This has been the kind of off season that most phans have been clamoring for but it is also one that we all secretly feared. After of 3 seasons of band-aids, the Phillies, mainly led by new President Pat Gillick have admitted that it is time to rebuild. They flipped the franchises all time hits king for two young starters, traded away veterans Bastardo and Byrd and have put a big for sale sign on anything not named the Phanatic. It can be had to look at the roster and try to find any reason to be excited about a team many national protagonists have predicted could be the worst in baseball, but if you look close there are a few reasons to be excited about the 2015 Phillies!
#5: The Bank
There are many things to enjoy about Citizens Bank Park besides the product on the field. Maybe I'm just a baseball enthusiast, but just walking around a beautiful ball park like the Bank is exciting. It also boasts one of the best food options in all of baseball. Whether its some BBQ from the Bull, a Schmitter, a cheese steak or some Crab Fries from Chicke's and Peete's, you won't leave hungry! Then you add in the giant Liberty Bell that rocks after each home run or win and belting out "High Hopes" with HK after each win. It still remains a great place to watch a game.
#4: The Fightin Phils'
Ok, they might not technically be the "Philadelphia Phillies" but close enough! If you haven't ever been to Baseball Town, shame on you!! While the roster isn't close to being finalized yet, they should have 6 of the team's top 7 prospects. Headlining this list will likely be there 1st round picks from the last 2 seasons SS JP Crawford and SP Aaron Nola. The 20 year old Crawford has flown up the organizational ladder since being selected 16th overall in the 2013 draft. Keith Law from ESPN.com ranked Crawford as the 7th best prospect in baseball. He won't help the big team in 2015 but will likely make his debut sometime in 2016
When the team drafted Nola 7th overall, we all knew he would be on a fast track to the big leagues. Many believe he would be ready as soon as Opening Day but with the team in a re-build there isn't any reason to rush him. The R-Phils rotation will also likely feature newly acquired starters Zach Efflin, Tom Windle and Ben Lively who are four, five and six on Baseball America's top ten. That rotation should also have former #1 prospect Jesse Biddle who is trying to rebound after a disaster of a 2014 season. The Fightin's will also have the #7 prospect CF Roman Quinn who is one of the fastest players in the minors.
#3: Chase "The Man" Utley
When you have a opportunity to watch one of the franchises best players, just sit back and enjoy it! Players like Chase and recently departed Rollins don't grow on trees! Also guys like Chase, Chooch and Howard are going to be the last Phillies to have had the privilege of having the legendary HK call a home run of there's. And Harry did sum it up best because "Chase Utley, YOU ARE THE MAN!"
#2: Makiel Franco
I think there would be a lot more excitement about Franco if his brief 2014 audition would have gone better. Franco earned the call up last September and did struggle adjusting to the big leagues. But his playing time wasn't consistent as he only accumulated 56 AB's in 16 games. Last season Franco was hampered by a slow start but his numbers steadily climbed all season. He ended the season at AAA Lehigh Valley hitting just .256 with 16 home-runs. This was coming off his breakout year in 2013 when he hit .320 with 31 HR over stops at Clearwater and Reading. Besides his bat, Franco has a good glove and an above average arm at the hot corner. I think its likely Franco will start the season with the Pigs, but he will definitely have his chance to make an impact this season as he is the team's best 3B prospect since Scott Rolen.
#1: The Pen!
What people didn't expect was a Brad Lidge like slider that left hitters shaky there heads. In 45 IP, he had a ridiculous 1.18 ERA while boasting a 12.6 K/9. While he won't be the closer as long as Papelbon is in town, he just looks and acts like a closer while on the hill! He has the attitude and cockiness that you need to be a dominate closer in today's game.
His fellow reliever didn't want to be outdone as the lanky lefty Jake Diekman registered 100 on the gun a few times. His throwing motion combined with his velocity is a absolute nightmare for lefties. He had a 3.80 ERA for the season but was even better down the stretch as he had 2.63 ERA after the break. 100 Miles Giles and The Diekman have the talent to be the best Right/Left Duo in the majors.
The Pen also boasts young relievers like Justin DeFratus and Mario Hollands who already have proven they can pitch at this level. Plus the ever popular Jonathan Papelbon brings veteran leadership to the back-end and is still one of the better closers in the game. They also have big arms like Luis Garcia, Andy Oliver and Ethan Martin who have the stuff to be very good relievers but have never been able to put it together at the Major League Level. This unit is very close and has the arm talent to be one of the better groups in all of baseball.