John Lepore | April 8th, 2020
The Philadelphia Phillies finished exactly .500 last season. With J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper heading into 2019, the Phillies had high hopes for a playoff berth. While both players performed well (top 2 on the team in bWAR), the Phillies squad had other problems.
Maikel Franco took a step back and Andrew McCutchen tore his ACL in June. On the pitching side, Aaron Nola was the only starter who showed up day in and day out last year. Even with all of those issues, the Phillies did finish with 81 wins. This year could be different. Let’s take a look at the boys from the City of Brotherly Love.
Make sure to check out all 30 MLB Team Previews here. We will update as we get closer to the start of the season (whenever that may be).
Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball. J.T. set career highs in HRs (25) Runs (92), and RBI (83). He had an OPS over .820 for the second season in a row and his batted ball metrics back up his steady improvement. Realmuto’s defense is where he has shown some major improvement. He stole eight runs with his framing, improved his pop time to an impressive 1.88, and won his first Gold Glove in 2019. At just 29 years old and heading into free agency at the end of the year, we could see another career year from J.T. Hoskins struggled in 2019. After bursting onto the scene in 2017 with 18 HRs and a 1.014 OPS in 50 games, Hoskins’ batted ball metrics have declined. Most notably his HH% went from 45.7% to 38.7% and his Barrel% went from 13.5% to 9.7%. His plate discipline remains excellent (16.5% BB rate, 24.5% K rate). Look for him to make an adjustment and bounce back this season.
Kingery gave us a glimpse of his power/speed combo last year with 19 HRs and 15 SBs in just 126 games. Although Kingery is slotted in as the second baseman, he actually started 57 games in center field last year. His place on defense will be fluid, but the Phillies will be sure to have him in the lineup. Segura moves over to third base although he’s never played there in his MLB career. Based on experience Segura is probably a better fit at second base having played 142 games there in 2016 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. At this point offensively, Segura is what he is: A .280-.300 hitter who makes contact and can contribute 15/15. Didi signed with the Phils for one year. He was never fully healthy last year after coming back from Tommy John surgery. In 2018, he set career highs in HRs (27), OPS (.829), and even SBs (10). The Phillies are hoping Didi is fully healthy and can take advantage of his new home park like he did in Yankee Stadium.
McCutchen played in only 59 games last season due to a torn ACL in June. He is not the base-stealer he once was but still has 20+ HR pop and elite plate discipline (Career – 12.2% BB rate, 18.3% K rate) and can be solid defensively in left field. Haseley will be given a shot in center field. He had a decent 67 games last year in his first taste in the majors slashing .266/.324/.396 with five HRs and four SBs. His batted ball metrics didn’t look as good. As referenced earlier Kingery could see some time in CF if Haseley starts off slow as the Phillies have Logan Forsythe and Neil Walker on the roster as well to man 2B.
Harper signed the huge 13-year/$330 million contract last offseason. While some fans were disappointed, Harper had an excellent season and was hit by bad luck. He underperformed his expected numbers (BA .260 – xBA .279, SLG .512 – xSLG .548) even though his 45.6 HH%, 91.3 mph AEV, and 14.8 Barrel% were all career highs. Expect a return to MVP form for the Phillies right fielder. Jay Bruce adds a power dimension who can fill in in RF, 1B, or just add some pop off the bench.
Starting Rotation Projections
Nola is the ace of the staff. He’s thrown 200+ innings the past two seasons and has 453 Ks in that time. He got hit a bit harder last year at a 39.5 HH% and his BB rate jumped to 9.4% from 7.0% in 2018. Look for him to again be a workhorse and make the necessary adjustments. Wheeler comes over from the division-rival New York Mets. He took a slight step back as well last season but threw a career-high 195.1 innings. He’s proven he is completely back from TJS a few years ago and should slot in at 1A behind Nola.
Jake Arrieta has been in decline for the past three years. The 34-year-old has seen a jump in HH% from 29.4% in 2016 to 37.3% in 2019 and a decrease in K rate from 23.9% in 2016 to 18.5% in 2019. He will need to turn the clock back a bit to remain a solid number three in the Phillies rotation. Eflin is a solid number four, throwing 163.1 innings last year with a 4.13 ERA. He allowed 28 HRs though and will need to keep the ball in the yard if he wants to take the next step. Howard is the 23-year-old kid trying to make the rotation. He should have a spot. After progressing to Double-A last season, he finished the minor league campaign with a stellar 2.03 ERA in 71 innings and had a 94/16 K/BB rate. He’s ready to make his mark with the big club and with a shortened season possible, don’t be surprised if he is in the conversation for Rookie of the Year.
Neris will start the season as the closer. After a horrible 2018, he bounced back to have a solid 2019 with 28 saves and 89 Ks in 67.2 innings. The longball is still a bit of an issue, but Neris has the stuff to hold down the ninth. Dominguez has some experience closing games as well, saving 16 in 2018. He could step in if Neris falters. After that, the Phillies have three lefties, Alvarez, Morgan, and Suarez, who will likely battle for two spots. Suarez is the youngest, but Alvarez has been durable, appearing in 64+ games for five straight seasons. The rest is kind of up in the air as far as who will win a roster spot. Swarzak, Storen, and Norris were all non-roster invitees who have shown brief flashes in the past.
Player to Watch For
Alec Bohm – The big third baseman out of Wichita State absolutely mashes. After being taken third overall in the 2018 draft, Bohm started in A-ball Lakeland last season and made it to Double-A. Through three stops and 125 games, Bohm slashed .305/.378/.518 with 30 doubles and 21 HRs. What may be more impressive is his plate discipline. He had a 10.6% BB rate and a 13.5% K rate. There is a question if he will stick at third base. The Phillies will likely give him every opportunity to stay there. As mentioned earlier, if Haseley struggles, Kingery could move to CF with Segura switching to 2B, which would leave the hot corner all to Bohm for him to prove himself.
The Phillies will win the NL East whenever we get back to baseball. They are World Series contenders.
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