Klentak pleased with Phillies' progress

Team already seeing promise of several young players

Klentak pleased with Phillies' progress

PHILADELPHIA -- With 36 games in the rearview mirror, the Phillies are quickly approaching baseball's quarter mark. And, at 21-15 following Friday's 3-2 win over the Reds, they're doing so with force.

Game by game, first-year general manager Matt Klentak continues to get more material to evaluate. As the sample size grows, so does the accuracy with which he's able to judge his young team.

And so far, the verdict has been pretty good.

"A lot of really good baseball people will talk about 'the quarter pole,' somewhere in the 40-game neighborhood," Klentak said prior to Friday's game against the Reds. "We're able to see some things that have taken place in the first six weeks that are positive. And some things that are not. But I think we have a pretty good sense in the way this team is shaping up."

This is a roster built on the foundation of young talent, with a mix of veterans, non-roster invites and waiver claims.

On one corner of the infield is a 23-year-old budding star in Maikel Franco. On the other is a player in the final year of a 5-year, $125 million contract, Ryan Howard, who has come to terms with a platoon role. And on most nights, they bat third and fourth in the Phillies' lineup.

Franco's solo shot

As the season progresses, names like J.P. Crawford and Nick Williams -- the Phillies' No. 1 and No. 3 prospects, respectively -- are expected to begin taking the place of those like Cesar Hernandez and Peter Bourjos on the lineup card. The first sign of an eminent future came before Friday's game, when the Phillies called up 24-year-old first baseman Tommy Joseph and optioned 29-year-old Darin Ruf to Triple-A.

Top Prospects: Crawford, PHI

But Mackanin and his coaching staff have propelled a team that has four semi-regular players hitting below the Mendoza line to achieve more than anyone expected through its first 36 games.

"Strong organizations, really in any sport, adjust to the style of their personnel," Klentak said. "And I think that's something that Pete and our coaching staff have done remarkably well.

"We are not blind to the lack of production that we're getting at certain spots on the field. … What I credit Pete for doing is recognizing it and continuing to put out the best lineup and the best team that he can, on the field, based on the strengths of this club."

The last time the Phillies reached 20 wins with as few losses as they have this season was in 2011. That team consisted of Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, to name a few. They won 102 games.

This team is winning on the backs of Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff and Odubel Herrera. It is compensating for a lineup that's hitting a combined .227 with remarkable pitching and defense. How long is it sustainable?

Nola's solid start

"Hopefully all year long," Klentak said. "We'll see. The seasons ebb and flow. Even teams that win the World Series, they're going to go through stretches where they're pitching better, where they're hitting better, struggling defensively, whatever the case might be. I don't know why the 2016 Phillies would be any different than that."

Whether the success continues or if the Phillies current minus-27 run differential comes back to bite them, one thing is certain: this is a team with an average age of 26 and only getting younger and growing together.

Mackanin has an open line of communication with his players, and they bring the energy from the clubhouse onto the field.

"I think that all kind of has to do with building a culture," Klentak said. "And that's what's happening right now. It's a young team, they're playing hard, they believe every night that they can compete - most nights we do compete. And the players are being allowed some freedom to go out and play confidently and play loose, and that was part of our goal for this year."

Evan Webeck is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.