Image: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
2021 Record: 82-80 (.506 win%, 2nd in Division)
2021 Payroll: $197,213,223 (4th)
Projected 2022 Lineup:
1. DH Kyle Schwarber, .244 AVG/.350 OBP/.519 SLG, 2.8 fWAR
2. C J.T. Realmuto, .258 AVG/.329 OBP/.447 SLG, 4.0 fWAR
3. RF Bryce Harper, .271 AVG/.399 OBP/.540 SLG, 5.1 fWAR
4. LF Nick Castellanos, .273 AVG/.330 OBP/.496 SLG, 2.1 fWAR
5. 1B Rhys Hoskins, .239 AVG/.351 OBP/.496 SLG, 2.7 fWAR
6. SS Didi Gregorius, .247 AVG/.323 OBP/.427 SLG, 1.3 fWAR
7. 3B Alec Bohm, .262 AVG/.325 OBP/.417 SLG, 1.1 fWAR
8. 2B Jean Segura, .281 AVG/.334 OBP/.417 SLG, 2.3 fWAR
9. CF Matt Vierling, .247 AVG/.306 OBP/.397 SLG, 0.8 fWAR
Projected 2022 Rotation:
1. Zach Wheeler, 195.0 IP/3.46 ERA/1.14 WHIP, 4.7 fWAR
2. Aaron Nola, 191.0 IP/3.71 ERA/1.14 WHIP, 4.0 fWAR
3. Kyle Gibson, 189.0 IP/4.64 ERA/1.40 WHIP, 1.8 fWAR
4. Ranger Suárez, 164.0 IP/3.96 ERA/1.29 WHIP, 2.6 fWAR
5. Zach Eflin, 156.0 IP/4.38 ERA/1.29 WHIP, 2.0 fWAR
Projected 2022 Top 3 Relievers:
1. Corey Knebel, 60.0 IP/3.79 ERA/1.24 WHIP, 0.9 fWAR
2. José Alvarado, 67.0 IP/3.76 ERA/1.44 WHIP, 0.6 fWAR
3. Jeurys Familia, 68.0 IP/4.19 ERA/1.38 WHIP, 0.3 fWAR
The Philadelphia Phillies continue to be one of the most interesting teams to follow during the offseason. After a disappointing end to the year, finishing just short of the playoffs and losing out the division to the Braves again, the Phillies are looking to bounce back. Phillies President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski has never been afraid to shell out money during his tenure with other teams, and this offseason, as with his entire time with the Phils, was no exception. The Phillies made two pretty big offensive signings, and three key additions to one of the league’s weaker bullpens.
The first of the offensive signings came with the addition of Kyle Schwarber on a four-year deal. Schwarber spent time with the Nationals and Red Sox last season, and he was worth more than advertised when it came to at-the-plate production. Schwarber slashed an impactful .266 AVG/.374 OBP/.554 SLG and had 3.1 WAR, and helped guide the heavy-hitting Red Sox lineup into a deep playoff run.
The other addition the Phillies made was signing Nick Castellanos to a five-year deal. The Cincinnati Reds will certainly miss Castellanos’s bat as he slashed .309 AVG/.362 OBP/.576 SLG and had 4.2 WAR. These two signings alone were the majority of the offseason spending for the Phillies. Their bats should be consistent with their 2021 performances, and both players bring an experienced presence to the locker room. They should be able to add stability and veteran leadership to a locker room that lacks a great amount of October experience.
As alluded to earlier, the Phillies also made some upgrades to their bullpen this offseason. The largest was reliever Corey Knebel coming over from the Dodgers on a one-year deal. Knebel is a higher leverage late-inning pitcher that the Phillies have been lacking for some time. His numbers in 2021 were much better than the shorter 2020 season (25.2 IP/2.45 ERA/0.97 WHIP/0.6 WAR). He should be a noticeable upgrade in the Phillies’ back end.
The next two relievers are two previously successful vets trying to return to good form; Jeurys Familia and Brad Hand. Familia started to bounce back in the right direction in 2021 after tough 2019 and 2020 seasons. In 2021 he pitched to 59.1 IP/3.94 ERA/1.42 WHIP with 0.0 WAR, but he is still trying to get back to the player he once was. Hand is potentially coming off his worst season in pro ball finishing with 64.2 IP/3.90 ERA/1.27 WHIP and -0.1 WAR after being a dominant lefty for multiple teams since 2016. If the Phillies can capture any aspect of Hand’s past, it will be a worthwhile addition to a needy Phillies bullpen. Hand and Familia are both very much one-year prove-it deals and will need to work hard to get back to what once was in order to still be prominent names in the majors.
The Phillies didn’t take the marquee free agents off the market, but they made a bunch of solid additions that should help them improve and avoid another underwhelming season.
2022 Season Preview:
If you were to ask a casual baseball fan which team has the longest active playoff drought in MLB, I would guess not too many would say the Phillies. Philadelphia has not made the playoffs since 2012, which is the current leader. Whether it has been a lack of talent in the past years, poor management, or just poor chemistry amongst teammates, the Phillies have underperformed for the last decade.
However, this Phillies squad has no excuse to not at least make a push into the playoffs, especially because of the new expanded playoff format. This is going to be a fun offense to watch, unless your favorite team is pitching against them.
On the offensive side, the Phillies are built to mash, and could potentially do it better than any other team in the league. The additions of Castellanos and Schwarber, along with the already high-powered offense consisting of J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper, and Rhys Hoskins are a nightmare for any opposing pitcher; neglecting to mention that good players like Didi Gregorius, Alec Bohm, and Jean Segura are right behind them. There is no limit for this team offensively, and I expect them to finish top five amongst team offensive statistics at the end of the 2022 season.
There is absolutely no doubt the Phillies bats will be active and successful throughout the season, but not everyone is a five-tool player. Where the Phillies create great value inside the batters’ box, they lose it when those same players have to go out in the field.
In 2021, the Phillies had a poor defensive rating of -6.2, which ranked them 19th in the league in that category. Sadly for the Phillies, Castellanos and Schwarber will most likely further exacerbate this problem. One of those two will have to play in the outfield, while the other is in the DH spot.
The Red Sox attempted to hide Schwarber at first base last season once he joined the team in August, but that is not a possibility with Rhys Hoskins either having to play first base or DH. Furthermore, the Phillies have not been getting great defensive production out of the corner infield tandem of Bohm and Hoskins. Both players being below average defenders puts Philadelphia in a bind. It’ll be interesting to see how the Phillies combat their defensive shortcomings. Bohm may be the odd man out and move to the bench to allow a better glove, as he adds the least offensive production out of Castellanos, Schwarber and Hoskins.
The Phillies are not short of great pitching either, as their rotation is led by the likes of last year’s NL Cy Young runner-up Zach Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and last year’s mid-season acquisition, Kyle Gibson. Rounding out this rotation is Ranger Suárez and Zach Eflin. Suárez could be a formidable fourth option and could make this Phillies rotation one of the league’s deepest. It will be important that Suárez and Eflin are able to eat as many innings as possible so the Phillies top arms can stay fresh down the stretch of the season.
Finally, the bullpen, which has been the biggest question mark for the Phillies in recent memory. It is hard to tell how this bullpen will perform, especially since Archie Bradley, Hector Neris, and Ian Kennedy are now gone. To replace some of the production that was lost, the Phillies brought in the three free agents mentioned earlier.
Knebel has had a pretty up and down career, but found his stride last year in Los Angeles with the Dodgers and will look to continue his success in the back end of the Phillies bullpen. Familia and Hand are both attempting to recapture the magic of seasons past after both pitchers have struggled in recent years. Hand has been a dominating lefty bullpen arm in the league since 2016 and if can find it again then he could be the X-Factor this bullpen needs.
José Alvarado will continue to be important to this bullpen unit. The hard-throwing lefty was very effective last year but struggled with command as his walk rate jumped to 18.7%. Control will be key for Alvarado because he has the stuff to generate a lot of swings and misses. The Phillies season may hinge completely on the back end of this bullpen and the production they can create. The Phillies have all the other pieces in place to make a run this season, but who will step up in the bullpen is to be determined.
Record Prediction: 86-75
Philadelphia’s upgraded high-powered offense should win them more games than they did last season. This is only a 3 game improvement from last season, but with an expanded playoff should be enough to finally break the playoff appearance drought.
Sadly for the Phillies, though, they are not the only team that got better in their division, starting with the World Series Champion Atlanta Braves. The Braves will be getting back young phenom Ronald Acuná who was out all of last year, and they’ve acquired Matt Olson after Freddie Freeman’s departure.
The New York Mets have reached into the deep pockets of owner Steve Cohn to assemble quite the number of free agent signings themselves, adding Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, and Chris Bassitt in a trade.
I believe the Phillies, Mets, and Braves will all be in a tight race for the NL East crown, and traditionally when it is close, the Braves have pulled away. Until proven otherwise, I expect the Braves to once again be the top team in the NL East, and the Mets and Phillies will battle for one of the remaining three spots in the playoffs.
Player to Watch #1: Bryce Harper
You can’t take your eyes off Bryce Harper. Whether it is flashing the glove on a diving catch, throwing someone out from right, blasting baseballs 400 feet, or his hyper-aggressive play style, there is always something he does that makes you want to watch more.
The reigning NL MVP is the leader of this team, with many new faces it will not only be important that he continues his production on the field, but also show he can lead a talented team on a playoff run.
Player to Watch #2: Aaron Nola
Aaron Nola was considered the ace in Philadelphia prior to 2021, but after his rough performance on the surface compared to Zach Wheeler’s career year, that sentiment may have changed. However, it does not change the fact that Nola still has the ability to be the best pitcher on this staff.
It will be interesting to watch if Nola is more driven to get his reputation back to what it was. His peripheral stats show that the defense behind him was bad enough to tank his season, so last year might not have been his fault. If both Nola and Wheeler can have Cy Young candidate years, the league will be on notice, and the Phillies could easily be poised for a long playoff run.
Player to Watch #3: Corey Knebel
As of now, Corey Knebel will be one of the guys closing games for the Phillies this season. This is a role he has not had consistently since the 2018 season, right before his Tommy John surgery that kept him out all of 2019. It takes a lot physically to be a closer, as you most likely are coming in for every high leverage situation late in games.
This will be a test for Knebel, as he has struggled with various injuries post-Tommy John surgery. They need him to stay healthy so he can also begin to experience the high leverage closer situations, as he tries to step back into that role that was played by Kenley Jansen while he was with the Dodgers. Mentally and physically, Knebel will need to be ready for the moment, especially with how harsh sports media and fans are in Philadelphia.
Categories: 2022 Season Preview
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