Last season was a huge disappointment for a team that spent “stupid money.” The Phillies were the traveling exposition of the cliché that you can’t buy a championship. In fact, after outbidding everyone, including themselves, for Bryce Harper to the tune of $300mil, jumping the shark of J.T. Realmuto, and sinking more payroll on to soon to be injured Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson, they bought themselves exactly .500 baseball and a 4th place finish in the NL EAST. This came just a year after the $120mil acquisition of the disappointing Jake Arrieta.
But that was with Coppertone cover boy Gabe Kapler holding the crop, Sabering this expensive thoroughbred into a ditch, wallowing, waiting to be shot. Surely Joe Girardi can breathe some life into this roster and bring about a commonsense approach to modern managing. I like Girardi and feel like he’s the best acquisition the Phillies have made in their 3 year effort to escape the rebuild.
With the addition of fellow former Yankee Didi Gregorius, and coveted hurler Zack Wheeler, I think Joe has a lot to work with in Philly. I don’t expect them to shock us all and run away with the division from the jump, but while I beat this dead horse, Mr. Ed, in his current state, could manage a pitching staff better than the Gabe, and that’s gotta be worth a few wins. So, with steady Joe In the saddle, these Phillies could be in contention at the quarter pole. So let’s take a look.
Philadelphia Phillies: INFIELD/CATCHER (2019 bWAR)
1b Rhys Hoskins (1.5)
2b? Jean Segura (1.3)
SS? Didi Gregorius (0.6 – injured)
3b? Scott Kingery (3.0)
C J.T. Realmuto (4.4)
This group is super versatile, and I have placed them where they make the most sense to me. It could shake out differently, but they should be improved by two things. First, giving Kingery an everyday infield spot should help him settle into a more productive role. Whether he plays at second or third, he’ll be more comfortable than he was in centerfield. The other improvement is that Didi Gregorius will be an upgrade over Mikael Franco ALMOST as drastic as the managerial change. Yes, I know they aren’t the same position, but in sum Franco out, Didi In. For the bench, Arquimedes Gamboa is the only other infielder on the 40man currently but with Josh Harrison and Phil Gosselin also under contract they have other options. The bench could be bad, but it could be experienced, and shouldn’t be a major liability. Still TBD.
Philadelphia Phillies: OUTFIELD (2019 bWAR)
LF Andrew McCutchen (1.4, injured)
CF Adam Haseley (1.7)
RF Bryce Harper (4.2)
A full season of ‘Cutch would be the elixir this team needs. A dynamic player and national fan favorite, baseball is better when McCutcheon is on the field. Harper’s gonna Harper, flipping bats and flipping bangs. Adam Haseley takes over in center after the DFA of Odubal Herrera. If everyone stays healthy, this outfield should field well enough, and hit very well. Other options include the afore mentioned Herrera as he cleared waivers and was outrighted to Lehigh Valley, as well as Roman Quinn the speedster and Jay Bruce who is the exact opposite of that.
Philadelphia Phillies: Rotation (2019 bWAR)
1 Aaron Nola (3.9)
2 Zack Wheeler (4.1)
3 Jake Arrieta (0.9)
4/5/LR Zach Eflin (1.5)
4/5/LR Vince Velasquez (0.7)
4/5/LR Nick Pivetta (-0.6)
This is a unit that desperately needed another horse and Wheeler is exactly that. The one, two punch of Nola and Wheeler immediately makes this Phillies team a more serious contender and pushes the rest of the scrap down the ladder. With the pressure off Arrieta we should see a solid season of mid rotation quality innings, which is what he’s suited best for at this point in his career. Eflin, Velasquez, and Pivetta have all shown potential to be productive big-league contributors but this is the put up or shut up season for them as they battle it out for the 4th and 5th spots. How they produce this year will be a key to the overall success in the 162 game marathon.
Philadelphia Phillies: Bullpen
Closer Hector Neris
LHP Jose Alvarez
RHP Victor Arano
LHP Adam Morgan
LHP Ranger Suarez
The bullpen went largely unaddressed from a personnel standpoint but as we have mentioned, its usage will change drastically from last year’s approach. Look for roles to develop early and be more consistent than the gnat straining of Kapler. There is enough talent in the Philly bullpen to be a net positive in 2020 and Girardi will have a lot to do with helping these guys shake the stink of manure. Truth be told, they didn’t perform all that poorly in 2019, but expect them to be used in a much more coherent manner, maximizing their abilities by simplifying their roles, increasing their probability of sustained success. Not for nothing, but David Robertson should be ready to return from injury over the summer, though its tough to bank on instant contribution.
Other Assets (AKA Prospects)
None – they sent them all to Miami for Realmuto. Just kidding, kinda. Spencer Howard (RHP) and Alec Bohm (3B) are the clear-cut leaders of this crew and both are close to MLB readiness and should expect at least a cup of coffee soon. Enyel Del los Santos (RHP) would be the next most likely to find time in the majors this season whether as a spot starter or through bullpen attrition. The rest is a collection of moderately intriguing youngsters that will be too far away from contributing (Luis Garcia and Bryson Scott), or lackluster star-fallers, too bland to consider noteworthy for the 2020 season (Adonis Medina and Mickey Moniak). If the Phillies need to make a trade, they have some currency here but not much. Right now, they are positioned to rely on free agency to improve the big club, which they did.
All things considered; I feel like this version of the Phillies is better than the last version. I wouldn’t give them the “paper champs” title just yet, but they will not be a fun team to play. A win total in the mid-80’s is abundantly reasonable with an outside shot at 90+. The first season with Girardi will have an adjustment period, they don’t have the farm to replenish in case of an injury, nor the depth to overcome it. I predict a consistently inconsistent performance that swings heavily on the health of the opening day lineup and rides the waves of Bryce Harper’s streaky bat. I think they improve but sputter at the end due to lack of depth and ready trade pieces.
Predicted Finish: 85-77
If you enjoyed this piece on the Philadelphia Phillies 2020 Preview, take a look at our first piece in the series on the fish!