The Philadelphia Phillies face among the highest expectations going into the 2020 season. This year, more than last is their best chance to live up to them.
When a team rosters Bryce Harper, the expectations are instantly higher — even if the rest of the roster doesn’t necessarily have what it takes just yet. Last season, the Phillies came off a fantastic offseason where they added huge names and were sure to be a force in the NL East. Instead, they finished with an 81-81 record. It was a one-win improvement from the year before despite all the additions to their team.
A lot of the Phillies’ problems last season came down to the inconsistency of their starting rotation. Besides ace Aaron Nola, the rest of the rotation was a continuous roller coaster. That led the team to go out of their way to pay New York Mets free-agent starter, Zack Wheeler. Wheeler received a five-year, $118 million contract from the Phillies to fill-in behind Nola as the No. 2 in the rotation.
Behind those two will be Jake Arrieta, who dealt with injury last season. That led him to only posting an 8-8 record with a 4.64 ERA. The final two spots in the rotation will be filled out by Zach Eflin and a battle between Nick Pivetta and Vince Velazquez.
The Phillies bullpen will be led by Seranthony Dominguez and Hector Neris once again this season. They will be without their big acquisition from two offseasons ago, David Robertson, who underwent Tommy John surgery in August. If anything holds back them from reaching those high expectations, it will be their bullpen.
Their shining star will be the lineup, one that contains some of the most talented bats in all of baseball. When talking about the Phillies’ offense, Harper has to be the first player discussed. In his first season in Philadelphia, Harper finished with 35 home runs, 115 RBIs, and a .882 OPS. It was quite impressive for his first year on a new team, and another strong season with a return to MVP-form would potentially jolt the Phillies into the playoffs.
His partner-in-crime of sorts was the other huge acquisition prior to the 2019 season, catcher J.T. Realmuto. Most agree that he is the best catcher in baseball right now. His ability on the field and with a bat makes him one of the most valuable players in the league. He finished with 25 home runs last season, combined with a .820 OPS. He won the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove for catchers last season. Realmuto’s role is locked in.
The return of Andrew McCutchen after playing just 59 games last year will give them a huge boost, almost like another free agent addition. Centerfield will be an interesting fight, as Adam Haseley is most likely going to get the first jab at the spot. He got his first opportunity last season and played at a solid level. A full season could make him a great bottom of the order bat for the Phillies.
One of the most underappreciated parts of the Phillies this season is the infield. First baseman Rhys Hoskins struggled in his second full season, only totaling 29 home runs and swinging a .226 batting average. A bounce-back for Hoskins is possible with the enhanced help around him in the lineup.
That help is none other than former New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorious. While struggling in his return last season, he still managed to hit 16 home runs in only half of the season. Most would agree that Gregorious’ home run numbers of the past will decline, but his mix of fielding and solid contact is a great addition for the Phillies.
The rest of the infield will be made up of Jean Segura and Scott Kingery. Segura remains an excellent top-of-the-lineup hitter, as his .280 batting average was among the best on his team last year. What is most exciting for the Phillies, however, is the idea that Kingery will finally get a chance to be an everyday player for the team. Last year, he plugged in anywhere and everywhere they needed him while coming off the bench. With a chance to play every day, he can become one of their best hitters and overall players at the second base position.
The Phillies will face high expectations yearly, but with their improvements in the offseason and overall roster, this may finally be the year they make a real splash.