Phillies could be closer to competition again than you think

Phillies could be closer to competition again than you think
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The Phillies cut their odds of winning the 2016 World Series in half in just a month. On November 2, Las Vegas had the Phillies at 200-1 to win it all next season. As of Wednesday, Sin City reduced the Phillies odds of winning the whole thing eight years after their last championship to “just” 100-1.

Who needs Ken Giles or a closer for that matter?

The sobering reality is that no team has worse than 100-1 odds to win the World Series next year. But Vegas is on the money about one thing, the Phillies have improved since dealing the flamethrowing Giles.

But let’s go back even further. There’s little doubt the Phillies are better now than they were one year ago.

The Phillies starting staff is actually respectable. A potential rotation of Aaron Nola, Vincent Velasquez, Charlie Morton, Jeremy Hellickson and Jared Eickhoff is an improvement over last year’s model, which included Cole Hamels and little else. Add outfielder Peter Bourjos exceptional defense and the Phillies could have a surprisingly good runs against mark.

The Phillies bullpen is loaded with question marks but perhaps veteran relievers Andrew Bailey and Edward Mujica, who signed minor league contracts with invitations to big league camp, can make a difference. Each were All-Star closers. The former, a Haddonfield native was one of the best closers in baseball from 2009-11 but has struggled with injuries since 2012. Mujica has been erratic.

There is hope for the future since the Phillies are almost free of bad contracts. Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz are off the books after next season. Matt Harrison is done after 2017. This sets the Phillies up perfectly for the historic free agent class of 2018. Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez are just some of the talent that could be out there. By then, the odds are that the Marlins will look to deal Giancarlo Stanton, who will no longer be affordable.

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Not all of the Phillies prospects will pan out but if just Franco, J.P. Crawford and Nick Williams become impact players and if the Phillies nail it by selecting a future ace in the 2016 draft, well then, the Phillies are in an enviable position.

“The Phillies are doing a good job landing prospects,” a NL scout said. “They’re stockpiling arms, which is the way to go. Looking ahead, they’re going to have the money and most importantly the flexibility to land some serious ballplayers, just as their kids mature.”

Money certainly talks in major league baseball. The Phillies signed a pair of aces, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, who left money on the table in order to sign with the team of their choice. However, Hamels and Lee are outliers.

Zach Grienke, who has yet to win a World Series, spurned the Dodgers, who thought he would return to win it all with LA, but he went with the most years and money with the Diamondbacks.

“When the time comes, the Phillies will be ready to land a big fish, a NL scout said. “They’re making progress. Who would have thought they would have come this far at this time last year? Their farm is in much better shape than it was last year.”

And maybe some of the prospects, such as Mark Appel, will pan out. The Astros quickly gave up on the top pick of the 2013 draft. General manager Matt Klentak is optimistic about Appel, who is a human lottery ticket for the Phillies.

“The biggest thing we believe in is Mark has great stuff,” Klentak said. “He had great stuff at Stanford and he still has great stuff.”

There is hope for Appel and for the Phillies, which is much more than anyone can say about the franchise one year ago. The Phillies hit their nadir in June and it’s only up from here.