The Phillies Batters Need to Commit to Their Roles in 2017

August 8, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco (7) at bat in the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
August 8, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco (7) at bat in the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

The Phillies aren’t expected to contend, but each player penciled in on the lineup card needs to know their role for the team to get to the next level.

No one is going to confuse the 2017 Phillies for the ’16 Cubs. Period. End of story, double-stamped, triple stamped, no erasies, touch blue, make it true. However, they are on a similar– hopefully the same–journey as Chicago with a young, ambitious and calculated Matt Klentak at the helm as their GM.

The team is prepared to take the slow-and-steady approach towards a return to greatness. On the batter’s side, Klentak has placed importance on the development of young hitting talent combined with a few trades and free agent grabs along the way to plant veteran voices in the clubhouse.

Add the presence of a cool-as-a-cucumber, cerebral players manager in Pete Mackanin and you may wonder if this all sounds strangely familiar. Well, it certainly should. Keep this blueprint in mind ahead of the shrewd moves Klentak will inevitably make make so you can tell your friends “I told you so” a few years down the road. In the mean time, until the Phillies youthful batsmen fully develop, the plan at the plate needs to be patience.

"“He gets on base a lot. Do I care if it’s a walk or a hit?”– Billy Beane, Oakland A’s GM in “Moneyball“"

It’s simple, right? Because base runners tend to create chaos for opposing pitchers and the defenders behind them. It’s up to the Phillies batters to challenge how these men on the mound handle this havoc and by becoming more difficult outs, they’ll see more pitches to hit over time. You gotta walk before you score runs, or something like that.

With the above considered, take a look at my version of the projected Phillies lineup while I try my best below to write each player a prescription at the plate for 2017:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B

161 hits and 66 walks in 2016 for a .371 OBP. Fantastic table-setting tools. Needs more than 17 stolen bases as he clearly has the jets with a league-leading 11 triples last season. Really seems to understand what kind of player he is. Pleasant surprise in 2016, just needs to do this again. You down with OBP? Yeah, you know me, said Hernandez….probably.

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2. Howie Kendrick, LF

All he needs to be is Howie Kendrick. 32 doubles per 162 games with a .335 OBP over the past six seasons along with a .336 BaBIP will tell you he makes contact. He’s like THE veteran guy who you want between Hernandez and Herrera. With Hernandez getting on base, this could be fun to watch especially if Odubel Herrera is as tough as he should be behind him.

3. Odubel Herrera, CF

.361 OBP last year was up from .344 in 2015, plus 21 doubles, 15 home runs and 25 stolen bases. Boasted a .349 BaBIP, but with 137 strikeouts. A little more selective and he’ll battle for the NL batting title. Yes, really. I could watch him hit all day and if he rakes even more in 2017, Kendrick will see some tasty pitches in front of him. Plate coverage and ability to hit to all fields makes him a major pain to pitchers. Could possibly could be one of the greatest Rule 5 pickups ever.

4. Maikel Franco, 3B

Easily the single most important player in the lineup. Franco needs to drive his left foot towards the ball and take it to right field far more than last season. He’s an inside pitch monster, so MLB pitchers will challenge him on the outside corner with regularity. Pulling off the ball painted the left side the the infield green, which were mostly ground outs en route to a dismal .271 BaBIP in 2016. We all know what he could do, but a .306 OBP in 2016 showed us he doesn’t know what he should do. If Franco is ever going to be a star, he will figure out how to drive the ball to the right side.

(5/6). Tommy Joseph, 1B

22 home runs in 315 at bats was nothing to sneeze at last year. But, 75 K’s with 22 walks needs improvement. BaBIP only .267 most likely due to TON of ground balls to the left side as seen in green on his spray chart. However, he did nail some some liners to right field but with only one legit home run to the right side, Joseph needs to elevate the ball the opposite way. I do love that he’s clearly not guessing up there. He’s had a solid Spring entering into his first full season as a starting first baseman. He needs to carry that momentum, be a tougher out and in turn, protect Franco.

(5/6). Michael Saunders, RF

Just needs to be “that guy” pitchers might think about while they battle Herrera, Franco and Joseph. Sported a solid .321 BaBIP in 2016 with 24 bombs, but was batting behind guys named Donaldson, Bautista, Encarnacion and Tulowitzki. 157 strikeouts was a career high and didn’t make him a hard enough out, but had every right to swing freely on a playoff team of that caliber. Saunders isn’t paid to walk, but will need to exhibit a little more patience as a veteran leader.

(7/8). Freddy Galvis, SS

Holy schnikes what an odd year for Freddy in 2016! 26 doubles with 20 home runs came out of nowhere, but a .274 OBP with above average speed is unacceptable. His 17 stolen bases last season should increase if Galvis can make himself a more difficult out at the plate. A lopsided 30 walks with 117 strikeouts last season for a speedy guy needs to level out significantly.

(7/8). Cameron Rupp, C

A solid year from the big guy in 2016.  26 doubles and 16 home runs in 389 at-bats along with a .315 BaBIP was beyond what anyone expected. However, 114 strikeouts is a ton in that same span of at bats.

9. Effective Bunters, P

Help yourselves, Phillies pitchers! No pitcher on Earth is going to pitch around you, so take your hacks with none on or with two outs. But for the love of all that is sacred, know how to lay down a bunt with runners on base! Phillies pitchers had 20 sacrifice bunts last year, Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer had 13 alone.