If we want to stretch this scholastic metaphor as far as it could possibly go, I suppose I’d liken the end of this season to the end of a junior year at high school or college. The work isn’t over yet, but you know you’re coming back at the start of the next semester with your chest puffed out a little more and feeling like you just might own a piece of this place.
While I’m loath to put the cart too far ahead of the horse here, I can’t feel anything but 10000% more confident in the direction of this organization than I did in, say, August 2014. Draft and trade returns have reached the Majors and are showing promise; the club has a gazillion dollars to spend (should they so choose); and, best of all, fans seem like they’re interested again.
The past few seasons have been an endeavor even for the die-hards, so you’ll excuse anyone who checked out for extended periods of time over the past five seasons. But now...now is the time to check back in. The fourth quarter of the season was as grand a finish as the tail end of Q3 could have portended, and now we stand at the edge of an offseason that feels guaranteed to stun, surprise, excite, or do all of the above.
Here’s how things wrapped up. Whose GPA climbed back into passing territory?
The Good: Jorge Alfaro and Cesar Hernandez
While it’s clear that Alfaro, if healthy, will be on the Phillies roster come Opening Day 2018, Cesar’s fate feels less assured. A different topic for a different day, but if Cesar is indeed shipped out this winter in favor of high-helium darling Scott Kingery, he’s leaving with his career still on the upswing. A .294/.373/.421 line, with a career-high 9 homers (more than half his career total to date!) and .793 OPS, to go with ever-steady defense, could end up being more than Kingery could produce in his first couple seasons, if ever. We just don’t know yet. But Kingery fits the Phils’ current contention timeline better, and thus we have our question.
Regardless, Cesar was a worthwhile installation at the top of the lineup, and he stands to provide value to the club whether he stays or goes.
Alfaro, allergic as he is to taking a walk, showed some prodigious power and made enough contact to put up a healthy .318/.360/.514 line. You’d take that any day from any position, let alone a catcher. Now, Alfaro’s got a fair bit to work on both on offense and defense, but he’s only 24 and shows plenty of promise and growth (common refrain, here, finally). The hope is that he doesn’t have a concussion following a home plate collision in game 161, but at least he has a few months to recover, regardless of severity. I’ll take what I can get, and keep a few fingers crossed in the meantime.
The Bad: Cameron Rupp
As we sit here today, it feels improbable for the Phillies to carry three catchers in 2018. They have three Major League catchers right now, though, and so we are faced with one of the myriad roster quandaries facing the club this offseason.
Rupp, the oldest of the trio of he, Alfaro and Andrew Knapp, turned 29 in late September. Over his 1,100-plus Major League PA, he has an 89 OPS+. This year, he struck out 114 times; the same total as last season, only in 88 fewer PA (331). He took a few more walks, which is great, but his overall game took a rather healthy step backward. He’s arbitration-eligible for the first time, and though it seems like he’s the odd man out, don’t be surprised if he lingers on the roster for a while - say, until late January - as insurance. Hell, he could conceivably make the 2018 club, too, as both Knapp and Alfaro have options, while Rupp carries only marginal trade value despite his controllability. It’s a tricky situation!
Anyway he was bad at the end of this year.
The Ugly: Ty Kelly...?
There really wasn’t a whole lot to cringe at on the offense’s side. Kelly barely played and didn’t hit much when he did, lacking the uncanny heroics each of his PAs seemed to possess earlier in the season. Hard to care when so many rookies are hitting so well.
(As an aside that’s sure to please the mathematically-minded folks out there: Final grades were derived by assigning a point value to each MP grade and averaging the total. Yes, an objective measure mixed with a subjective measure. An A is worth 12, an A- worth 11 and so on.)
Hitter Report Card
|Hyun Soo Kim||-||-||C-||C+||C|
The Good: Aaron Nola, Adam Morgan, Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano
Nola sure as hell looked like a fine No. 2-type starter finishing out the year; Morgan emerged as, amazingly, a lockdown lefty reliever; Ramos recovered from his midseason demotion to look much improved down the stretch; Arano burst onto the scene looking prettay, prettay cool. And so the award is split!
These four pitchers, combined, did this from August 28 until season’s end:
76.2 IP, 56 H, 23 R, 22 ER (2.58 ERA), 99 K, 22 BB.
Yep, four-way split.
The Bad: The Fringe Guys
Curiosities like Jesen Therrien, Mark Leiter and Ricardo Pinto didn’t do a whole lot to solidify their place in the mix for the 2018 bullpen. Leiter, because of his mixed usage, can probably be given a bit more leeway. Therrien and Pinto, however, are now essentially locks to start at Lehigh Valley next year and serve as depth.
The Ugly: Starting Pitcher Depth
There’s Nola. And then there’s a whole lot of “who knows?” There are varying degrees of confidence in each of Jerad Eickhoff, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta and Jake Thompson, and that’s before even getting into the injury issues that plagued most of them.
It’s no secret that this squad needs a major and near-complete staff overhaul. How many of the guys above are still here next season is anybody’s guess.
Pitcher Report Card
“MP4” ran from Monday, August 28 to Sunday, October 1 (33 team games). Here’s to a few more As in 2018!
What final grade would you give the 2017 Phillies?
This poll is closed