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Philadelphia Phillies 2018: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Expert Insight

Rhys Hoskins

Rhys Hoskins

Despite seeing their win total shrink by five in 2017, the Phillies might actually have taken a step forward in their rebuild. Fifteen players, including a handful who should have lasting impact, maybe even star power, made their big-league debuts, and the club improved its run differential by 94 from the previous season while posting a .500 record over its final 76 games.

The offseason brought a vibrant new manager, a bullpen upgrade and a $60 million investment in the offense, which could be a prelude to what might come next winter. The starting pitching still needs significant work, but this team is on the cusp of being relevant again and could be surprisingly exciting in an NL East that drops off precipitously after Washington.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the PHILLIES

“It’s just a question of when, not if, for the Phillies. I think very highly of the turnaround they’re doing. It’s somewhat a matter of quantity over quality here — other than Rhys Hoskins, I’m not sure they have a can’t-miss player — but they’ve got enough choices, and enough payroll space, that it’s easy to see how it’ll click. Carlos Santana is a bit of an odd fit, because he bumps Hoskins to left, and they’re already a little crowded in the outfield. But that team needs plate discipline and Santana has it, and his power will play up in that ballpark. They signed a couple of solid relievers in Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, which they’ll need, because the staff is really unproven behind Aaron Nola. The big addition here is Gabe Kapler as manager. He’s a really different bird. I’d expect to see a lot of data-driven experimentation, especially with relievers coming into games a lot sooner than usual. It could go very well or very poorly with Kapler, but it’s not going to be boring.”

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Gearing up

Despite spending $94 million on free agents Carlos Santana, Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, the Phillies are well positioned to be big players on next winter’s historic free-agent market. In fact, they’ve been gearing up for it with their main target likely to be Manny Machado. In the meantime, the Phils want to give their young core players another year to grow so they will benefit from the injection of one or two big talents. “We’re very cognizant of the fact that we’re a large-market team that has carried large payrolls in the past,” GM Matt Klentak says. “There will come a time where we will spend again. But right now, we are very committed to giving the reps to our young players.”

Launch It

Maikel Franco spent the offseason working on his swing at the Phillies facility in the Dominican Republic. The Phillies want to see him hit the ball in the air more in 2018 because, as Klentak says, “He hits the ball really hard.” Franco ranked 34th in the majors with 176 balls hit 95 miles per hour or harder in 2017.

To absent friends Uniform number 34 will go unused in 2018 in honor of Roy Halladay, who died in a plane crash in November. In addition to Halladay, who won the NL Cy Young Award with the club in 2010, the Phillies family lost several other club icons in 2017, including World Series-winning manager Dallas Green, Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, All-Star catcher Darren Daulton and longtime scout and coach Ruben Amaro Sr.

Continued Growth

Five years ago, the Phillies analytics program was nonexistent. Now, there are more than a dozen employees in a growing research and development department, and they have influence on everything from player acquisitions to lineup constructions. Former big leaguer Sam Fuld has joined the staff as a liaison between the analytics department and clubhouse/coaches room.

Fantastic first month

Despite not debuting in the majors until Aug. 10, Rhys Hoskins finished fourth in National League Rookie of the Year voting. He did it largely on the strength of a sensational August in which he had 11 homers, 25 RBIs and a .747 slugging percentage in 22 games. Hoskins hit 18 homers in 50 games, the most ever by a player who did not make his season debut until after Aug. 1. Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who hit 13 homers after returning from the Korean War in 1953, was the previous record holder.

Projected Lineup

2B     Cesar Hernandez (S)
1B     Carlos Santana (S)
CF     Odubel Herrera (L)
LF     Rhys Hoskins (R)
RF     Nick Williams (L)
3B     Maikel Franco (R)
C     Jorge Alfaro (R)
SS     J.P. Crawford (L)
C     Andrew Knapp (S)
C     Cameron Rupp (R)
OF     Aaron Altherr (R)
1B     Tommy Joseph (R)
INF     Pedro Florimon (S)
RHP     Aaron Nola
RHP     Jerad Eickhoff
RHP     Vince Velasquez
RHP     Nick Pivetta
RHP     Ben Lively
RHP     Hector Neris 
RHP     Pat Neshek
RHP     Tommy Hunter
RHP     Edubray Ramos
RHP     Luis Garcia
LHP     Adam Morgan
LHP     Hoby Milner