Ladies And Gentlemen, Please Welcome Your 2022 Philadelphia Phillies
One hundred and ninety days ago, the Phillies sat stunned in the third-base dugout at Truist Park and watched their greatest nightmare unfold in front of them once again. The potential postseason return that felt completely undeserved at some times and destined at others fell agonizingly short yet again. For the fourth straight season, the Phillies carried hopes of a Red October into September. They’ve remained intact into the final week of the season the last three years. But the Phillies simply ran out of gas each time.
Perhaps that last sentence explains the motivation behind the Phillies’ offseason the best. Instead of merely just plugging holes or running it back, they splurged on two outfielders known for the energy they provide with both towering home runs and in the clubhouse. They revamped their bullpen with a focus on velocity and stuff. Doing so pushed them past the luxury tax for the first time in franchise history. And two first-round picks who seemed like long shots to make the roster just a few weeks ago did.
There is momentum around the Phillies for probably the third time in the last three years. Only their even bigger 2019 offseason and the eight-game winning streak in August that recaptured a fragment of the glory days from the 2007-11 run come close to matching it. It isn’t all-encompassing, but it is real. The Phillies are widely viewed as the third-best team in the NL East. But the teams ahead of them are not without turmoil. That is less of a death sentence than in the past with MLB adding an extra wild card spot. Although even that would not have salvaged any of the recent Phillies teams past; they have not finished higher than 7th in the National League since 2011.
There will be a lot to be said about the 2022 Phillies, no matter what their fate is. But before their story can be told, it’s important to know the starting cast. That, of course, means it’s time for one of my favorite articles of the year. Here is what you need to know about every member of the 2022 Philadelphia Phillies — in three sentences or less.
Starting Lineup (Underlined: New Addition, Italicized: Rookie)
LF Kyle Schwarber (2021 – WSH/BOS: .266/.374/.554, 32 HR, 71 RBI, 3.2 Baseball-Reference WAR)
The Phillies were always going to get at least one big bat this offseason, and they preferred to find one with Postseason experience. Save for a downright awful 2020, Schwarber is money in the bank for 30 home runs and brings an infectious personality to the team’s clubhouse. He certainly isn’t a traditional lead-off hitter, but he does get on base at a high rate, so experimenting with him at the top of the lineup (a spot he often filled for the Red Sox) is at least worth a shot.
C J.T. Realmuto (2021: .263/.343/.439, 17 HR, 73 RBI, 3.5 WAR)
Nagging injuries hampered Realmuto’s power a fair bit in 2021, though he still delivered a productive season. Joe Girardi said he plans for Realmuto to catch 120 games in 2022, but he should play more thanks to the universal DH. Betting on a 31-year old catcher to produce at a $20 million level generally isn’t smart, but Realmuto is a special enough talent to be worth the risk.
RF Bryce Harper (2021: .309/.429/.615, 35 HR, 84 RBI, 5.9 WAR)
After an up-and-down first half that included a fastball to the face and trouble with hitting fastballs, Harper absolutely mashed from July out, becoming the franchise’s first MVP since 2007. A full season at that level could carry the Phillies back to the Postseason on its own. It’s a scary thought that with increased protection and some games at DH, Harper could be even better in 2022.
DH Nick Castellanos (2021 – CIN: .309/.362/.576, 34 HR, 100 RBI, 3.2 WAR)
A Dave Dombrowski draft pick in Detroit (No. 44 in 2010), Castellanos brings not just another incredibly powerful bat to the Phillies, but the type of swagger and confidence a decade-long Postseason drought can sap out of a city. He’ll probably play the most games at DH, followed by left field, where he’s played just 74.1 innings in the Majors. If everything goes south in the Phillies’ third base competition, is there any marginal chance Castellanos, a regular third baseman for Detroit for his first four years in the show, gets a look?
1B Rhys Hoskins (2021: .247/.334/.530, 27 HR, 71 RBI)
The face of the franchise (or at least the lineup) four years ago, Hoskins has almost become an afterthought. That’s a good thing, though, since it’s the result of the Phillies getting better, not Hoskins getting worse. Hoskins traded walks for power last year, recording his best slugging percentage since his absurd but brief rookie season, but easily his worst OBP (his previous low was .354).
SS Didi Gregorius (2021: .209/.270/.370, 13 HR, 54 RBI, -0.8 WAR)
Arguably no Phillie suffered a sharper, more unexpected decline (at least Alec Bohm was probably due for some regression) last year than Gregorius, who battled an elbow injury to deliver easily the worst season of his career at the plate and in the field. It’s dangerous to read too much into Spring Training, but Gregorius has looked better on both sides of the ball. I’m still not sure if the fact he and Bryson Stott both hit lefty helps or hurts Gregorius’ playing time.
2B Jean Segura (2021: .290/.348/.436, 14 HR, 58 RBI, 3.7 WAR)
It felt like Segura’s season was unraveling in May, when he dropped a pop-up for not the first time and argued vehemently with Joe Girardi about it. Though his offensive numbers did take a fairly significant dip in the second half, Segura felt like one of the Phillies’ most reliable players as injuries tore apart the lineup around him, Harper, and Realmuto. On a Phillies team that figures to struggle defensively, Segura was tied for 8th among second basemen and second on the Phillies behind Ranger Suárez with five defensive runs saved in 2021, per Fielding Bible.
3B Bryson Stott (2021 – AA/AAA: .299/.390/.486, 16 HR, 49 RBI)
Player development has been a major reason for Philadelphia’s recent “so close, but yet so far” Postseason chances. Stott only has about half a season at Double-A exactly 33 at-bats at Triple-A, but he’s produced at both levels, the Arizona Fall League, and throughout Spring Training. He’ll play all over the infield to start, which maybe isn’t optimal, but then again neither is the list of Phillies players to make their debuts on Opening Day — hopefully, Stott can make it look better.
CF Matt Vierling (2021 – AA/AAA: .276/.358/.444, 11 HR, 47 RBI)
Vierling hit the ball a lot, and he hit the ball hard last year but didn’t elevate it quite enough. Still, Vierling undoubtedly succeded in 2021, winning a MiLB.com organization All-Star award and hitting .324 in a brief MLB stint. He’s a corner outfielder by trade, and even in the Phillies’ imperfect defense, Vierling may be the biggest square peg the Phillies are trying to jam into
a round hole center field.
CF Mickey Moniak (2021 – AAA: .238/.299/.447, 15 HR, 65 RBI)
If Stott’s place in the Opening Day lineup is surprising, Moniak’s is downright shocking. Girardi all but ruled him out of the center field competition even after Odúbel Herrera’s injury, to which Moniak responded by launching six home runs this spring. He’ll need to get on base much more to stick, but there’s something to be said for just celebrating a happy moment.
C Garrett Stubbs (2021 – AAA (HOU): .265/.418/.363, 2 HR, 15 RBI)
The Phillies acquired Stubbs from the Astros for outfielder Logan Cerny, the team’s 10th round pick last year. He’s a defense-first catcher with experience in parts of three seasons but without more than 40 at-bats in them. The Phillies relied on Andrew Knapp, a similarly poor hitter, a lot last year in pinch-hit situations because he could switch hit, but whoever was going to be the backup catcher this year automatically will be counted on less to hit because of the universal DH (it’s funny how that keeps popping up).
2B Johan Camargo (2021 – AAA (ATL): .326/.401/.557, 19 HR, 67 RBI)
Speaking of switch-hitters, Camargo is one, versatile in both the field and at the plate. That wasn’t enough to make him a regular on the Braves’ MLB roster last year (or even have a hit in 11 MLB plate appearances), but the Phillies saw enough to give him $1.4 million in their final pre-lockout move. Nick Maton is probably the first call-up if Camargo falters or there’s an injury after the Luke Williams trade.
3B Alec Bohm (2021: .247/.305/.342, 7 HR, 47 RBI, -1.4 WAR)
Bohm’s inability to hit for power, especially on fastballs, combined with his poor defense at third took him off the MLB roster for all but the final six games of the Phillies’ last six weeks. If you look past a nightmare first two months, Bohm did hit .292 from June out. But the 2020 NL Rookie of the Year co-runner up is undoubtedly in a battle for his Major League life.
CF Símon Muzziotti (2021 – ROK/A/A+/AA/AAA – .296/.375/.380, 0 HR, 12 RBI)
Injuries to Odúbel Herrera and a brutal broken hand for Mickey Moniak on Wednesday’s final exhibition game paved the way for Muzziotti, a 23-year old who has made just 83 at-bats since 2019 due to COVID and visa issues, to make the team. Muzziotti made between 3 and 25 at-bats at every Minor League level last year and produced in all of them except Triple-A. There are no other outfielders on the 40-man roster behind him.
RHP Aaron Nola (2021: 9-9, 4.63 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 1.13 WHIP, 11.1 K/9, 2.7 WAR)
Lots of Nola’s numbers from last year, from FIP to K/9 to a career-best 1.9 BB/9, suggest the 2014 1st round pick was pretty unlucky. But you can’t ignore Nola’s legitimate struggles with runners on base and in 0-2 counts. The smart money is on a bounce-back for five months — but all bets are off in September, a month that could define the Phillies’ season and Nola’s future.
RHP Kyle Gibson (2021 – TEX/PHI: 10-9, 3.71 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 1.22 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 3.7 WAR)
Mixing a sinker-ball pitcher with the league’s worst infield defense predictably didn’t work out all the well for Gibson. You could argue he’d been the biggest beneficiary if Stott, a solid defender, sticks around. If nothing else, he’ll (probably) always have the last home run by a Phillies pitcher.
RHP Zach Eflin (2021: 4-7, 4.17 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 1.25 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 1.8 WAR)
One year ago, Girardi heralded Eflin, still a good pitcher, as the rotation’s “1C” behind Nola and Wheeler. Now he’s a bit of the forgotten piece after missing the last two months of 2021. Of Philadelphia’s pending free agents, Eflin is probably the most significant piece, barring a breakout from a new bullpen arm.
LHP Ranger Suárez (2021: 8-5, 1.36 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 1.00 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 5.8 WAR)
Few pitchers have ever had a season like Suárez’s 2021. He bounced from piggy-backing Spencer Howard to set-up duties to closer to the rotation, somehow never skipping a beat. His pinpoint control and ability to mix speeds are key to being even 80% as good as his masterful 2021.
RHP Zack Wheeler (2021: 14-10, 2.78 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 1.01 WHIP, 10.4 K/9, 7.8 WAR)
It’s not hard to find articles about how the Phillies have wasted the first three years of Bryce Harper’s deal, but there probably should be more about how they’ve let Wheeler down, too. No pitcher has accumulated a higher pitching WAR (per Baseball-Reference) over the last two years than Wheeler’s 10.4. He’ll begin the year with shorter starts, as shoulder pain and illness pushed his timeline back — but as long as he finishes fine, the Phillies will probably take it.
Closer: RHP Corey Knebel (2021 – LAD: 3/5 SV, 2.45 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 0.97 WHIP, 10.5 K/9, 0.7 WAR)
Perhaps no pitcher has a wider of range of outcomes for the Phillies as Knebel. He had a 39-save season in 2018 with Milwaukee and looked good last year for the Dodgers, but has thrown just 39 innings over the last three years. Perhaps the biggest thing working in his favor is there’s no one stand-out candidate to close if he struggles.
Setup: RHP Jeruys Familia (2021 – NYM: 1/7 SV, 3.94 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 1.42 WHIP, 10.9 K/9, 0.0 WAR)
Familia is the poster boy of an ideology the Phillies leaned towards last year but are embracing in 2022: focus on velocity and stuff, worry about command later. Familia worked into lots of trouble with the Mets but also worked out of most of it. Style points are hardly a consideration for a Phillies bullpen looking to avoid historic ineptitude for the third straight year.
Setup: LHP Brad Hand (2021 – NYM/WSH/TOR: 21/29 SV, 3.90 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 1.27 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, -0.3 WAR)
2021 was a tale of three teams for Hand: he was great with the Mets, ok for the Nationals, and struggled to the point of being released by the Blue Jays. In 2020, however, he was top 10% in MLB in ERA, walk and strikeout rates, expected BA against, and more (per Baseball Savant). Don’t pay too much attention to the set-up labels, those will probably change at least a few times this season.
LHP José Alvarado (2021: 4.20 ERA, 4.80 FIP, 1.60 WHIP, 11.0 K/9, 0.3 WAR)
The ex-Ray was largely as advertised in his first season in Philly: electric pitches that he struggles to control. Alvarado certainly has a temper, at that can work for and against him. I kind of like how that plays (in theory) in the sixth inning better than in the eighth.
RHP Seranthony Domínguez (2021: 1 IP – 0.00 ERA, 1.17 FIP, 9.0 K/9, 0.0 IP)
It’s easy to forget now, but Domínguez really was dominant for a few months as the team’s closer in 2018. But he’s pitched just 25.2 Major League innings since then, undergoing Tommy John in 2020. His velocity was there in the spring, but you have to expect some sort of shaking off the rust period.
RHP Connor Brogdon (2021: 3.43 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 1.13 WHIP, 7.8 K/9, 1.0 WAR)
Brogdon’s spring couldn’t have gone worse. Not only was he shelled for a 10.80 ERA, but his velocity was noticeably down until his final appearance. He might’ve started on the IL if the team’s health was in better shape.
LHP Damon Jones (2021 – AAA: 5.44 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, 12.4 K/9)
The Phillies bullpen depth really starts to thin out here due to injuries/unavailability (which is why Sam Coonrod and new acquisitions Ryan Sherriff and James Norwood aren’t on the roster) and it being, well, the Phillies bullpen. Jones walked nearly a batter an inning in 34 appearances for the Iron Pigs last year. He probably wouldn’t be on the roster if he wasn’t a lefty (part 1 of 2).
LHP Bailey Falter (2021 – AAA: 1.76 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 12.9 K/9)
Falter was on the verge of cracking the rotation last summer before going through a serious bout with COVID. He’s being trained as a starter, but his unique arm angle could make him even more effective out of the bullpen. Yes, he’s a lefty, but he had a decent shot of making the team outright to piggyback Wheeler early on.
LHP Cristopher Sánchez (2021 – AAA : 4.68 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 11.0 K/9)
He probably wouldn’t be on the roster if he wasn’t a lefty (part 2 of 2). Sánchez put up basically identical numbers as Falter in the Majors last year, posting nearly the same era for the Phillies as he had in Lehigh Valley. He’s third Phillies Top 30 prospects list with a fastball rating 55 on the 20-80 scale, an above-average grade.
RHP Nick Nelson (2021 – AAA (NYY): 3.81 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 10.7 K/9)
He probably wouldn’t be on the roster if he wasn’t a left-oh, he’s a righty, never mind. A 4th round pick of the Yankees in 2016 (meaning he was in the organization for a year and a half with Girardi), Nelson is your run-of-the-mill long man whose ERA last year (8.79) was more than double his FIP (4.08). The David Hale comparison isn’t a fun one to make, but it’s too obvious not to bring up.
*Stats are from Baseball-Reference unless otherwise stated
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