To say the least, it's been a rough season for the Philadelphia Phillies. They sit at 56-70, 14 games under the .500 mark. Last Friday, their longtime and all-time winningest manager, Charlie Manuel, was controversially fired. A team that might have had one final shot at the postseason before a few years of rebuilding showed that the window has closed and is locked shut until further notice.
Such times can bring angst to the fanbase, and for a team like the Phillies, their fanbase isn't exactly new to the concept of losing. The mid-1990s into the early 2000s brought plenty of losing seasons, which later became winning seasons—albeit still seasons without playoffs. Keep in mind that it took 14 years for the Phillies even to make it to the postseason after their 1993 World Series appearance.
Times of losing can also provide a glimpse into the future and what's to come. Ryne Sandberg took over for Manuel as the Phillies' interim manager, and with a good performance, he could end up being the Phils' skipper for the foreseeable future. Prospects who otherwise would have to stall in the minors get their chance to show what they've got in the majors, for the games don't tend to matter all that much to the major league squad. It's essentially late-summer spring training, but with actual major league experience against major league teams.
While the Phillies lack any top-notch prospects ready to burst onto the scene, they do possess some quality minor league talent who could serve as fill-ins in 2014 and beyond. Some like Cody Asche and Ethan Martin have already climbed up to the majors. Others who have taken strides this season will be rewarded with a September call-up when rosters expand to include the remainder of players on the 40-man roster. Even those who may not currently be on the 40-man roster will be added before September 1 in order to make a first impression and earn, at the very least, an invite to major league spring training in February 2014.
With little else to play for, the Phillies will be giving many minor leaguers a shot at proving they belong in the majors. Here's five prime candidates who could receive a September call-up from the minors to join the Phillies' big league squad.
*All prospect rankings and information courtesy of Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook unless otherwise noted. All minor league statistics courtesy of MiLB.com.