It sounds a bit strange, being that this team is just three months removed from winning the World Series, but a youth movement could do them some good. I'm not saying they should become the Florida Marlins are try to put high school kids out there, but promoting some of the prospects now could pay off largely, especially down the line.
Ryan Howard is the best home run hitter in Major League Baseball. He is the type of player a team wants to have as long as possible. When Ryan Howard won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2005, he was 26 years old. Imagine how many home runs he may have hit, or games he could have won, had he been promoted at 21 or 22. We were fortunate to watch Jim Thome don a Phillies' uniform for a few years; he was truly a class act during his time in Philadelphia. But Ryan Howard was a budding star, with his path to the Majors blocked for a few years that he could have been smashing home runs over the walls at Veteran's Stadium.
Let's see what Carlos Carrasco has in that "million dollar arm." While Carlos Ruiz has more than earned the right to be the number one catcher, Lou Marson is likely the catcher of the future, and looks as though he may have tremendous potential and talent. Chris Coste has been another class act throughout his career, but is also 36 years old and his numbers have declined since his breakout rookie season in 2006 when he hit .328 with seven home runs. He followed by hitting .279 in 2007 with five home runs, and .263 with nine home runs in 2008. His average has severely declined, and while he hit a career high nine home runs in 2008, two more than his previous high, he had 76 more at bats in 2008 than he did in 2006.
Coste has been a good back-up catcher, and a great teammate. Unfortunately, his skills appear to be declining a bit, and not that many people are interested in reading a sequel titled the 37 year old veteran. The novelty of his story has worn off, and Marson is just 22 years old and ready to start his big-league career. A few years of Major League experience serving as Ruiz's back-up would further his development and likely improve the team at the same time.
There are several other options in the Phillies' farm system that could help this team immediately. They have a few speedsters, like John Mayberry. Brad Harman hit only .100 in his ten at bats in 2008, but he showed potential during his time on the roster. He hit into some bad luck; a few outs he made where hard hit balls. Jason Donald could be a tremendous second baseman, so much so that if Howard leaves in a few years, rumors are Utley would move to first and Donald would play second. Some Major League grooming would do Donald a ton of good, and could help the team, especially is Utley is unable to go on opening day.
None of these prospects should have the opportunity to become regular starters, with the exception of maybe Carrasco, but getting them to contribute and develop into big-league ballplayers in 2009 could pay large dividends to the Phillies moving forward.