|Crawford becomes latest Phillies phenom given a shot in 2017|
At first blush, 2017 would appear to be yet another in a recent string of Philadelphia Phillies lost seasons. It has been six years since the last winning Phillies club. This will be the team’s fifth straight season finishing last or next-to-last in the NL East Division.
Any outsider who simply peers at the standings and sees their 52-85 record, the worst in Major League Baseball, could be excused for not realizing that something more is going on here. But it is.
While the Phillies are indeed 33 games below the .500 mark, a glance at their game results table reveals improvement. The club has registered a 23-25 mark since dropping the first two games out of the MLB All-Star break in mid-July.
On August 10, Rhys Hoskins was promoted from AAA Lehigh Valley. The 24-year old natural first baseman was hitting for a .284/.385/.581 slash line at time with the IronPigs. He would ultimately be named both the Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player of the International League.
Three days after entering the lineup as a left fielder, Hoskins registered his first big league hit. A day later, he drove his first two big league home runs out of Citizens Bank Park.
The show was on. In 105 plate appearances over 25 games, the rookie has hit for a .307/.419/.750 slash. He has also bashed a dozen homers, driven in 25 runs, scored 22 times, and become the team’s cleanup hitter. Hoskins was named the National League Rookie of the Month for August.
ALFARO AND WILLIAMS SHOW THEY BELONG
Also up from Lehigh Valley in August, Jorge Alfaro entered the lineup for the first time on August 5. Within a week he was sharing the catching duties evenly with veteran Cameron Rupp.
Alfaro has hit for a .340/.375/.434 slash. While he still has work to do as a backstop, Alfaro has shown that he is more than ready to take on the full-time job beginning with the 2018 season.
Nick Williams preceded those two in getting his promotion from the AAA ranks. Stepping into the lineup for good on July 1, Williams has mostly sparkled on defense while showing that his bat is big league ready.
Williams turns 24 years old this coming weekend. Over 241 plate appearances this season he has a .271/.332/.468 slash line with eight homers, 35 RBI, and 33 runs scored. Only once has he gone as many as three games without recording a hit.
That the Phillies have shown improvement in the 2017 season’s second half is directly attributable to the improvement in their lineup brought particularly by these three players.
CRAWFORD JOINS THE SHOW
Now, another is getting his shot, and there is a chance that he may be the best of them all. Shortstop J.P. Crawford was once the top prospect in baseball, and was the top prospect in the Phillies organization for a few consecutive years.
Crawford went into a deep funk, and a number of alleged experts began to write him off as an impactful prospect earlier this season.
But then suddenly, it all clicked back in for the 22-year old. Since May 26, Crawford has hit .275/.380/.494 with 14 homers, 49 RBI, and 57 runs scored.
On Labor Day, Crawford punctuated his comeback with a huge two-run, first-inning home run. The blast helped Lehigh Valley bolt to an early 4-0 lead. The club would ultimately hang on for a 4-3 victory, clinching a berth in the AAA playoffs.
Rather than continue his journey with the IronPigs, Crawford was rewarded with an even better prize. The Phillies made the phone call for which he had been waiting his entire life, to come join the big league team.
Tonight, Crawford will join Williams, Hoskins, and Alfaro in the visitor’s dugout at Citi Field in New York as the Phillies take on the host New York Mets. They will spend the final three and a half weeks of the 2017 season together enjoying life in Major League Baseball.
BEGINNING OF THE BEGINNING
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has made a number of Phillies fans, myself included, very happy right away. All four of the talented rookies will be in the starting lineup together on Tuesday night, albeit a couple of them a bit out of position.
Hoskins continues to start in left field, where he has actually fared well. The skipper continues to give Tommy Joseph and his awful .240/.290.430 slash line regular first base at-bats.
Crawford will play third base, a position where he had been given some recent action with Lehigh Valley. With Freddy Galvis playing a Gold Glove caliber shortstop this year in Philly, and with regular third baseman Maikel Franco continuing to struggle, it is entirely understandable.
But wherever they are playing in the short term, the fact remains that the Phillies rebuilding program is kicking into high gear as the 2017 season winds down. This is the true beginning of the beginning for the Phillies.
It may not be continuous smooth sailing from here on out, but the direction should prove to be steadily upwards in the National League standings.