2011 was the last time the Phillies posted a winning record or made baseball’s post-season. I was living in Washington, DC, Barack Obama’s hair wasn’t grey yet, and Bill Cosby wasn’t disgraced yet. Ryan Howard was still a perennial MVP candidate, the Phillies had the best pitching staff in baseball, and JP Crawford was still unheard of. A lot has changed since. Six seasons have passed. None of the 2008 Phillies are still on the roster. Washington has now become the place through which the NL East is won.
The 2017 Phillies won 66 games. The 2018 Phillies will be expected to win no less than 15 games more. After spending big money on free agents, calling up many of the top prospects in the system, and turning over the coaching staff, another losing season is not acceptable. The 2018 Phillies are no one’s pick to win anything, but there is an expectation of meaningful games coming ahead.
With that in mind, it’s time to make some predictions for 2018. Here are my 2018 predictions:
- Record- 84-78. An improved offense will join a good top end of the rotation to push the Phillies to a winning season.
- Home Run leader- Rhys Hoskins at 41. Maikel Franco at 32 and Carlos Santana at 30 homers will top the 30 barrier, while Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams, and Jorge Alfaro will hit over 20 homers.
- Place in the NL East- Second. 10 games back.
- Innings Leader- Aaron Nola with 202.
- Kingery Starts- 122, split up among seven positions.
- Batting Average Leader- Cesar Hernandez at .294.
- All-Stars- Jake Arrieta and Rhys Hoskins
- ERA Leader- Arrieta 2.79.
- Next Contract Extension- Rhys Hoskins checks in around $100 million.
- WAR Leader- Odubel Herrera.
- Kapler Ejections- Three.
- RBI Leader- Hoskins 112.
- Wins Leader- Arrieta 16.
- Playoff Status- Three games out of the second WildCard.
Let’s play ball!
It’s February 25th, and MLB’s Opening Day is over a month away. Almost every team still has hope. Nothing matters much yet, and fans can still dream. That’s especially true in Philadelphia, where the Eagles just won the Super Bowl, the Sixers are one of the hottest teams in the NBA, and the Flyers are now tied for first in the division. Why can’t the Phillies young prospects surprise us this Summer? Here’s my early observations:
- The NL East is really terrible. I know, the Nationals should contend for the World Series, but they typically come up short. The rest of the division is hot trash though. The Mets not only have to hope for good health for Jacob de Grom and Noah Syndergaard, but for a Lazarus level resurrection for Matt Harvey AND an offense that plays way over their heads. The Marlins just sold all of their talent flea-market-style this Winter in an effort to save money and lose 100 games. The Braves are supposedly going to improve from great prospects, but that’s true every year. So, the 96 loss Phillies, who promoted many of their prospects last year, have room to improve this year. Maybe a lot.
- I’m taking the over on 75.5 Phillies wins. Not in an actual bet of course, but I see this team approaching 81 wins. Their offense should actually be relatively decent, and the bullpen should hold leads. Should. Don’t get carried away though and dream of more than 85 wins.
- FFS, Sign a pitcher, Matt. I get it, “don’t spend money when you can’t compete.” A couple problems here though- the division stinks, they spent some off-season money on Carlos Santana, and many of their top prospects are here. Besides, carrying an eight or nine man bullpen will leave this team out-gunned in too many games offensively, and perpetuate the baby’ing of young arms. I’d like to get Arrieta and play for a Wild Card, but even just an innings eater would help.
- Why is Tommy Joseph here? I like the guy, but what role can he possibly fill? Carlos Santana and Rhys Hoskins would both play first before him, he doesn’t play anywhere else, and he’s right-handed. He has an admirable story, but how is this helping anybody, particularly him? Same for Cameron Rupp, if they really love Andrew Knapp so much?
- The Phillies rotation should be improved. Almost everyone is expecting a good year from Aaron Nola. Past him, it’s dicey. I personally think Jerad Eickhoff is more likely to look like 2016 than 2017- he had small, nagging injuries, and bad luck last year. The season may ride on whether Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta can figure out how to make their great arms pitch well, or a Zach Eflin or Jake Thompson finally harness their potential, or if Ben Lively can be consistent. The odds that one of them steps up with Nola and Eickhoff? They can’t be that bad.
- I’m still with Cesar over Kingery. I know, he reminds you of Chase, but some of us go to a lot of IronPigs games. I think Scott Kingery can definitely play in MLB. Maybe even well. I’m just not sold that he’s better than Cesar Hernandez. Hernandez gives you a .294 average the last two years and gets on base at a better than .370 clip. He was a 3 WAR player last year, and his defense is much improved. I’m not sure Kingery is more than that at his peak. He’s fast, yes, but he’s not a game changing base stealer. He hit a lot of home runs at Reading, where everyone does, but slowed down at Lehigh Valley. Am I saying Kingery is not the guy at second base? No, not yet. I’m just saying he’s not there right now, and may not be that soon.
On this date, my projection on the Phillies? 81-81. More to come.