The Philadelphia Phillies haven’t been relevant in about a decade. However, 2018 is an extremely important year for the organization. After replenishing young talent in the system that was decimated by former general manager Reuben Amaro, Philly now has a nice young core that they can start to build around. We all know that the 2019 free agency class featuring Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and others isn’t in the far too distant future. Philadelphia now needs to at least show that their young players can play so they can recruit one or two pieces to put the Phillies back into contention.
The Phillies have been in the cellar of the NL East for the last few years but should be on the rise, especially with Miami going into the tank. Philadelphia also spent some money this offseason bringing in Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta. Can both veterans help the team compete and maybe sneak into a wildcard spot? What can we expect from the Philadelphia Phillies in 2018?
Jorge Alfaro will open up the season as the starting catcher. Alfaro was one of the main pieces that came over in the Cole Hamels deal with the Rangers. Alfaro burst onto the scene late last season when he scorched an average of .318 in 104 at-bats. With any young catcher, you never know how he will handle a pitching staff over a full season. However, there’s no denying the fact that Alfaro should come with a big stick at the majors.
Carlos Santana comes over after inking a $60 million deal from the Indians. Santana always seems to find a way to get walked and rarely strikes out. While the former catcher isn’t a star per say, Santana is as consistent as a player can be. He’s also one of the better fielders at first base and should bring a veteran leadership to the Phillies. However, there’s a question to be made about whether Santana fits this young core. Rhys Hoskins is a star in the making and now will be shifted to the outfield accordingly. Is that a mistake on the Phillies part to move a young star to a position that doesn’t best fit his skill set? In the National League, the Santana (31) signing doesn’t make a whole lot of sense unless the Phillies are ready to win now.
Cesar Hernandez, J.P. Crawford, and Maikel Franco round out the infield. Hernandez is quietly a quality second baseman and has hit .294 in back to back seasons. He doesn’t bring a whole lot of power hitting a combined 15 homers the past two years. The Phils will have to figure out whether this is a guy you want to build around. Crawford, the primary shortstop, is four years younger (23) and comes with a defensive prowess to his game. The Craw Daddy will flash his glove on a regular basis this year. Crawford hit just .214 in limited big league action in 2017 which is his biggest concern moving forward. Franco, the third baseman, stormed his way to the bigs but has stunk up the joint since. Franco’s average has gone from .280 to .255 to .230 the last three years. That’s an odd trend considering Franco is starting to head into his golden ages. This could be a make or break year for Franco who has also been off in cuckoo land off the field.
Rhys Hoskins will be the left fielder and is on his way to stardom. Hoskins wasn’t a heralded prospect but he didn’t stop hitting homers when he got called up late in the year. 18 homers in 170 plate appearances to go with a .396 OBP is flat out absurd. Hoskins has the look of a terrifying bat in the Phillies lineup for years to come. Watch out for his former minor league teammate, Dylan Cozens. The “Bash Bros” were a dominating duo in AA and AAA last year. Next to him will be centerfielder Odubel Herrera who is the face of the franchise. Herrera is the Phillies All-Star player and has exceeded expectations since becoming a former steal in the Rule-5 Draft. In three MLB seasons, he has averaged a .288 average and is considered just an all-around solid centerfielder. The right field spot is up for grabs at this point. Nick Williams showed flashes as a guy who can steal that job. He was another big piece to the Hamels deal. Aaron Alther (a player from Germany) and Roman Quinn (a big speed threat) are the other options.
Jake Arrieta, Aaron Nola, Jared Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, and Mark Leiter make up the starting options. Arrieta comes over from a fresh $75 million deal coming from Chicago. Arrieta is in a bit of a decline but there’s no questioning his playoff pedigree. Nola has finally popped as a former first-round pick from LSU. Nola was a 4.2 WAR player and threw a 3.54 ERA. There’s a chance Nola really takes the next step as a former top pitching prospect. The latter half of the rotation comes with inconsistency. Velasquez was a former top arm from the Astros but hasn’t lived up to expectations thus far. For a team like the Phillies, now is the time to decide which arms are worth keeping around when the team is ready to compete for a title again.
The Phillies made an effort to really bolster the bullpen heading into this year. Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter come over after both signing two-year deals. Neshek actually started the 2017 season with the Phillies and really impressed before getting traded to the Rockies. The sidearm reliever was nothing short of unhittable throwing a 1.59 ERA in 2017. Hector Neris and Luis Garcia are also damn good in their own right. Garcia threw a 2.65 ERA a year ago while Neris compiled a 3.01.