As the calendar turns from 2022, the city of Philadelphia will undoubtedly look back on the year’s unforgettable moments reminiscing a magical run in October. Baseball is back in a big way––the Phillies, who began the year 22-29, broke their decade-long playoff drought and came just two wins away from winning the World Series. The Bank was filled with 46,000 fans again and showed why Philadelphia is home to the greatest fan base on the planet. Bryce Harper proved he is worth every single penny of his contract and more. Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola were aces. The lineup didn’t just ring the bell, they smashed it. The Phillies, who were not without their classic moments of downfall, proved they are a championship caliber team with a hunger to finish the job in 2023. The best part about it is they aren’t just running it back––they got better

After coming so close to a World Series title, Phillies owner John Middleton gave his President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski the financial resources to sign arguably the best shortstop in baseball, a number three starter, a lefty bullpen arm with upside, and the active leader in saves to bolster the National League champs. The magic that we saw in 2022 will be difficult to recreate, but the core to October success is finally in place. Just like 2007 showed us the future had arrived, 2022 could be remembered as the same. Maybe 2023 will be similar to 2008. Let’s take a look at four headlines to look forward to in the new year.

1. The Home Opener

Last time baseball was played in South Philly, Chas McCormick ended one final comeback before it started. It was a bittersweet end, but the Bank was back to being the jungle. Philly is the best home field advantage in sports and was the selling point for some of the club’s free agent acquisitions. New lefty reliever Matt Strahm said in his introduction to the media, “What Philly did last season and how magical that place seemed on TV, I can only imagine what it’s like in person.” On April 6, Strahm certainly will get to see the sea of red live in action. 

Not to mention, Philly will be introduced to their new superstar shortstop the same day. Trea Turner, who signed an 11-year $300 million contract with the club in early December, will surely provide years of clutch hitting and immaculate slides. Just imagine the ovation he’ll receive for choosing Philadelphia and $42 million less over San Diego. It’ll be a glorious atmosphere for the return of the National League champs that will carry throughout the summer. 

2. Daycare Breakout

One of the most crucial developments of 2022 was the emergence of the Phillies Daycare. Bryson Stott, Alec Bohm, and Brandon Marsh proved they are everyday players who can provide a spark anywhere in the lineup. Bailey Falter, Nick Maton, Matt Vierling, and Darick Hall also showed they can provide value on the fringes of a roster. But the three aforementioned players––Stott, Bohm, and Marsh––are the ones to keep a close eye on entering 2023.

Phillies coaches and front office execs have raved about Stott’s at-bats and versatility throughout the year, enough to give him the starting shortstop job in early August with the release of Didi Gregorious. Bohm also showed progress on both sides of the ball following his early-season defensive blunders. In addition to proving he can stick at third for the foreseeable future, Bohm has finally started to lift the ball to his pull side which is vital towards tapping into his power stroke. Lastly, it seems the Phillies have finally plugged their hole in centerfielder with Marsh. After acquiring him from the Angels midseason, the former top prospect slashed .288/.319/.455 while providing gold-glove caliber defense. It’ll be exciting to see the next stage of development for the Daycare, but what could be even more exciting… 

3. Andrew Painter’s Debut

Andrew Painter, awarded by MLB Pipeline as the Pitching Prospect of the Year, could be the most highly anticipated prospect to come through the Phillies pipeline since Aaron Nola. The 6’7” righty, who doesn’t turn 20-years-old until April, exploded through the minor league system in 2022 seeing time across three levels and finishing the season in Double-A Reading. Painter’s arsenal is nothing short of overpowering with a fastball reaching triple digits and three plus secondary pitches. In 2022, Painter struck out 155 batters while walking just 25 over 103⅔ innings. Dombrowski, who has a record of promoting young pitchers to the majors quickly, even hinted that Painter could be in the big league rotation on opening day. Evidently, Painter could be the next addition to the Daycare.

4. The Return of MV3

Speaking of debuts, Bryce Harper’s return after the postseason he had will be like his first game as a Phillie. The NLCS MVP, who underwent Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow on November 23, is expected to return to the lineup before the 2023 All-Star Game, perhaps even in mid-June. However, like most of last season, Harper will be the DH for the vast majority of 2023 as he is not expected to be able to throw until at least September. Nevertheless, the addition of Bryce Harper to virtually the same lineup as last year that now includes Trea Turner…wow. It’s sure to be a fun offensive summer.

As we say goodbye to 2022, we’ll look back on the year as one of the best in Philadelphia sports history. Though the Phillies ran out of gas in the end, they’ve shown that the glory years of 2007-2011 are back. The core of veterans is set, young talent is rising through the system, and management––from Rob Thomson to Dave Dombrowski to John Middleton––knows how to win. Just as 2022 brought us memories that will last a lifetime, 2023 could be even better. 

Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

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