As the Phillies get set to begin Grapefruit League play in Florida, all eyes will be how young hitters improve in 2017.
With new hitting coach Matt Stairs in tow, development of bats like Maikel Franco, J.P. Crawford and Tommy Joseph will be key for the organization.
For Joseph, a full year at first base (with Ryan Howard's Phillies career over) means a full year of opportunity. Last season, Joseph broke into the majors with a solid rookie campaign (.505 SLG, 21 HR) in 107 games.
How good can the former catching prospect be with the bat? According to Fangraphs' ZIPS projections (a computer-generated projection based on the track record of the player and most-likely statistical outcome), Joseph's future could be very, very bright.
As in MVP-level bright.
Machado to Phillies?
It's easy to forget now because of how injuries derailed Morneau's career, but the former Twins star owned a .298/.372/.528 slash line from 2006-2010. During those seasons (Morneau's age-25-29 years), the slugger won an MVP, made four All-Star teams and two AL Silver Slugger awards.
With the Phillies gauging the talent level of youngsters and an emerging farm system, Joseph's development is key. If he's as good as ZIPS thinks he can be, first base is seemingly set in the post-Howard era.
Joe Giglio may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JoeGiglioSports. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
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