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Phillies Decide to Make Season Interesting Again

Club calls up two top 10 prospects and a resurgent relief arm.

The future is exciting, and fast.
The future is exciting, and fast.
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Three days ago, the trip through the end of the year looked bleak. Vincent Velasquez had been shut down, the team was just awful on the field, and Darin Ruf was the best player they had called up. Reading and Lehigh Valley were scuffling in the playoffs, and there were really only rumors that the Phillies would call up some exciting prospects. Instead, the Phillies decided to actually be exciting for once. First, they called up retreads Luis Garcia, Cody Asche, and Phil Klein, then decided to keep going by calling up Joely Rodriguez, Jorge Alfaro, and Roman Quinn. That involved the club booting Taylor Featherston off the 40-man roster and ignoring both David Buchanan and Elvis Araujo. The one exception to this excitement was Jimmy Cordero, who got hurt in the Triple-A playoffs, which does put a damper on this, somewhat.

Alfaro is the best prospect called up, but he is not the most important, because it appears that Roman Quinn will play a lot down the stretch. Quinn is a centerfielder by trade, but the Phillies have had him working out in the corners so he will be able to play alongside Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr down the stretch. Like usual, Quinn had his year set back by injury, otherwise this promotion might have been forced a month or so ago. At this point, Quinn's skillset is well documented: He is incredibly fast, he has surprising power, and is very athletic. He is not the most polished fielder, but his speed makes him very good in centerfield (See: His first major league catch). He lacks power from the right side, but his swing is fine. It is only September, so it is hard to say that Quinn could win a Major League job out of the gate in 2017, but it is not impossible to see him enter Spring Training next year with a chance to leave camp with a job. Until then, Quinn makes the lineup much more dynamic, and it will be exciting to see him steal some bases.

Alfaro might be the Phillies' second best overall prospect at this point, and his growth this year might be the most important development in the system. Alfaro is immensely talented, but it is easy to point out holes in his game. He has improved his receiving to the point where he is going to stick at catcher, but he can still struggle to block pitches at times. At the plate, he will expand the zone and can be too aggressive at times, which leads to strikeouts. Alfaro should play down the stretch, but with 3 catchers on the roster, he may at most catch 40 percent of the remaining games. However, working with the coaches and pitchers will provide a lot of benefit to Alfaro. There should not be many conclusions taken from how Alfaro performs at the plate this September, but a massive homer would go a long way to making everything more exciting.

I would not blame anyone for forgetting about Joely Rodriguez. Rodriguez was acquired from the Pirates for Antonio Bastardo two offseasons ago. He did poorly as a starting pitcher in 2015 and was outrighted off the 40-man. This year, the Phillies moved him to the bullpen, and he promptly walked more than he struck out in Reading. He was then demoted to Clearwater, where he was able to find success. From April 29 until his promotion, he pitched 66 innings with a 2.05 ERA, while walking 14 and stirking out 63 across Hi-A, Double-A, and Triple-A. Rodriguez has been particularly good against left-handed batters, and has kept his ground ball tendencies that made him interesting as a starter. He also is throwing a little harder, as evidenced by the lone fastball he threw in his debut at 95. Rodriguez has a chance to position himself as the incumbent left-handed reliever in the bullpen, a position that could keep him on the 40-man roster all offseason and into Spring Training.

Rodriguez won't drive excitement, but it will be better than watching guys we already know are bad struggle in the Majors. There are not a lot of expectations for Alfaro, who will be more like an occasional nice treat. I am very excited for the arrival of Quinn, and if he does indeed play a bunch down the stretch it should really make September more watchable. The cavalry has arrived.