Phillies pitching prospect Jake Thompson couldn’t have articulated it better.
“Hopefully it’s a younger, winning culture.”
That’s not a knock on the teams of the past. It’s a sign that the Phillies are ready to reinvent themselves in the image of the 2008 World Series champions, who came up together in the minor leagues to become the best team in baseball.
The 2016 Phillies are a long way from being champions. But at least there’s a future to contemplate.
“When you are a younger player you have to stay hungry,” 24-year-old pitching prospect Jimmy Cordero said.”When you see younger guys go up, you want to go up too. If you see one jump high, you say ‘why not jump high too.’ Everybody is going to have to play at the maximum level. Every time you see a guy moving up it makes you want to go up too. It’s very exciting for me. It’s important for us to be togetherand to go up together.”
They aren’t names that casual baseball fans would know. Aside from perhaps J.P. Crawford (the No. 2 shortstop prospect in baseball), Maikel Francoand Aaron Nola.
But Mark Appel, Nick Williams, Zach Eflin, Darnell Sweeney andJorge Alfaro along with a slew of others could become household names in a few short years.
These players do have one large thing in common that differs from Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamelswhen theywereprospects. None of them arePhillies’ draft picks.
Four of the Phillies’ top five prospects were not Philssignings. They were all acquired directly for one of those players mentioned above (or for another recently traded away Philadelphia player).
And Philly is a lot different than Houston, Arlington, Toronto or any of the other cities these players were initially expecting to make their careers in.
“I definitely can already tell, just by the turn out from the media that it’s more of a sports town,” Appel, who came from the Astros in exchange for Ken Giles, said.”Houston is a great sports town. I grew up there following the Astros and the Rockets… Philadelphia is a little bit different because of the history. These teams have been here for so long, each team has a storied past, has won championships, the expectations are very high. I expected the media to be a little more present and the fans are passionate.I am excited to play in from of them and to meet some of them.”
With everyone around the same age andworking to make the big league roster together, there’s a sense of family already in the farm system. And with players who want to be here, the fans will soon share that connection.
“Philly’s awesome. I love it,” Alec Asher, a young pitcher who made his MLB debut with the team in 2015, said.”I wouldn’t say I gave them the best thing to root for, I did struggle a little bit but they were very supportiveand they’ve been nothing but great so far.”
There will need to be some patience, afterall it’s a trial and error process. But the Phillies, after signing a former Google analytics expert to the front office this week, continue to show they can evolve and intend to be an elite organization.
“It’s a different market,” Thompson said. “I feel the Northeast in general is very die hard, they believe in whatthey believe in and love their sports. They love the 76ers and they are going through rough times right now –but the love is still there. It’s exciting to be in a place like that, you can call it home for half of your year. If they boo you off the fieldthey will have your back the next game.”