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Murphy: A midsummer assessment of the Phillies

WITH THE All-Star Game behind us, let's catch up on the plot lines that will define the final 2 months of the Phillies' season.

WITH THE All-Star Game behind us, let's catch up on the plot lines that will define the final 2 months of the Phillies' season.

Five names for the trade deadline rumor mill:

1 Hector Neris, RP: He is only 27 years old and he entered the season with only 104 days of service time, so you might be puzzled to see him here, but there are all kinds of reasons why the Phillies should be actively shopping Neris before the trade deadline. First and foremost, he could bring them value from a team looking to add another strikeout arm to the back of its bullpen. Neris has a 2.87 ERA and rates of 10.9 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and 1.1 HR/9. His stuff has been pretty nasty throughout the season, and he's cheap and controlled well beyond this year . If the Phillies feel they can push for a playoff spot next year, then there's an argument for keeping Neris. But you're betting against the odds if you're projecting any reliever to be a healthy and effective part of your bullpen any further down the road than that, and Neris leads the league with 46 appearances and has yet to pitch a full season in the majors. Basically, it's a version of the Ken Giles argument.

2 David Hernandez, RP: He's had an up-and-down season - more down than up as of late - but strikeout arms are always at a premium this time of year and Hernandez is averaging 11.1 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 to go with his 4.50 ERA in 42 innings. His swing-and-miss stuff is why he's ahead of Jeanmar Gomez, despite the latter's 24 saves and 2.59 ERA.

3 Peter Bourjos, OF: Bourjos' speed and defense and occasional hot streak at the plate would make him a valuable bench piece on virtually any contender, particularly once the playoffs start. Nevertheless, teams are hesitant to part with anything of value for two-month bench piece rentals.

4 Jeremy Hellickson, SP: His numbers are solid - 3.92 ERA, 7.9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 105 2/3 innings - but he profiles as a depth piece on a contending team and is unlikely to net the Phillies much more than they parted with when they acquired him from the Diamondbacks this offseason (Sam McWilliams, a low-level minor leaguer few had ever heard of).

5 Jeanmar Gomez, RP: Despite a middling strikeout rate of 5.6/9, Gomez would bring plenty of utility to a team down the stretch given his versatility, rubber arm and steady demeanor (his 24 saves and strike-throwing ways don't hurt either). But all of those things make him extremely valuable to the Phillies during this transitional stage, and with another year of club control ahead, he might be worth more to them than he can garner on the trade market.

Maikel Franco's necessary maturation as a hitter:

In Franco's last 19 games before the All-Star break, the 23-year-old third baseman walked nine times in 84 plate appearances and hit .378 with seven home runs, five doubles, a triple (1.209 OPS) and 12 strikeouts. In the 22 games that preceded that stretch, he walked five times in 83 plate appearances and hit .195 with three home runs, one double, no triples and 19 strikeouts (.566 OPS). Between April 24, when his overall OPS sat at .869, and June 19, when it bottomed out at .690, he walked just 13 times with 36 strikeouts in 192 plate appearances, a stretch in which he tallied just 13 extra-base hits.

It's a small sample size that includes four games at Coors Field in Colorado, three at Chase Field in Arizona and three at Target Field in Minnesota, all of which rank in the top half of the league in hitter friendliness according to ESPN's park factor metrics, and the first two of which can make even mediocre hitters feel like Alan Shepard on the moon (the Diamondbacks, Twins and Rockies also happen to rank 27th, 28th and 29th in the majors in team ERA). On the flip side, the stretch includes three games at AT&T Park in San Francisco, where Franco collected a couple of walks and three extra-base hits, one of them a home run.

For the season, his walk rate remains a tick down from where it was last season (7.2 percent of PAs compared to 7.8 percent of PAs), while his strikeout rate has jumped from 15.5 percent in 2015 to 18.2 percent in 2016. Dig a little deeper into the metrics and you'll find some numbers that jibe with what your eyes have probably seen. The Phillies don't need Franco to make a transformation as dramatic as the one produced by Odubel Herrera this year. Nobody expects him to become a .370 OBP guy (nor do they necessarily want that if it comes at the expense of his power). This isn't about drawing walks so much as it is about him showing more restraint on a pitch-by-pitch basis in order to maximize his chances of seeing a ball he can drive. For example, Franco has swung at the first pitch in 37.1 percent of his plate appearances, which is significant when you consider that he swung at 26.3 percent last year and that the MLB average is around 28 percent. That doesn't tell the whole story, but it does suggest that he has displayed less patience this year than he did in his rookie campaign.

Franco's .269/.323/.491 batting line and 18 home runs are right around where most people probably expected them to be before the season. But the Phillies would benefit from a bit more consistency.

Cody Asche refusing to go quietly into that quad-A night:

In 35 games, he's emerged from forgotten-but-not-gone to maybe-something's-clicking. The keys behind his .259/.317/.473 slash line are a strikeout rate that he's chopped from 23.9 percent in 2014-15 to 18.7 percent this year and a walk rate that he has increased from 6.6 percent to 8.1 percent. Those improvements have been accompanied by a spike in his extra-base hit rate, from 8.1 percent in 2014-15 to 13 percent in 123 plate appearances this season.

For what it's worth:

Odubel Herrera in his last 35 games: six walks, 27 strikeouts, 145 plate appearances. In the 35 games before that: 21 walks, 26 strikeouts, 152 plate appearances. In the 19 games before that: 17 walks, 16 strikeouts, 81 plate appearances.