With Spring Training officially beginning on Friday against the Blue Jays, here are 10 storylines facing the Phillies for the 2018 season.
Will the Phillies sign pitcher Jake Arrieta?
The Phillies need another pitcher and signing Arrieta makes perfect sense. The question is how much money the Phillies are willing to dish out. Arrieta, the 2015 N.L. Cy Young winner, is expected to field between $20-30 million a year in free-agency. With the Phillies saving up to bid on top free-agents like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, they need to make sure they have the money available to pay them.
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What can we expect from Gabe Kapler?
One thing is for sure, Kapler is a vocal guy. Since his hire he’s made headlines for some of the more colorful quotes he’s provided to the local media. Now we’ll see if he can manage a ball club. Kapler thinks the Phillies have the ability to “shock people” this season. His moves will be under a microscope, but he has great young prospects to manage who have endless potential. He’s in a great position to do well.
Can Rhys Hoskins lead the league in home runs?
Hoskins hit 18 home runs in just 50 games last season. If you project that out to 162 games, you’re looking at close to 60 home runs for a season. The last Phillies player to come close to this number was when Ryan Howard hit 58 in his N.L. MVP campaign in 2006. Giancarlo Stanton led the league in home runs last season with 59. If the Phillies get anywhere close to this type of production from Hoskins, the rebuild is going to go much faster than anticipated.
Who are the Phillies’ biggest trade chips?
With Rhys Hoskins moving to left field, the Phillies have a couple decisions to make in the outfield. All signs point to Nick Williams and Odubel Herrera joining him in the outfield, but the Phillies have another young outfield in Aaron Altherr who had a solid campaign in 2017 where he batted .272 to go with 19 HR and 65 RBI. Williams or Herrera could become expendable in a trade if one sees a drop in production. Third baseman Maikel Franco or backup catcher Cameron Rupp could also become expendable if the right deal comes to fruition.
What is the biggest position battle to watch?
This would be at catcher. Jorge Alfaro without a doubt has the potential to be an everyday starter at catcher. He batted .318 with five home runs and 14 RBI in just 29 games last season, but Cameron Rupp might have too much power to sit on the bench. Rupp’s combined 30 home runs over the past two seasons ranks third on the team behind Maikel Franco (49) and Tommy Joseph (43).
Can the Phillies get back to the playoffs in 2018?
The Phillies finished the season 66-96 in 2017, 31 games behind the Nationals for the N.L. East title and 21 games back of a Wild Card spot. It’s a stretch to think the Phillies could make it back to the playoffs in 2018, but it’s certainly not out of the question. Adding Jake Arrieta would certainly help their win total, but even with their current roster, getting somewhere around 85 wins isn’t out of the question. Their projected win total is closer to 75 wins. The Rockies took the last N.L. Wild Card spot with an 87-75 record. They’ll certainly be in the mix by the end of the year.
What should we expect from Carlos Santana?
Carlos Santana swung a big bat with the Indians. Over the past two seasons, he notched a combined 57 home runs which would have led the Phillies. The Phillies would gladly take this type of production from the switch-hitter. With Rhys Hoskins getting his first full season under his belt, this could prove to be a very dangerous duo in the four and five holes of the Phillies’ lineup.
Which pitcher will lead the Phillies in wins?
This is quite the guessing game. No. 1 starter Aaron Nola should lead the team in wins in 2018, but his injury history has not been great. Jared Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta have all had their moments behind him, but none have been able to keep consistency over an entire season. Eickhoff and Pivetta probably have the most upside here if Nola were to get hurt, but none of them have inspired enough confidence to separate themselves from the pack.
Will fans start filling the seats again?
It’s no secret that the Phillies’ attendance has dropped significantly over the past few seasons. Where the team used to have one of the hardest tickets to get in all of Major League Baseball, now it’s become harder to give tickets away. The Phillies ranked 24th in attendance last season, averaging 24,438 fans per game. From 2010-12, they ranked first averaging 44,810 fans per game. With a new manager in Gabe Kapler and a new face of the franchise in Rhys Hoskins, the Phillies should start to see their attendance numbers rise again in 2018.
Will we see Scott Kingery in 2018?
Scott Kingery is rated as the top second base prospect in baseball according to MLB.com. Cesar Hernandez has a firm grasp on both the position and the top of the Phillies’ batting order so there is no rush for the 23-year-old Kingery to see time in the majors in 2018, but the intrigue remains. Kingery batted .304 with a combined 26 home runs and 65 RBI, splitting time between the Reading Fightin' Phils and Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs last year. If the playoffs are out of reach by the season’s end, you might just see Kingery get his opportunity to show what kind of damage he can do on the big stage.