Written By Jason Voorhees
The Phillies wrapped up their spring training schedule today in walk off fashion. Minor leaguer Malvin Matos went yard in the bottom of the ninth to give the home team the 3-2 victory. The Phillies finished the most anticipated spring in recent memory with a .500 record (14-14-3). The Phillies begin their quest of a championship on Thursday against the Atlanta Braves in their home opener.
Last years team was one of the Cinderella stories before a late season collapse ended that dream. Of course, that was last season. Thanks to an objectively excellent offseason, the Phillies are now one of the top teams in major league baseball and are expected to contend for the National League pennant. Team brass Klentak and Middleton backed up their promise to be aggressive in free agency by having a historic offseason of epic proportion.
Adding Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, and David Robertson to the already talented young team may have put the team over the top on paper. However; were all of these moves enough to propel the team to its first division championship since 2011? Only time will tell.
One things for sure though...this team is going to be exciting to watch day in and day out as the Phillies are once again RELEVANT.
On paper, this team definitely appears to be the favorite to win the National League East. However; that's why they play the games and we know its not always the most talented roster that wins. The Phillies definitely have the superior lineup, which may be the best in the entire national league. And do not discount the importance of having the same everyday lineup day in and day out which is in direct contrast with last season when Gabe Kapler rolled out 134 different cards.
As we sit here today; let's take a look at what the starting lineup will look like in 2019:
1) Andrew McCutchen (CF)
2) Jean Segura (SS)
3) Bryce Harper (RF)
4) Rhys Hoskins (1B)
5) J.T. Realmuto (C)
6) Odubell Herrera (CF)
7) Cesar Hernandez (2B)
8) Mikael Franco (3B)
9) Starting Pitcher (P)
That s a pretty impressive lineup to say the least. A ton of on base percentage and lots of pop up and down the lineup. Last season Franco was the 5-6 hitter and now in this lineup he is batting 8th. This team is projected to score a ton of runs especially playing half its games at CBP.
Of course, the starting pitching remains a bit of a question mark sans Aaron Nola. However; any team that boasts a pitcher of Nola's caliber cannot be doing too bad. Nola is the unquestioned ace and he should once again be in the CY Young conversation throughout the year. If Jake Arietta can overcome the disappointing 2018, this team should have a dynamic 1-2 punch to say the least.
The x-factor of course is Nick Pivetta. Some analysts are picking Pivetta to make the jump to stardom this season. Nick is blessed with an above average fastball and has added great secondary pitches as compliments. If Pivetta can somehow step up this year, then look out Major League Baseball. The rest of the rotation is rounded out by Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez. However; Phillies brass is already on record saying that they will look to trade for help at the deadline if these young guys stumble out of the gate.
The Phillies of course boast an above average bullpen which should be the missing link as long as their offense is as good as advertised. They brought in closer David Robertson who was one of the most consistent back end guys in a very tough American League for years. Then they have Seranthony Dominguez and Hector Neris (both have closer experience as well) as setup guys. When these guys are on, their stuff is absolutely nasty as well.
The rest of the division also improved during the offseason including the New York Mets, Washington Nationals, and Atlanta Braves. The Mets and Nationals both have pitching staffs that are TOP 5 in MLB. However; their lineups are no where near the level of the Phillies. And the Braves, who did sign FA 3B Josh Donaldson; are one year more mature after winning the division last year.
The division will ultimately come down to whichever team is able to execute at top level. As mentioned, on paper the Phillies seem to be the favorite to come out on top at the end of the year. It would not be surprising to see three of these teams in the East make the playoffs.
Here are my picks for the Division standings:
Philadelphia Phillies: 96-66 (NL EAST CHAMPS)
New York Mets: 90-72 (WC)
Washington Nationals: 87-75
Atlanta Braves: 82-80
Miami Marlins: 70-92
This is my pick and I am standing by it. Some of you will say that I am a homer and I am ok with that suggestion. The bottom line is that the Phillies had one of the best winters of all-time and I firmly believe that this team will overachieve due to the excitement around the ballpark and because they have the best fans in baseball. When the Phillies are having success, like the last golden years of 2008-2012, CBP is electric and that home field advantage will take this team to the next level.
In fact, Phillies fans actually travel with the best of them and it begins in one week when we takeover DC in Harper's return to the Nationals. This season should be epic and its going to be awesome to watch Bryce Harper, one of the games best young stars shine in front of the Philly faithful. As mentioned in his own introductory press conference...there will be ups and downs. However; here's to hoping that the ups absolutely trump the downs. Get your popcorn ready Philly...BRYCE Yourselves...Its gonna be a SHOW!
About Jason Voorhees
Jason resides in Norristown, PA and writes about all things sports and heavy metal music.