The Phillies were pretty hot for a little while there, with a starting rotation that was among the best in baseball and a lockdown bullpen that covered up the shortcomings of an anemic offense.
But there were even a couple bright spots on offense. All in all, the Phils were getting production from a couple of players, helping to fuel their early season run.
Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vincent Velasquez, Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, Odubel Herrera, and Maikel Franco were all major contributors to an early season run. But as the dust has settled a bit over the last couple weeks and the team has encountered rougher waters, reality has set in.
This is not going to be a year in which the Phillies fight for the playoffs. They probably are going to be a losing team, although one that is better than originally thought. Still, that likely means only a couple of Phils players will represent the team at the Midsummer Classic next month in San Diego.
There's an outside the chance the Phillies could send to players out west, but more than likely, there will just be on token representative from the organization. So who will it be?
It Would Take A Miracle
Hector Neris has turned in a truly incredible performance so far this season, with a 2.27 ERA in 31 2/3 innings, averaging 11.37 strikeouts per nine innings (15th among qualified NL relievers) while walking 3.41. He has a FIP of 3.47, but that's still not too shabby.
He throws one of the most unhittable pitches in baseball, a split-finger fastball that hitters have no chance at hitting. However, he does seem to have tired of late, giving up four earned runs on three hits with five walks and three strikeouts in his last four appearances (3 2/3 IP), with a 9.82 ERA. Plus, he's not a big-name player, so there is virtually no chance he's going to the All Star Game.
Maikel Franco seemed like the most obvious case to go at the start of the season, especially after batting .299/.338/.552 with five homers and 12 RBIs in his first 17 games, good for an OPS of .890. However, over his last 38 games he's batted .227/.280/.383 with five homers and 19 RBIs, with an OPS of .663.
It does appear as if he's coming around, though. Since May 22 he's hitting .280/.339/.480 with three dingers and eight RBIs, good for an OPS of .819. Unfortunately, his fWAR of 0.2 is second-to-last (11th out of 12) among qualified NL third basemen. That isn't going to get it done at a stacked position.
And Jerad Eickhoff certainly appears to have a future in the Phils' rotation, with a 3.93 ERA in 11 starts (66 1/3 IP), with a 7.33 K/9 and a 1.76 BB/9. But given the state of pitching in the NL, he'll be going fishing, too.
Not Happening Yet, But Maybe Soon
After his 16-strikeout, complete game shutout of the San Diego Padres, Vincent Velasquez was the talk of baseball. That kind of ballgame doesn't get pitched by accident, and it became clear to everyone exactly what type of pitcher Velasquez could be when everything is working right.
Unfortunately, Velasquez has not been able to follow that up with something similar and has been up-and-down, especially over his last four outings, in which he's failed to make it to the 6th inning in any of those starts. His ERA has jumped from 1.44 on May 1 to 3.67, and over his last four outings has an ERA of 6.00, as opponents are batting .333/.400/.600 against him.
A Slim Possibility
Jeanmar Gomez is a true journeyman bullpen arm who has suddenly become one of the NL's best closers, and it's happened without any warning. He is 2-1 with a league-leading 18 saves an an ERA of 2.79 this season, surprising everybody.
But while leading the league in saves is something baseball people tend to notice, it's unlikely that alone would put him over the other two players yet to be talked about. It's just impossible to put a player who pitches 3-5 innings a week into the All Star Game over the two candidates listed below.
The Real Candidates
If the Phillies get two representatives, it will certainly be Odubel Herrera and Aaron Nola, the best hitter and pitcher on the team.
But what if only one can go? Who should it be? Right now, it's an impossible call to make.
Heading into Tuesday, both Herrera and Nola have fWARs of 2.2. Herrera has been terrific out of the leadoff spot, hitting .320/.428/.438 with five homers, 17 RBIs and 32 runs scored with a wRC+ of 138. Nola has a 2.65 ERA, and a 2.73 FIP, with a 9.81 K/9 and a 1.73 BB/9. Opponents are batting .209 against him.
Herrera's on-base percentage is third among qualified NL batters, behind only Ben Zobrist and Dexter Fowler. His batting average is seventh, behind Daniel Murphy, Ryan Braun, Aledmys Diaz, Christian Yelich, Zobrist and Starling Marte. He's also among the game's better defensive center fielders.
As for Nola, in his 12 starts (78.0 IP), his fWAR and FIP rank sixth among qualified NL starters, his WHIP is seventh, his K/9 is 10th, and his opponents batting average is 12th.
So who should it be? Who will go? Given the number of Cubs position players that could get voted into the game, there may be fewer positions available for a player like Herrera. But there are also a slew of unbelievable starting pitchers in the NL this year, too, and that could elbow Nola out.
If I had to choose one, it would probably be Nola, but that's a 51-49 call right there. Herrera is just as valuable as Nola and is having just as good a season.
Let's just hope NL skipper Terry Collins decides to take two Phillies players.
Not likely, though.