The Phillies 2015 line-up was in a constant state of flux, with trades, injuries, demotions and promotions, and all other sorts of issues constantly changing it. The good news is that by the end, the Phillies actually found some pieces that are worth giving another shot in 2016. They moved on from Chase Utley and Ben Revere, and could move on from more in 2016. Next year's team could look even more different.
The constants going into 2016 aren't all really constant yet. Maikel Franco appears to be in as the third baseman of the future, and he looks like a really good one. Odubel Herrera's first season as a Rule 5 player in Philadelphia was a resounding success, with him hitting in the .290s right now and hitting at the top of the order. Cesar Hernandez played well enough to warrant another shot in 2016 at second base, and if he continues to walk at a high rate and hit for a good average, he will stick around for a while there. Freddy Galvis probably earned the opportunity to start next season, though the impending arrival of J.P. Crawford could change things. After that though, nothing is certain right now.
The first question appears to be behind the plate, where Cameron Rupp appears to have taken the primary starting job from Carlos Ruiz with one year left on Chooch's deal. I would assume they will share the duties in 2016 and both will return. Beyond that, the future starting is likely to be either Alfaro or Knapp, both of whom were in AA this season, and could arrive by the end of 2016.
The next question is at first base. Ryan Howard will end up leading the team in homers, and has just one year left on his deal. With $35 million yet to come, one would assume the Phillies won't just cut him, but they definitely could (the money will be spent anyway). If they have the roster space, they could platoon him and Darin Ruf at first. If they cut Ruf, Howard might have the job himself. If they cut Howard, Ruf could be the main starter. This position is solidly in flux. Tommy Joseph is in AAA and on the 40 man roster at first base and Brock Stassi in Reading might get onto the 40 man this Winter and be a consideration. The future at this position appears to be Rhys Hoskins though, who was in Clearwater this year. I doubt we see him in 2016.
The corner outfields are bound for some change. The primary 2015 left-fielder was Ben Revere, and he is gone. The primary right-fielder was Domonic Brown, who I have to believe the Phillies will non-tender after the season and let go. Jeff Francoeur and Cody Asche both got a lot of starts this season, and it's plausible that they could be a platoon partnership in left-field next season, though one would think the Phillies prefer both as bench players. Aaron Altherr has played reasonably decent since his August call-up, and could be worth a shot on one of the corner outfield spots as well. Darnell Sweeney has been playing some left, but he's also struggled a bit. If the Phillies were going to bring in a free agent this off-season, you would think that free agent would be a corner outfielder type. I personally prefer they go with a short-term option, rather than a big contract type. Next season could also mark the arrival of several prospects in the outfield. Nick Williams and Roman Quinn both must be added to the 40 man roster this off-season to remain Phillies' property, and both will be. The only question is if either makes it up, and when. Kelly Dugan is on the 40 man roster now, and is in AAA.
I would suspect that the Phillies 2016 line-up will be less of a stagnant group of eight and more of a revolving door with the bench. I would suspect we'll see Franco, Herrera, Hernandez, Galvis, Altherr, and the Rupp/Ruiz tandem all back for certain. I think the Howard situation will be interesting to watch, and the Phillies would prefer to not have him play 140 games next season. I'd think that they will either platoon Francoeur and Asche until Williams arrives, or they will sign a veteran bat on a one year deal to fill the void. All of this will represent a significant change from the 2015 team.
But are they better? I'm not sure there. I think Franco is a fairly safe bet at the plate, but Herrera, Hernandez, Galvis, Altherr, and the catcher all have significant risk of not performing as well next season. Even if only a few of them underperform, it would hurt. Altherr might be a long term upgrade on Dom, but in the short term the difference shouldn't be much. Hernandez may prove that this year, and his minor league career, are real as far as his offense, but his walk rate may fall sharply and make him less valuable at the plate. Galvis has over-performed this season, and could fall fast. Herrera seems like a safe bet to hit based on his minor league and winter league numbers as well, but one season does not make a track record.
The good news is that the 2015 Phillies line-up was less the issue than a terrible pitching staff. The bad news is that the 2015 line-up was still a last place level group. Next season may look fairly similar to what is finishing out 2015, and that will leave a lot of question marks in place going into the off-season.