Steve Schreiber: Despite expectations appearing low from the outside, the Phillies have started off the season with a 3-2 record, so there's that. What are your thoughts on this Phillies club and where do you expect them to be at season's end?
Liz Roscher: It's been a weird six games. They've showed strength in starting pitching that I didn't expect, and their bullpen is very strong. But it's still early. Give the batters of the National League another week or two to acclimate to the regular season and they'll be hitting the crap out of Sean O'Sullivan's flat fastball.
This is not a good club, and it's pointless to say otherwise. Everyone knows the score here. It's not like Ryne Sandberg and Ruben Amaro think that this is a team that has the capacity to do anything but lose between 90-100 games. (At least I hope so. Oh god.) The front office is finally being honest with the fans about where they are, which is a step in the right direction. At the end of the season, I expect them to be closing in on 100 losses and battling the Twins, Diamondbacks, and Rockies for that first draft pick. That's the most I can hope for from this season. Baseball is a sport of hope and surprises, but this Phillies team will put all of that to the test.
SS: Cole Hamels appears to be the Phillies' most valuable asset but the team has put off dealing him for prospects. Are the Phillies right in hanging onto their ace or given what happened to Cliff Lee, for example, should they try to "cash out" ASAP and not be so picky when it comes to trade offers?
LR: If there's one thing I trust Ruben Amaro to do, it's to deal his greatest asset wisely. In fact that's the only thing I trust Ruben Amaro to do. Hamels is the only bullet left in the Phillies' chamber, and thankfully Amaro hasn't been itching to fire it. No matter what Fangraphs says, there is absolutely zero reason for the Phillies to trade Hamels now. He's incredibly talented and he has a team-friendly contract. Teams should be lining up around the block. And if they're not, Amaro doesn't have to do anything. He loses nothing by waiting to trade him. He could do it at the deadline, or during the offseason, or even next year. He's in control and he can wait as long as he wants to get the perfect offer. Teams who bitch that Amaro wouldn't accept their offer of a box of doorknobs are just playing games, because that's how the free market works. Amaro has something that they want, so he gets to set the price. If they don't like the price, they can settle for less. That's what the Tigers did with Jonathan Papelbon last season. And that certainly worked out well for them in the playoffs. Oh, wait.
SS: Longtime Mets nemesis Jimmy Rollins is gone and Freddy Galvis has replaced him at shortstop. What are the expectations for Galvis and what are you expecting from Rollins' aging former infield mates Chase Utley and Ryan Howard?
LR: The expectations for Galvis are pretty low. He's expected to be a competent defender (he can flash the leather with the best of 'em), but that's it. The kid just can't hit well, no matter what his early season numbers are telling you. He's not the Phillies shortstop of the future (that honor belongs to JP Crawford), but he's a decent, low cost fill-in until Crawford is ready to fulfill his destiny.
I don't expect much from Utley this year, to be honest. Utley hasn't looked good in the early going, and while I have hope that he'll get into a groove, he's 36 years old. The halcyon days are over and he's playing out the end of his career. But Utley is still a good defender and a very intelligent hitter. He's going to be the best position player on the team by far. Saying that I have low expectations for Ryan Howard is a rather large understatement. I have zero expectations. He slimmed down in the offseason but hasn't looked good at first at all. And at the plate, he's just a mess. His swing and stance have actually changed between seasons (something I don't remember him ever doing before), but his pitch recognition is still awful. He's gonna strike out a ton, and I actually think that Darin Ruf will hit more homers this year. I've given up hope that he'll ever be traded and the Phillies won't release him. He's going to be a Phillie until his contract runs out.
SS: Grady Sizemore? Jerome Williams? Andres Blanco, Aaron Harang, JEFF FRANCOEUR?! This roster is littered with washed up, journeyman vets but who are the young players to look out for, both currently in the majors and maybe on the way later in the year?
LR: Young players! How I long for young players. The Phillies have been working hard the past few years to get their farm system back on track, and while they've had some success, the results are still a year or two off. The player who's closest to the majors is third baseman Maikel Franco, who had a miserable spring and is currently starting at AAA Lehigh Valley. If he goes on a tear, he could be up at pretty much any time. And if he can do better than Cody Asche, third base is all his.
Beyond that, all the fun is at AA Reading. That's where shortstop of the future JP Crawford will play once his oblique strain has healed, and it's where the best pitching prospects in the Phillies' system are currently starting. Jesse Biddle, Zach Eflin, Aaron Nola, Tom Windle, and Ben Lively all have the potential to contribute to the Phillies in a few years, and it's really exciting to see the farm system start blossoming once again. Hopefully they can make it to the majors before Amaro starts trading all the prospects again.
SS: Ruben Amaro's front office has sent the Phillies down the tube, yet they continue to put off a full scale rebuild. What is the reason for that and how long do you think it'll take for common sense to smack the organization in the face?
LR: The organization is in a full-scale rebuild, and this offseason was the first time they admitted it to the fans. They'd been hedging the past few years, making moves that seemed rebuilding-esque but denying that they were trying to do anything but win. Now, thankfully, they're in rebuilding mode, and we fans at least know that the people in the front office have functional brains and eyes that see things.