Friday, October 27, 2017

World Series qualifiers show Phils' long road ahead

As the Dodgers and Astros worked their way to the Fall Classic, it became very clear that they were two of the best teams of the last twenty years. These aren’t the 2011 Cardinals or the 2014 Giants – Wild Card teams that got hot at the right time and rode that momentum to a title. These are complete teams set up for long-term success, and much of the league, Phillies included, have a long way to go to catch them.
To put it in perspective, the Astros, who pair a dominant starting rotation led by Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel with a historically good offense that led the league in runs, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, are 5/4 underdogs against LA, according to mytopsportsbooks.com. (Click here for odds and essays on the 2017 World Series.) That’s just how good the 104-win Dodgers are.

Heading into 2018, the hope from the Phillies front-office likely isn’t a World Series appearance, or even a playoff berth next year. The team is coming off a 66-win season and last-place finish in the National League East division. They have the financial assets to go after big-name free agents, but this year’s FA group isn’t strong enough to turn a 66-win roster into a pennant-winner. 
Jorge Alfaro, image- Jay Floyd
The focus in 2018 should and will be on developing the promising prospects and up-and-comers in the system; left fielder Rhys Hoskins (18 homers, 1.014 OPS in 50 games) and catcher Jorge Alfaro (.318 BA, .874 OPS in 29 games).  Both looked great in big-league action this year, while 27-year-old second baseman Cesar Hernandez had his best season to date (.294 BA, .794 OPS, 3.4 WAR). 
If guys like Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph can rebound from developmentally stagnant years and take steps in the right direction, the Phils’ offense could take a giant leap forward, which it desperately needs to do. Scoring 690 runs (fourth-worst in the NL) is not going to cut it, even if Aaron Nola and Nick Pivetta turn into a strong one-two punch at the front end of the pitching rotation.
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