The Philadelphia Phillies are about to turn the corner. We have watched the rebuilds of the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs over the past couple years come to fruition. Now the Phillies are in the latter stages of their rebuild. Last year they finished in last place in the NL East with 66 wins. While that was a slight step down from the 71 wins the year before, the second half of last year should give Philly fans confidence. The Phillies were 29-58 in the first half last year and fell out of contention quite early. However, in the second half they found their stride a bit with a 37-38 record. With a bunch of young guys ready to make their mark, the Phillies are poised for a big step forward towards the ultimate goal of a World Series.
2018 Philadelphia Phillies Season Preview
The Washington Nationals are the class of the NL East and the New York Mets, if healthy, are a close second. The Atlanta Braves and the Miami Marlins are still at the bottom and not expected to contend this year. This leaves the Philadelphia Phillies in the middle. Their lineup is going to be potent, but the pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired. With that in mind, here is a look at what 2018 has in store for the Phillies.
The Phillies lineup is going to be dangerous this season. Not only do they have mainstays like Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, and Cesar Hernandez but they have some young guns coming into their own. Rhys Hoskins came up for 50 games last year and tore the cover off the ball. He hit 18 HRs and had a 1.014 OPS. After being drafted in the fifth round in 2014, Hoskins had over 1,900 plate appearances in the minors to hone his craft. When he got his call, he did not disappoint. Hoskins will be moving to left field this year after the signing of Carlos Santana. He showed up early for camp to get in extra work in the outfield. Even with learning a new position added to his plate, Hoskins’ bat should not suffer. After hitting 47 HRs and 139 RBI combined between triple AAA and the majors last year, there is no doubt he can hit.
Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams were acquired from the Texas Rangers for Cole Hamels at the trading deadline in 2015. Alfaro is a work in progress behind the dish. With a bat in his hand, he is fine. In his cup of coffee last year, he played in 29 games and slashed .318/.360/.514. Williams also showed his batting prowess as he played in 83 games last season. He had a line of .288/.338/.473. He should be the full-time right fielder. While he could probably cut down on his strikeouts, he is sure to produce. Williams, Alfaro, and Hoskins combined to play 162 games last year. Their line is sure to inspire confidence: .285/.351/.522, 35 HRs, 94 Runs, 117 RBI.
Pitching Staff Questions
Aaron Nola was the only pitcher to win more than eight games last season. That’s a problem. Although Nola looks like he can be a number two starter, the Phillies need an ace. They have multiple guys who fit the roles of inning eaters and middle of the road starting pitchers: Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, and Ben Lively. A big free agent signing would go a long way in shoring up that staff.
The relief crew is a little shaky as well. The Phillies signed Pat Neshek who was excellent last year with a 1.59 ERA and 69 strikeouts to only six walks. Tommy Hunter was also brought in after having a good year last season with a 2.61 ERA and 64 strikeouts against 14 walks. Hector Neris will be the closer and has done well in that role. The man in the bullpen who will be intriguing is Adam Morgan. The Phillies made him a full time reliever last year and he saw his velocity on his fast ball jump 3 mph. He also started throwing his sinker with more regularity and success. Although these four should be solid enough, they do not strike fear in opposing batters and will have to build on what they did last year.
Outlook for 2018 and Beyond
The Phillies could turn some heads this year. It hasn’t been unheard of in recent seasons for a team to make a jump in wins and be ahead of schedule on their rebuild i.e. 2015 Cubs, 2017 Twins. Clearly the Phillies think they are on the cusp. They signed the veteran Santana and are still in the market for a starting pitcher. The lineup will be fine. The pitching staff has a few questions and no real ace right now. The Phillies are probably a year away, especially considering how good the Cubs, Nationals, and Dodgers are right now. It would not be a total shock though if the Phillies wound up at .500 or slightly better and still playing meaningful games in September.
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