Wednesday, May 29, 2024
AnalysisMLBNational LeagueNL EastPhiladelphia Phillies

Can the Phillies Hang with the Rest of the NL East?

The National League East is expected to be perhaps the most competitive division in baseball in 2020. No other division in baseball has four contenders as strong as the Braves, Nationals, Phillies and Mets. However, over the last two seasons, as the Braves emerged from their rebuild to win the division in back to back years, the Phillies continued to lag behind. Although expected to contend for a playoff berth, they finished with a .500 or worse record in the last two seasons. And, despite the headline-grabbing acquisitions of Zack Wheeler and Bryce Harper over the last two off-seasons, they are once again projected to be worse than their NL East competition, according to Fangraphs.

On the bright side, the Phillies are projected to be a strong offensive force. Anchored by Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Rhys Hoskins, the Phillies are expected to total 21.2 WAR from their position players, slightly better than the Mets (20.9) and the Nationals (20.7) and only marginally worse than the Braves (22.5).

However, the holes in the Phillies roster become clear when pitching is evaluated. The Mets (23.1) and Nationals (22.7) project to be top 3 in the MLB in pitching WAR. On the other hand, the Phillies pitching staff totals only 14.9.

TeamPosition Player WARPitching WARTotal WAR
Nationals20.722.743.4
Mets20.923.144.0
Braves22.517.239.7
Phillies21.214.936.2

The reason for this is two-fold: a lack of reliable starting pitching depth, and a questionable bullpen. While the Phillies can expect strong seasons from their 1-2 punch of Wheeler and Aaron Nola, the rotation beyond these two is a concern. Jake Arrieta, their third starter, hasn’t been what the Phillies expected since he signed with them two years ago. Last year, Arrieta posted a 4.64 ERA and pitched only 135 innings due to injury. The final two spots in the rotation are expected to be filled by two of Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, and Zach Eflin, none of whom have posted ERAs below 4 in the big leagues despite showing flashes of promise.

The bullpen could be an even greater concern. While closer Hector Neris and setup man Seranthony Dominguez are projected to have solid seasons, the depth behind them is questionable. While players like Victor Arano and Ranger Suarez have shown promise in recent seasons, the Phillies could likely benefit from signing a proven relief pitcher, especially in an era where the division is highly competitive and the Phillies are a win-now team. Even this late in the off-season, there are still a number of available relief pitchers who are more proven than the majority of the Phillies current relief corps. Brandon Kintzler, Sam Dyson, and Collin McHugh are all still available and are projected to be more valuable than all but the top 2 Phillies relievers.

Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the NL East is not without problems; the Braves also have starting pitching questions, the Nationals offense took a major hit with the loss of Anthony Rendon, and the Mets are, well, the Mets. And it’s certainly possible that Eflin, Velasquez or Pivetta breaks out this year; the bullpen is solid; and the Phillies are propelled into the playoffs by their strong offense. However, if the Phillies pitching depth falters again, it could be another season of mediocrity.

Featured Image: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

3 thoughts on “Can the Phillies Hang with the Rest of the NL East?

  • Kaitlin Long

    Fantastic article!

  • Robert Allen

    Phils will never contend as long as Klentak is making the decisions.

  • courtney rottenberger

    ????????????????????????

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