Phils' OD 2017 roster filled with potential

Franco, Herrera, Rupp, Joseph are likely sources of power

Phils' OD 2017 roster filled with potential

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies took a small step forward in 2016, winning eight more games than they did last year.

The organization expects the future to be better because of a strong farm system and the potential of players already on the big league roster. Of course, that does not mean the Phillies expect to contend in 2017, but they do expect to see continued progress from big leaguers like Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola, and Minor Leaguers like J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins.

"What I'm encouraged by is the volume of quality players that we have in the organization right now," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said at the end of the 2016 season. "I would tell you that most talent evaluators from around the league would agree that we have a very deep system.

"Some of the players in our system are going to turn out to be better than we thought. Some of them are going to turn out be worse than we thought. Some of them are going to get hurt. It just reinforces the notion that you need to have a lot of prospects. It's why they're prospects, but I'm confident that several of them are going to reach the big leagues and become impact contributors.

"Maybe next year, maybe a few years down the line, maybe some of our players will be used in trades to acquire the front-line bat or starting pitcher down the road. But I'm very pleased with the volume of talent that we have in our system."

So while the World Series just ended and the Phillies' offseason has just begun, let's take a look at what might be on Opening Day 2017.

Opponent: The Phillies open the season in Cincinnati for the second consecutive year. The Reds also are rebuilding, finishing three games behind the Phils in 2016.

Opening Day starter: The Phillies are likely to find a veteran replacement for Jeremy Hellickson, who is expected to reject the team's qualifying offer and sign a multiyear contract elsewhere. Depending on who the Phillies find to replace him, the new acquisition could be the team's Opening Day starter.

But, certainly, Eickhoff made a strong case for himself this season. He threw 197 1/3 innings in his first full big league campaign, which ranked 22nd in MLB. He went 11-14 with a 3.65 ERA, which ranked 29th out of 74 qualified pitchers. Eickhoff's record is misleading, considering he ranked 69th in run support average (3.97). He is a worthy choice for Opening Day.

Opening Day lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Herrera, LF
3. Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Freddy Galvis, SS
7. Aaron Altherr, RF
8. Roman Quinn, CF
9. Eickhoff, P

Of course, this is subject to change. The Phillies are not expected to be big players in the upcoming free-agent market, but they do need to address the game's worst offense. If they can find a veteran bat on a short-term deal, it is easy to picture him taking one of the team's outfield spots.

Herrera here has moved from center field to left, only because manager Pete Mackanin has said that might happen and in this scenario we have Quinn making the Opening Day roster. Quinn's spot is far from a certainty. First, he has had a tough time staying healthy. Second, while he showed signs of promise in September, the Phillies might not be ready to turn him loose as an everyday player.

Three reasons to be excited:

1. The offense should be better. No, the 2017 Phillies will not be an offensive force, but players like Franco, Herrera, Rupp and Joseph should make incremental improvements from last season.

2. If everything goes according to plan, Phillies fans should finally see Crawford, Williams and other prospects in the big leagues before the end of the season.

3. Remember last season when the Phillies' bullpen contributed to the opening series sweep to the Reds? It should be better next year. At least it better be. The Phillies are likely to add a veteran or two to help the 'pen.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.