When my final 2018 MLB Power Rankings were released eight months ago on October 1, 2018, the Phillies were tied with the Cincinnati Reds at 21st overall. With these first 2019 rankings, they are in a higher slot – but perhaps not as high as one might think.
The work done by general manager Matt Klentak this past off-season with the support of principal owner John Middleton was significant, resulting in a greatly improved everyday lineup. It is those additions and changes which have elevated the Phillies to the top of the NL East Division standings.
Still, there is much to be done in order for the club to make themselves a true World Series contender. Just as with last year’s mid-season bolt to the top of the division, the 2019 Phillies have once again largely outplayed their statistics.
How the Phillies brain trust addresses the needs on the mound and in bench depth will determine just how far this team can go as the summer of 2019 unfolds over the next few months.
A LOOK BACK AT THE 2018 PHILLIES
Last season, the Phillies spent much of July at the top of those NL East standings. However, they never ranked higher than 16th in my MLB Power Rankings. Here was my final October 1, 2018 evaluation of their season, and my commentary on what they needed to do in order to rise in the 2019 standings and rankings:
“…the Phillies were never better than a middle-of-the-pack ball club from a statistical perspective.
Second, you can also see that the team plummeted down five places over the final month. Any Phillies fan who sat through the last two months can understand why.
Finally, a look over the full rankings shows that the Phillies finished just fourth among the five National League East Division teams. In fact, when looking at the numbers behind the rankings, the club finished just ahead of Miami as well.
The 2018 Philadelphia Phillies finished in the middle-of-the-pack as far as the overall MLB standings are concerned. Their pitching staff was competitive enough to be ranked in the middle as well.
It was the club’s 29th-ranked defense and 21st-ranked offense that held them back. It will be the job of Phillies management and ownership to fix the position-player mix in the coming off-season if they want to truly become a contending team in the 2019 campaign.”
The MLB Power Rankings will be updated here at Phillies Nation roughly every two weeks for the remainder of the regular season. As with last season when I began this evaluation process, there is no subjectivity on my part. I look at key statistics and rank the teams based on their ability to actually win ball games, in addition to their performance on offense, on the pitching mound, and in the field.
Introduced and then upgraded during the course of last season, my formula for compiling the rankings gets another tweak to begin this year. By the end of 2018, I was researching each of the 30 MLB teams current position in the four categories of winning percentage, runs scored, pitching OPS, and fielding percentage.
This year, runs-per-game will be replacing simple runs scored to get the offensive component. I then assign each of those component category team rankings a 1-30 value and add them up to determine an overall final ratings score. Where there was a tie, it was broken by W-L percentage.
2019 JUNE 1 MLB RANKINGS
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Minnesota Twins
- Houston Astros
- Tampa Bay Rays
- New York Yankees
- Boston Red Sox
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Oakland Athletics
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- Chicago Cubs
- Colorado Rockies
- Atlanta Braves
- Cincinnati Reds
- Saint Louis Cardinals
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Texas Rangers
- San Diego Padres
- Cleveland Indians
- Los Angeles Angels
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Kansas City Royals
- New York Mets
- Miami Marlins
- Washington Nationals
- Chicago White Sox
- Seattle Mariners
- Detroit Tigers
- Toronto Blue Jays
- San Francisco Giants
- Baltimore Orioles
SPOTLIGHT TEAM: MINNESOTA TWINS
There is no doubt that the Twins have been the surprise team in Major League Baseball during the 2019 season. In my MLB Previews and Predictions piece for Phillies Nation back on March 28, I picked the Twins for second place in the AL Central Division.
In my snippet on the division, I made the following comment: “The Twins have been the fashionable pick as a surprise American League contender. If that turns out true, I believe it will have to be for a Wildcard berth.” In that piece, I also made Twins center fielder Byron Buxton my choice for the American League’s Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Still just 25-year-old, the perennially injured Buxton has largely remained healthy this year. He is slashing .254/.311/.491 with five homers, 29 RBIs, and 29 runs scored. Buxton is second on the club with 27 extra-base hits, and leads the Twins with nine stolen bases. He is also playing exceptional center field defense.
Left fielder Eddie Rosario has been the Twins biggest run producer. The 27-year-old leads the club with 17 home runs and 49 RBIs. 29-year-old first baseman C.J. Cron is second with 13 homers and third with 35 RBIs. 26-year-old right fielder Max Kepler is second with 36 RBIs and third with a dozen home runs.
The best all-around hitter for the team has been shortstop Jorge Polanco. The 25-year-old is slashing .338/.409/.590, and the switch-hitter is leading the Twins with 30 extra-base hits.
On the mound, the Twins have received strong efforts from starting pitchers Jake Odorizzi, Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, and Martin Perez. While the bullpen has not settled on just one closer as yet, they have gotten solid work from right-handers Blake Parker, Ryne Harper, Trevor May, Matt Magill, and Tyler Harvey, and lefty Taylor Rogers.
Philly fans have been excited to learn of the recent promotion of left-hander Devin Smeltzer. The 23-year-old southpaw is from Voorhees, New Jersey and attended high school at Bishop Eustace Prep in Pennsauken. Smeltzer was a 5th round choice of the Dodgers in the 2016 MLB Draft, and was dealt to the Twins as part of a package at last year’s trade deadline for second baseman Brian Dozier.
When I made my pre-season predictions, one award that I didn’t even mention as having a candidate from the Twins was the American League’s Manager of the Year honors. In hindsight, that was a foolish omission. But who could have ever foreseen the impact that first-year skipper Rocco Baldelli would have on this squad?
The Minnesota Twins (38-18) have the best record in the American League to this point in the 2019 regular season. The lead the AL Central Division by 10.5 games, 11 in the loss column. Their +103 run differential is the best in baseball. If the Twins can stay healthy, they are proving that they will be a serious contender for the American League pennant this season.
MORE FROM PHILLIES NATION:
- MLB Mock Draft 2.0 has a new Phillies pick at #14 overall, but it’s still a college arm
- Dodgers show why they are the top team in the National League in Friday win over Phillies
- Zach Eflin heads to the IL; Victor Arano could miss the rest of the season
- What type of season is Phillies trade target Madison Bumgarner having?
- Bryce Harper has begun to silence the early season critics