Hope is a dangerous thing.
It twists our perceptions and misguides our thoughts, all too often a coping mechanism for delaying an inevitable letdown.

In the cruel world of Philadelphia Phillies fandom, it seems that our beloved organization uses hope maliciously, teasing us with the promise of a playoff berth only to defer that dream till the next season. While the 2021 offseason provides plenty to be pessimistic about — the historically bad bullpen, the rapid decline of Scott Kingery, and the potential departures of JT Realmuto and Didi Gregoriusit’s damn hard not to buy into the hype for next season.  No matter how much I know it’ll probably come back to bite me. For 2021, the latest in the Phillies drip-feed of optimism comes in the form of a rejuvenated offense, a staggering success in homegrown 3rd baseman Alec Bohm, and an improved starting rotation.

Disregarding the indomitable Alec Bohm — you can’t convince my warped mind that he won’t soon compete for NL MVP — here are some players who showed flashes in 2020 and whose continued success will be critical to the Phillies in 2021.

Rhys Hoskins

The Rhys Hoskins train was just getting rolling when it came to a screeching halt on September 12th. Hoskins suffered a season-ending injury in a collision at 1st base and underwent Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow in early October. Although the hope is that Hoskins will be ready for Opening Day, other concerns loom over the power-hitting first baseman. Hoskin’s production at the plate has been streaky over the past couple of seasons. After a hot start to 2019, Hoskin’s turned ice cold after the All-Star Break, hitting only .180. The streakiness continued in 2020 when he was batting only .200 16 games into the abbreviated season.He turned his season around on August 15th, however, when he began a 27-game stretch in which he hit .264 with 6 doubles, 10 home runs, and 25 RBI’s. Another concern is Hoskin’s struggle against right-handed pitching.  In 2021 he hit .209 in 130 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers compared to .341 in 55 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers.With the potential loss of JT Realmuto and Didi Gregorius from the lineup, Hoskin’s will have to step up his production if the Phillies hope to compete in the NL East in 2021.

Zach Eflin

Starting pitcher Zach Eflin had his best year yet, thriving under new pitching coach Bryan Price’s guidance. In 10 starts he posted a career-best 4-2 record, a 3.97 ERA, and 70 strikeouts in 59 innings pitched. The freedom to primarily using his sinker allowed Eflin to pitch to his strengths rather than the previous regime’s failed attempt to turn him into a 4-seam fastball centric power pitcher. Eflin’s solidification of his spot in the starting rotation, however, should not be taken without caution.While Eflin has plus pitches in his repertoire, it seems that he needs all of them working in order to pitch deep into games. All too often, his slider isn’t braking hard enough or his sinker can’t catch the edge of the strike zone, which led to an ERA of 9.00 when he pitched in the 5th inning.Moreover, in only 5 out of his 10 starts did Eflin pitch 6 innings or more — a number that needs drastic improvement considering the state of the Phillies bullpen and lack of depth in the starting rotation.

Adam Haseley

Photo: Jose F. Moreno / Philadelphia Inquirer

Adam Haseley had a bit of a strange year in this abbreviated 2020 season with his playing time stunted by both injury and the presence of fellow outfielder Roman Quinn. Haseley hit .278 with 13 RBI’s in just 92 plate appearances, flashing the sweet swing that got him drafted in the first round of 2017. What is worrisome about Haseley, isn’t much of how he is playing, but rather how he is handled by manager Joe Girardi and the coaching staff. A natural corner outfielder, Haseley was forced to platoon with Roman Quinn in center field with the presence of Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen in right and left field, respectively. Quinn’s defense and speed give him the advantage over Haseley in center field and on the base paths, but his horrendous offensive production (.213/.214/.315) in 116 plate appearances leaves room in the lineup for Haseley’s bat.

While Quinn brings unique speed to the lineup, how much longer are the Phillies going to sacrifice offensive production for the occasional stolen base?

Moreover, Haseley was often benched when the Phillies were facing a left-handed pitcher. Despite having 4 hits in 10 at-bats against lefty’s, along with a .948 OPS against left-handed pitchers in AA last season, Girardi has refused to start Haseley against lefties, even when he was the only healthy center fielder.

Haseley is one of the few bright spots from the Phillies farm system and has shown the chops to be an everyday starter.
Limiting the outfielder to a platoon role will only hamper his development and squander yet another first-round pick.

Featured Image: Jose F. Moreno / Philadelphia Inquirer
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