The 2021 MLB season is nearly upon us and it’s time to see how the Philadelphia Phillies are shaping up. Is this the squad that can end the nine-year playoff drought? Let’s see how the players and schedule lineup when the calendar flips to April.
Best Division In Baseball
There isn’t much debate about which division is the deepest from top to bottom. It’s the National League East. With four teams projected to surpass 80 wins, division games will be at a premium. The Phillies will have to do a much better job against the top three to keep themselves in playoff contention.
The Atlanta Braves are the favorite with their young arms and formidable lineup followed closely by the New York Mets. The Washington Nationals added some powerful bats to their lineup and still have a very good pitching staff. Even the Miami Marlins won’t be a pushover following their 2020 division crown.
It’s safe to say that if the Phillies are going to contend for the division or the wild card, it won’t come easy. The NL East could easily get two if not three teams in the playoffs.
The boys are back all together as the Phillies re-signed J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius.Most of the off-season emphasis was on bringing back Realmuto and it finally got done in late January. He’s the best catcher in the game today and provides much-needed protection behind Bryce Harper.
The only question mark with this team remains with who will hold down centerfield? Roman Quinn figures to be the favorite to start opening day but it’s not a name that will be written in with a sharpie. Quinn has struggled to utilize his speed offensively and that begins with his inability to get on base. If he can fix that, his chances of being a more permanent solution greatly increase.
Others who will get looks in center include Adam Haseley and Scott Kingery.Phillies fans are hopeful that former first-round pick Mickey Moniak will get the job sooner than later. Odubal Herrera may even make his way back into the mix.
Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler will head the rotation. They provide a great one-two punch at the top and will need to have great seasons for the Phillies to be competitive. After them, the rotation rounds out with Zach Eflin, Matt Moore, and Chase Anderson. Vince Velasquez and Spencer Howard will both get plenty of starts during the season as well.
Moore is the fun wild card in the back end of the rotation. He’s a veteran southpaw who has redefined the way he pitches. He has been very solid in spring and could be a big part of the success this season.
It’s no secret that the failure of the team in the past few seasons has come late in games. The relievers had an ERA soaring over seven and couldn’t hold any lead down the stretch in 2020.
That made the off-season very crucial for the bullpen reconstruction. The Phillies signed Archie Bradley and traded for Jose Alvarado. Bradley may be the more familiar name and one that Phillies fans will greatly enjoy but the under the radar move could be Alvarado. Alvarado consistently hits 100 mph from the left side and has a hard sharp breaking ball which is difficult for hitters to pick up. He is also in much better shape than his first few seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. Adding these two guys to the back end with Hector Neris is definitely a start in the right direction.
Besides Mickey Moniak, only a few prospects figure to factor in for 2021. The organization’s top prospect is Spencer Howard. Howard will probably start in Triple-A to continue his stretching out development to be an every fifth-day starter. Another pitcher likely to have an impact this season is Adonis Medina. His role could be both as a starter or in the bullpen. That could depend on injuries and how the season is going.
After those two arms, there is a lot of development that needs to be done in the farm system.
To say April is scary on paper would be an understatement. The first 13 games are against the Braves and Mets. It doesn’t get any easier as the Phillies then play the St. Louis Cardinals seven times. The Cardinals figure to be the front runners for the Central division.
If the Phillies can survive April, things get easier as the season progresses, especially in September. If they stay in contention they have a chance. September features the Baltimore Orioles, Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, Marlins (twice), and the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s easily the best stretch to have to end the season.
The division will be an absolute war and it starts on Opening Day. The Phillies will have the opportunity to prove they belong right away or fall behind quickly.
The Phillies will score. The question will be can they pitch for nine innings. Their division doesn’t do them any favors but they have a team that proved in 2020 that they could compete. The ability to hold leads and get the final out remains to be the ultimate decider. Phillies fans are itching to get back to the postseason and this could be the year they end the drought.
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Players Mentioned: J.T. Realmuto, Didi Gregorious, Bryce Harper, Roman Quinn, Adam Haseley, Scott Kingery, Odubel Herrera, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin, Matt Moore, Chase Anderson, Vince Velasquez, Spencer Howard, Archie Bradley, Jose Alvarado, Hector Neris, JoJo Romero, Mickey Moniak, Adonis Medina.