Currently sitting at 10-12 after this afternoon’s 4-3 victory over the Rockies, it has not been an ideal start to the season for the Phillies. Thus far, April has been marred by not-so-clutch hitting, injuries, and inconsistent pitching. A couple of positives over the past couple of weeks, though, have been the rapid development of the Daycare and the bullpen seeming to hit its stride after early season struggles. Let’s take a look at some of the top storylines from the first month of the season.
Plenty of Hits, But Where Are the Runs?
It’s no secret one of the Phillies’ Achilles heels to start the season has been their inability to get the big hit with runners on. While the Phils as a team rank third in baseball with a .279 average and fourth with .774 OPS, they rank just 16th in runs scored. They’ve been even worse with runners in scoring position, combining for a .677 OPS––ranking 23rd in baseball. So, what’s the cause for the lack of run production for what should be a potent offense?
The stars just haven’t gotten going yet, plain and simple. For example, over the course of his career, Trea Turner is slashing .299/.362/.491 when at least one base is occupied. This year, he’s hitting .233/.343/.333. It’s the same story for JT Realmuto––in 2023; he’s hitting an abysmal .150 with RISP while his career average is .264.
Though it’s an alarming trend in the early going of 2023, it’s best to trust the back of the baseball card. Eventually, the dam will break, and the Phils’ offense will hit their groove.
Is the Daycare’s Production Sustainable?
While we’re talking about the offense, where would the Phillies be without the production of Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott, and Brandon Marsh? At the immediate conclusion of Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies, Marsh is first in baseball with a .719 SLG and 1.157 OPS, Stott is tied for the major league lead in hits with 32, and Bohm leads the team in RBI. The Daycare has taken their next leap in development, but can it be sustainable over the course of 162?
For Stott and Bohm, their success comes from their approach. Stott, who has always had great bat-to-ball skills, ranks in the 97th percentile among qualified hitters this year in Whiff% while spraying the ball all over the field. Similarly, Bohm is in the 94th percentile in Whiff% while maintaining a hard hit rate of 50 percent––the latter being a predictor of future power. Bohm also has increased his walk rate while lowering his strikeout percentage––both of which signify his development as a professional hitter.
Marsh, who has been the biggest surprise of the three, has made tremendous strides as a hitter since being acquired at last year’s trade deadline. When he was with the Angels, Marsh was ranked as their second best prospect and projected to be a fixture of their future next to Mike Trout. However, he fell out of favor with the organization early on after hitting .240/.301/.355 in his limited time in the bigs. He may have just needed a change of scenery. Since working with hitting coach Kevin Long, Marsh has slashed .322/.374/.524 and has proven this year that he deserves to play every day. Perhaps most encouraging, his walk rate has nearly doubled––up from 6.1% in 2022 to 11.4% this season.
Will the Bohm, Stott, and Marsh continue their torrid pace the rest of the season? Probably not. But, each of them are showing promising signs of sustaining some of their early success.
Starting to Get Healthy
About three weeks into the season, it’s beginning to become more clear where the Phillies are excelling and where they’re lacking. The two spots where it seems the Phils are most dire are the fringes of the positional roster and the starting rotation. Good thing the boys are getting healthy.
Today, Ranger Suarez threw his second live batting practice of the week and could be heading for a rehab assignment. The plan, according to manager Rob Thomson, will be to get Suarez built up to 90 pitches before activating him from the Injured List––meaning he could return to the big league roster by the second weekend of May, at the earliest.
Andrew Painter, who has been sidelined since his first Spring Training start with a sprained UCL in his throwing elbow, progressed to throwing on back-to-back days for the first time since the injury. He is still a ways away from pitching in games, but a June return is not out of the question.
Last but not least, Bryce Harper. Tomorrow marks exactly five months since the superstar underwent Tommy John surgery, and he’s nearing an unprecedented return. The elbow reconstruction surgery is notorious for its long recovery time––pitchers usually return after 12-18 months while position players usually are back to swinging a bat competitively in 9-12 months, sometimes sooner. For example, after undergoing the surgery in 2018, Shohei Ohtani returned to DH for the Angels in a little over seven months.
Harper is about to do it in a little over five months.
At the time of the procedure, some may have said this fast of a recovery was impossible. Yet, here we are. After an appointment with his surgeon, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, scheduled for May 1, it’s possible Harper will return to the lineup just a few days later. The Phils superstar––err, scratch that, superhuman––is about to do the impossible. Oh, and he’s throwing––which may be even more shocking.
Feels like the Phils have shaken the early season rust off and are about to go on their summer run.
Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images