PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s in the 70s in the Philadelphia area and that has us only thinking of one thing – baseball!
Spring Training is already underway for the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Florida. Even though they most likely won’t contend for another couple of years, it doesn’t mean fans still shouldn’t be excited for this young and hungry team.
Here are five players to watch this Spring Training.
The shortstop-in-waiting is ready for his shot at “The Show.” The Phillies’ 2013 first-round pick has elevated through the minors quite quickly, showing impressive plate discipline, speed and defense. Baseball America has him ranked as the 12th-best prospect in the game today. He will most likely begin the year in Triple-A, but don’t be surprised if you see Crawford at Citizens Bank Park sooner rather than later.
Fans are eager to see if one of the Phillies top young pitchers will stay healthy this season. Nola was shelved for the final two months of the 2016 with an elbow injury, but he says he is back to his old self this Spring Training. In his first 24 starts of his career, Nola was stellar, going 10-6 with a 3.25 earned run average. However, in nine starts last June and July, which culminated in an injury, he went 2-5 with an 8.31 ERA. How will he respond this season? We shall see.
The power is there, but the coaches and front office are hoping Franco gets his on-base percentage up. His OBP was a paltry .306 last season as he walked only 40 times, compared to striking out 106 times. The Phillies are hoping to see the fourth-year player make the leap this year into superstardom.
The only player left in the Phillies organization from the Hunter Pence trade was a pleasant surprise last year to say the least. After giving up catching due to concussions, Joseph became a power-hitting threat after finding a new position. Joseph initially split time at first base with Ryan Howard, before taking over the position full time. The first base job is his for now as the Phillies are curious to see if there will be a repeat power performance from Joseph this year.
Velasquez proved last year why he was the central piece in the deal that sent Ken Giles to the Houston Astros. The hard-throwing right-hander had an inning-limit last year, but does not expect one this year. Velasquez finished the 2016 season 8-6 with a 4.12 ERA with 152 strikeouts in 131 innings. If healthy, Velasquez could be leading a rotation of the next great Phillies team.