Despite a mediocre 2015, many projected a bright future for the Phillies. However, not many local or national pundits could have foreseen it arriving so soon. The 2016 Phils are several games above .500 and were just two games back of the Mets for first place in the NL East Tuesday afternoon. While it is still early, Philadelphia is by far the biggest surprise in baseball. The biggest contributors to the Phillies’ hot start are as follows:
Velasquez, who was the crown jewel in the Ken Giles trade, has not only lived up to the hype, but exceeded it. The 23-year-old, who almost did not make the Opening Day roster, burst onto the scene with 16 strikeouts in just his second outing, against the San Diego Padres. And he has kept up that torrid pace. The right-hander is 4-1, with a 2.17 ERA, and has struck out 44 batters while walking just 11. Velasquez looks like a future ace in Philadelphia.
The Phillies have had an eye for adding quality players such as Shane Victorino and Ender Inciarte in the Rule 5 Draft, and Herrera is yet another diamond in the rough for Philadelphia. After a productive 2015, when the young outfielder hit .297 with eight home runs and 41 RBI, he has continued to develop in 2016. Serving as an offensive spark plug, Herrera is hitting .324, with three home runs and 11 RBI.
Gomez’s impact on the Phillies’ impressive start has been the most unexpected. The veteran reliever had spent most of his career as an average middle reliever before his dominant start to this season. After a horrendous few outings by his bullpen to begin the year, Philadelphia’s manager, Pete Mackanin, decided to give Gomez a shot at closing, and that move has paid huge dividends. On the year, the 28-year-old has posted a 2.41 ERA and 11 saves, a mark that leads all of Major League Baseball.
While Howard is a shadow of his former self, the former MVP has had a resurgence of sorts in 2016. His .185 batting average is hard to look at, but he also has seven home runs, and 15 RBI. His seven long balls are the most on the team, and have been important on a team that lacks power at almost every position outside of third base.
Nola may have been supplanted by Velasquez as the team’s future ace, but he has proven to be an important part of Philadelphia’s rotation going forward. In 2016, Nola has a 3.13 ERA, a 0.85 WHIP, and has walked only eight batters.