Philadelphia planned to ride its Phearsome Phoursome to a parade down Broad Street. Instead, the season ended nine victories and four weeks earlier than anticipated, and the organization's worst fears were suddenly realized.
Though the Phillies took their fifth straight National League East title, won a franchise-record 102 games and finished with the best record in baseball for the second straight year, losing to the Cardinals in the NL Division Series made 2011 a disappointment. Anything short of a World Series crown would have been, as Philadelphia entered the postseason as a prohibitive favorite to at least win the pennant.
The 2011 season also marked the end of an era. Just 10 players remained from the 2008 squad that won it all, and those who were left are aging. Come 2012, just five members of the core that changed the franchise's fortunes might remain.
The most successful stretch in Phillies history doesn't have to end-Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee and Chase Utley are all signed through at least 2013-but as general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said during his season-in-review news conference, "Change is good." For the second consecutive year, Amaro stressed the need for Philadelphia to get younger, and before the World Series ended the team declined its options on Brad Lidge and Roy Oswalt.
"We did it with our pitching staff, and we have to do it with our position players," Amaro said. "It's a young game played by young players, and hopefully we can get younger."
That will be easier said than done. During the last four seasons, the Phillies have used their farm system to bolster the major league roster. They've traded 17 prospects to acquire Joe Blanton, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Oswalt and Hunter Pence, leaving the system bereft of high-end talent, though there's still plenty of quality depth.
The move to get younger will start with Domonic Brown, who was No. 1 on this list a year ago but no longer qualifies. He could be joined in Philadelphia in 2012 by three of the system's best prospects: hard-throwing relievers Phillippe Aumont and Justin DeFratus and slick-fielding shortstop Freddy Galvis. With Brown's graduation to the big leagues, righthander Trevor May becomes the organization's clear-cut top prospect. First baseman Jonathan Singleton and righthander Jarred Cosart would have competed for that spot had they not been sent to the Astros in the Pence trade.
Phillies Top Ten Prospects as ranked by Baseball America (* played for Williamsport)
1. Trevor May RHP
2. Jesse Biddle* LHP
3. Sebastian Valle* C
4. Jonathan Pettibone* RHP
5. Phillippe Aumont RHP
6. Freddy Galvis* SS
7. Justin DeFratus* RHP
8. Brody Colvin RHP
9. Jiwan James*
10. Maikel Franco* 3B
In an effort to replenish the system, scouting director Marti Wolever took several projectable, high-ceiling athletes in the 2011 draft, including outfielders Larry and Tyler Greene (no relation) and shortstops Roman Quinn and Mitch Walding. Philadelphia also added a pair of promising lefthanders in Adam Morgan and Austin Wright, who both played for Williamsport in 2011.
Assistant GM for player development Chuck LaMar, who had served in that post since 2008, resigned in early September. He left amid rumors of personality conflicts, despite the admirable job he performed at developing blue-chip prospects. To replace LaMar as farm director (but without the assistant GM title), the Phillies hired Joe Jordan, whose drafts as Orioles scouting director the last seven years included Zach Britton and Matt Wieters.