This is the second installment of our NL East Preview series. You can read about the Mets here.
Coming off a World Series appearance, the Philadelphia Phillies were aggressive this offseason, bringing in veteran talent to try and cement a top spot in the National League. Their regular season performance left more to be desired, but a strong postseason showed the potential of this team.
When talking about this season, you have to start with the injuries of Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins. Bryce Harper has been one of the best hitters in the past decade, and last season he played through injuries and still had a .877 OPS. The Phillies’ season hinges on Harper coming back from Tommy John surgery before July.
Rhys Hoskins’ injury potentially brings his tenure with the Phillies to an unfortunate end. Hoskins has consistently been an above-average hitter while in the big leagues. While compared to other first basemen it’s not impressive, he’s consistently been a solid regular at the position. The Phillies likely won’t have a solution at first on Opening Day, but it should be addressed by the trade deadline.
Even without Harper and Hoskins, the Phillies lineup has upside. Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, and J.T. Realmuto are all some of the best at their respective positions. Nick Castellanos is coming off an awful year, but he was great in the postseason. If one of the trio of former top prospects, Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott, and Brandon Marsh can put together an All-Star caliber season, then the Phillies might not even need Harper.
There was a decent amount of turnover in the pitching staff, but that’s a good thing for a rotation and bullpen that ranked 14th and 23rd in ERA respectively. They added Taijuan Walker, who is a great fourth starter behind Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Ranger Suárez. The bullpen has gotten a complete overhaul, adding Craig Kimbrel, Matt Strahm, Gregory Soto, and Yunior Marte. While none of them were elite last season, the Phillies essentially have four high-leverage arms to form one of the scarier closer committees.
Overall this team has potential to be an October contender, but it won’t become clear until Harper’s return. That doesn’t mean that the season entirely hinges on him, but the National League is so stacked with talent in East and West that there isn’t much wiggle room. Every game truly does count for the Phillies in this first half and they will be fun to watch.