5 Prospects the Philadelphia Phillies Should Give a Shot in the 2nd Half
In the midst of what is likely a lost season, the Philadelphia Phillies haven't had extensive experience with this situation in recent years. The 2012 season still showed some hope when the Phillies caught lightning in a bottle in September to get to an even 81-81 record, while last year's club found some winning ways in mid-June and mid-July before the wheels fell off.
In 2014, there has been no such luck. The Phillies won five in a row not too long ago, but they then proceeded to lose two straight before the All-Star break. While the Phillies aren't in as dire of straits as they were in their shockingly-poor 2012 campaign, it is clearer now that this team is producing to its potential, not underperforming as was thought to be the case back then.
Such circumstances mean that players will likely be traded come the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, while others could be shipped off in August through waiver deals. With vacancies emerging on the major league roster, opportunities will present themselves for prospects and minor league players to get a chance to impress at the major league level.
What would the Phillies have to lose? Absolutely nothing. Giving prospects a chance would allow the Phillies to get a long look at what they have so they can evaluate their talent, which helps for knowing how to approach the offseason and spring training in 2015.
Without further ado, here are five prospects the Phillies should give a shot in the second half of the season.
2B/OF Cesar Hernandez
2014 Stats: .225 AVG, .282 OBP, .275 SLG, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 SB
Cesar Hernandez is technically a player who's already made the majors. However, he hasn't really been given a shot to prove himself capable of an everyday workload, so he's a guy to be given a chance as the 2014 season winds down.
Often likened to shortstop and infield utility man Freddy Galvis due to their similar timings of minor league progression, Hernandez has a lesser glove—though it's still above-average by all means—but a better contact bat. Although he's a second baseman by trade, he's learned center field in the minors and has had a taste of the position in the majors.
A means for everyday playing time could open up for Hernandez, however. For one, if Chase Utley is somehow—and surprisingly—traded before the July 31 trade deadline, Hernandez would likely be the go-to option to become the Phillies' then-new starting second baseman. Another more probable option is if the Phillies trade an outfielder, in which case Hernandez would get looks in the outfield instead.
Known to be a plus defender with good instincts on both sides of the ball, Hernandez at least deserves a chance to prove what he's got to offer on a daily basis. If he doesn't pan out, at least the Phillies know what they have in him. The problem right now is that Hernandez hasn't been given consistent playing time, so if he's penciled into the everyday lineup, he'll be a much more known commodity.
RHP Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez
2014 Stats: 0-2, 3.63 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 23 K (22.1 IP)
The Phillies Cuban import is finally starting to pay dividends...albeit in the minor leagues. After being inked to a three-year, $12 million contract, Gonzalez spent time stretching himself out before spring training, at which it was rather apparent that he was far from ready for the majors.
Gonzalez then hit the 60-day disabled list with shoulder soreness, and after a so-so rehab assignment, he remains as a reliever at Double-A Reading.
The Gonzalez saga has already not gone according to plan, and it would take a miracle for him to end up being the front-line starter he was hyped up to be when signed. Nevertheless, Gonzalez has managed to look decent upon his debut at Double-A, as he's posted a 1.29 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 12 strikeouts in just seven innings pitched.
Whether Gonzalez will pitch as a starter in the future is still up for discussion, but if he makes the majors in 2014, he'll likely do so as a reliever.
That would happen in the event that Jonathan Papelbon and/or Antonio Bastardo is dealt at the trade deadline. The bullpen has been one of the Phillies' few strong suits, and they have no reason to fix what isn't broken. Having said that, if they trade away their veterans, it creates openings that must be filled.
According to Matt Lombardo of NJ.com, Gonzalez has been consistently throwing in the mid-90s while touching 97 mph with his fastball. In an already lost season, it's worth it to give Gonzalez a shot and see if he can make any of the $3 million owed to him, per Cot's Baseball Contracts, in 2014 worthwhile.
OF Aaron Altherr
2014 Stats: .250 AVG, .306 OBP, .410 SLG, 7 HR, 38 RBI, 8 SB
Aaron Altherr has long been on the Phillies' prospect radar, but it took until 2013 for him to put the pieces together. He's not going to be a superstar in the majors; rather, a fourth outfielder career seems more likely. However, anything Altherr can offer is valuable, and if he shows he's got something to prove in the major leagues, the Phillies should give him his chance.
Altherr, who made his MLB debut earlier this season when Domonic Brown went on paternity leave, was hitless in his two-game stint in the bigs. Per MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, Altherr has decent raw power and somewhat impressive speed, so he has the profile to make some sort of impact for the Phillies, whether in center field or in one of the corners.
In order to earn a major league job, Altherr, like Cesar Hernandez, would need a trade to open up. Fortunately for Altherr, though, a trade of any of Domonic Brown, Ben Revere or Marlon Byrd could give him the opportunity he needs, as he's able to play any outfield position.
Then again, a trade of John Mayberry Jr. could give Altherr a reserve job, but that wouldn't exactly accomplish the task of finding Altherr consistent playing time in the majors.
At 6'5" and 220 pounds, Altherr could be a stud if he can harness his power. Like all prospects, though, Altherr is no guarantee to succeed. He's got a major league future, but only a second-half shot will give the Phillies an indicator of where Altherr's true potential lies.
LHP Austin Wright
2014 Stats: 2-0, 4.31 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 23 K (31.1 IP)
Austin Wright once had a possible future as a mid-rotation southpaw in the Phillies' rotation. After years of inability to control his pitches effectively, though, Wright made a transition to the bullpen, which has seemingly worked out for him.
While details are sketchy and not reported anywhere, Wright is currently on the seven-day disabled list in the minors. Assuming the injury is somewhat minor, though, Wright should be on track to try his hand against major league opponents sometime later this year.
Considering he's no spring chicken from a prospect perspective—Wright turns 25 in late September—the timing couldn't be any better either.
Wright's promotion to the major leagues will hinge on two factors. First and foremost, he must be healthy. Secondly, Wright, like Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, will need a trade to pave the way for a shot at the majors.
More specifically, Antonio Bastardo being traded would be the best chance for Wright to be called up, as he's a late-inning lefty like Wright. Losing one would make it easier to replace him with another.
The numbers must also warrant Wright being given a chance in 2014, and as of now, they don't. Things can change, though, so all Wright needs is to impress once he returns from injury, assuming he's able to do so.
3B Maikel Franco
2014 Stats: .230 AVG, .285 OBP, .364 SLG, 6 HR, 42 RBI, 1 SB
Third baseman Maikel Franco entered 2014 as the Phillies' consensus top prospect. Whether that's still the case is a different story, but Franco should at least be able to contribute in some fashion in 2014.
After an impressive 2013, Franco faltered to start the 2014 season and is still recovering. However, it's worth noting that, as Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News points out, Franco is hitting .390 in July thanks to a 16-for-41 stretch leading into the Triple-A All-Star break. He's seemingly found his stroke somehow, and the Phillies certainly won't complain about that.
It's even more important to keep in mind that, as is written in the aforementioned article, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has explicitly stated Franco as an option at first base in the majors if Ryan Howard continues to put up paltry numbers going forward.
Given that Franco has the most power of anyone in the Phillies' farm system, per Baseball America, he'd be a welcome addition to a major league team lacking a true power bat aside from Marlon Byrd, who might end up playing for a different team come August.
Of course, the Phillies could move Cody Asche to the outfield and/or designate Ryan Howard for assignment to make Franco's emergence onto the scene possible, but realistically speaking, he'd match up as a platoon partner for either Asche or Howard.
Even so, the Phillies would probably give Franco the majority of at-bats at either position to know what he can offer at the major league level. Regardless of the playing time Franco gets in 2014, though, he should be a mainstay in the Phillies' lineup in 2015, wherever he's playing.