Mercifully, another losing season for the Phillies is about to end – but there is hope for next year.
Hope in the form of what could be a dynamic offensive lineup with plenty of young players.
Pitching is still a problem, but after what’s been about five years of lousy hitting for the Phillies, it finally might be fun to go back to the ballpark.
Here’s a projection for the Phillies’ starting lineup next year.
Catcher: Jorge Alfaro, age 24. Defense needs work but he’s batting .295 and showing some power since becoming the regular catcher several weeks ago.
First base: Rhys Hoskins, age 24. A wunderkind who has belted 18 homers in 39 games since being promoted to the big club in August.
Second base: Cesar Hernandez, age 27. Productive hitter with gap power and good with the glove. Also good for 15 to 20 stolen bases.
Third base: J.P. Crawford, age 22. Has the glove and the speed and will learn to hit well enough to bat first or second.
Shortstop: Freddy Galvis, age 27. Tremendous fielder with decent numbers for a shortstop. He’s already logged six years in the majors, including three as a starter.
Wild card: Underperforming third baseman Maikel Franco figures to be traded, opening room for Crawford. However, Franco is still only 25 and has 25-homer power, so Phils might keep him and start Crawford at shortstop, his natural position. Phils also could move Crawford or Galvis to second, bumping Hernandez from the lineup.
Wild card II: This also assumes Tommy Joseph, who can probably give someone 30 homers if he plays a full season, will be traded. Joseph began the year as the Phils’ regular first baseman.
(Updated) Wild card III: Second baseman Scott Kingery, a standout at every level of the minors for the Phils, will be in the mix next spring, too. He could displace Hernandez at second or possibly even move to third base.
Nick Williams, age 24. Brought up on June 30, he’s impressed with the bat and somewhat with the glove. Has a chance to a staple in right field for years.
Aaron Altherr, age 26. Talented but has been injury prone. Strong bat with potential 25-to-30 home run power. Could be a fixture in left field.
Odubel Herrera, age 25. Makes mental errors but can’t deny his hitting talent (career .290 hitter with 40 doubles this year). Also a good glove.
Wild card: Hoskins plays left field (he's done it a few times and seems capable) and the Phillies retain Joseph as the starter at first base. With Hoskins at left, Altherr could move to center and that would bump Herrera – who frustrates fans and possibly Phillies’ management with his goofiness and mistakes.
What does all of this mean?
It means there is a strong, young core of position players in place. But they’ll need an on-field leader to show the way for the young ones, a la Jimmy Rollins a decade ago.
Galvis, who has experience and has shown signs of leadership, could step up to fill that role. Or maybe the Phillies sign an accomplished veteran free agent to play, for example, third base.
Regardless, the team still needs better starting pitching to contend. That likely is still a couple of years away – when by then Mike Trout should be wearing Phillie pinstripes.