Phillies see glimpse of their future in 2015

Phillies see glimpse of their future in 2015

PHILADELPHIA -- If the Phillies resurrect themselves in the next couple years, 2015 will be remembered as the Season of Transition.

Andy MacPhail joined the organization as the next team president, replacing Pat Gillick. John Middleton asserted himself as a vocal member of the team's ownership group, which had been silent for as long as many Phillies fans can remember. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was let go. Manager Ryne Sandberg resigned. Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon, Ben Revere and Jake Diekman got traded for a combined 10 prospects. Cliff Lee's tenure came to an end as he spent the season injured at home in Arkansas.

Of course, most of these things would not have happened had the Phillies played well.

But they did not. They finished the season with the worst record in baseball.

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But there is reason to hope. Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, Odubel Herrera, Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Altherr and others showed potential in their rookie seasons. The Phillies have the No. 7 farm system in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com. They have five prospects listed among the top 100 in baseball: shortstop J.P. Crawford (fifth), right-hander Jake Thompson (53rd), outfielder Nick Williams (57th), catcher Jorge Alfaro (61st) and outfielder Cornelius Randolph (87th).

Franco's three-run homer

If the those prospects and others continue to develop, in time, the Phillies could have a core similar to the one they had before they won one World Series, two National League pennants and five NL East championships from 2007-11.

It could happen, but it will take time and nothing is guaranteed.

But at the least the Phillies are moving forward, instead of gripping tightly to the memories of the 2008 World Series championship season.

Record: 63-99, fifth place, National League East.

Defining moment: It is difficult to pick one defining moment of the Phillies' season, but there is one defining theme: Changes at the top. MacPhail and Pete Mackanin are in. Gillick, Amaro and Sandberg are out. MacPhail said he could hire Amaro's replacement before the end of the month, but that remains to be seen. Regardless, this season has represented the greatest changes to the Phillies' leadership structure in a long time.

What went right: By most accounts, Amaro did a very fine job before and after the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. His efforts since last December, when he traded Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd and Antonio Bastardo, catapulted the farm system from one of the worst in baseball to one of the best. At the big league level, the Phillies showed they have some pieces that could contribute in the future: Nola, Eickhoff, Franco, Herrera, Altherr, Ken Giles, Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis, among others. That is not say each of those players will be part of the future, but that they at least have options.

What went wrong: Lee got hurt in Spring Training, ending any chances the Phillies had to trade him for prospects. Aaron Harang stumbled after pitching incredibly well the first two months of the season. Chad Billingsley never got healthy. Ryan Howard struggled mightily against left-handers. Carlos Ruiz faded behind the plate. Cody Asche took a step back offensively, while transitioning from third base to left field. Domonic Brown's struggles continued. The Phillies knew they would struggle offensively, but they did not expect their pitching to struggle as much as it did.

Biggest surprise: The Phillies selected Herrera in the Rule 5 Draft and he developed into one of the team's best hitters. It is easy to picture Herrera on this team in a few years, even if some of the organization's top outfield prospects end up panning out and producing in the big leagues. The guy can hit and hitters are hard to find these days.

Herrera's four-hit game

Hitter of the Year: Franco had this honor locked up until he broke his left wrist in August. He looks like a middle-of-the-order hitter for the foreseeable future, which should give the Phillies a little comfort. Howard led the team in most offensive categories, but Mackanin sat him against left-handers the second half of the season. Herrera might be the best pure hitter on the team, but if the Phillies wanted somebody at the plate to get a hit with the game on the line the Phillies probably would take Franco at this point. When he is healthy, he can be dangerous.

Pitcher of the Year: Hamels was the team's best pitcher this season, but he got traded in July. That makes Giles the guy. He dominated as a setup man to Papelbon and made the transition to closer a smooth one. The Phillies desperately need pitching help, but they should feel pretty good about Giles being their closer.

Giles notches the save

Rookie of the Year: Franco would have earned serious NL Rookie of the Year consideration had he remained healthy. Any other season and Herrera would probably get a handful of votes, considering the numbers he put up. He deserves it on the Phillies' side.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.