Saturday, March 13, 2021

Philadelphia Phillies 2021 Season Preview

 


       Entering the offseason, no team had a goal as clear as the Phillies did. After their bullpen combined for an ERA over 7.00 in 2020, an obvious change was needed. While after the offseason, they still don't have an elite bullpen, they easily have the most improved bullpen. Plus, after owner John Middleton looked like he would cheap out, the team was able to retain JT Realmuto, and not trade Zack Wheeler. The big question entering the season is obvious: does the curse of the Phillies bullpen still remain? 

Offseason additions: RHP Archie Bradley, LHP Jose Alvarado, RHP Chase Anderson, LHP Matt Moore, RHP Sam Coonrod, IF Brad Miller, RHP Brandon Kintzler, OF Matt Joyce, LHP Tony Watson, RHP Ivan Nova, RHP Hector Rondon, OF Odubel Herrera.

Offseason subtractions: RHP Brandon Workman, RHP Jake Arrieta, LHP Jose Alvarez, RHP Blake Parker, RHP Tommy Hunter, RHP David Phelps, RHP Heath Hembree, OF Jay Bruce, IF Neil Walker, LHP Garrett Cleavinger.


Trade Deadline 2020 summary

Acquired: RHP Brandon Workman, RHP David Phelps, RHP Heath Hembree, RHP David Hale.

Traded: RHP Nick Pivetta, RHP Connor Seabold, RHP Edgar Garcia, RHP Addison Russ.

2020 record: 28-32

2020 placement: 4th

2020 WAR leader (batter): Bryce Harper

2020 WAR leader (pitcher): Zack Wheeler


Starting Pitchers

After a bit of a down season in 2019, Aaron Nola rebounded back last year, although he was not as good as he was when he finished 3rd in Cy Young voting in 2018. Nola had a 3.28 ERA while striking out 96 batters in 71.1 innings. He allowed just 54 hits, for a 6.8 H/9. Nola's slow curveball had a .187 average against with a 41.8% whiff rate. He had help last year in the form of Zack Wheeler, who struck out 195 batters in 2019, but only had 53 in 71 innings in 2020, for a 6.7 K/9. Wheeler had a 2.92 ERA with an 85.7 mph average exit velocity. He also had an NL best HR/9, at 0.4. Third starter Zach Eflin made a lot of progress in 2020, as after he had a 18.3 K% in 2019, he struck out 70 batters in 59 innings, raising that to 28.6%. Eflin also had a 3.97 ERA, and a 3.30 xERA. While both his sinker and slider, his two most common pitches, had an average against over .300, Eflin's curveball had a .100 average against and a 43.9% whiff rate. Once MLB's top prospect and a young star with the Rays back in 2013, Matt Moore's career derailed afterwards. But, he spent 2020 in Japan, and pitched well enough to get an MLB contract with the Phillies. Moore had a 2.65 ERA with 98 strikeouts in 85 innings. We last saw him pitch in the MLB with the Tigers in 2019, when he didn't allow a run in 10 innings, through two starts before getting injured. Veteran Chase Anderson is the favorite at the moment for the fifth starter job. Anderson had a 3.83 ERA over four seasons in Milwaukee, but was awful with Toronto in 2020. Anderson had a 7.22 ERA in 33.2 innings, but did strikeout 38 batters. He somehow allowed 11 home runs last year, with a .288 xBA and a .522 xSLG against. Also available in the competition is top prospect Spencer Howard, who had a 2.03 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 71 innings in the minors in 2019. Howard debuted last year, but had a 5.92 ERA through six starts. His slider had a 40.7% whiff rate. Howard has made just six starts in AA, and none in AAA, so he should start in the minors. Also in the mix is Vince Velasquez, but he could easily go to the bullpen. Velasquez had a 5.56 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 34 innings in 2019. He has control issues, as he walked 11% of batters last year. He can be a good reliever, although starting might be out of the question now. 

Relief Pitchers

Despite a lot of changes made to the bullpen, Hector Neris could still keep his job as Phillies closer. Neris struck out 27 batters in 21.2 innings, while saving five games. Neris also had a 4.57 ERA and a 1.708 WHIP. His 12.6 percent walk rate was a career worst. Neris' main pitch in a split finger, which had a .198 xBA against and a 49.5% whiff rate last year. Another closing option is Archie Bradley, who was the closer in Arizona before a trade to Cincinnati. He had a 4.22 ERA with the Diamondbacks, but six good outings with the Reds lowered his season total to 2.95. Bradley's best pitch is a mid-to-high-80s changeup, which batters went 1-for-8 against last year. His curveball's whiff rate was cut in half from 2019, down to a bad 16.1% last year. Lefty Jose Alvarado throws a sinker that averaged over 98 mph in 2019. He missed a lot of 2019 and 2020 with injuries, but was elite in 2018. In nine games last year, Alvarado had a 6.00 ERA with 13 strikeouts. He is entering his fifth MLB season, and he won't turn 26 until May 21st. Former Marlins and Twins closer Brandon Kintzler is in camp on a minor league deal. He saved 12 games in 24.1 innings for Miami last year, with a 2.22 ERA. He struck out just 14 batters, for a low 13.9% K rate. About three quarters of the time, Kintzler throws a sinker, and he had a 56.6% groundball rate. Another non-roster invitee is lefty Tony Watson, who has had an ERA+ over 100 in every season since 2012. For the Giants last year, Watson had a 2.50 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 18 innings. He walked just 4.1 percent of batters as well. Sam Coonrod throws a fastball that averaged over 98 mph last year. The pitch also had a 34.1% whiff rate. Coonrod saved three games for San Francisco last year, but had a 9.82 ERA in 18 games, while walking 9.9 percent of batters. A 10th round pick back in 2017, Connor Brogdon was one of the most productive Phillies relievers last year. In his first season, Brogdon had a 3.97 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 11.1 innings. All three of his pitches had an average against under .200. Brogdon also had a 2.34 xERA, and a .161 xBA against. Right-hander David Hale had a 3.71 ERA in 17 innings last year, but his underlying numbers were much worse. Hale had a 6.05 xERA, and a .308 xBA against. Lefty JoJo Romero allowed just one run in 10.2 innings in the 2019 Arizona Fall League, and then pitched 10.2 innings in the MLB last year. Romero allowed nine earned runs for a 7.59 ERA. Veteran Hector Rondon struck out 23 batters in 20 innings last year, but he had a 7.65 ERA. Rondon was a productive reliever and closer for the Cubs and Astros in the past, having an ERA+ over 100 from 2014 to 2019. 

Catchers

As suitors thinned out near the end, the Phillies were able to bring back JT Realmuto, who is the top catcher in baseball. He is both an elite defender, and an above-average hitter. The-soon-to-be 30 year JT Realmuto hit 11 home runs with four stolen bases, a .266 average and an .840 OPS. He increased his walk rate to a career high 8.2%. In his career, he has won two Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove, although neither came in 2020. Switch-hitter Andrew Knapp hit two home runs in 33 games, and he had an .849 OPS. Knapp walked a career high 16.9% of the time, and he had a .404 OBP. Realmuto has a broken thumb, and if he is not healthy, then Jeff Mathis can make the team. Mathis is a great defensive backstop, but he may be the worst hitter ever (no exaggeration). Mathis has a .533 OPS in his career. 

Infielders

The Phillies have an all-around, really solid infielder. First baseman Rhys Hoskins is not the best defensively, with -5 outs above average there in 2020, but he had one OAA in 2019. He hit 10 home runs with a .384 OBP and an .887 OPS. That OBP was so high thanks to a 15.7 percent walk rate. He also had a high barrel percentage of 14.8%. Jean Segura can play shortstop and third base, as well as second, where he is expected to start. Segura hit seven home runs with a .769 OPS, and four outs above average last year. Segura's average sprint speed of 28.3 ft/s was his best since 2016. One concerning factor was that his strikeout rate nearly doubled, up to 20.7 percent. The Phillies expected a bounce back from Didi Gregorius after he struggled while returning from Tommy John surgery in 2019. Their bet paid off, as Gregorius had 10 home runs with a .284 average and an .827 OPS. While he struck out just 11.8% of the time last year, two concerning factors are his 83.8 mph average exit velocity, and his -7 outs above average. Third baseman Alec Bohm finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting after a solid first season. He hit just four home runs in 44 games, but Bohm had a .338 average, a .400 OBP and an .881 OPS. He hit .337 against fastballs, and .378 against breaking balls, with an average exit velocity over 90 mph against both. Infielder Brad Miller comes back to the Phillies, where he was great in 2019. In 66 games for Philadelphia, Miller hit 12 home runs with a .941 OPS. He spent 2020 with the Cardinals, where he hit seven home runs with an .807 OPS. Miller had a 14.6 BB%, his best since 2017. Scott Kingery broke out in 2019, hitting 19 home runs with 15 stolen bases, but he regressed in 36 games last year, not stealing a base with a .159 average and a .511 OPS. Kingery can play second base, third base, shortstop and center field, but he had -4 outs above average at second last year. He also had a 28.6 ft/s sprint speed.

Outfielders

In 2020, Bryce Harper made up for what was a little bit disappointing first season as a Phillie. Harper hit 13 home runs with eight stolen bases, a .420 OPS and a .962 OPS. Harper walked over 20 percent of the time, for a league leading 49 walks. Harper also had a .308 xBA, and a .656 xSLG. He also had a 92.5 mph average exit velocity, and his 17.6 percent K rate was a career low. The only other lock in the outfield is Andrew McCutchen in left field. The former MVP is now 34, and obviously not the player he once was. He hit 10 home runs with four stolen bases last year, with a .757 OPS. McCutchen's .273 xBA was his best since 2017, although his 9.1 percent walk rate was his lowest in the Statcast era. 2017 8th overall pick Adam Haseley may be off the Opening Day roster thanks to an injury. In 40 games last year, he had a .278 average with a .690 OPS. At 56.1%, his groundball rate was way too high for a hitter. With an 86.6 mph exit velocity and a 31.8 percent hard hit rate, Haseley does not hit the ball hard enough. Roman Quinn has amazing speed, but with a .576 OPS last year, he is an awful hitter. Quinn swiped 12 bags, with an amazing average sprint speed of 30.5 ft/s. The only person who could rival that is Arizona's Tim Locastro. Quinn also had three outs above average in center field. Veteran Matt Joyce is more of a corner outfielder than a center fielder. He had an .858 OPS in 2019 for the Braves, but hit just two home runs with a .682 OPS for Miami last year. Joyce is still good at drawing walks, with a 13.5% BB rate last year. Odubel Herrera was an all-star for the Phillies in 2016, but was released in 2019 after a Domestic Violence arrest. He is back now, trying to win the center field job back. 

Projected Rotation
Aaron Nola (R)
Zack Wheeler (R)
Zach Eflin (R)
Matt Moore (L)
Chase Anderson (R)

Projected Bullpen
Hector Neris (R)
Archie Bradley (R)
Jose Alvarado (L)
Brandon Kintzler (R)
Tony Watson (L)
Connor Brogdon (R)
Vince Velasquez (R)
Sam Coonrod (R)

Projected Lineup
2B Jean Segura (R)
RF Bryce Harper (L)
1B Rhys Hoskins (R)
C JT Realmuto (R)
SS Didi Gregorius (L)
3B Alec Bohm (R)
LF Andrew McCutchen (R)
CF Adam Haseley (L)
Pitcher

Projected Bench
C Andrew Knapp (S)
IF Scott Kingery (R)
IF Brad Miller (L)
OF Matt Joyce (L)
OF Roman Quinn (S)


Projection

The Phillies are better than people give them credit for. The lineup is definitely above-average, and the rotation is top-heavy, but good. The bullpen is where things will get controversial. It isn't baseball's worst. But, it still is not good. The Phillies could easily be a playoff team, but with the big improvements the rival Mets had in the offseason, they are not one at the moment. 

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