that even with the right moves, a full rebuild would seem to be a bit further off.
Dan Johnson is editor-in-chief of Three for Ten Sports and former managing editor of The Collegian at Grove City College.