Following the Philadelphia Phillies 2007-2011 run of National League dominance, the team has suffered through six consecutive non-winning seasons, the most recent five of which have been losing seasons. You wouldn't expect the year after a 66-96 season to be the year that trend is bucked, but the Phillies were 37-38 after the All-Star Break in 2017. They'll have a full year of Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery, J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro in 2018. General manager Matt Klentak signed Jake Arrieta and Carlos Santana this offseason, giving rookie manager Gabe Kapler two veterans presences in an otherwised inexperienced clubhouse.
There's reason, for the first time in over half of a decade, for Phillies fans to be excited entering the season. How excited they should be is the question.
The Phillies over/under for wins in 2018 is 75.5, per Bovada. FanGraphs Depth Charts seems to think that over/under is reasonable, as they project the Phillies will go 76-86 in 2018. PECOTA, however, projects that the Phillies will go 81-81, topping the New York Mets for second place in the National League East.
We polled our SportsTalkPhilly.com staff on how many games they believe the club will win in 2018. The question produced a spread that you don't normally see when discussing how many games a team will win before a season:
Tim Kelly, Managing Editor
Record Prediction: 80-82
The Phillies may not return to the postseason for the first time since 2011 this year, but pushing .500 a year after winning 66 games would be a very successful season.
Gabe Kapler's biggest issue in dealing with his lineup each day will be keeping everyone happy; he has 10 capable starters and only eight spots to play them at. And despite the fact that offseason pickup Tommy Hunter will open the season on the disabled list, Hector Neris, Pat Neshek, Hoby Milner and Luis Garcia will lead what should be a pretty formidable bullpen.
While an easy April schedule may allow the Phillies to get off to a hot start, how the team's starting rotation fares will ultimately decide whether they are able to make a postseason push. Nick Pivetta flashed an improved pitching arsenal this spring, and will need to take a step forward, along with Vince Velasquez, if the Phillies are going to take a drastic step forward this year. Jerad Eickhoff will also need to bounce-back from a disappointing 2017 season once he returns from his lat strain. The Phillies pitching staff is a year or two away from being ready to pitch in the postseason. The lineup and bullpen have the chance to be very good, however, which could allow the team to look like a playoff contender at times
Matt Rappa, Managing Editor
Record Prediction: 86-76
No one likes us, we don’t care. Philadelphia sports has transformed this past year across the spectrum, with the Soul and Eagles capturing their respective football championships, Villanova advancing deep into NCAA tournament play, and the Sixers and Flyers poised for spring playoff runs.
Why not the Phillies?
The free-agent additions of Jake Arrieta, Carlos Santana, Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter alone show the club is ready to take the next step in their rebuild, spending the most ever in an offseason in franchise history. There are a lot of unknowns, but plenty of upside, like Rhys Hoskins and the recently-extended and promoted Scott Kingery, that is hard not to be excited about heading into Opening Day.
The club will #BeBold under new manager Gabe Kapler, but there will come times of difficulties like any young club. However, I believe this team has what it takes to turn those difficulties into positive learning experiences to only grow stronger individually and collectively as a team. I think the club could and should capture at least one of the two National League Wild Card spots. From there, anything can happen in the postseason. If enough goes the Phillies way, they could put up a respectable fight for the National League East division crown for the first time since 2011 as well.
Brandon Apter, Managing Editor
Record Prediction: 77-85
The Phillies made some strong additions over the offseason, signing Carlos Santana, bringing Pat Neshek back, and, of course, inking Jake Arrieta to a three-year deal. These signings will make them better than the 66-win club they were a season ago without a doubt, but the youth across the roster leads me to believe they'll still need another developmental year.
Guys like Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford will develop over their first full year in the majors and their young talent should set them up nicely to make Philadelphia even more attractive destination for 2019 free-agents. The back-end of the rotation is my biggest concern and will ultimately keep this team from getting a playoff spot in 2018, but this season will be another promising step in the right direction.
Kevin Durso, Managing Editor
Record Prediction: 82-80
Last season, there was a lot of talk about potential, just as there is this season. The Phillies have improved the lineup with homegrown talent -- a full season of Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford and now Scott Kingery should provide a balanced lineup.
It’s the pitching that concerns me. For the Phillies to be a plus-.500 team, and therefore a possible contender, a lot rides on Jake Arrieta being the pitcher the Phillies paid him to be. Aaron Nola is a solid No. 2 starter.
After that, it’s essentially the same cast of characters that has been average at best. Either there will be major advancement or it will be another summer of waiting out the rebuild. The Phillies will have a better bullpen that should be able to close out more games, but they will need a lead into the late innings, and the starting pitching just doesn’t cut it for me.
I don’t want to take away from what Matt Klentak has done with the lineup or the addition of Arrieta, so I’ll give the Phillies a vote of confidence and say they finish over .500, but barely. An 82-80 record may very well keep them in the running for a wildcard, but the Phillies aren’t quite there just yet.
Matt Albertson, Historical Columnist
Record Prediction: 76-86
I expect the 2018 Phillies to go 76-86 and score more runs than the 2008 Phillies (a 109-run difference between 2008's team and 2017's).
Unlike last year, the Phillies have more bats than positions on the field in 2018. Kingery, a young spark, will play all over the diamond this year and figures to hit well at the major league level. Carlos Santana is an immense upgrade over Tommy Joseph, whom he distanced in batting average, OBP, slugging, walks and struck out 35 fewer times than. The 2017 Phillies had three players who ranked 20th or worse in OBP: Tommy Joseph, Freddy Galvis, and Maikel Franco. Joseph and Galvis are gone and Franco is in jeopardy of losing playing time at third to Kingery and J.P. Crawford. The rotation isn't quite ready to compete, but the offense looks to be much more competitive.
Theo DeRosa, Staff Writer
Record Prediction: 82-80
The Phillies have made it through the rebuilding stage of this painful decade and back into the building. Rhys Hoskins and J.P. Crawford will play full seasons. Aaron Nola is a bonafide ace. And the Phils added starter Jake Arrieta to bolster their rotation. This is a much improved team from last year’s 66-win squad, which did go roughly .500 after the All-Star Break.
But the rotation is still weak, especially with injury to Jerad Eickhoff. While the Phillies’ lineup is really solid across the board, this team won’t be special without career years from Maikel Franco, Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta. If all three happen to put it together, this is a wild-card team. Short of that, it’s still a team that can be expected to play competitive baseball late in the season for the first time since 2012.
Paul Bowman, Staff Writer
Record Prediction: 83-79
I believe that the Phillies glut of young prospects will start to bear fruit this season. The past few seasons have given nearly every prospect in the upper levels of the Phillies farm system some valuable experience at the major league level, and that experience should begin to pay off.
Health is an issue that is already impacting the pitching of the roster, but with a lot of young pitchers waiting to prove themselves in the upper levels of the minor leagues, I think that .500 is a bit below expectations. With the Phillies set to play six series against a desolate Marlins team and six against the injury-prone Mets (who do not have a ton of young prospects ready to jump in at the Major League level), the team has a good shot at winning a lot of divisional games and performing better than they have the past few seasons.