The 2020 Philadelphia Phillies roster definitely has the talent to reach the postseason. It will not be a simple task, as their division features last year’s World Series Champion Washington Nationals, the Atlanta Braves who have won the last two division crowns, and the New York Mets who have arguably the best starting rotation in baseball featuring Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman.
Despite playing in the toughest division in the NL, I still believe the Phillies have the talent to win this division or land a wildcard spot. Here’s why.
After moving on from Gabe Kapler this offseason, John Middleton and Matt Klentak made a win now hire by bringing in World Champion Manager Joe Girardi.
After being released of his duties by the New York Yankees following the 2018 season, Girardi took time away from the field and became an analyst for MLB Network and he always had high praise for the Phillies organization. This was a move most Phillies fans were on board for as he brings a winning atmosphere to a team that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2011.
Joe brings an old school baseball approach to a team that has been driven by analytics the past few seasons. I believe this style will help the young players like Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery, and the young arms of Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin take the next step in their careers. This move will help give this young team the confidence that they are good enough to win it all.
Hoskins, Harper and Realmuto
JT Realmuto was the Phillies lone All-Star in 2019, in a Phillies offense that never seemed to click the way it should have. Bryce Harper had a slow start to his career in Philly, which should have been expected because he did not make his Spring Training debut until the March 13.
Bryce struggled with his timing early on in the season because of not having a proper Spring Training. Although, he did heat up in the latter half of 2019.
On the other hand, Rhys Hoskins had an absolutely brutal second half of the season, where he saw his batting average drop below .230 by the time the season ended. I think with new hitting coach Joe Dillon, who was hand picked by Girardi, could really turn Hoskins back into the elite power hitter he was when he first entered the big leagues.
Joe Dillon has already lowered Hoskins hands in an attempt to create more backspin, which could create more long balls. If Hoskins can turn into a 30+ home run guy in 2020 he could make this whole offense click more efficiently by forcing teams to having to pitch to Harper in front of him.
If the trio of Harper, Realmuto and Hoskins can combine for around 85 homers and close to 300 RBI, the Phillies should be able to slug their way into the post season.
Nick Pivetta or Zach Eflin take the next step
The Phillies enter the 2020 season with two dependable starters at the top of the rotation in Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. The question marks once again lie with the bottom three in the rotation; Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin. Pivetta and Eflin both posses the tools needed to be a quality starter in this league, but they’ve both failed to reach their full potential in the big leagues.
Pivetta has a plus fastball topping out in the upper 90s and has a very nice 12-6 curve ball to complement. Location has been a major issue for Pivetta as he has continually struggled with giving up the long ball and allowing free passes.
Pivetta and Eflin will also be working under a new pitching coach Bryan Price, who was a former manager of the Cincinnati Reds and was also hand picked by Girardi. Some rumors surfaced regarding the Phillies pitching staff, claiming that they preached analytical based tactics and changed the systematic approach to locating pitches. The 2019 Phillies staff was reading hot and cold zones while trying to teach their pitchers to throw strictly in cold zones rather then letting the pitchers throw where they felt comfortable.
With this new change in the staff, Eflin and Pivetta should be more comfortable on the mound giving them a better chance to succeed.
Young bullpen arms take next step
The 2019 Phillies bullpen was plagued by injuries and lack of consistency. They also had to deal with Gabe Kapler making changes sometimes after one batter, as he was loyal to the analytics.
2020 will feature a new format for making pitching changes, all pitchers who enter from the pen will have to face at least three batters before being eligible to exit the game. This rule means that this young pen will have to step up and the members in it are going to have to find a role early on in the season.
If guys like Serathony Dominquez, Adam Morgan and Hector Neris can be a rock in the 7th, 8th and 9th inning it could really take this Phillies team to the next level. It seems like Klentak has confidence in this young trio because they did not make any moves to address the bullpen issue in free agency, other than minor league deals to potential bounce back candidates.
Health will be the biggest factor for this group because any injury to the back end of the pen could be devastating to a thinly talented group.
NL East teams are bound to regress
It’s not far fetched to believe some of the upper echelon teams in the division will take a step back in 2020. Many times after winning a championship you will see teams have a bit of a hangover season to follow it up. When the San Francisco Giants won three Championships in five years they followed each of their championship seasons by missing the postseason.
The Nationals also lost one of their best players in Anthony Rendon, as he signed a mega deal to play with Mike Trout in LA. The Braves lost a lot of their fire power as their cleanup hitter Josh Donaldson signed a four-year deal with the Minnesota Twins. The Braves also lost innings eater Julio Tehran, who was a rock on their staff for the past few seasons.
Both of these teams are still tremendously talented top to bottom, but losing some of their star power could easily make them regress in 2020, opening the door for the Fightin’ Phils to make the Postseason for the first time in nearly a decade.