Baseball is back! The calendar has turned to April and the Phillies are set to take on the Atlanta Braves today at 3:05 p.m. at Citizens Bank Park. If the optimism of the fans is any indication, fans feel this season will be much better than 2020's disappointment. So as we head into 2021, here are five optimistic predictions about the Phillies.
1. The Phillies Bullpen Will Not Be as Bad as 2020
Well, this one is rather easy. The Phillies could reunite the 1997 bullpen, and even now that they are 50+ years of age, Erik Plantenberg, Billy Brewer, Ryan Karp, and Scott Ruffcorn would outpitch last year's squad.
2021's additions of Archie Bradley and Brandon Kintzler should be a big deal. Both relievers were their respective team's best relievers last season. In 2020, the Phillies never felt like they could successfully get the ball to Hector Neris at the end. This year they have some experience.
The Phillies will also see the promising Connor Brogdon develop, as well as the 100+ heat of Jose Alvarado.
It also sounds like their top pitching prospect, Spencer Howard, will pitch out of the bullpen this season to limit his innings.
2. Odubel Herrera Will Not See a Phillies Call-Up
The decision was made that Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn would be the Phillies center field duo heading into 2021. Haseley gets the start in center field on Opening Day, even facing a left-handed pitcher in Max Fried. It looks like the Phillies will give Haseley all the opportunity here in the early going.
Barring multiple outfield injuries, the next man up is probably not Herrera. The Phillies have both Mickey Moniak and Scott Kingery at Triple-A. The rationale is that they want them to get regular at bats. If an opportunity opens for regular at bats for either player, I see both of them ahead of Herrera on the depth chart.
Both players are on the 40-man roster and would not require the Phillies to cut one of their prospects to make room. If Herrera did not crack the 40-man roster to start, there may not be a path for him later.
3. The Veterans Will be Healthier
Last season's 60-game sprint took a toll on some of the Phillies veterans. With 26.67% of their games having come in doubleheader form, players were overworked, bodies overtaxed. Injuries affected bats in Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, Jay Bruce and J.T. Realmuto. Other veterans, like Jake Arrieta, were bound to have some sort of injury anyway.
Younger teams such as the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays made the playoffs in 2020, perhaps due to their youth and agility.
With no designated hitter, the bench of Matt Joyce, Brad Miller, and Roman Quinn should all get some starts to keep some of the pressure off. And while there will be some doubleheaders for sure, hopefully COVID vaccines and careful rules will keep teams from COVID outbreaks such as the one that affected the Phillies last year.
4. Alec Bohm Will Be an All-Star
Sophomore slump? Not for Alec Bohm. Bohm entered the big leagues in 2020 with incredible talent, but also great poise. And power.
The pitchers of the league will have some scouting reports on Bohm. Bohm will need to adjust. But the young stud seems up for the challenge.
Expect Bohm to break out.
5. Trade Deadline Will Bring Impact
One thing about Dave Dombrowski is that when he smells a championship, he pounces. By July, the Phillies should be in the thick of things. Therefore, I would expect Dombrowski to make one trade that will bring impact to the Phillies roster.
The Phillies let Tony Watson walk so that they would have some money to play with at the trade deadline. If they have financial flexibility, they can make a move.
Where will the move be positionally? We'll see what the needs are. But they could be in a position to add what they need for a playoff run.