The Philadelphia Phillies have been pretty awful the past five seasons, averaging nearly 93 losses a season and finishing no better than 4th in the NL East under 3 different managers. A new influx of offensive talent will give new manager Gabe Kapler and Philly fans a lot of reasons to cheer this year, and the Eagles might not be the only winner in town.
Free agent acquisition Carlos Santana is the only projected Phillies starter in the field over the age of 30. Though Santana’s signing was a bit of a surprise with budding star Rhys Hoskins already at first, his .363 OBP and 23 HR will be an upgrade to what will essentially be a new outfielder as Hoskins moves to left. The signing cost the Phils $60 million over 3 years with an extra club option year, so he won’t block the youngsters if his numbers decline a few years down the road.
Speaking of the youngsters, 23-year-old shortstop J.P. Crawford leads the way for young talent set to take over for the Phillies in 2018. Batting .243/.351/.405 with 15 HR and 5 SB in 2017 at AAA, the top prospect is set to replace Freddy Galvis, who was traded to the Padres in December. Crawford has good instincts and a powerful arm at SS, and a very good batting eye. He projects 20+ HR-power, a definite plus in the middle infield. The 2013 first-round pick was a September call-up and worked a .356 OBP via 16 walks in 87 PA.
Top second-base prospect Scott Kingery, 23, is already set to impress in the big leagues in 2018 after flying through the minors. Kingery hit 26 HR and stole 29 base en route to a .304/.359/.530 season across two levels last year (AA and AAA) and could be a 20/20 threat immediately if he supplants incumbent Cesar Hernandez early on.
Slugging catcher Jorge Alfaro is another prospect set to make an impact this season, perhaps breaking camp as the starter. The 24-year-old rookie hit 74 HR in 634 minor league games and could provide some serious pop and decent speed for a catcher, even if he is a bit of a free swinger (710 minor league strikeouts).
Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams will join former golden boy Odubel Herrera in the outfield, with Aaron Altherr backing up each position. Hoskins captivated the fans last year with a big power showing with 18 homers and 48 RBI in just 50 games, with an impressive 1.014 OPS. Despite never playing anywhere but first throughout his minor-league career, Kapler is hoping that Hoskins will stick in left to get his bat and Santana’s in the middle of the order. Lefty Nick Williams hopes to build on a good .288/.338/.473 rookie year while Herrera looks to improve on his .281/.325/.452 year that was a small step back from his 2016 All-Star year.
Though the young (24) Aaron Nola (12-11 with a 3.54 ERA, 1.208 WHIP, and 9.9 k/9 last year) looks like a pitching star, the Phillies will need development from Nick Pivetta and Jerad Eickhoff to rise out of the middle of the NL pack in most pitching stats. A bullpen featuring Hector Neris (26 saves, 10.4 k/9), Tommy Hunter (.0972 WHIP and 9.8 k/9 in 2017), and Pat Neshek (.0866 WHIP and 10.0 k/9 in 2017, including 2+ months in Colorado) has a chance to be very good if the starters can keep hand them the ball with the lead.
If young hitters play to their potential and the pitching can be bolstered (Yu Darvish rumors have surfaced), the Super Bowl champion Eagles should have company in earlier-than-expected success from the City of Brotherly love.