February 16, 2017

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) Now that Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz are gone, Philadelphia Phillies fans await top prospects such as shortstop J.P. Crawford and pitcher Mark Appel.

They are in big league camp for the second straight spring training along with catcher Jorge Alfaro and outfield prospects Nick Williams and Roman Quinn.

None are expected to break camp with the Phillies next month. Hoping for the team's first winning record since 2012, fans are clamoring for Crawford and Dylan Cozens, who led the minor leagues with 40 home runs last season.

''Trust me, I get that,'' general manager Matt Klentak said. ''Sometimes the baseball season will test my patience, too, as it probably will for everyone in this room, as it will for the managers and the players and the fans. I get that. No team is going to go 162-0 and no team is going to go 0-162. How we do in between, we'll see.

''I very much understand this is a passionate town and a passionate fan base that wants to win. So do I. I'm passionate about what we do here. I want to win too. I know our manager does and I know our players do. That alignment, to me, is a good thing. We all recognize it doesn't happen overnight. But we're taking steps to get to where we want to go. All of us with the Phillies are pleased with where we stand on that path right now.''

Top prospects are slated to begin the regular season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. If successful, they quickly could follow the path of 25-year-old first baseman Tommy Joseph, who hit .347 with six home runs in his first 27 games at Triple-A last season and was promoted in mid-May.

''Virtually every position is manned by someone who we think might have a major league future,'' Phillies president Andy MacPhail said. ''That's rare. Often you're signing six-year free agents to fill in. We're not at that place, fortunately. We think our starting pitching - we have a lot of depth through the system. Not necessarily front-end rotation types, but, honestly, I would rather take numbers of solid prospects over the higher valued few.''

Losing has meant earlier draft picks for the Phillies, who also have dealt veterans for prospects.

''One of the things we've worked hard to - and this predates me - we worked hard to acquire as many talented young players as we can,'' said Klentak, who is entering his second season as general manager. ''The reason we acquire as many players as we do is because we know the inevitable is going to happen. Somebody's going to get hurt. Someone's not going to perform as well as you thought. But there's also going to be a player who turns out to be a full grade better than you thought.

NOTES: Freddy Galvis (mild groin injury) informed Venezuela that he will not be playing in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Galvis had been slated to start at shortstop for Venezuela in the tournament. ... RHP Victor Arano, who entered camp as a darkhorse for a bullpen job, has elbow tenderness and has stopped throwing. The 22-year-old went 5-2 with a 2.26 ERA, 95 strikeouts and 19 walks in 79 2/3 innings for Double-A Reading and Class A Clearwater last year.

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