Tentatively, the Philadelphia Phillies are scheduled to open their 2021 season on April 1, when they will welcome the three-time defending National League East Champion Atlanta Braves to Citizens Bank Park. Schedule, rule and personnel changes could alter what Joe Girardi’s lineup will look like to open the season, but here’s out first projection.
No. 1: Andrew McCutchen, Left Field
The primary concerns surrounding McCutchen are whether he’s still capable of playing in the outfield at this stage of his career. But while the 34-year-old did still homer 10 times and drive in 34 runs in 2020, his on-base percentage dipped by over 50 points year over year. In large part, that was because McCutchen walked 43 times in 59 games in 2019, but only 22 times in 57 games this past season. If he’s going to be the team’s primary leadoff hitter in 2021, McCutchen will need to improve on the .324 on-base percentage he had in 2020.
No. 2: Rhys Hoskins, First Base
Following a disappointing 2019 season, Hoskins bounced back in a big way in 2020, slashing .245/.384/.503 with 10 home runs, 26 RBIs and 29 walks in 41 games. Unfortunately, his season was ended prematurely by a left UCL injury, one which led to him having surgery in early October. Initially, the surgery came with a four-to-six month recovery timeline, but both he and Girardi suggested he could be ready for opening day in January. Hoskins hit second in the lineup in all 41 games he played in last season, so if he’s ready to play when the season opens, it’s a pretty safe bet to think that he’ll be hitting No. 2.
No. 3: Bryce Harper, Right Field
Harper played at least half of the 2020 season with a back injury that clearly hampered him, but still managed to hit .268 with 13 home runs, 33 RBIs and 49 walks in 58 games. At 28, he should be at the height of his offensive powers, meaning 2021 could prove to be the best of 13 seasons in Philly.
No. 4: J.T. Realmuto, Catcher
From here, Realmuto probably makes more sense as the No. 5 hitter, but he hit cleanup in 43 of the 47 games that he played in 2020. He may ultimately be moved elsewhere in the lineup, but typically, you don’t move someone down in the lineup right after signing them to a five-year/$115.5 million contract.
No. 5: Alec Bohm, Third Base
The Phillies hope in his age-24 season that Bohm begins to come into his own from a power sense, but he was already an excellent run producer in his rookie season. Bohm hit .452 and drove in 18 runs with runners in scoring position in his rookie season, en route to finishing runner-up in National League Rookie of the Year voting. While that’s almost certainly an unsustainable clip, he projects as an elite run producer, and the Phillies will benefit from a full year of him in the lineup.
No. 6: Didi Gregorius, Shortstop
The Phillies may have hoped for a better defensive performance from Gregorius – he had -2 defensive runs saved in 2020 – but he panned out about as well as they could have hoped for offensively. Gregorius played all 60 games in 2020, slashing .284/.339/.488 with 10 home runs, 40 RBIs and an .827 OPS. Over he course of a full 162-game season, he should hit 25+ home runs, making him one of the best No. 6 hitters in the league.
No. 7: Jean Segura, Second Base
In nearly 200 games as a Phillie, Segura has hit .276, a relatively disappointing mark considering he hit .300 or better in the three seasons preceding his arrival to Philadelphia. Still, it would hardly be surprising to see Segura hit north of .280 this season, and he provides tremendous defensive versatility. For a No. 7 hitter, you could do quite a bit worse.
No. 8: Scott Kingery, Center Field
If the Phillies do indeed play the Braves on opening day, Max Fried will likely be the starter, which likely rules out Adam Haseley from starting. Matt Gelb of The Athletic reported earlier this week that the Phillies “believe that Kingery needs to play his way back into an everyday role,” which he should considering he has struggled mightily in two of his three major league seasons. Still, Girardi seemed hesitant to play Haseley against lefties at all last season, and Roman Quinn hit .213 in 108 at-bats. Who knows what the plan is for Mickey Monaik at this stage. Kingery has, by a sizable amount, the most upside of the center field options currently employed by the Phillies.
No. 9: Aaron Nola, Pitcher
If we had to make a bet, there will be a universal DH in 2021, though no agreement has been reached yet. Nola will almost certainly be the opening day starter for the fourth consecutive season, and if there’s no DH, his .077 career batting average will be back in the lineup.
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