Missanelli: This Year’s Phillies Will Stink — but in a Refreshing Kind of Way

The Phillies are in the midst of an identity crisis. Seeing which prospects emerge from this hot mess will be what makes this year's spring training so interesting.

Members of the Philadelphia Phillies take the field at the start of their workout at Bright House Field on Feb 20, 2016 in Clearwater. Photo | Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Members of the Philadelphia Phillies take the field at the start of their workout at Bright House Field on Feb 20, 2016 in Clearwater. Photo | Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Phillies spring training has begun and for the first time in many years, it has a different feel. It’s like the opening of a new department store that sells only bargain basement goods.

Now I don’t mean that in a bad way. It is what it is. The personnel is the personnel.

But it’s almost refreshing that things are different now. There used to be two long tables in the Phillies clubhouse at their training facility. The one closest to the shower room was only for veterans players, who held sway: Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. No rookies, no younger players were welcome. They sat at the table further back in the room. See, team harmony didn’t matter back then when the Phils were a hitting machine with a great starting pitching staff.

Today, they are in the midst of an identity crisis. There are two veteran holdovers: Howard and Carlos Ruiz (who never sat at the big table anyway because he was always busy catching some such arm). The rest are younger players who haven’t yet given us a firm indication of whether they can play, and a bunch of prospects invited to camp.

The latter is what makes this camp so interesting.

I’m keeping my eye on shortstop J.P. Crawford this spring. It’s his development which might be the most important in the entire Phils chain. If Crawford can hit this spring, it means he’ll hit in Triple-A (where he will start his season) and then it’s a matter of time before he gets called up to the big leagues. He’s young and exciting; the type of personality Rollins was when he first crashed the party.

The Phillies infield is set this season to include Mikael Franco at third (I’m looking for 25 home runs this season for the second-year man), Freddy Galvis at short (a utility player at best), César Hernandez at second base (eh …), and a platoon of Howard and Darin Ruf at first base. (Howard’s finished, so Ruf’s going to have to pound the hell out of left-handed pitching to get any production there). Cameron Rupp is the starting catcher … maybe?

The outfield borders on dreadful. Odubel Herrera surprised a lot of people last year. He’s still green, but can produce numbers. Problem is, the Phils are going to trot out three centerfielders in their outfield. The best plan is to have Herrera in left besides Peter Bourjos, once a highly touted prospect who’s a great defender and can fly. If Bourjos can’t hit, it’s back to Cody Asche in left — and I’ve personally seen enough of Asche. Right field has Aaron Altherr and I’m not sure WHAT the Phillies’ brass see in Altherr — to me he’s a backup player at best.

The starting staff is headed by Aaron Nola, who’s not really an ace, but will play one on the field this season. Nola would be best as a team’s No. 2 starting pitcher. But he’s a beacon of hope when compared to the three other ticketed starters: Jeremy Hellickson, Charlie Morton and Jared Eickoff. Time and exasperation will not allow me to discuss the Phils’ woeful bullpen this season.

The experts in Vegas set the Phillies’ win total at 67 this year. You may have to hold your nose and take the under.

Mike Missanelli is on 97.5 FM The Fanatic every week day from 2 to 6 p.m. He’s also on Comcast Sports Net’s Breakfast on Broad on Mondays and Wednesdays. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMiss975.