This time last year, the Phillies still felt they were going to be contenders. If Cliff Lee was healthy and paired with Cole Hamels, the Phillies could content for a playoff spot, they thought. Even without Jimmy Rollins on board, the team felt that they were going to have a shot to win. Aaron Harang would be a reliable veteran starter, and the Phillies bullpen was going to be a lock-down sure thing at the end of games. Phillies legend Mike Schmidt declared that the Phillies would not be the worst team in 2015. Of course, we all knew better. Here are some 2015 developments that shows that the Phillies are looking better as we turn the page to 2016.
Cole Hamels goes out with a bang, nets a haul of prospects
The Phillies did very, very well in the Cole Hamels trade. Just like that, the Phillies added someone who could pitch in their starting rotation immediately in Jerad Eickoff, someone who could be ready soon (sorry Alec Asher, for throwing you out there too much too soon), and real prospects in starter Jake Thompson, outfielder Nick Williams, and catcher Jorge Alfaro. And while it was not fun to part with our long-time ace, Hamels sure left on a high note, no-hitting the Chicago Cubs.
Aaron Nola, Maikel Franco are now Major Leaguers
It was pretty clear during Spring Training and at the end of 2014 that Franco was not quite ready for the big leagues. But by late April it was clear Franco was ready. The Phillies waited until his service time clock ticked past May 15 and brought up Franco. Nola came to the big league club in July and fans flocked to the stadium to watch Phillies baseball. Finally, some young players to be excited about.
Somehow, Ruben Amaro, Jr. gets the Nationals to take Jonathan Papelbon
After many, many months of hearing, "he's a bad clubhouse guy" and nobody wanting to trade for the then-Phillies closer, the Washington Nationals took Papelbon off of the Phillies' hands. And they got a prospect in return. The Nationals had a closer already, and that did not go well as both Papelbon and the Nationals collapsed down the stretch. Now the Nationals want to unload Papelbon but will have to eat $11 million if they want to cut him. Amaro might have earned himself a promotion had he already not been so close to the axe.
Phillies net two flame-throwing pitchers for their light-hitting left fielder
Ben Revere was really a superfluous piece for the Phillies after Odubel Herrera took hold of center field for the Phillies. Both being left-handed hitters whose value is best in center field, the Phillies had no need for Revere, a nice player. The return the Phillies was right-handed pitchers Jimmy Cordero and Alberto Tirado. Having both in the system may have been what enabled the Phillies to trade closer Ken Giles to the Houston Astros and add five more pitchers to the system.
Domonic Brown is gone
Dom Brown is a nice guy. He was fun to follow on social media. But clearly Brown had worn out his welcome and was not going to reach the lofty expectations people had for him. Mike Trout and Domonic Brown spent some time first and second on MLB prospect lists. Trout worked out just fine; Brown not so much. Brown likely will have to settle for a minor league deal and an invite to Spring Training in order to stay in the game in 2016.
Tyler Goeddel, Aaron Altherr, and a younger lineup
The Phillies position players will look much different heading into 2016. Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz are still Phillies, but most of the old guard has moved on. Cesar Hernandez enters Spring Training a favorite to start at second base for the first time in his career, and Freddy Galvis will come to camp a second year with the shortstop job. The outfield will feature Odubel Herrera, and young outfielders Aaron Altherr and Tyler Goeddel, possibly platooning with Cody Asche in left field.
New leadership: Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak
A fresh perspective is something the Phillies desperately needed. One of the most loyal organizations, the Phillies sometimes are known for being too loyal. MacPhail's philosophy in Baltimore was to load up on pitching and then supplement what the team has in terms of bats in free agency when they need to contend. That probably will not be in 2016, but there are plenty of young players to be excited about going forward
Prospects, prospects, prospects
The top 30 Phillies prospects list on MLB.com looks a lot better now than it did as 2015 began. Some will work out, some will not. But the likelihood of having some players work out is definitely greater the more they put into the pipeline. The Phillies may continue to add to this list should some of their low-risk non-roster invitees pan out and they can flip them at the trade deadline.