It seems like yesterday when we were sitting around the kitchen table wondering if the Phillies would be able to put it all together to give us a playoff run. Would the pitching be good enough? Would the players like Jayson Werth be able to capitalize on an opportunity to play? Would we be able to add that other starting pitcher to the mix? Now, fast forward 10 years later, and it feels like we’re asking ourselves similar questions.
I, for one, feel this team can compete and make some noise in the MLB as long as they play up to their potential. Pitching will be an issue early on, but with a solid bullpen they will hope to stay in most games or at least keep them close. Either way they could be on the verge of being in the top tier of the National League!
Below are some predictions I am making for the 2018 season. Some are pretty obvious, but some carry a huge amount of risk. Let’s get into it.
1. The Phillies will win 82+ games this year.
Looking back to 2017 that saw a Phillies team barely scrape off 66 wins, adding 16 more for 2018 may look like a stretch. However, with the addition of a quality starter in Jake Arrieta (+10), a healthy Aaron Nola (+3), and a very deep bullpen (+2) I see no reason why the Phillies can’t eclipse the 80-win mark.
2. A mid-season trade for a starter on the horizon.
As we get deeper into the season, I want everyone to remember two names: Cole Hamels and Chris Archer. One is an established veteran with one year left on his deal (2019) and the other is a starting pitcher in his prime that will be looking to go to an organization who is ready to win, something the Phillies are primed to do. What they both have in common is they are playing for teams that stink and who will be looking to add prospects for the future.
Archer is under contract for four more seasons, and those four seasons are very, very club friendly. Archer, a 29-year-old starter who has made more starts than any pitcher in baseball over the past four seasons (133) and has a 3.66 ERA/3.37 FIP in those years, is making just $6.25 million in 2018 and $7.5 million in 2019. There are two club options, for $9 million in 2020 and $11 million in 2021. It’s going to take a lot to pry him away, but a player under this kind of deal is exactly what the Phillies could use while they pursue a bat like Bryce Harper.
While Hamels could prove to be more affordable and look to serve as a mentor on this team, Archer could solidify this rotation for many years to come. As long as everyone stays healthy, one of these guys will be wearing pinstripes in August.
3. The Phillies will have 5+ guys hit 20 home runs or more in the lineup.
Last year the team only saw two players, Tommy Joseph (22) and Maikel Franco (24), eclipse the 20 home run plateau. Aaron Altherr had 19 in 107 games and Rhys Hoskins had 18 in 50. Yes I said 18 in 50 games! This year, Hoskins, Kingery, Franco, Santana and Altherr should all easily hit that mark with guys like Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro on the fence, too. Make no mistake about it, the Phillies have some serious power potential this year.
4. Drew Hutchinson will be this team’s Chad Durbin.
Remember when Durbin was the key component of the Phillies bullpen? Durbin was a strong reliever for the Detroit Tigers and after a decent year, the Phillies signed him in 2007 to compete for a spot in the rotation. He was as much as automatic could be in 2008 and 2009. Now fast forward 10 years and insert Hutchinson. Hutchinson is a 27-year-old fastball pitcher who has bounced around from Toronto to Pittsburgh. In 2014 and 2015, he combined for a 28-18 record with a high 4+ ERA. He can definitely get some outs and will become a reliable force as a swing starter, as well as the first guy called from the bullpen in the 6th inning. This is the kind of guy a team who competes needs.
5. Andrew Knapp will outplay Jorge Alfaro.
I know Alfaro is the future of this team, but he still has a lot of mechanics and foot movements to work on. The pitchers like throwing to Knapp and that kind of comfort level cannot be undervalued. His defense was the one thing he needed to improve upon, along with his throws to second. From many reports, his time was well spent in the spring making these quality adjustments. Knapp has a decent bat and reaches base at a high rate, but Alfaro has some serious pop. Even though Jorge has an electric arm, I still think Knapp will serve steadier in 2018. Do I dare say the words, Chris Coste?
The 2018 year looks to be an exciting marathon with many unexpected turns and twists. In the off-season the Phillies used $200 million to improve this team in the hopes of contending. With the recent and unprecedented signing of Scott Kingery, they showed they are committed to winning now. It sure is a good time to be a Philadelphia sports fan!
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For fantasy purposes, all my articles are predicated upon a PPR-based system.