This season is all about progress.
Last year, the Phillies finished the season with 99 losses. You wanted to see the rebuild move forward. Let's take stock of where we are.
A. The team bounded out of the gate to a 24-17 record. No one saw that coming. It was nice while it lasted, but the Phillies couldn't keep up the pace.
B. The Young Guns have clearly proven they can pitch at the Major League level.
1. Despite his recent struggles, Aaron Nola has 29 starts under his belt. In that span, he has an 11-9 mark with a 4.06 ERA, 2.2 walks per 9 innings, a 1.239 WHIP and 168 hits allowed in 168 innings. This year, he's increased his strikeouts and cut down on his homers allowed.
2. Sure, he's got a 5-9 record in 2016, but Jerad Eickhoff is the first payoff from the Cole Hamels. The 25-year-old has a 3.38 ERA this year, a 1.240 WHIP and a 3.93 FIP. He's given up fewer hits than innings and he's proven to be durable.
3. Vincent Velasquez' injury history terrifies me, but there is no doubt he's got electric stuff. He started out looking like an All-Star. After a rough stretch and an injury he seems to be bouncing back quite nicely.
4. Zach Eflin started the season as a somewhat fringy prospect. He didn't make the cut on Baseball Prospectus' top 10 Phillies prospects, but he made it to the big leagues before any of the guys on the list did. After storming through the International League, he has made three starts in the big leagues.
C. Jeremy Hellickson has pitched pretty well. The Phillies took a gamble on the 29-year-old and it has paid off. The former Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove winner has a 4.06 ERA, allowed fewer hits than innings, cut down on his walks and is on pace for his best strike out total in a season. The Phillies could net a prospect or two for him, or they could keep him around in order to eat some innings.
D. Jeanmar Gomez and Hector Neris have looked very good in the bullpen. They won wide open competitions. Gomez might make the All-Star team and Neris might be a future closer.
E. The Rule 5 gems
1. Odubel Herrera has added patience to his game. The Center Fielder carries a .396 OBP into the second half of the season to go along with 9 home runs and 12 stolen bases. He could be a guy who hits .300/380/.420 with 15 homers and 25 stolen bases in the coming years. That's quite a nice Rule 5 pickup. He's got to improve on his defense, though.
2. Tyler Goeddel wasn't expected to get much action this year after being plucked from Tampa Bay's system. Instead, Pete Mackanin has wisely taken a chance on Goeddel. The 23-year-old responded with a .232/.272/.359 mark and 3 homers and a stolen base in 56 games. That doesn't sound too exciting, until you remember he'd never played above Double-A and started the season 1-for-16.
F. The catching combo has been very good. Carlos Ruiz's game-calling and tutalege of young pitchers in invaluable. Sure, he's hitting .218/.312/.327, but his defense means he has a .6 WAR despite just 125 at-bats. Cameron Rupp is justly getting a majority of the starts and hitting .283/.320/.492.
G. Maikel Franco hasn't been fantastic. There's no doubt about that. But he has remained healthy and has belted 13 homers. While it's hard to argue he's improved on last season, he's getting valuable experience.
H. After missing much of the first half with an injury, Cody Asche has proven himself to be someone the Phillies will probably keep around for at least another season or two. He might not be a starter, but he'll probably be a useful bat off the bench.
I. The Phillies let Tommy Joseph go this offseason. When no one else scooped him up, they resigned the former catching prospect and gave him a chance to win a minor league job at first base. Now he's in The Bigs and has eight homers to his credit. His batting average is low and he has just three walks, but the fact that he made it is a great story in itself.
J. Edubray Ramos made it to the Big Leagues. He started the season at the end of MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Phillies prospects, but looks like a future closer.
At the Minor League Level
A. Several of the prospects have looked very good, if not scintillating.
1. JP Crawford showed progress at Reading, walking 30 times against 21 strikeout, hitting 3 homers and 13 doubles in 36 games. He earned a quick promotion to Lehigh Valley, where he struggled early but has his slash line up to .243/.327/.291 with 18 walks against 25 strikeouts. He's stolen 10 bases between the two teams. He could be in the Big Leagues before September.
2. Nick Williams has hit .287/.329/.469 with eight home runs and eight doubles for Lehigh Valley. He could be in The Show very soon.
3. Jake Thompson is 6-5 with a 2.76 ERA. He had a couple rough outings, but has really turned it on, posting a 1.167 WHIP and allowing fewer than eight hits per nine innings.
4. Jorge Alfaro was one of the big guns in the Cole Hamels trade. The Phillies have to like his .300/.318/.500 mark in Reading. He has just 5 walks in 53 games, which could give the Phillies pause. They don't want another Bobby Estalella.
5. Andrew Knapp hasn't repeated his .308/.385/.491 mark from last year, but his .258/.326/.399 mark in Triple-A is good.
6. Roman Quinn played in 50 games and hit .288/.361/.429 with 25 stolen bases in those games.
8. Scott Kingery has a .286/.360/.417 line with 21 stolen bases and 25 doubles for Clearwater.
B. Some young bats who aren't top prospects caught our attention
1. Dylan Cozens has 22 homers, a .279/.362/.574 slash line for Reading to go along with 14 stolen bases. Pretty nice for a 22-year-old.
2. Rhys Hoskins is a year older and a first baseman. He's got 22 homers and a .289/.352/.571 mark.
3. Jesmuel Valentin is hard to root for because of his domestic abuse past. Maybe he turns his life around, though. He is hitting .292/.361/.419 with four homers and four stolen bases for Reading.
4. Jose Pujols has a huge power bat. He's got 14 homers in 70 games. But he's also got 106 whiffs against 18 walks. He's just 20 and in the Sally League so there's a chance he can learn the zone better.
C. Some young pitchers looked very good
1. Ben Lively is 10-1 with a 2.45 ERA between Reading and Lehigh Valley. He doesn't have dominant stuff, but probably makes it to the show if the Phillies need some rotation help this year.
2. Nick Pivetta is 7-4 with a 3.31 ERA for Reading. He looks like another valuable arm.
3. Elniery Garcia has 6-2 record and 2.14 ERA and 1.111 WHIP for Clearwater.
4. Thomas Eshelman is 4-2 with a 3.34 ERA in 11 starts for Clearwater and has been promoted to Double-A.
At the major league level
A. The Offense has been terrible. The Phillies .293 on-base percentage was a lot lower just a few weeks ago. The only thing keeping the Phillies from last place in runs scored, doubles and OPS is the Atlanta Braves. The next couple numbers are the reasons why.
B. Ryan Howard has a batting average below .150. Don't forget this is a guy who once hit .313. A guy who had a .304 batting average through is first three seasons.
C. The corner outfield. For much of the seaosn, a combination of Cedric Hunter, David Lough and Peter Borjous couldn't buy a hit. At least Borjous could play defense and has caught fire of late.
D. The middle infield. Only Matt Kemp has created more outs than Freddy Galvis, who is carrying .223/.254/.358 mark. Cesar Hernandez is playing better of late, but he provides next to no pop and doesn't offer even Galvis' above average defense.
E. Injuries. Right out of the gate, the team lost Aaron Altherr. His bat likely would have been a good addition to this lineup. Charlie Morton's injury hurt because he was replaced by...
F. Adam Morgan has been awful. The Phillies shouldn't give up on him yet. There's a reason he was once a top prospect. If he can find a way to turn it around, he could provide valuable innings out of the pen or rotation. But he's been knocked around like a screen door in a hurricane.
G. The base running. Man, I miss the days when Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins were running under the tutelage of Dave Lopes and Milt Thompson. The Phillies run into outs regularly. They have stolen just 34 bases on the season. With burners like Herrera, Goeddel and Hernandez on the roster, that's unacceptable. But Mack seemed to shy away from base running aggression after the team ran into so many outs early on.
H. June. The Phillies record in April, May and July is 27-26. In June it was 9-19. That was an awful month. Nothing went right. The pitching collapsed.
I. Maikel Franco's struggles. A lot of pressure has been put on his shoulders. He's a young kid on a sub .500 team batting clean-up or third. He's got to start making better contact more consistently.
At the minor league level
A. Injuries. Matt Imhoff's injury is just brutal. From a baseball perspective and a human perspective. You have to wish him well.
1. Cornelius Randolph and Roman Quinn both missed time because of injuries. Randolph missed the biggest chunk, but the Phillies are counting on both of these outfielders to play every day.
2. Mark Appel is done for the year. A former first overall draft pick, the Phillies nabbed him in the Ken Giles trade. He might end up being a reliever when he comes back, but the Phillies have to be hoping he makes it to the big leagues at some point.
B. Franklin Kilome has been hit hard this year. He's given up 68 hits in 62 innings. He's walked 34 batters.
C. Ricardo Pinto will pitch in the futures game, but he hasn't been as successful as you'd expect. He's still young, 22, but he's given up a 4.43 ERA and a 1.314 WHIP.
This half has been a success. It's foolish to argue otherwise.
For the most part, the young kids are progressing through the minor leagues. Plus, the Phillies might have added solid pieces in Tommy Joseph and Tyler Goeddel.
Most people expected the Phillies to be one of the worst teams in the league. Instead, they're on pace for 72 wins. That's where I had them, but I expected the second half to be better. I figured the young kids would help out in the second half. So now I think they could get to 75 wins. Which means the rebuild is humming along quite nicely.
It's not hard to imagine this team, with a few tweaks, compiling a winning record in 2017. I think they have to look at 2017 as a season which they can win 82-85 games. Who knows what the Phillies will get out of this year's draft? However, the addition of draftees Mickey Moniak, Kevin Gowdy, Cole Stobbe and recent international signees Francisco Moralez and Brayan Gonzalez also add some premiere depth to the system.