Matt Bishop | March 12th, 2019
The city of Philadelphia is on fire right now and it came with a $330 million price tag. If you have lived under a rock for the last few weeks or been out of the country on extended leave, the Philadelphia Phillies signed Bryce Harper to a 13 year, $330 million contract, which is the largest contract in baseball history and makes him one of the highest paid athletes on the planet. Even without the Harper signing, the Phillies have had one of the best off-seasons in recent memory, signing one of the best hitting catchers in the game, while also adding some clarity to their bullpen. And it doesn’t stop there.
The Phillies came out of the gate hot last season, really catching fire in the summer. The Phillies also started dying down the stretch and finished the season 80-82, missing the playoffs and finishing 3rd in the NL East behind the Braves and Nationals. The Phillies had added significant pieces to this roster and should be the favorites in a crowded NL East where the Mets have made a significant impact in the offseason and free agency, while the Nationals have added pitching depth and have a few prospects that are future stars. The Braves are still lurking around with one of the youngest and deepest rosters in the National League. It should be an interesting year regardless.
• Bryce Harper, LF
• Andrew McCutchen, RF
• Jean Segura, SS
• J.T. Realmuto, C
• David Robertson, RHP
• Wilson Ramos, C
• Justin Bour, 1B
• Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B/3B/SS
PROJECTED BATTING ORDER:
# POS PLAYER BATS
1 RF Andrew McCutchen R
2 SS Jean Segura R
3 LF Bryce Harper L
4 1B Rhys Hoskins R
5 C J.T. Realmuto R
6 CF Odubel Herrera L
7 3B Maikel Franco R
8 2B Cesar Hernandez S
PROJECTED OPENING DAY INFIELD:
• C J.T. Realmuto
• 1B Rhys Hoskins
• 2B Cesar Hernandez
• 3B Maikel Franco
• SS Jean Segura
Realmuto is arguably one of the best slugging catchers in all of baseball. Last season in 531 plate appearances, which is a large workload for a catcher, he hit .277/.340/.484 (.824 OPS) with 21 HRs 74 Rs 74 RBIs. This was good for a .353 wOBA and 126 wRC+, which made him the highest scoring fantasy catcher in both points and roto leagues. He is going from one of the worst hitter’s parks in Miami to one of the best in Philly so his stock will be sky-high this season. Look for a career year out of Realmuto this year.
Hoskins is a natural first baseman, but due to the signing of Carlos Santana last season, Hoskins was forced to play the outfield, where he struggled immensely with a -18.1 DEF rating, which was the 4th worst in the league. He also started slow and struggled out of the gate, hitting .233/.363/.415 (.778 OPS) with six HRs 28 Rs 28 RBIs before fouling a ball off his face and hitting the DL with a broken jaw on 05/29. After his brief DL stint, the numbers were encouraging, slashing .251/.349/.534 (.883 OPS) with 28 HRs 61 Rs 68 RBIs, which was good for a .374 wOBA and 136 wRC+. Hoskins will resume duties as the everyday first baseman in Philly, which should boost his offensive production. Look for a 40 homerun season out of Hoskins in 2019.
Segura is a career .287 hitter and has hit .300 in his last three seasons. He is also a model of health, recording at least 557 plate appearances in his last six seasons and at least 142+ games in five of those last six seasons. Segura has also averaged 27.3 stolen bases in the past six seasons and hasn’t recorded less than 20 stolen-bases in any of those years. He is set to hit at the top of this potent lineup and should be in line for 100 runs scored hitting in front of Harper, Hoskins, and Realmuto. Expect a career year out of Segura.
PROJECTED OPENING DAY OUTFIELD:
• LF Bryce Harper
• CF Odubel Herrera
• RF Andrew McCutchen
Harper is a generational talent and a six-time All-Star, and he is only 26 years old. He also won Rookie of the Year Honors in 2012 and won a Silver Slugger Award in 2015. He has been chasing his 2015 season, where he hit .330/.460/.649 (1.109 OPS) with 42 HRs 118 Rs 99 RBIs. This was good for a .461 wOBA and 197 wRC +, which would award him MVP Honors. Harper has been unable to approach this slash-line and 2018 was definitely a down year by his standards, where he hit .249/.393/.496 (.889 OPS) with 34 HRs 103 Rs 100 RBIs. However, he would take home the HR Derby Title at the All-Star Game and went on an absolute tear in the 2nd half, slashing .300/.434/.538 (.972 OPS) with 11 HRs 46 Rs 46 RBIs. This was good for a .412 wOBA and 159 wRC+. Harper has one of the best plate approaches in the game and had the second highest walk rate (18.7%) in the league last year, only behind Mike Trout. He will be going from a neutral ballpark in DC to one of the most hitter-friendly atmospheres in all of baseball in Citizen’s Bank Park. It is not out of the question to see 50 home runs out of him in 2019.
McCutchen is entering his age-32 season and has been a model of consistency throughout his stellar career. He is a five-time All-Star, a four-time Silver Slugger Award recipient and took home MVP Honors in 2013. He has played 146+ games in every season of his 10-year career, with the exception of his rookie campaign. In his earlier years, he was a guaranteed 20/20 player, while hitting for a high average, which is evident from his .287 career batting average. He hit 20+ home runs in eight consecutive seasons while stealing 20+ bases in five consecutive seasons. He only hit .255 last season, which was the lowest mark of his career but was also traded two times in 2018. Before then, he spent nine consecutive seasons with the Pirates. He is coming to a better offensive team and one of the best hitter’s parks in baseball, so expect a huge bounce-back year from McCutchen this season. He is slotted to lead off and should score a ton of runs in this robust lineup.
PROJECTED PITCHING ROTATION:
- Aaron Nola
- Jake Arrieta
- Nick Pivetta
- Vince Velasquez
- Zach Eflin
- CLOSER: David Robertson/Seranthony Dominguez
Nola is the bonafide ace of this staff and one of the best pitchers in baseball but surprisingly isn’t even the best pitcher in his division (See Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom). Once considered a pitcher that didn’t have elite swing and miss potential who would have to live in the zone, Nola silenced his critics in 2018, throwing 212.1 innings with a 2.37 ERA 0.97 WHIP 9.50 K/9 2.46 BB/9. He would finish with the 4th best ERA and the 5th best WHIP in all of baseball. He was voted to his first All-Star team and would finish 3rd in Cy Young voting all at the age of 25. Nola had the best curveball in baseball last year, as rated by pitch value (pVAL) at 23.1, where opposing batters were only hitting .156 against his hook. Look for Nola to take another step forward in 2019.
Pivetta is everyone’s sleeper coming into 2019 and is on the cusp. Pivetta threw 164.0 innings in 2018 and pitched to a disappointing 4.77 ERA, but his 3.80 FIP and 3.42 xFIP indicate he may have gotten unlucky due to poor defensive play. This FIP and xFIP indicate he may have pitched more to a high three ERA than a high four, and fans are optimistic. Pivetta finished with a 10.32 K/9 in 2018, which was the 12th best K/9 in the league last season and a career best. He also posted a 12.0% swinging strike rate, which was the 18th best mark in the league last season and also a career-high mark. Pivetta’s bread and butter is his curveball, which finished with a 7.2 pVAL (pitch value) last season and ranked as the 8th best hook in baseball, where batters were only hitting .209 last season against the pitch. Pivetta is entering his age 26 season and only his 3rd in the majors, but the future is bright for the young hurler.
After spending the last two seasons with the Yankees, Robertson was signed as a free agent by the Phillies in the 2018 offseason. He has eclipsed at least 60+ innings pitches in nine consecutive seasons and finished with at least a 10.4 K/9 in all 9 of these seasons. He is a four-pitch pitcher (Fastball, Slider, Curveball, Changeup) and only recently introduced a slider in 2017. He has electric stuff, with two of his four pitches producing positive pitch values last season and very good command. The Phillies bullpen struggled last season and they were unable to name a permanent closer. Robertson may help to give this bullpen some clarity and become their bona fide 9th inning option.
With one of the best off-seasons in recent memory, the Phillies have solidified themselves as the favorite in the NL East and should compete right off the bat. This young team has the talent to stay as one of the best teams in the National League and should assert their dominance right out of the gate. A 100 win season is not out of the question for the Phillies in 2019.
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