Five things to watch as the Philadelphia Phillies enter baseball's second half
With the All-Star break in the rear-view mirror and the second half of the season opening tonight it's time to think about the most interesting story lines as the Phillies play out the remainder of 2017 season.

Here are five things to watch for over the coming weeks:

1. The emergence of Aaron Nola
Nola has impressed as of late, having pitched at least seven innings while surrendering two runs or less in each of last four starts. He has a 2.61 ERA since June 1 and has struck out six or more in seven of his last starts. His stuff has looked phenomenal and he appears to be primed to take over the spot in the Phillies' rotation.

2. Maikel Franco's bat
Franco is slowly entering Domonic Brown territory, a neighborhood he really doesn't want to be in. The fanfare has faded and he's simply not producing, hitting a paltry .217 on the year with an OPS+ that ranks as one of the worst in baseball. He's young, but his future as a pillar of the rebuild is certainly in question. He needs a big second half to salvage what's been an extremely disappointing season.

3. The first base situation
Rhys Hoskins is knocking on the door and Tommy Joseph could be the odd man out. The Phillies need to see what they have in Hoskins and the only way to do that is by trading Joseph or sitting him on the bench while giving Hoskins the starting spot. It's not an ideal situation for either player, but the Phillies need to see if Hoskins is a long term fit. Joseph could fetch some value in a move because he's young and has some pop.

4. Mind of Herrera
Maybe the All-Star break was exactly what Herrera needed. Maybe he'll revert back to the player he was last year that was on the precipice of becoming a fan-favorite. Maybe now he'll take direction better and listen to his teammates and coaches when they offer constructive feedback. Maybe ...

5. Klentak's show
It's far too early in the Matt Klentak era to come to any conclusions, but the next month is important. The majority of his off-season signings proved to be busts, so the trade deadline gives him a chance to redeem himself and move some talent for prospects. It'll be interesting to see what kind of return he negotiates for someone like Pat Neshek, an aging veteran that'll be a rental for a contending team.
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

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