In 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies were represented by Odubel Herrera at the All-Star game, largely because each team is required to have one All-Star representative. As the 2017 season opens, the team figures to have a lone All-Star representative again this July at Marlins Park. There are, however, quite a few possibilities as to who that All-Star will be.
As mentioned above, Herrera was the team's All-Star representative a year ago, and is probably the safest bet to represent the team in Miami this summer.
Even despite a frustrating month of July, Herrera hit over .290 for the second consecutive season, posted a 3.8 WAR (per FanGraphs) and is one of the five best fielding center fielders over the past two seasons based off of UZR.
Herrera became the first young Phillie to get a long-term contract this offseason and when you mix that with his infectious personality, he's probably the face of the team right now. There's a pretty strong chance he will be an All-Star again in 2017.
It's not hard to envision a world where Franco, with the help of new hitting coach Matt Stairs, shortens his swing and becomes less pull-happy in 2017. It certainly is possible that the 24-year-old has a hot start where he is among the league leaders in home runs and draws All-Star consideration.
The problem for Franco is that he's blocked in the National League by Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant, in addition to Justin Turner, Anthony Rendon and Jake Lamb, all five of whom could be playing for contending teams in 2017. A numbers game may keep Franco from being the team's representative.
While health and ability to go deep in games make you wonder if Velasquez will ever fulfill his potential, he has top of the rotation type stuff. If he's able to add a secondary pitch and go deeper in starts this year, he has the potential to be one of the more electric young starters in the game.
If we are to assume that all five of the favorites are having very good years but the Phillies only will end up with one All-Star, Velasquez would likely be picked because when he's on, he has the type of stuff that excites baseball fans, whether they are interested in the Phillies or not.
A year ago, Gomez was among the league leaders in saves in early July, and had Herrera not been selected to be the team's All-Star representative, Gomez would have been in San Diego.
Certainly, the fact that Hector Neris, Edubray Ramos and Joaquin Benoit all seem to be better fits as a closer than Gomez makes you wonder if he will last as the team's closer. But the 29-year-old will open the season as the team's closer, and could be primed for a strong contract year after posting an 0.84 ERA in nine Spring Training appearances.
Of the 25 players on the team's Opening Day roster, Eickhoff is probably the one that I'm most certain will have another strong season. The 26-year-old, who posted a 3.65 ERA in 197.1 innings in 2016, is the most sure thing in a talented young rotation, but he may not be the team's best bet to be an All-Star.
While he was very productive a year ago, it's fair to wonder if his first half numbers will be dominant enough for him to be selected to be an All-Star. His best bet may be to have a high wins numbers -- which isn't something I value, but I don't get to pick the All-Star pitchers -- that puts him among the league leaders in wins when the team's are being selected. If the five names above him don't impress in the first half, perhaps he will slip into the game.
If Gomez slips up early in the season, Neris will likely be the first person that gets a chance to take over as the closer.
While the heavy workload that he had in 2016 is something to monitor, he has perhaps the nicest splitter in the league and seems as though he could thrive as a closer if given the chance. He, of course, isn't one of the league's better known relievers, but if the Phillies don't have an obvious All-Star in July and Neris is closing, he could get the nod.
If he's able to stay healthy over the course of his career, Nola exhibited the potential in the first two months of the 2016 season to be a multiple time All-Star.
2017 probably won't be one of those years, however. While his velocity was strong in the spring, he went 0-3 with an 8.38 ERA and it's hard to feel certain that he won't have a setback health wise. Because of those health concerns and the fact that he only threw 111 innings in 2016, the Phillies may occasionally skip some of his starts, including his second scheduled start on April 14 against the Washington Nationals.
Hernandez quietly slashed .294/.371/.393 in 2016, while posting a 4.4 WAR (per FanGraphs). If he's able to continue to hit as well as he did after the All-Star break in 2016, he may turn out to be a long-term piece for the Phillies.
The problem is that he's likely to have a very short leash, and it will be hard for him not to look over his shoulder. For as well as Hernandez hit last year, he had just a 57 percent success rate when attempting to steal a base and often made mental mistakes on the basepaths. If that continues, the Phillies could slide Freddy Galvis to second base, if J.P. Crawford played well enough to earn a call-up, or call Jesmuel Valentin or Scott Kingery to the major league level.
Saunders is in what may turn out to be a contract year, and despite a very rough second half of 2016, he was an American League All-Star just a year ago.
While it seems unlikely that Saunders will move out of a lineup that featured Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion and become a better player, it's not impossible that he could have a hot start in his first few months playing at Citizens Bank Park. His biggest threat to having that type of season may be Aaron Altherr, who could push for every day playing time if he continues to hit the way he did in Spring Training.
The 26-year-old will begin the season as the team's fourth outfielder, but if he hits well, the Phillies will find a place for Altherr, who can play all three outfield positions, to get regular at-bats at.
Just over a year removed from surgery to repair a torn sheath tendon in his left wrist, Altherr lowered his hands this spring after working with new hitting coach Matt Stairs and slashed .303/.395/.591 with four home runs and 11 RBIs.
Spring Training numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, but a healthy Altherr may have the highest ceiling of any outfielder on the team's Opening Day roster, which warrants inclusion on this list.
- I officially am going with 74 wins as my prediction for the number of wins the Phillies will have in 2017. The National League East has improved and the Phillies seem to have the most question marks of any team in the division. That doesn't mean they couldn't contend in a couple years, but judging this season based off of the number of wins that the team ends up with probably isn't the right way to go about things.
- Houston Astros over Washington Nationals is my World Series pick. (The talent on the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians' respective rosters is scary, though.) I think Mookie Betts will win the American League MVP and Bryce Harper will win the National League MVP.
- The most important thing for the Phillies this year is that Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola progress and stay healthy. J.P. Crawford and Jake Thompson, among others, reaching the big league level and performing well would also be nice to see.
- Pete Mackanin is officially entering the 2017 season as a lame duck. The Phillies still own a club option for 2018 on Mackanin's deal, but it appears they will allow some of the season to play out before making any decisions on Mackanin's future as their manager.
- This is Larry Bowa's 21st Opening Day with the Phillies organization.
- These are some names that the Phillies could trade in 2017.
- It's Opening Day and Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins are all unemployed.
- Cole Hamels (Texas Rangers), Carlos Ruiz (Seattle Mariners) and Chase Utley (Los Angeles Dodgers) all have a chance to win their second World Series titles this year. Ruiz and Utley may be entering their final seasons.
- Other than because it's always been done, I don't understand why most teams always have a day off after Opening Day.
- The MLB had the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants involved in the first two games, two teams that have among the nicest stadiums in the league. Instead, the games took place in Tropicana Field and Chase Field, two of the worst stadiums in the league.