Oct 012013
 

Phillies pitching prospect Jesse BiddleAfter another unsuccessful season, the Phillies will start looking toward 2014.  There isn’t enough money to address their many needs in free agency, so they’ll have to see if they can produce some of their own talent.  That’s been an issue for them lately because of some of the trades they made when they were a contending team, but they need to improve in this area to get back to the postseason.  Can that happen as soon as next year?

Pitching staff

It didn’t take long for the Phillies to go from “four aces” to a rotation that was really pretty bad behind the top two starters.  With the money they were prepared to spend on Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, they’re certainly counting on him to provide quality depth behind Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.  He’s still a complete wild card at this point, but I would imagine he’s essentially guaranteed a spot going into next season.

Of their top two domestic pitching prospects, Jesse Biddle and Adam Morgan, I would expect Morgan to get the first call if necessary, although neither player really finished their season on a high note.  With Morgan’s shoulder pain flaring up again right at the end of the season, he’s going to have to prove he’s the same prospect he was back in 2012.  Biddle’s control problems show that he’s not yet ready for the majors and could use a few months in Triple-A to see if he can find the strike zone more.  Morgan has the experience edge, so I think he’d be their first choice if both are healthy and pitching well.

The Phillies’ bullpen once again had a lot of problems at the end of games, but the relief well is suddenly dry.  Pitchers like Phillippe Aumont, Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus and Ethan Martin no longer have prospect status, and it’s up to them to develop and improve in the majors now.  It’s unlikely they’re going to be supplemented by internal relief options next season barring a surprise performance.  The injuries and struggles from Kyle Simon and Ken Giles in 2013 may take them off the radar for next year, and they were the two relievers that had the most potential for an impact.

One potential left-handed option that got a few innings with the Phillies at the end of the year is Mauricio Robles.  He was once a very good prospect for Seattle, and now that he’s healthy, he had a pretty effective season in the minors.  With the volatile nature of relievers, he could go right back to struggling next year, but he earned a chance to complete for a spot in spring training next year.

Bats

In 2009, the Phillies scored 820 runs, good for fourth in the league.  They’ve scored fewer runs every year since, culminating in their 610 run season this year.  Baseball as a whole has been scoring fewer runs, but it’s clear their offense is not where it needs to be for them to be a playoff team again.  Unfortunately, anyone that could contribute in 2014 is very likely to be blocked by a player already in the majors, namely Maikel Franco.  As hard as he may try, I can’t imagine Ruben Amaro will be able to move Ryan Howard, so first base isn’t an option.  When Cody Asche was called up, the Phillies suggested they’d be willing to try him out in the outfield to increase his versatility, but he didn’t play an inning in the outfield.  They could still move him off third base in the future, but I’d expect to see him at the hot corner again in 2014.

Domonic Brown will be occupying one corner outfield spot, and the other could be open.  He won’t be ready to start the season, but Kelly Dugan could be an option as the year wears on.  He was okay after his promotion to Double-A, and he’ll get more time to face upper level pitching in the Arizona Fall League.  If he gets off to a good start in 2014 and an opportunity opens up, he could get a chance like Asche did this season.

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Scott Grauer writes for PSC and Bus Leagues Baseball – check him out!

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