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|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. J.P. Crawford, ss|
|2. Aaron Nola, rhp|
|3. Maikel Franco, 3b/1b|
|4. Roman Quinn, of/ss|
|5. Carlos Tocci, of|
|6. Aaron Brown, of|
|7. Matt Imhof, lhp|
|8. Jesmuel Valentin, 2b|
|9. Yoel Mecias, lhp|
|10. Franklyn Kilome, rhp|
The writing was on the wall from the beginning for the 2014 Phillies. Their core of shortstop Jimmy Rollins, second baseman Chase Utley and first baseman Ryan Howard was back, but all a year older and looking less and less like the versions that inspired so much joy in Philadelphia from 2007-11.
The complementary pieces around that trio were not good, and certainly not good enough to back a rotation fronted by all-star lefthanders Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. An injury-prone supporting cast in the rotation and a leaky bullpen, where only closer Jonathan Papelbon and his likely successor, dominating rookie setup man Ken Giles, pitched well consistently.
That’s not to say there weren’t highlights to their season. Hamels, lefty Jake Diekman, Giles and Papelbon combined to no-hit the Braves on Sept. 1. Giles debuted on June 12 and proceeded to post an ERA of 1.18 and strike out 64 over 46 innings.
The low points, however, including a no-hitter at the hands of the Dodgers’ Josh Beckett, an elbow injury to Lee that killed his trade value, and Papelbon grabbing his crotch on his way off the mound after a late-season implosion, far outweighed the positives. All that added up to a second straight season with a 73-89 record, their third in a row at .500 or worse after a stretch of five straight division titles, and their first last-place finish in the National League East since the turn of the century.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr., whose tenure began with a NL pennant in 2009 and Roy Halladay-fueled 97-win season in 2010, has overseen the slide. His predecessor, Hall of Famer Pat Gillick, took over as interim club CEO in September and proclaimed in October that “it’s probably a couple of years” before the Phillies compete again.
The Phillies have slowly started to change. Scouting director Marti Wolever was fired after the season, replaced by Johnny Almaraz, previously the international scouting director with both the Rangers and Braves. Wolever oversaw a fallow period of drafts, including first-pick busts such as Anthony Hewitt (2008), Larry Greene (2011) and Shane Watson (2012), plus a level of controversy.
Baseball America revealed the Phillies had notified the NCAA that Oregon State lefthander Ben Wetzler, their unsigned fifth-round pick in 2013, had an agent acting as his advisor, a common practice that technically is against NCAA rules. As a result, Wetzler, now a Marlin and now going by the name Ben Holmes, was suspended for the first 11 games of the 2014 college season.
The Phillies don’t have much help coming in 2015. Their best prospects— shortstop J.P. Crawford, righthander Aaron Nola and third baseman Maikel Franco—rival any organization’s, but the system lacks depth, particularly in the upper levels.
It was a bad year in Philadelphia in 2014, and it looks like it will be a little while longer before Phillies fans can have high hopes once again.