The Philadelphia Phillies will begin the Joe Girardi era in Miami against what should be an improved Marlins team on March 26 at 4:10 p.m. ET. Below is the first of several projections of what Girardi’s first lineup card as Phillies skipper will look like:
No. 1: Andrew McCutchen, Left Field
McCutchen’s leadoff home run on Opening Day 2019 is one of the most electric moments in the 16-season history of Citizens Bank Park. It proved indicative of what was to come from McCutchen in the brief time he was healthy.
Prior to suffering a season-ending ACL tear on June 3 in San Diego, McCutchen was slashing .256/.378/.457 with 10 home runs, 29 RBIs and a 1.5 fWAR in 59 games. Had he not gotten injured, he may have been an All-Star in 2019. Baseball Reference projects that he would have homered 27 times, driven in 79 runs and walked well over 100 times if he stayed on that same pace over a 162-game season.
Early expectations should be tampered for McCutchen, but if they hope to end an eight-year postseason drought in 2020, the Phillies desperately need a productive version of the five-time All-Star at the top of their lineup.
No. 2: J.T. Realmuto, Catcher
There was some thought to putting Rhys Hoskins – a higher on-base guy than Realmuto – in this position, but ultimately, Realmuto fits better as the No. 2 hitter than at cleanup.
While he still put up strong production prior to the All-Star Break – he slashed .273/.328/.438 with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs in 308 at-bats – the Phillies will hope to get the second-half version of Realmuto for as much of 2020 as possible. After the midsummer classic, Realmuto slashed .278/.327/.565 with 15 home runs and 41 RBIs in 230 at-bats.
It’s hard to imagine Realmuto having a much better overall season than he did in 2019, but, as of now, 2020 will be a contract year. The guess here is that Realmuto, who will turn 29 in March, doesn’t plan on surrendering his title as the best catcher in baseball this year.
No. 3: Bryce Harper, Right Field
For all the concerns there are about the Phillies roster, you just get the feeling that Harper is going to have a special second season in red pinstripes.
In the first year of a 13-year/$330 million deal, Harper slashed .260/.372/.510 with 35 home runs, a career-high 114 RBIs, 99 walks and a 4.6 fWAR. For the first time since 2014, Harper wasn’t an All-Star after a relatively slow first-half. However, he came on after the All-Star Break, including a monster month of August that saw him hit 11 home runs, drive in 25 runs and post a 1.025 OPS.
Remember, Harper didn’t know what team he would be playing for last year until early March. With a normal offseason, it may not be fair to expect him to duplicate his historic production from 2015, but it’s not hard to imagine him matching the MVP-caliber production he put up through 111 games in 2017.
No. 4: Rhys Hoskins, First Base
2020 may very well be a make-or-break season for Hoskins with the Phillies.
For as much as he’s engrained himself in the community and embraced being a leader, Hoskins is limited to playing just first base and had some inexcusable defensive errors last year.
If Hoskins hits like he did prior to the All-Star Break – he slashed .263/.401/.530 with 20 home runs and 59 RBIs – the Phillies can live with some lean moments in the field. However, there can’t be a repeat of anything close to the production – or lack thereof – that he posted in the second-half of the 2019 season, when he hit just .180 with a .679 OPS.
Though not to the degree of the second half of 2019, Hoskins has been too streaky for his own good through his first two-and-a-half major league seasons. When he’s hot, he can carry a lineup. He’s become a liability at times when he’s not locked in, however. New hitting coach Joe Dillon will be tasked with trying to make sure that when Hoskins isn’t in a hot streak, he doesn’t completely bottom out.
No. 5: Didi Gregorius, Shortstop
When the Phillies introduced Gregorius and Zack Wheeler at a joint press conference in December, manager Joe Girardi said that he envisioned Gregorius hitting between three and five in the lineup. Given that Harper traditionally has hit No. 3 and the Phillies probably want to break up their left-handed hitters, Gregorius hitting No. 5 seems like the most likely outcome.
Though Gregorius still hit 16 home runs and drove in 61 RBIs in 82 games after Tommy John surgery last season, his final season in New York was a down year. In 324 at-bats, Gregorius hit just .238 and posted a meager .276 on-base percentage. In signing a one-year/$14 million deal with the Phillies, Gregorius is hoping to rebuild his value and cash in next winter.
At age 29, it stands to reason that Gregorius could rebound in 2020. He told the collective media at his introductory press conference that he wasn’t 100 percent when he returned last June. Assuming health in 2020, Sir Didi should bounce back to being the player that FanGraphs says was the seventh-most valuable offensive shortstop between 2015 and 2018.
No. 6: Jean Segura, Second Base
Though Segura’s first season in Philadelphia wasn’t bad, hitting .280 was underwhelming after three consecutive seasons of hitting .300 or better.
With Cesar Hernandez being non-tendered and the signing of Gregorius, the expectation is that Segura will shift from shortstop to second base. With less stress being placed on him defensively, Segura’s offense could benefit. In 2016, while playing primarily second base for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Segura slashed .319/.368/.499 with 20 home runs, 64 RBIs, 33 stolen bases and a 5.0 fWAR.
To be a playoff team in 2020, the Phillies will need a bounce-back from Segura, who will celebrate his 30th birthday shortly before the regular season begins. If his Instagram is any indication, he’s shed some weight and is motivated to have a very productive year in 2020.
No. 7: Scott Kingery, Third Base
From here, third base is probably the position Kingery is worst-geared to play defensively. It’s where he’s needed, though, which means at least until Alec Bohm is ready to take over, the 25-year-old will likely get a bulk of his starts at the hot corner.
The Phillies hope that the Kingery they got in the first-half of the 2019 season is who will show up for the majority of the 2020 season. In 202 at-bats prior to the All-Star Break, Kingery slashed .292/.344/.545 with 11 home runs and 27 RBIs. However, he regressed in the second-half of the season, posting a .230/.292/.418 slash line and .710 OPS.
As players like Realmuto get more expensive, it’s going to be crucial that the Phillies get starting-caliber production out of some of the cheaper options on their roster. Kingery, who will make just $1.5 million in 2020, seems like the most realistic option.
No. 8: Adam Haseley, Center Field
At the MLB Winter Meetings, general manager Matt Klentak said that he expects Haseley to be the team’s starting center fielder in 2020.
Again, with Harper, McCutchen, Segura and eventually Realmuto all making considerable sums of money, it’s necessary that the Phillies get production from pre-arbitration eligible players, even if they do ultimately go over the luxury tax.
Whether Haseley is cut out to be an everyday starter at the major league level remains to be seen. In his first 222 major league at-bats, Haseley slashed .266/.324/.396. He’s never shown much power at any level, which is a concern. It’s slightly less of a concern if his defense allows him to thrive in center field. He did have five defensive runs saved in 315.1 innings in center field in 2019, though that is a small sample size.
It’s fair to have some reservations about the idea of Haseley starting on a team with playoff aspirations. Eventually, though, you need your first-round picks to come up and sink or swim at the major league level. At 23, Haseley will get that chance in 2020.
No. 9: Aaron Nola, Pitcher
Even after committing $118 million to Zack Wheeler this offseason, it would be shocking if Nola, 26, didn’t make his third consecutive Opening Day start.
Nola was an effective starter in 2019, posting a 3.87 ERA and 4.03 FIP over 202.1 innings. However, it was a far cry from his 2018 season, which saw him post a 2.37 ERA, 3.01 FIP and 5.4 fWAR over 212.1 frames. To have any chance to win what will be a highly competitive National League East, the Phillies will need Nola to pitch like a National League Cy Young Award contender, as he did two years ago.
Specifically, the Phillies will need Nola to book-end his seasons in a better fashion. He has a 3.93 career ERA in March/April, and a 4.49 ERA in September/October.
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