Much like last season, there are a plethora of questions in the Phillies camp. The difference this spring is that the topics are different. At this time last year the big question is who would be traded and when and what would the Phillies receive. Those deals have been made and some of the questions are when will those kids emerge. Everything is different in Clearwater. There is finally some hope but there are many questions, which leads us to Metro’s annual top ten storylines for spring training.
1. Will Maikel Franco break out and became an All-Star?
The Phillies could sure use a sensation and Franco certainly looked like one until his wrist was broken in August. If Franco played the entire 2015 season, his projected numbers were comparable to Cubs rookie of the year Kris Bryant. Will Franco be consistent and take a step forward?
2. Is Aaron Altherr an everyday outfielder?
Altherr played well enough during the last seven weeks of the season to merit a serious look. The lean, lanky and rangy outfielder had 20 extra base hits in just 137 at-bats. Very impressive but a small sample set. He has the same body type and similar athleticism as Jayson Werth and John Mayberry? Is Altherr’s Phillies career going to be similar to the former or the latter?
3. Is Aaron Nola a mid-rotation pitcher or an ace?
Nola had an impressive half-season. It’s beyond the numbers. The LSU product pitched as advertised. Nola has a good fastball, a plus curveball and very good command. Nola is also fearless. What he needs is another pitch. He’s been working during the off-season on a changeup. Regardless of where he is placed in the rotation, the 22-year old appears as if he will be a solid fixture in the starting five for years.
4. What will become of Ryan Howard?
Pete Mackanin didn’t mince words when he was asked in January what he would do if Howard doesn’t hit lefthanders this spring. Howard will sit if he has trouble against southpaws in the Grapefruit League. The Big Piece is obviously a shadow of what he once was due to age and injury. Will Howard surprise everyone and hit lefties in March? If not, will he graciously handle a platoon role?
5. Who will close?
The smart money is on David Hernandez, who has the stuff and experience. But how much does it matter for a team that figures to be a bottom feeder?
6. Is Odubel Herrera a .300 hitter?
Mackanin thinks so and he may be right. Herrera had one of the best ever Rule 5 seasons. Herrera hit .297 after skipping Triple-A. What was most impressive is that the league adjusted to Herrera after the first time through but Herrera adjusted back, which is something Howard failed to do during his career.
7. Can Freddy Galvis continue to hit well enough to be an everyday player?
One of the pleasant surprises of 2015 was Galvis’ surprising ability to hit. The slick fielding Venezuelan shocked most of the baseball world by hitting .263. If Galvis hits decently, his next stop could be second base once the J.P. Crawford era commences.
8. Is Cesar Hernandez an everyday player?
Hernandez played well for a seven-week stretch but then he struggled during the latter part of the season and then dislocated his thumb in September. It’s Hernandez job to lose.
9. What will Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton give the Phillies?
You have to believe that those two will be more productive than Aaron Harang and Jerome Williams, among other stiffs (Chad Billingsley, Sean O’Sullivan), who ate innings for the Phillies last season. Hellickson and Morton are younger than those retreads, who took the hill for the Phillies last season and each has had some success in the MLB.
10. Will Cameron Rupp play like he did in the second half and does Chooch have anything left?
Rupp stepped it up after the All-Star break. The Texas tough guy found his power stroke and played solid defense. The upside for Carlos Ruiz, who has an extraordinary amount of miles on the odometer, is that he will be one of those rarities, a very good player, who will retire after playing for more than a decade with one team. The negative is that there doesn’t appear to be a lot left in the tank. Thanks for the memories, Chooch.