By Ben Ballier, Sports Talk Philly Staff
We are roughly two weeks away from Opening Day as the Phillies continue their Spring Training surge towards the regular season. Brad Miller, J.T. Realmuto, and Adam Haseley have already had their progression delayed due to minor injuries. Surely other fanbases would echo this sentiment about their own clubs, but it really seems like every year multiple things go drastically wrong for the Phillies.
In recent years, the Phillies have been slammed with the injury bug. Andrew McCutchen’s season-ending injury in 2019 derailed what was a magical start to the season. In addition, David Robertson had just signed a multi-year deal and pitched in only 7 games before sustaining an elbow injury. He underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the rest of 2019 and the entirety of 2020 before departing the organization via free agency last offseason.
Then, on September 12th, 2020, Rhys Hoskins injured his elbow on an errant throw by Realmuto. It was just the beginning of what turned out to be a devastating stretch of injuries for the Phillies, including ailments to impact performers like Zack Wheeler, Jean Segura, Jay Bruce, Roman Quinn, Bryce Harper, and Realmuto, among others.
One could also say that the Phillies have struggled immensely with drafting and developing prospects throughout the entire rebuild. Cornelius Randolph and J.P. Crawford are a couple of top draft picks that did not pan out. A big-name international free agent, Jhailyn Ortiz, was signed in 2016 yet has not played a game above High-A Clearwater. Those are just a few of the most-recognizable names, but there is still a long list of second tier draft picks that have not made an impact at the major league level, either.
There is a sense of urgency and confidence early on in Spring Training. What could happen if everything goes right for once? What if this is the Phillies year?
For starters, my definition of a perfect season would involve players staying healthy, key players taking a step forward, and prospects making a noticeable difference for the major league team. I am going to strictly reference the Phillies organization, so I will not consider any outside factors that might benefit the Phillies such as health and performance amongst the other teams in the division. I will also attempt to be as realistic as possible so that if everything does go right, a season like the following is actually feasible…
To begin, everything going right would undoubtedly begin with Harper having an MVP season, something that he is due to have and something that he has done before. An MVP Harper year could single-handedly carry the Phillies to the playoffs (likely a Wild Card spot).
Moreover, Didi Gregorius repeating his 2020 season would be monumental for the ballclub. He led the team in RBI in 2020, so if everything goes right, one could imagine that he would boast impressive offensive numbers once again. Hoskins fulfilling his potential by fusing his 2017 power numbers with his 2020 on-base abilities would round out my expectations for the offense. It would cement the Phillies as a top 5 offense in all of baseball.
In addition, if Aaron Nola further establishes himself as a Top 10 pitcher in baseball (by manufacturing a season close to that of his 2018), Zach Eflin solidifies himself as a bonified 3rd starter, and Wheeler, Matt Moore, and whoever wins the 5th spot simply pitch to the standards of their respective positions in the rotation, it would put the Phillies in a favorable position.
Should this happen, they would likely secure a spot well inside MLB’s top 10 starting rotations. Any team on that list is automatically a serious threat in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Furthermore, if everything breaks the right way I genuinely believe the Phillies could possess a top 15 bullpen with the depth they have now. Acquiring a legitimate closer could elevate them to top 10. It is a bold take, but I do think it is possible that the bullpen shocks a lot of people. If the bullpen can be league average or better, combined with a top 10 rotation and top 5 offense, the Phillies will win the division no questions asked.
Next, no World Series teams wins without production from young talent. Prospects JoJo Romero and Spencer Howard would see improved numbers and continued growth at the major league level in a perfect season. In the cases of Connor Brogdon and Bohm, they would be difference-makers for the team. Both players would likely prove that last year was not a fluke by producing similar numbers. Damon Jones could also be called up at some point, and if he is a serviceable reliever who flashes potential it would be a win.
If the Phillies get the most out of their youngsters and the aforementioned events occur, they could be favorites to win the NL pennant and the World Series.
But none of the above is relevant if guys cannot stay on the field. It is not realistic to expect everyone to stay healthy, so I will limit it to 3 position players, 2 pitchers, and 1 reliever. If the big guns in the lineup: Harper, Realmuto & Bohm, the workhorse starters: Nola and Wheeler, and the fear-inducing reliever: Jose Alvarado are all healthy for at least 140 games of the season, I think the Phillies will be positioned to make a deep playoff run.
The likelihood that ALL these things break the Phillies way is highly unlikely, but even if just half of them come to fruition the Phillies will be destined for success.