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Phils take big-picture view after rough 1st half

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- Nobody in the Phillies' front office is happy with the way the team has played the first half of the season, but nobody has panicked about it, either.

"Just the fact that a young player might have struggled, or been injured, or regressed in their performance from last year, July 8 is not the finish line," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Saturday. "There are still three months to go. And even then, a lot of our young players have additional years of control and can and likely will be with us for a long time.

PHILADELPHIA -- Nobody in the Phillies' front office is happy with the way the team has played the first half of the season, but nobody has panicked about it, either.

"Just the fact that a young player might have struggled, or been injured, or regressed in their performance from last year, July 8 is not the finish line," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Saturday. "There are still three months to go. And even then, a lot of our young players have additional years of control and can and likely will be with us for a long time.

"In this business, it's usually not a binary question. It's not a, 'Is he a piece or is he not a piece?' That's not really the question. Some players are evolving into certain versions of themselves that are better than they expected, and some not as good. But there really is no end game in the middle of July."

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The Phillies entered the All-Star break with the worst record in baseball at 29-58. They are on pace to lose 108 games. They lost a franchise-record 111 in 1941. But the second half should be interesting in that they could give looks to top prospects like Rhys Hoskins, Dylan Cozens and J.P. Crawford.

Here is a look at the first half:

What went right
Aaron Altherr is playing like a piece of the future. Aaron Nola went 4-3 with a 2.61 ERA in his final seven starts before the break, which is very encouraging. Nick Pivetta has shown flashes of brilliance. Tommy Joseph has hit well since April, putting himself in position to be traded. Andrew Knapp has played well enough to perhaps be the Opening Day catcher next year. Freddy Galvis has become the team's leader and continues to play Gold Glove defense. Of course, veterans Pat Neshek, Howie Kendrick and Daniel Nava fared well.

What went wrong
Plenty, obviously. Maikel Franco has been the biggest disappointment. Odubel Herrera had a rough May and continues to frustrate manager Pete Mackanin and the coaching staff. Vince Velasquez struggled before he got hurt. Jerad Eickhoff struggled at times, although his final start before the break is encouraging. The Phillies released Michael Saunders and Jeanmar Gomez. Clay Buchholz's season lasted only two starts. Cameron Rupp struggled.

What we learned
It is easy to say the Phillies are further behind in the rebuild than they expected. That might be true, but there also is truth to what Klentak said: it is too early to be certain. If Franco has a great second half, will people still be saying he is not part of the future? Or will they say, "Hey, let's see if he can carry that success into 2018?"

"We're going to find out by the end of the year," Phillies president Andy MacPhail said about the rebuild being on schedule or not. "We've got a lot of unknowns. Nine guys have made their debuts. We've got a lot of baseball to play."

First half top player (non-pitcher)
Altherr hit .284 with 18 doubles, three triples, 14 home runs, 44 RBIs and an .886 OPS in 298 plate appearances. No Phillies hitter has finished with a better OPS since Jayson Werth posted a .921 mark in 2010.

First half top pitcher
Everybody is going to say Neshek because he made the National League All-Star team and posted a 1.27 ERA in 35 1/3 innings. But the vote here is Nola, who went 6-6 with a 3.59 ERA in 13 starts. He threw 80 1/3 innings, despite missing a month on the disabled list with a strained lower back.

First half top rookie 
There is no slam dunk, but the nod goes to Pivetta. Not because of his overall performance -- he is 2-4 with a 4.73 ERA in 11 starts -- but because of how he has pitched in his last five. He is 1-1 with a 3.94 ERA and showed his ability to dominate at times. In 29 2/3 innings in those five starts, he has allowed 21 hits, 12 walks and has struck out 35.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

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