Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater in less than a month. The offseason is winding down and the Phillies 2020 roster has taken shape. Baseball fans (and writers alike) are chomping at the bit to get the season started. Since it’s January and it’s prime season for polarizing predictions on how the upcoming season will unfold, we thought it would be a good idea to unleash our boldest predictions for the 2020 Phillies season.
Tim Kelly, Editorial Director
Prediction: The Phillies will leapfrog the Nationals in the National League East
A season ago, I correctly predicted that the Washington Nationals would win the National League pennant. This year, I’m significantly less bullish on them.
For as much love as there is for Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Juan Soto, their best player in 2019 was Anthony Rendon, and they lost him to free agency. They missed out on potentially replacing him with Josh Donaldson. When the Nationals lost Bryce Harper a season ago, they were prepared to overcome his loss because they had Soto and Victor Robles. They aren’t prepared to overcome the loss of Rendon, who posted a 7.0 fWAR in 2019.
Additionally, the aforementioned Strasburg stayed healthier than he has in most seasons of his career in 2019. Scherzer, who will turn 36 in July, began to show some cracks physically. Soto has Hall of Fame talent, but you wonder how motivated teams will be to pitch to him.
This isn’t to say that the Phillies will win the National League East in 2020. The Atlanta Braves have won the division in consecutive years and the New York Mets won 86 games in 2019. The feeling here, though, is that the Phillies will finish with a better record than the Nationals in 2020, which would be the first time that’s been the case since 2011.
Jonny Heller, Assistant Editorial Director
Prediction: The Phillies will trade for a big-name starting pitcher at the deadline
Matt Klentak has shown himself to be an aggressive general manager over the last two offseasons, both in free agent signings and trades, specifically one for catcher J.T. Realmuto last offseason. But after signing Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius this offseason, Klentak has stood pat, and it appears the team is OK with the roster it has heading into the 2020 season and that ownership is, for now, hoping to remain under the luxury tax.
There is no doubt that the Phillies have some holes in the roster, specifically in the starting rotation. With that said, though, the team will be good enough to contend for at least a National League Wild Card spot. While they are likely done adding any big names during this offseason, this could change at the trade deadline if they are contending for the National League East.
Through July, the Phillies will be good enough to sell ownership on exceeding the tax in order to further strengthen the roster and give them a shot at making a deep postseason run. And though Spencer Howard could get a call up at some point during the season, the team will be keeping an eye on his inning total this season so he probably won’t be able to slot into the rotation and be an instant upgrade throughout the regular season and into October.
This scenario will leave the Phillies looking for a rotation upgrade, and it will really come down to who is available. Will a struggling Red Sox team trade Chris Sale? How high will the bidding get for Robbie Ray, whose contract expires following the season? Whoever it may be, the Phillies will look at the formula for last year’s Washington Nationals, who relied on three ace-level arms to catch fire in the playoffs and look for an established arm to pair with Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola.
Destiny Lugardo, Staff writer
Prediction: The Phillies will win the NL East in 2020
Heading into Opening Day 2019, expectations for the team were as high as they were when an ace took the mound four out of five days in 2011. The big-ticket additions of players like Harper and Realmuto clouded our collective judgment of the roster in totality. Unlike 2018, the rotation was not the sixth-best in baseball in terms of FIP. The team lost a total of 1,353 man-games to injuries, the third-highest in the National League. Just about every key arm out of the pen spent significant time on the injured list.
This time around, many Phillies fans are not nearly as optimistic. It’s understandable. Nine years of mediocrity (at best) and questionable decision-making in the front office breeds skepticism and insecurity. But to those who believe the 2020 Phillies will barely crack 80-wins, I’m here to tell you this—lighten up.
Andrew McCutchen, who was, for better or worse, the heartbeat of the offense, will return. Didi Gregorius is an upgrade over Jean Segura at shortstop. Segura at second base is an upgrade over César Hernandez. Scott Kingery (or Alec Bohm) is an upgrade over Maikel Franco. Hoskins’ second-half slump won’t carry into 2020. I can go on and on about how much better the offense will be in 2020.
Pitching is where all worries should lie. The first two spots in the rotation shouldn’t be of much concern. Nola regressed last season, but he should bounce back, knowing that all the pressure is not on him to perform at the top of the rotation. The Phillies got a stud in Wheeler, and the two should combine for an excellent one-two punch. The middle of the rotation is the weakest part of the roster. Both Zach Eflin and Jake Arrieta have not proven that you can count upon either of them for consistent production out of the No. 3 spot. I’ll choose to ignore the fifth spot because, honestly, you should too.
I’ll admit that the Phillies have the fourth-best bullpen in the division. I have my concerns when it comes to the pen’s ability to stay healthy, but I think Klentak’s decision to be thrifty this time around is a gamble that will pay off.
I also think the fanbase is not collectively taking into account that the Braves, Nationals and Mets have all lost at least one key piece this offseason. The Phillies haven’t lost any (sorry Maikel), and, not to mention, the team acquired one of the best managers in the game last October.
It’ll be close, and I think it will come down to the final weekend of play at Nationals Park. But the Phillies are going to clinch the division in a building that was better known as Citizens Bank Park South 10 years ago. October baseball will return to Philadelphia for the first time since 2011, and it will be glorious.Embed from Getty Images
Ty Daubert, Staff Writer
Prediction: Zack Wheeler becomes the steal of the offseason.
Considering what pitchers like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg ended up receiving in free agency, the Phillies may have gotten themselves a bargain when they signed Wheeler to a five-year/$118 million contract in early December.
The $23.6 million per year that Wheeler received certainly could have been more if he had waited to see what Strasburg and Cole would get before signing. Strasburg ended up getting $30 million per season while Cole signed for $36 million per season. Wheeler may not have eclipsed the $30 million mark had he delayed his signing, but the consensus is that he could have gotten closer to what those two did.
The fact that the Phillies signed Wheeler for significantly less than the top two pitchers in free agency could prove to be the biggest steal of the entire offseason. Wheeler is still only 29 years old and has truly elite stuff – his fastball velocity was in the 94th percentile last season. Many think that Wheeler could be the next starting pitcher due for a breakout in his late-20s. If he does have that in him, the Phillies may have gotten themselves an ace on the cheap.
Brandon Apter, Staff Writer
Prediction: Adam Haseley will slash .280/.340/.430 and cement himself as the Phillies everyday center fielder of the future.
Heading into the 2020 season, the Phillies still have numerous holes on the pitching staff and some on the position side of things too. One of the biggest question marks is in center field and all signs are pointing to Adam Haseley starting the season with that job. If all goes according to my plan, it’ll be his job to lose in 2020 and in years to come.
Previous duds in the outfield from the minor league system have led fans to sour on the prospects of a home-grown center fielder making the most of an opportunity, but Haseley has done just that so far. He has a small sample size of games at the big league level, but he’s proven to get better the more time he gets at each stop in his playing career.
In college, his numbers at the plate rose in each of his three seasons. In the minors, he showed a nice mix of extra-base power upside and plate discipline, which is something the Phillies have lacked at the minor league level with outfield prospects like Cornelius Randolph and Mickey Moniak. In his short time with the Phillies in 2019, Haseley posted a .324 on-base percentage, which put him just behind J.T. Realmuto (.328) and ahead of both Jean Segura (.323) and Scott Kingery (.315). As he develops and gets more comfortable in the majors, more power will come.
As far as his defense goes, this is going to be a work in progress, but Haseley has shown on multiple occasions that he has the speed and a plus arm to play center. He posted 13 defensive runs saved in 67 games, committing just one error while tallying four outfield assists.
Haseley may not turn any heads around the league, but he has the makings of an everyday outfielder. Whether that ends up being in center or in the corners (once McCutchen’s contract ends) remains to be seen, but there’s no reason this 23-year-old cannot continue to trend upwards as the Phillies aim for a big improvement in 2020.
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