That's a wrap. The Philadelphia Phillies concluded their season on Sunday afternoon, and if there is one silver lining it's that they finished the season as a winning team.
Of course, the goal is always to make the postseason, and that didn't happen this season. Despite Bryce Harper having an incredible season, fueled by an otherworldly second half, and Zack Wheeler pitching like a Cy Young candidate, the team fell short.
Harper's second half 1.173 OPS, propelled by a .700 SLG and .473 OBP since the All-Star break is what kept this team in contention all the way up to the penultimate series of the season. The rest of the lineup hit for a combined .688 OPS in that span. It's a storyline that has dominated this team for the better part of the last two months, and will continue to do so this offseason.
The Phillies have been criticized for their lack of younger players making an impact at the big league level, and instead rely on high-priced veterans and free agents. Some of it has to do with the differences in philosophy and expectations between the minor leagues and the major leagues. Philadelphia relieved hitting coach Joe Dillon and infield coach Juan Castro in the first round of sweeping changes in an attempt to correct the deficiencies.
But, the success of 2022 will come down to the younger players yet to find their place. There are just too many holes in the roster to depend on signing free agents to fill them. It's one thing on Harper's mind when speaking to the media and Todd Zolecki of MLB.com following the end of the season.
“You go into every offseason wanting an opportunity to get a top guy,” Harper said. “But we can't just keep going out and buying and buying and buying. We need homegrown talent. When you look at teams that have homegrown talent, those are the teams that have success. I think as a whole, we need our Minor Leagues to be better. We need guys to come up from the Minor Leagues and have success. Not have to go up and down. Have success in our bullpen. Have success in our lineup. We need right-handed bats on our bench. We need a good bench. Guys that can play every single day. We need dogs, man. I'll tell you what: We need some dogs.”
It seems simple, but the fact remains that the Phillies haven't gotten a homegrown player to the big leagues to contribute in a meaningful way this season. Spencer Howard was traded to the Texas Rangers in July and third baseman Alec Bohm was sent to the minors for a reset in August. Those were the two that have come closest to having a significant impact on the team.
But, the lower levels aren't devoid of talent like many would have you believe. Instead, much can be attributed to the yo-yoing of players and their subsequent development. It is something the Phillies have been knocked for in the recent past. However, the team believes that they have the right man in place to fix the issue in President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski.
It goes without saying that the team will make some splashes in free agency, potentially some high-profile ones. They need all the help that can get. And they have a ways to go. But the success, and the end of the playoff drought, might very well come down to someone who hasn't had their chance yet.
This offseason and the 2022 season may prove to be one of the most pivotal and exciting yet.
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