Posted on March 15, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Philadelphia Phillies might have been the biggest disappointment in baseball last year. They fell completely flat after creating massive expectations with a busy offseason. But they’ve doubled down over the winter and are looking to hit the reset button and try again in 2020. Are the Phillies equipped to make a playoff push in 2020 or will they prove to be all sizzle and no substance for the second straight season?
Philly opened up the checkbook to improve the starting rotation this winter, signing Zack Wheeler away from the Mets. Wheeler will team up with Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta to form a solid trio at the top of the rotation. To be fair, Arrieta has some health questions after missing the tail end of 2019 with elbow trouble. But Nola and Wheeler will be surefire no. 1 and no. 2 starters if they can continue to pitch the way they have the past two seasons.
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Meanwhile, the back half of Philadelphia’s rotation is in decent shape. Zach Eflin has won at least 10 games in back-to-back seasons and Vince Velasquez is also a solid but unspectacular innings eater. However, the depth behind those five could be a concern if the Phillies experience injuries. Some of the team’s top pitching prospects may need another year in the minors, so the Phillies need their best starters to stay healthy.
The bullpen was one of Philadelphia’s biggest weaknesses last year, so questions linger heading into 2020. The hope is that Hector Neris can continue to serve as the closer, although he’s not far removed from a nightmarish 2018 season. There is also a tinge of uncertainty about Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Alvarez being consistent as the team’s top setup men.
While they didn’t spend big on the bullpen this winter, the Phillies did make an effort to bring in some veteran reinforcements. The likes of Francisco Liriano, Bud Norris, Drew Storen, Anthony Swarzak, and Blake Parker will all have a chance to carve out a role in the Philadelphia bullpen. It’s hard to project any of those guys as difference-makers in the back end of the bullpen at this point in their career. However, at least a couple of them should put together a decent season and give the Phillies some much-needed depth and experience.
Scoring runs should be what the Phillies do best this season. They still have Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, and J.T. Realmuto making up the heart of the order. The Phillies also signed Didi Gregorius over the winter to give them even more pop in their order. Also, veteran outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Jay Bruce shouldn’t be forgotten. Neither is a star at this point in their careers, but both can still hit and will help add considerable depth to the Philadelphia lineup.
Despite a formidable lineup, there are still a few questions heading into the season. In center field, Adam Haseley will get a chance to earn the everyday job, although he’s unproven in the majors. Nick Williams and Roman Quinn are also options in the outfield, but neither has ever been able to produce in the big leagues over the course of a full season. There is also a little uncertainty at third base with Scott Kingery, Josh Harrison, and Phil Gosselin all battling for playing time with no guarantee one of them will be able to earn the job full-time.
After just 81 wins in 2019, the Phillies are projected to win 85.5 games in 2020, assuming baseball returns from its coronavirus hiatus in time to play a full schedule. While there’s no doubt that the Phillies will score plenty of runs, the pitching staff has little margin for error and may not measure up to the other teams in the NL East. In such a difficult and balanced division (outside of the Marlins), look for the Phillies to fall short of 85.5 wins or any adjusted win total this season. Once again, they will miss out on the playoffs despite spending so much money the past two winters.