2020 MLB Preview: Philadelphia Phillies
The Starting Pitching’s Pretty Good Up To A Point But How Much Gasoline Is In That Bullpen?
Jake Arrieta is on the downside of his career but he can be tremendously valuable to a young staff as a third starter, if he’s up to it. Last year was a disappointment, but also an injury year for him. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back. Getting Zach Wheeler off of the Mets staff and onto Philadelphia’s could be huge. Wheeler’s only had one bad year and is a low-end number two or high-end number three starter. He’s behind Aaron Nola, whose career stats (3.47 earned-run average, 1.16 walks and hits per innings-pitched) are a little better than Wheeler’s 3.75, 1.29 ERA.
But after those three, then what? Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin have career ERAs over 4.70. They need better than that to compete against the Mets and the Nats.
Much of the bullpen looks atrocious and could spoil whatever good work the top three provide. Blake Parker, Hector Neris and Jose Alvarez do what you expect of a reliever: strike out a batter every inning and give up a run every three. The Phillies will likely wear these guys out with two of the three getting an inning a night.
Offensively they have a few weapons that are capable of mass destruction… or of jamming when you need them most. Bryce Harper’s happy feet look like giant versions of Ichiro’s in the batter’s box but with 70 fewer hits per season. If he can remember where left field is and calm the hell down, he has the talent to recapture his mvp-year form. JT Realmuto is an upgrade offensively over just about every catcher in the league. Sure Rhys Hoskins can hit homers but if his contact rate doesn’t improve he’s in danger of becoming Chris Davis. For what it’s worth, Harper’s batting average on balls in play was 50 points higher than Hoskins’.
Didi Gregorius gives them decent offense from the shortstop position. Phil Gosselin can play seven positions well and has similar stats in the majors as the minors (.269 average vs .275). Maybe this year he gets rewarded for being steady.
Bottom line: a table-setter would be nice at the top of the lineup but I don’t know who that is. Even if they get someone, Harper and Hoskins left 473 men on base last year. If that happens again and with this bullpen, they’ll be lucky to repeat the two .500 performances from the last year. Joe Girardi is an upgrade at manager, but I don’t see this as any more than an 85-win team and likely closer to 80.
Coronavirus 60-game prediction: 28-32.
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