The Philadelphia Phillies’ home opener against the Atlanta Braves on March 28th is officially less than one week away.

The Phillies’ offense scored 13 runs behind Bryce Harper’s two home runs. The last time Harper saw the Toronto Blue Jays, he took a 96-mph fastball to the ankle, a moment that could have put an asterisk on the start of the Phillies’ season. Harper’s two home runs prove how valuable he will be to the Phillies’ offense. With the swing of one at-bat, Harper can change the outcome of any game. Harper’s presence fills the void of a true left-handed power hitter, a type of player the Phillies haven’t had since prime Ryan Howard.

There were a handful of moments during the Phillies 13-6 victory Thursday afternoon that showed how potent the Phillies offense could be in 2019. Andrew McCutchen’s emphatic home run was a prime example of the raw talent that he adds to the team’s offense. If McCutchen can replicate his strong spring training during the regular season, the Phillies’ front office will have pulled off one of the more underrated signings of the winter. Gabe Kapler’s decision to have McCutchen hit leadoff will prove best for the lineup, as opposed to Cesar Hernandez. In 2018, McCutchen hit 1st in 49 games and had a .414 OBP, while Cesar had a .358 on base percentage in 144 games. In my opinion, McCutchen hitting leadoff is very reminiscent of Jimmy Rollins hitting first in the lineup.

JT Realmuto’s spring training should have the rest of baseball afraid. The trade the Phillies pulled off to acquire him was unappreciated by fans because all eyes were still on Harper. His fourth home run of spring training is a glimpse of what he will be able to do playing 81 games at Citizens Bank Park instead of Marlins Park. Realmuto hit .283, .350 OBP, .870 OPS in away games last year, which were significantly better than his home splits. Andrew Knapp had a great pinch-hit home run and appears to be winning the backup catcher roster spot.

The Phillies’ 13-6 victory over the Blue Jays was not all butterflies and warm feelings. Vince Velasquez’s spring training proves that the Phillies’ fifth starting pitcher spot is a major hole in their roster. Velasquez failed to control most of his pitches against the Blue Jays and gave up two home runs. In his final outing of spring training, where the goal was to go 5+ innings and throw around 90 pitches, he was only able to make it 3 1/3 innings and finish his pitches in the bullpen.  There is no doubt Velasquez has an incredibly high ceiling, but he lacks the ability to be consistent.

Two Final Notes

1) Rhys Hoskin’s sore shoulder should not be an issue and has said he will be ready for Opening Day.

2) Nick Pivetta’s final outing of spring training was incredibly encouraging. Pivetta looks poised for a breakout season and will be pitching the second game of the season against the Braves.

Photo Credits: USA Today
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