Whats up ladies and gentlemen, its that weird time of the professional sports year where the NBA is on break, NFL season is over, hockey is doing its thing and the MLB is whispering in our ears telling us itʼll be here soon.
While Ive been itching to speak about some baseball, and I like the rest of you have been listening, reading, and watching this Astros debacle, I figured Iʼd give you Philadelphians a break and speak on some Phillies baseball. Speak on how I see this season playing out as of today for this current Phillies roster, and what I think they can do to improve on where I have them as of now.
Lets start at the top, the Phillies will be welcoming in a new manager in Joe Girardi. Girardi will be bringing his 30+ years of big league experience (15 as a player with CHC, COL, NYY, STL. 15 as bench coach/manager of MIA, NYY, and now as current Phillies manager) to a team that seems to be on the cusp of taking that next step in the next 2-3 seasons. Girardi has been known to get more out of teams that no one sees as contenders. In 2006 he made a Wild Card contender out of a Marlins team that played competitive baseball into September while holding down the lowest payroll in baseball and a team that used a lot of rookies to do so. Girardi won manager of the year that year. He then went on to the Yankees where he captured a World Series in 2009 funnily enough, against the team where he currently resides as manager, the Philadelphia Phillies. A guy like Girardi will be bringing in a mix of old school mentality and new saber-metrics to the table for a team that needed a voice in a bad way.
Secondly Iʼll talk about the guys who will be leading this team. Bryce Harper (takes a minute to think about his hair) will be coming into this season looking to capitalize on what already was a great opening campaign for himself in a Phillies uniform last year. He should that he really molds with the city and what we do here and I believe he is one of them athletes who just “gets us.” He understands the passion that we have for our sports teams and knows heʼs not going to be taken easy on when we see something we donʼt like, but with Harper, whats there not to like? Harper will be in contention this year for the NL MVP and you can quote me on that. Next the front of the rotation which will be lead by Aaron Nola. Nola, who finished in 3rd in Cy Young votes and 13th in NL MVP voting in 2018, definitely scaled back a little in 2019 by adding 1.50 onto his ERA from the previous season. Whatever the Phillies do as far as success itʼll all come down to what Nola does. If he wants to show that he is the ace that this city believes he is, heʼs got to show improvements on what we saw last season or this team will fail to reach their goals.
Next, we got the new additions on the field. Didi Gregorius, Zach Wheeler, Francisco Liriano, Neil Walker, Drew Storen, and Bud Norris were in my opinion the most notable signings. Nothing to impressive outside of Gregorius and Wheeler, but I do like the Liriano signing since he is left handed and that is a serious notable absence in their rotation. Im not saying Liriano is going to be a starter right off the bat (no pun intended) but I think heʼs someone who can make a difference in the long run for this team. Neil Walker brings a veteran presence off the bench for this team who they can depend on to play a few positions on the field for them to give everyday guys off. If Iʼm being honest I think they could have done more. Their bullpen still lacks anyone that makes me feel as if when the starter comes out or is struggling at any point, he can put an end to the bleeding.
As i said earlier in this, the bullpen for me is their biggest issue along with lack of southpaws on their staff. Another issue that I feel like they just put a band-aid on was the 3rd base situation. If anyone things Scotty Jet Packs is a 3rd baseman then I really don’t know if we are watching the same game. He doesn’t have the arm strength to be an everyday 3rd baseman, heʼs a natural 2nd baseman. I would assume that Alec Bohm would be making his debut at some point this year but with arbitration rules being what they are the Phillies would most likely hold onto Bohmʼs debut until the September call ups, or even next season, barring any injuries or reasoning to bring him up sooner.
Speaking of Bohm Iʼd like to touch on some of the Phillies prospects we could be seeing this year so we can get familiar with whats to come. Obviously Bohm is the top prospect that everyone has been hearing about and most are wondering when he will come up. Alec Bohm is a 6ʼ5” 225 lb 3B/1B who has been compared to Kris Bryant and others alike. It seems to me from different places Iʼve read that the Phillies are in no rush to bring Bohm up and we could see him as late as next season. While heʼs had his difficulties at the position, the Phillies seem pretty stuck on him playing 3rd, which is good considering their current situation. Next, is Spencer Howard. Howard is a 6ʼ2” 205lb RHP who has an electric fastball, that Iʼve seen get up to 99-100MPH. He usually sits in the 94-95 range and has been working very hard to continue his progressions of his command issues that he had earlier in his pro career. A problem he has had is with his breaking stuff. They have been said to “run together” which means they can look very similar at times, you never want your curveball to look like a cutter which I read his sometimes can look like (via MLB.com Phillies Prospect List). The last prospect Iʼll touch on that Iʼve seen could make his 2020 debut is former #1 overall pick Mickey Moniak. Mickey was a guy who was written off and said to be a bust not long after he got started in the Phillies minor league system. The former #1 overall pick showed that he shouldnʼt be written off last year when he was able to start consistently driving
the baseball to his pull side and started to find some confidence in what his abilities are for Double-A Reading. I believe these 3 guys if called up could all make some type of impact for the Phillies to help them get over a hump with some of their homegrown youth.
While I look at my notes and things Iʼve jotted down, I still look at the Phillies as the 3rd or 4th best team in this division as of February 18th, 2020 @ 8 17 PM. One thing I will say, is I don’t see them being worse than last year like some “experts” have them as. I believe they will win anywhere between 85-88 games this season, which would be a 4-7 game improvement from last season. I see 2 teams in the NL East winning 90 games and 2 winning 80+ just like last season. I donʼt see this as a slight on the Phillies because I truly believe the NL East may just be the most competitive division in the NL maybe even in the MLB. If the Phillies can attack that pen (maybe even convince Vince Valesquez he should be in the bullpen) and maybe add another starting pitcher I could easily see myself changing my projections on their season and having them as one of the top 2 teams in the NL East. This division will be tight all year and I donʼt see the Phillies going down quietly and neither should any of you.