Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Philadelphia Phillies 2019 season preview

Seranthony Dominguez


            The Philadelphia Phillies entered August 1st in the NL East, and on August 7th had a 64-49 record. Over the next two months, the Phillies completely collapsed, and didn't even finish over .500. With the NL East getting stronger, the Phillies adapted, and brought in stars in the infield, outfield, and in the bullpen. The Phillies' lineup is stacked, and if a young rotation and bullpen can adapt to the big leagues, then the Phillies will succeed.

             Offseason additions: OF Bryce Harper, C JT Realmuto, SS Jean Segura, RHP David Robertson, OF Andrew McCutchen, RHP Juan Nicasio, LHP James Pazos, LHP Jose Alvarez, UT Sean Rodriguez, C Drew Butera, OF Lane Adams, OF Shane Robinson, UT Andrew Romine, INF Gift Ngoepe, INF Phil Gosselin, C Rob Brantly

            Offseason subtractions: 1B Carlos Santana, C Jorge Alfaro, SS JT Crawford, C Wilson Ramos, INF Asdrubal Cabrera, RHP Luis Garcia

            Rotation
Aaron Nola transformed from ace to superstar in one year, with a 2.37 ERA, 224 strikeouts and a 3.01 FIP in 212.1 innings. That had him finish third in NL Cy Young voting. Jake Arrieta disappointed in his first Philly season, with a career low 7.2 K/9 rate and a 3.96 ERA in 31 starts. Nola and Arrieta have both proven themselves as pitchers, unlike the remainder of the rotation. Vince Velasquez was so promising in 2016. His strikeouts were still there in 2018, but his ERA rose to 4.85, which was actually better than the 5.13 he had in 2017. Zach Eflin showed promising numbers in his first full season, though he pitched in just 24 games (all starts). Nick Pivetta had a very high 4.77 ERA, especially for a qualifier, but his 10.3 K/9 rate still has people excited for the pitcher entering his age 26 season. Jerad Eickhoff started just one game last year because of a mix of injuries, but is still an available spot starter if healthy.

              Bullpen
What the Phillies were lacking last year was a true closer. Hector Neris was the closer in 2017, and started 2018 in that role, but was so inconsistent that he was sent to the minors. Seranthony Dominguez was the primary closer while Neris was gone, and had a very good rookie season, striking out 74 in 58 innings. I say primary closer because manager Gabe Kapler scrambled his relievers, with nine different pitchers recording saves, with seven of them returning. David Robertson was signed, and could put more of an order into the bullpen. Robertson has a 2.88 ERA and 137 saves over his 11 year career. After those three, it is an eight way race for five spots. Both Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos excelled last year in an extended period of time. Lefty Alex Morgan had a career season, as did fellow lefties James Pazos and Jose Alvarez, acquired in trades. Veteran righties Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek return. Acquired in the Pazos trade was Juan Nicasio, who struggled last year but has a decent history. All of struggled in a very short amount of spring time, except Hunter, who hasn't played to due to an injury. That could put him out of the conversation, and though he was really good last year, allowing 17 runs in three innings can't help Arano.

                Catching
The Phillies ended last year with two good catchers in Wilson Ramos and rookie Jorge Alfaro. Both are now gone. Ramos left in free agency, and Alfaro was traded. But, he was traded for JT Realmuto, the league's best catcher. Realmuto hit .277 with 21 home runs last year. Andrew Knapp is the backup.

                Infield
One of the Phillies top prospects entering 2018 was Scott Kingery, a utility infielder who failed to due much. Another utility infielder, Cesar Hernandez, was much better, with 15 home runs and 19 stolen bases, solidifying the second base job. The Phillies traded first baseman Carlos Santana for shortstop Jean Segura. That was so Rhys Hoskins can move back to first, his natural position. Hoskins hit 34 home runs last year. Segura hit .304 with 10 homers and 20 steals last year. Kingery can play second and third, and can see time at third base. The third baseman is Maikel Franco, who is inconsistent at times, but still finished 2018 with 22 home runs.

               Outfield
The Phillies were reportedly interested in slugger Bryce Harper all offseason, and eventually signed him. It was a 13 year, $330 million deal, which was the highest of all time but won't be for even a month, as Mike Trout reportedly got $100 million more than that. Harper is a former MVP winner, and hit 34 home runs last year. The team also signed Andrew McCutchen, another former MVP. But, McCutchen is declining and hit just 20 home runs last year. Center field is Odubel Herrera's. Herrera hit 22 home runs last year. Harper takes the spot of Nick Williams, who hit 17 home runs last year. Aaron Altherr had a breakout 2017 but was terrible in 2018 and wasn't getting much playing time. Speedy outfielder Roman Quinn also will get some time.

              Bench
This part will be very short, since the Phillies bench has already been mentioned. Knapp is the backup catcher, with Kingery as the backup infielder, and Altherr and Williams in the outfield.

              Lineup
2B Cesar Hernandez
SS Jean Segura
RF Bryce Harper
1B Rhys Hoskins
C JT Realmuto
3B Maikel Franco
LF Andrew McCutchen
CF Odubel Herrera

              Rotation
Aaron Nola (R)
Jake Arrieta (R)
Nick Pivetta (R)
Zach Eflin (R)
Vince Velasquez (R)

              Bullpen
David Robertson (R)
Hector Neris (R)
Seranthony Dominguez (R)
Pat Neshek (R)
James Pazos (L)
Edubray Ramos (R)
Adam Morgan (L)
Victor Arano (R)

               Bench
C Andrew Knapp
INF Scott Kingery
OF Aaron Altherr
OF Nick Williams

              Additional Information
Ballpark: Citizens Bank Park
Manager: Gabe Kapler
GM: Matt Klentak
World Series Championships: 2
2018 record: 80-82

               Steal of the Decade
The Phillies acquired both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee recently, but were both just out of the 2010s. They don't have a real steal right now, but there is two players that could turn into steals. Both are part of their current rotation. In the first one, the Phillies parted with longtime shortstop Jimmy Rollins, sending him to LA for Zach Eflin. In the second trade, closer Jonathan Papelbon went to Washington for Nick Pivetta. Eflin pitched in 128 innings in 2018, and had a 4.36 ERA, both career highs. Pivetta did have a 4.77 ERA, but qualified for the ERA title with 164 innings pitched, and struck out 188 batters. Meanwhile, Papelbon faltered with the Nats, with a 3.84 ERA in parts of two seasons, and his 4.37 ERA in 2016, which ended up as his final MLB season, was by far the worst of his career. Trading Rollins was tough. He won the MVP for them in 2007 and was a key part of the World Series winning 2008 team. In 15 years, he never stole less than 17 bases, and that season, 2010, he played in just 88 games. But in his one season in LA, he stole 12, hit .224 and hit 13 home runs, though the latter wasn't bad considering Rollins' numbers in his final Philly season. Both Eflin and Pivetta will be key rotation arms for the 2019 Phillies.

              Prediction
The Phillies were good last year. At least before August. Adding players like Harper, Realmuto, McCutchen, Segura and Robertson helps their team. As of now, the Phillies are the favorites in the East. 

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