In 2018 and 2019, the Phillies started the regular season fast, posting great first halves where they were in first place at the All-Star break, and had fans excited for big deadline acquisitions to turn the squad into a title contender.
In back-to-back seasons under Gabe Kapler, the team fully collapsed in the second half due to injuries and lack of talent. Last year was much more frustrating because it was clear the 2019 Phillies had a lot of money invested in their talent and a second half collapse for the second year in a row made many fans’ blood boil.
The 2020 Phillies now have more money locked in and a more experienced manager, but it still does not feel like this team is prepared to dominate the NL East. I do believe this team has the talent to make the post season, but that all relies on their young players taking that next step. If they don’t take that step, 2020 could end the same way the last two years did.
Here are four reasons the Phils could potentially miss October baseball in 2020.
The 2019 rendition of Rhys Hoskins was a streaky one. He was the definition of “when you’re hot you’re hot and when you’re not you’re not” in 2019, and things kept getting worse for him as the season reached its end.
I am very optimistic about Rhys in 2020 under new hitting coach Joe Dillion, but it would not surprise me if he continued to be the streaky hitter he has been throughout his major league career. He has the potential to make this entire lineup better but if he is the sub .230 hitter he was in 2019, he could make things more difficult for Bryce Harper and the rest of whatever the middle of the lineup shapes up to be.
A struggling Rhys Hoskins could lead to lineup woes for Joe Girardi and really hinder the very promising lineup that GM Matt Klentak created this offseason.
The Phillies first sign at finally attempting to contend again was when they inked Jake Arrieta to a three-year deal worth over $70 million prior to the 2018 season. The move was made with the idea that it would bring stability to the young Philies rotation, but it obviously hasn’t gone according to plan.
Arrieta has been a brutal waste of money so far and his contact makes it difficult for the Phillies to remain under the luxury tax entering the 2020 season, on a team that would’ve most likely spent more money this offseason if they didn’t have to pay Arrieta $20 million this season. Arrieta has failed to give us quality pitching and his health is always a question mark.
If he continues to be injured and struggle on the mound, he could make life very hard on the young bullpen and put pressure on Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler to carry this team in a very tough division. If Jake can not get back into form, it could be a major reason why the Phillies miss the playoffs for the ninth straight season.
It is very likely the Phillies bullpen remains an issue in 2020 because they did nothing to improve it this offseason. They have some talented arms in the pen, like Seranthony Dominquez, Hector Neris and Adam Morgan, but we also saw these same guys struggle at times throughout the past couple of seasons.
Neris was a solid closer in 2019 but being a two pitch pitcher (fastball/splitter) can result in giving up the long ball. A splitter is a unique pitch that is mastered by only a few pitchers in this league, but the catch to the pitch is; a splitter needs to be located low because when left up in the zone it’s like the hitter is seeing a slow beach ball left over the plate.
It would be nice to see Neris develop a third pitch in his arsenal, but that seems to be unrealistic at this point and the ninth inning could be testy once again for the Phillies. I think a healthy Serathony Dominquez will be very important for the club in 2020 but he struggles with location as well, even though he possesses an elite fastball and at times an unhittable cutter.
If health is once again an issue for the bullpen, the Phillies do not have many promising relief options in the minors. 2020 could be the same story we saw play out last year.