Playoffs, nothing less. The Phillies have an absolutely loaded offense. Every guy, 1-6, is capable of doing serious damage wherever they are in that order. The defense is going to be bad, sometimes to the point where we have to laugh about it. But, the offense should definitely make up for it. The Phillies, in order to make the playoffs, have to hit their way there. Sure the bullpen is a little better. Yes, Zack Wheeler should have won the NL Cy Young in 2021. Yes, Ranger Suarez had a historic year in 2021. Above all though, the Phillies need to slug their way into the tournament.
They have finally gone over the tax. Going over the tax shouldn’t be associated with almost making the playoffs, it should be associated with winning the division. Atlanta is the team to beat in the NL East, that is not changing. The Mets got better, but so did the Phillies. As of right now, I think the Phillies are better than the Mets. In the regular season, the Mets have the two best starters in the game in Scherzer and deGrom. They become that much tougher to beat in a seven-game series because at least one of those guys, probably both though, could go on short rest, more than once.
The Phillies have a solid 1-2 punch as well in Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. Nola needs a bounce-back year to prove himself for free agency during the 2023-24 winter, but that is still a while away. Their number three starter, Ranger Suarez, is one of the best number three’s in baseball as he had an insane year last year. Zach Eflin should slot in as the number four guy. Eflin, when healthy, is one of the Phillies’ best pitchers. His sinker is extremely effective and he also features a filthy changeup as well as a two-seam fastball. Eflin is on track to start the season on time after ending 2021 on the injured list. Kyle Gibson is back as the fifth starter. Gibson came over to the Phils along with Hans Crouse and Ian Kennedy in exchange for Spencer Howard and two pitchers going to the Texas Rangers. Gibson’s numbers with the Phillies looked ugly, but he gave them innings and they stayed in the game while he pitched. Gibson became a better option than Matt Moore over the final stretch.
The bullpen, as I’ve been saying all off-season on the 215Seamer, just has to be average. Knebel and Seranothony Dominguez have shown that they could be counted on so far this Spring. Familia and Hand were decent signings. Alvarado, Brogdon, and Coonrod all have the stuff to be very effective. The question with the bullpen all along has been if they can get the job done. Losing Neris and Archie Bradley definitely hurts. This unit only needs to be ranked around 20th in baseball. They blew over 30 games last year. If they held 10 of those games, the Phillies would have made the playoffs. They don’t have to be good, they just have to hold leads.
The outfield is set. Castellanos, Herrera/Vierling, and Harper will be the lineup from left to right on most days. Harper and Castellanos will hit, there have never been doubts about that. The defense won’t be great, though Harper has been criticized somewhat unfairly for his defense since he arrived in Philly. In center, no matter which one plays, all they have to do is play good defense and be a serviceable ninth hitter. Herrera, from purely a baseball perspective, has been a good defender for the majority of his Phillies’ career. Vierling just has to do the same.
In the infield, my new prediction is that Rhys stays at first, Jean stays at second, Bohm starts at third, and Stott wins the shortstop position out of camp. I thought it was going to be Didi all winter but so far, Stott has shown that he is clearly ready. Didi could be traded, released, or DFA’d. I doubt any team would want to pay him the $15.25m he is owed. The Phils could also decide to just eat the salary and stash him as a left-handed bat off the bench with some pop. Maybe similar to the intended role Brad Miller had last year? Miller obviously was thrust into action a lot last year due to injuries, but the intention was for him to be a good bat off the bench. Hopefully, the Phillies can find something to do with Didi, but he has always been a great teammate. Last year, while he was injured, he brought Alec Bohm aside in the dugout and talked to him for a while. It looked like Bohm was taking it to heart as well because he didn’t say much at all. Bohm stood there and mostly nodded his head the entire conversation. I just think it would be beneficial if the Phillies could find a way to have Stott up and play the most while keeping Didi around.
Behind the plate, JT Realmuto might not be the best catcher in baseball anymore, but he is still a very good catcher. Defensively, he is up there with Yadi Molina as some of the best, and offensively, the numbers weren’t great last year, but JT also didn’t have a Spring Training. As well as not having that, he dealt with a few upper-body injuries throughout the season. We all know what we are going to get from JT, though. All we can ask is he stays healthy and doesn’t burn out for the post-season. Garrett Stubbs, a 28-year-old catcher, was brought in by the Phillies to back-up JT. Stubbs played with Houston the previous three seasons where he posted a career slash line of .182/.238/.485. For reference, Andrew Knapp’s career slash line was .214/.314/.636. I’m not sure that it’s accurate to say Stubbs is an upgrade offensively, but defensively, Knapp was a lot better than he was given credit for. Zack Wheeler even said he believed Knapp could be a starting catcher for most teams in the league. Knapp ended up taking a minor-league deal with the Cincinnati Reds and has a pretty good chance at becoming the backup catcher for the Reds. Stubbs was signed to a $700,000 contract for this season. If JT misses any extended period of time, Rafael Marchan, in my opinion, should be the guy to carry the load.
Overall, the starters look solid, the bullpen looks, hopefully okay, the offense is absolutely loaded, and the bench is decent. This team is going to have to hit their way into the playoffs, no doubt, but the way they are built is definitely realistic. The Phillies, realistically, could win 90 games this season and be in a great position at the trade deadline to add to their rotation or to the bullpen. One place they could also look to add is the backup catcher spot. This team has no reason to not be in the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Joe Girardi has to be the man to lead them there. Once you get in, anything can happen.