The Philadelphia Phillies enter the season looking to end a long drought: They haven’t made the playoffs since 2011 and finished higher than third in the NL East last year for the first time since winning five straight division titles from 2007-11. Their 82 wins last season were the most since winning 102 games in 2011. Mediocrity is not the goal but it has been the ceiling for the Phillies in recent years.
Things appear to be moving in the right direction as the offense looks like one of the most potent in the National League, but there’s a lot of great pitching in the NL East and we’ve seen that neutralize good hitting. Some teams were aggressive in filling their areas of need with the expedited offseason and the Phillies were one of them, plugging in some key offensive pieces and filling out a bullpen that needed an injection of talent. Will it be enough to hang with the reigning World Series champion Braves or the high-priced Mets?
American League teams scored 4.6 runs per game last season, while National League teams scored 4.46. The universal DH should bridge the gap and it should really help the Phillies. They committed legitimate free-agent dollars to Kyle Schwarber to be the primary DH. Schwarber has a great combination of patience and power and his offensive value has been enough to outweigh his defensive. Now, he’ll simply get to hit.
He did a good job on the hitting front last year with a 145 wRC+ and a career-best .392 wOBA. He hit 32 homers and walked more than 13% of the time. You’ll deal with his strikeouts because of his power and patience. I do wonder how Schwarber will slot into the lineup as the season goes along, but he’ll be a productive bat for sure.
There are a lot of productive bats in this lineup. The other main newcomer is Nick Castellanos, who is a butcher in the outfield but a very good hitter. He, too, is coming off of a career year with the Reds in which he posted a 140 wRC+ and a .391 wOBA. He hit 34 homers for a career-high, which is unlikely to be replicated in Philadelphia. Cincinnati has one of the top offensive parks in baseball, especially in terms of home runs. The ball carries well at Citizens Bank Park during the summer, so he has a chance to post the same kind of power numbers, but I don’t think he will. Nevertheless, he’ll likely go from being 40% above league average to 20-25% above average, which is still good.
Schwarber and Castellanos joined a lineup that already had a lot of upside. Bryce Harper is a perennial MVP candidate and J.T. Realmuto is one of the top offensive catchers in the game. Harper is coming off of his best season since 2015 and, while some regression appears likely, he’ll still be about 50% better than league average. He slashed .309/.429/.615 last season. It’s entirely possible with pitchers no longer able to use sticky substances to increase spin rate that guys such as Harper and Castellanos are able to uphold the heightened standards from last season. That will merit watching as the season plays out.
Realmuto has posted the two highest K% of his career in the last two seasons, but he’s also posted his highest BB% marks. Last season featured a bit of a power drop from him with a .439 SLG and just 17 homers. He’s a bounce-back candidate and a stellar defensive catcher.
Rhys Hoskins is another guy with 30-homer potential. He was limited to 443 plate appearances last season, otherwise he would have chased his career-high with 34 homers. Instead, he hit 27 homers, 18 of which came before the All-Star Break as he was limited to 20 games after that. Along with Didi Gregorius, Jean Segura and maybe a big breakout year from Alec Bohm, the Phillies have a potent and powerful lineup.