Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are hoping for more celebrations, fewer frustrating losses, and an end to the second-longest active Postseason drought in the Majors in 2021. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Opening Day is here! Always one of the most exciting days in sports, today there is hope for all thirty Major League Baseball teams. Everybody is tied for first, hoping that today will be the start of something special. Champions aren’t made in April, but they can start to form there. Regardless of expectations, the fact that warm weather is on the way is exciting enough in itself. After all, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, especially when the Phillies are playing.

Of course, degrees of hope vary from team to team, year to year. Heading in 2021, the Philadelphia Phillies are in the middle of the baseball landscape. Despite having the league’s fourth-highest payroll, most pundits have the Phils on the outside looking in. It has less to do with the Phillies roster, which looks solid in its own right, and more to do with the competition. The Braves will be tough to unseat from the NL East’s thrown. The Padres and Mets already seem to have strangleholds on the two Wild Card spots. If they falter, the Nationals and Brewers are also in a good position to snap up a spot. There could also be a dark horse.

The point is, a lot has to go right for the Phillies to end the National League’s longest Postseason drought, which is going on a decade. But there are a lot of good players that figure to do a lot right to help the Phillies here. Last year’s outstanding lineup is fully intact. The Phillies boast a strong three-headed monster atop their rotation. The bullpen has been mercifully overhauled after a historically bad 2020 performance. Manager Joe Girardi is gearing up for his first 162-game season with the club. New general manager Sam Fuld and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski are hoping to make a strong first impression. And regardless of what happens, at least there will be fans in Citizens Bank Park’s stands once again.

As the first pitch approaches, all most fans care about is who is on the roster and how they figure to lead the Phillies back to the Postseason six months from now. No time like the present to answer that question, and to do so, I’m bringing out a unique method I’ve used the last two seasons to introduce the Philadelphia Flyers (who we all need a break from right now). So without further a due, here are your 2021 Philadelphia Phillies… in three sentences or less. (New players are underlined).

Starting Lineup

LF Andrew McCutchen (2020: .253/.324/.433, 10 HR, 34 RBI)

The 34-year old is entering the final year of his contract fully healthy after an ACL tear in 2019 lingered into his 2020 usage. Cutch is no longer a perennial MVP, but he’s a solid bat and great leader in the clubhouse. Ring the Bell > Raise the Jolly Rodger.

1B Rhys Hoskins (2020: .245/.384/.503, 10 HR, 26 RBI)

Just as Hoskins was catching fire down the stretch, a freak injury ended his season and required Tommy John on his non-throwing arm. You know what you’re getting in Hoskins: a rare combination of power and plate patience, though he does strike out a lot. Perhaps the Phillies will try him in left field again occasionally to get Alec Bohm some reps at first, but maybe that’s a stretch.

RF Bryce Harper (2020: .268/.420/.542, 13 HR, 33 RBI)

Harper’s second year in Philadelphia was definitely his best, as he looked like an MVP candidate early in the year. Back issues hampered him down the stretch, but he still performed even as the team sputtered at the finish line. Nobody wants the Phillies to return to the Postseason more than Bryce, and he’ll be a major factor if they indeed do so in 2021.

C J.T. Realmuto (2020: .266/.349/.491, 11 HR, 32 RBI)

The best catcher in baseball is thankfully still a Phillie, which definitely wasn’t a lock six months ago. Realmuto’s 2020 numbers are even better if you ignore the last week of the season when he was playing hurt. Keeping him at least gives the Phillies credibility, and hopefully a lot more, too.

3B Alec Bohm (2020: .338/.400/.481, 4 HR, 23 RBI)

After finishing tied for second in NL rookie of the year voting, Bohm could be the best home-grown Phillies hitter since Ryan Howard. He was absolutely unbelievable last year with runners in scoring position (.452/.519/.524). This is a big year to prove whether he can be a long-term option at the hot corner.

SS Didi Gregorius (2020: .284/.339/.488, 10 HR, 40 RBI)

Like Realmuto, there were serious questions as to whether Gregorius would return to Philadelphia for 2021. Didi tore the cover of the ball in his first year in Philly, leading the team in RBIs. His deal is for two years, but he could move to second or DH if the Phillies become big players in the legendary shortstop free-agent market of the 2021-22 offseason.

2B Jean Segura (2020: .266/.347/.422, 7 HR, 25 RBI)

Other than an increase in home runs (12 in 2019, 21 HR pace in 2020) and a slightly noteworthy .014 dip in batting average, Segura stayed pretty consistent from year one to two in red pinstripes. The move to second base didn’t prove too challenging for Jimmy Cigarettes. I forgot to add a third sentence before the Phils’ first game, of which Segura was the hero of by delivering a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th.

CF Adam Haseley (2020: .278/.348/.342, 0 HR, 13 RBI)

Haseley’s power and defense really dropped off after a promising 2019 rookie run. Despite a left groin strain that sidelined him for most of the spring, Haseley appears to have won the center field job over Roman Quinn (bench), Odubel Herrera (minors), and Scott Kingery (minors). He only took 10 at-bats against lefties last year, but his numbers improved (2020: .400/.400/.500, 2019: .212/.281/.250 in 52 ABs); it’s not much, but it’s a start.

Bench

C Andrew Knapp (2020: .278/.404//.444, 2 HR, 15 RBI)

Knapp went from whipping boy to surprisingly solid in 2020. He obviously won’t start ahead of Realmuto but should get a decent number of games over the course of the year. We’ll see if the hitting improvements stick, but he’s great at calling a game regardless, which is vital to being a good backup catcher.

2B Brad Miller (2020 – STL: .232/.357/.451, 7 HR, 25 RBI)

Miller was great on and off the field as a midseason acquisition for the Phillies in 2019. He led the Cardinals in home runs last year and made sense for the Phillies to target to improve their bench. Expect him to play a lot of left field to spell McCutchen, even though he’s primarily an infielder.

SS Ronald Torreyes (2020: .143/.143/.286, 0 HR, 0 RBI)

Few if no one saw Torreyes making the roster, but with Scott Kingery being demoted to work on his swing, the Phillies needed another middle-infielder. His connection with Girardi from their Yankees days certainly helped his case. Torreyes appeared in just four games for the 2020 Phillies; he might clear double-digits this year, but I doubt he’ll get much higher.

CF Roman Quinn (2020: .213/.261/.315, 2 HR, 7 RBI)

No one is questioning Quinn’s speed; his bat and health, on the other hand, are always up for debate. Odubel Herrera nearly stole his spot with a strong spring, and though Quinn is still in The Show right now, he’s running out of chances to prove himself. He should get a lot of looks in center when there’s a lefty starting early in the year.

RF Matt Joyce (2020 – MIA: .252/.351/.331, 2 HR, 14 RBI)

Joyce has a solid track record as a power-hitting left-handed pinch-hitter, and as Miller proved, the Phils were in the market for those guys. A strong spring parlayed a minor-league deal into a spot on the Opening Day roster. At 36, he’s older than every other Phillie except Brandon Kintzler, who is exactly two days older.

Starting Rotation

RHP Aaron Nola (2020: 5-5, 3.28 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 1.08 WHIP, 12.1 K/9)

Nola was outright dominant in 2018, but a little underwhelming in 2019. His 2020 season was somewhere in the middle, but definitely a step in the right direction; his ERA and WHIP went down, and his K/9 reached a career-high 12.1. The Phillies won’t make the Postseason if he bombs a fourth straight September (4.45 ERA combined in Sept. 2018-2020).

RHP Zack Wheeler (2020: 4-2, 2.92 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 1.17 WHIP, 6.7 K/9)

Wheeler sacrificed strikeouts for weak contact in his first year in Philly, and the results were phenomenal. Only Shane Bieber, Max Fried, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Trevor Bauer had a higher pitching WAR in 2020. He’s got a good shot at being the last Phillies pitcher to ever homer, too.

RHP Zach Eflin (2020: 4-2, 3.97 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 1.27 WHIP, 10.7 K/9)

Joe Girardi said he envisions Eflin as the “1C” to Nola (1A) and Wheeler (1B), which is what he looked like in 2020. Eflin trusted his stuff last year and it led to his best year on the bump, highlighted by an increase of 3.6 strikeouts per nine innings. If Giradi is right (or close to it), the Phillies could have a 1-2-3 punch capable of stealing a Postseason series, should the opportunity arise.

LHP Matt Moore (2020 – in Japan: 6-3, 2.65 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 10.4 K/9)

The Phillies knew they needed to improve the back of their rotation, and they opted for quantity over quality in doing so. The 2013 All-Star put up strong numbers overseas last year, and the Phillies are depending on him to eat innings after a strong spring. No lefty has started more than 21 games in a season for Philadelphia since Cliff Lee in 2013 (31).

RHP Chase Anderson (2020 – MIL: 1-2, 7.22 ERA, 6.16 FIP, 1.63 WHIP, 10.2 K/9)

Last year was obviously not a strong one for Anderson, though his strikeout rate did jump by 2.2 per nine. His ERA has steadily increased over the last four years, from 2.74 to 3.93 to 4.21 to 7.22 last year. The Phillies are hoping to get one of those middle numbers out of Anderson this year, which doesn’t seem like an outlandish bet.

Bullpen

Closer: RHP Hector Neris (2020: 4.58 ERA, 5/8 SV, 2.50 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 11.2 K/9)

The longest-tenured Phillie added a slider to his repertoire over the offseason. The competition was stiff, but he beat out Archie Bradley and Jose Alvardo to regain the closer’s title. If Neris goes 55/55 in saves, his career save percentage would match struggling Carter Hart’s 2021 mark (.869%).

Setup: RHP Archie Bradley (2020 – ARI/CIN: 2.95 ERA, 6/7 SV, 3.32 FIP, 1.09 WHIP, 8.8 K/9)

At $6 million, Bradley represents the most expensive free-agent signing for a non-2020 Phillie of the offseason. He’ll probably close some games over the course of the year, but I actually think he operates best as a set-up man. Let’s hope this works out better than the last notable righty reliever the Phillies went after in free agency.

Setup: LHP José Alvarado (2020 – TB: 6.00 ERA, 5.86 FIP, 1.67 WHIP, 13.0 K/9)

The surprise demotion of JoJo Romero means the Phillies are only carrying one lefty in the bullpen to start 2021. It’s a darn good lefty, though; Alvardo’s stuff looked nasty all camp. Now that he’s back in shape, the Phils’ are hoping he can be the electric lefty their ‘pen has lacked for a while.

RHP Sam Coonrod (2020 – SF: 9.82 ERA, 3/5 SV, 4.76 FIP, 1.64 WHIP, 9.2 K/9)

Velocity was sorely lacking in last year’s Phillies ‘pen, and Coonrod brings that to the table. The 28-year old sputtered out a 9.28 ERA last year, but his FIP was actually better than his rookie year (4.76 vs. 5.24) when he posted a 3.58 ERA. It’s far from a guarantee he spends the entire year in The Show.

RHP Connor Brogdon (2020: 3.97 ERA, 4.96 FIP, 0.88 WHIP, 13.5 K/9)

In the midst of a historically bad 2020 Phillies bullpen, Brogdon was a small shimmer of light at the end of the year. His fastball velocity increased, and unsurprisingly, his strikeout totals did too as a result. Girardi thinks he could be Ryan Madson; other than Neris, the Phillies haven’t had a homegrown reliever like that in a while.

RHP Brandon Kintzler (2020 – MIA: 2.22 ERA, 12/14 SV, 5.00 FIP, 5.2 K/9)

Like Joyce, Kintzler entered Spring Training on a Minor League deal, knowing if he performed, the Phillies would likely pony up. He delivered on his end of the bargain (1.86 ERA), and the Phillies did likewise. Not the flashiest name, but a solid reliever with big-game experience.

RHP Vince Velasquez (2020: 1-1, 5.56 ERA, 4.16 FIP, 1.60 WHIP, 12.2 K/9)

It was a mild surprise to see Velasquez tendered a 1-year, $4 million contract instead of handed his walking papers. The stuff has always been there, but consistency and the ability to put hitters away have stunted his development. I think he could be a dynamite reliever, but he’ll have to buy into the role in order to do so; besides, he’ll probably start again at some point in 2021.

RHP David Hale (2020 – NYY/PHI: 3.71 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 1.59 WHIP, 7.4 K/9)

Hale is another guy whose Yankee connections with Girardi helped his case, although it’s not a surprise to see him here. That’s because he signed a guaranteed $750K contract in the offseason. Hale is a traditional long-reliever who can eat multiple innings and perhaps open a game in a pinch; nothing less, nothing more.

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