The All-Star Break has come and gone, and the New York Mets are set to charge out of the gate into 18 games in 17 days. Their first three-game set starts tonight as the Amazin’s play host to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Mets have not fared so well this season against their NL East rivals, sporting a 3-6 record against Philadelphia in 2013. Their last matchup was a success, however, as the orange and blue took two of three in Citizens Bank Park behind solid starts from Jeremy Hefner and Matt Harvey. I sat down with John Stolnis, senior writer for FanSided’s That Ball’s Outta Here, to get his perspective on the upcoming series.
Will DeBoer, Rising Apple: We’ve been hearing for years about how old the Phillies are. Will they be sellers at the deadline or is there enough hope for the playoffs that they will hold onto their aging stars?
John Stolnis, That Ball’s Outta Here: Frankly, the Phillies SHOULD be sellers. And by that I mean, they should be willing to trade anyone if the right offer is presented to them. There’s only about a 6% chance of them making the playoffs, according to odds calculators, which means they should listen to any offers, including on Chase Utley and Cliff Lee. However, Amaro is in full-on buy mode right now, and it’s hard to argue with his decision, considering they’re 5 1/2 games out of the wild card and 6 1/2 back of Atlanta in the NL East. That’s still a long ways away and the Phillies are going to have to play .600 ball in order to have a shot of making the playoffs.
That being said, the Phils can still wait until the August 31 deadline to trade some guys too. Lee and Papelbon would certainly clear waivers if the team is out of it by then. So, July 31 is not the drop-dead date for Amaro.
WD: If Philly does sell, who is the most recognizable face that will be headed out of town?
JS: Michael Young. I don’t see any way Amaro keeps him. But if you could, please throw a couple words up to the baseball gods that they will take Delmon Young away from us. Thanks. (WD: As a college student in Michigan, surrounded by Tiger fans, I feel your pain on Young.)
WD: Is the Phillies’ farm system strong enough that the team can be back in contention within a season or two, or will it take longer than that to put together a contender?
JS: The farm system has improved, but there is a lack of the kind of high-end talent that built the five NL East division winners. There are no Utleys or Howards or Rollins that will be ready to play within the next year or two. Maikel Franco is an interesting 3B prospect, but he’s not going to arrive until late in ’14 and probably not until 2015, and scouts are divided on whether he’s going to be a legitimate right-handed power hitter, or if he’ll struggle at the Major League level. But he’s the top positional prospect and could be an Aramis Ramirez-type, if things all go well.
Jesse Biddle, the top prospect overall, looks like a #2 or #3 starter, and he could be better than that if he can amp up his fastball another mile or two per hour. The Phillies have some high ceiling guys in the low minors, but they’re still too far away from getting a real sense of what they will be.
WD: Domonic Brown has emerged as a legitimate power threat, and a young one at that. Will he keep up the pace and hit 40 home runs this season, and do you expect him to have power numbers in that 30-40 range in the future?
JS: No one thought Brown would be a 40-HR guy, but because of that ridiculous month of May, he could hit that number. I think he’ll probably settle in the 35-37 HR range this year, and that’s probably his maximum output going forward. That being said, that’s a perfectly fine thing to be. I think Brown can definitely be a 30 HR guy, if he continues to adjust to Major League pitching. He’s doing a fine job so far. He certainly appears to be the next cornerstone player for this franchise.
WD: What will it take for the Philadelphia Phillies to turn their season around and challenge the Braves and Nationals atop the NL East?
JS: A miracle. Seriously, the Braves are going to have to play under .500 baseball. The NL Central teams are going to have to come back to earth. Pittsburgh is going to have to realize they’re the Pirates. And the Phillies are going to have to get more consistency from their everyday lineup. I just don’t see how they can do it. The bullpen is a mess and the offense is inconsistent. They’re really going to miss Ben Revere going forward, too.
The Mets and Phillies begin their second-half dance tonight at 7:10 under the lights at Citi Field, as Jeremy Hefner takes the hill against Kyle Kendrick. My thanks go out to John Stolnis, whose preview of the series you can find here. You can follow him on Twitter and read more of his Phillies analysis at That Ball’s Outta Here, part of the FanSided network.