The Philadelphia Phillies.
“You can’t waste the primes of Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins & Aaron Nola.” This has been the narrative in the last year or so. I understand this and concur to a certain degree. But, this isn’t the NBA. In basketball, a team could have two superstars on their roster and become instant contenders because sometimes it only takes a few players to have a big impact on the outcome of a game. In baseball, it’s much different. In 2003, Alex Rodriguez won the American League MVP for a 71-win Texas Ranger team, where he posted an 8.4 Wins Above Replacement and led MLB in home runs. So, I understand the Phillies have cornerstones of the franchise that are in their prime, but the expectation can’t be to win now. They don’t have enough.
Like the Nationals, there are too many question marks for the team to be in serious contention.
Starting with the area that is deemed the least worrisome: the offense. The Philadelphia lineup ranked tied for fifth in runs scored, and will virtually look the same after they’ve resigned superstar catcher J.T. Realmuto & star shortstop Didi Gregorius. One hole the Phillies are looking to solidify is center field. The majority of the starts last year came from Roman Quinn (28) and Adam Haseley (19), with Scott Kingery trailing behind with nine. Last week it seemed as if the closer we get to opening day the more it seems that it will be a battle between Quinn, Haseley and Kingery. And possibly even Odubel Herrera, who was arrested in May 2019 due to domestic violence charges, has a chance as he was invited to the team’s mini-camp. Unfortunately, Adam Haseley just suffered a left groin strain on Thursday against the Yankees while he was running the base paths. He’s expected to miss four weeks and will unable to be ready for opening day. And on that same day former number one overall draft pick Mickey Moniak was thrown into the mix after he hit a pair of homers on Thursday against the Yankees, and manager Joe Girardi was asked if Moniak should be included in the center field competition and replied “I think you have to”. Although Moniak proably won’t win the job, it’s nice to see him playing well in Clearwater thus far. After the Haseley injury it seems as if it’s going to most likely be a three-way battle between Quinn, Kingery and Herrera for that opening day start.
The Phillies starting rotation has question marks. Beyond Aaron Nola & Zach Wheeler it’s uncertain how good it can be & how it’s going to look. I wrote a separate piece on this a little over a month ago. You can check that out here.
In 2020, had the Phillies not had one of the worst bullpens in MLB history (7.06 ERA) they would have been a playoff team, as they finished a game back of the Milwaukee Brewers for the second NL Wild Card spot. Philadelphia has made some upgrades this offseason, but it wasn’t very hard to do so considering how horrendous the bullpen was last year. Among the most notable upgrades were Jose Alvarado, Brandon Kintzler and Archie Bradley. I questioned the Alvarado signing due to the fact that he hasn’t been the same pitcher since his breakout season in ‘18 when he posted a 2.39 ERA in 64 innings. He’s had shoulder issues in the past few seasons, but if he can return even close to that 2017-2018 form then the Phillies front office looks brilliant. The most popular signing of the three was understandably Bradley because the Philadelphia fans have already gravitated towards his upbeat and charismatic personality. But he’s been one of the better relief pitchers in baseball, accruing a 2.95 ERA since ‘17 in 234+ innings, according to Baseball Reference. Signing Alvarado & Bradley definitely improved the bullpen, but they signed Kintzler to a Minor League deal, which is a steal considering he posted a 2.55 ERA in 81.1 innings over the past two seasons with the Cubs & Marlins. Even if Kintzler is 36, it’s a very low risk-high reward bargain.
The Phillies just have too many variables that need to fall their way to be a playoff team. No, they don’t have to be a perfect team to be competitive in the NL East, but questions surrounding the starting pitching and bullpen aren’t enough to push the Phillies past third place.
2021 Prediction: 82-80
Key Players to watch: Zach Eflin, Scott Kingery & Rhys Hoskins
Featured Image: Michael Reaves/Getty Images