In 2022, the Philadelphia Phillies went through a myriad of ups and downs. The team started the season 22-29, which resulted in a managerial change. That change worked, as they started winning games at a much more impressive rate. Then, Bryce Harper went down in late June with a broken thumb and missed the next two months. However, J.T. Realmuto, Alec Bohm, and others heated up during that time frame to help the offense produce runs. As the season neared the finish, the club began to struggle. Many wondered if another late-season collapse was on the horizon. The team fought their way through those struggles though and clinched a playoff berth for the first time in eleven years.
The postseason was also filled with a number of highs and lows. The highest of highs came after scoring 7 runs in the first World Series game at Citizens Bank Park since 2009. The lowest of lows began in Game Four of the Fall Classic after the Astros no-hit the Phillies. The low continued in Game Five and Six as the Phillies would fall two wins short of winning it all. Nonetheless, 2022 provided a run most of the fan base couldn’t have imagined. It also created a number of lifelong memories.
After being so close to winning a world championship, most people felt the front office, with support from ownership, would flex their financial muscles once again during the offseason to add even more talent to the roster. That is exactly what happened, and in doing so, the organization has the entire city of Philadelphia excited for what is to come in 2023.
Before the season starts, now is a great time to break down the numbers behind the club’s 2022 success, dive into what the front office did during the offseason, look at some of the club’s top prospects, preview the upcoming 2023 campaign, and take a guess at what the roster could look like on Opening Day.
By now, most baseball fans know the story of the 2022 Phillies. After a slow start, Joe Girardi was fired and replaced by Rob Thomson. Under Thomson’s leadership, the club went 65-46 and was a playoff team for the first time since 2011. In total, they won 87 games and went to the World Series.
Going into the year, the Phillies’ strategy was very apparent. The offense was going to have to carry the load most of the way, while the hope for the pitching staff was to be, at worst, league average. Everyone also knew the defense was likely going to be a liability.
Even without Bryce Harper for an extended period of time in the middle of the year, the offense was about as good as most thought it would be. The pitching staff, especially the starting rotation, was impressive during parts of the season. As expected, the defense was not good.
Starting with the lineup, here is a more in-depth look at the club’s performance, followed by details of their playoff run.
Philly’s top three players in OPS+ were Bryce Harper (145), Kyle Schwarber (130), and J.T. Realmuto (129). Harper only appeared in 99 regular season games and was unproductive in September. Schwarber was streaky over the course of the season and June was his best month. The left-handed hitting slugger hit .272/.385/.680 with 12 home runs in June.
While Harper and Schwarber were productive at the plate, a strong argument can be made that J.T. Realmuto was Philadelphia’s MVP, especially from the time Harper went on the injured list with a broken thumb through the end of the season. From June 26th, the first game Harper missed, to the end of the regular season, Realmuto slashed .310/.365/.578 with 15 doubles and 17 home runs. He also provided great base running and defense behind home plate (more analysis on that in a little bit). Realmuto’s 6.5 fWAR led the team.
The starting rotation and bullpen were complete opposites. The rotation was rock solid all year long, but the bullpen was good at times and seemed inept at others. In total, the pitching staff threw 1,428.1 innings, with a 3.97 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 9.0 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9.
Since the starting staff and bullpen were so different, let’s break them down separately:
Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola headlined the rotation. However, as Wheeler struggled to ramp up his arm at the start of the year and struggled with a forearm issue in late August through late September, Nola was Philly’s workhorse.
Wheeler completed 153.0 innings, with a 2.82 ERA and 163 punchouts. Nola, on the other hand, started 32 games and pitched 205.0 innings. He posted a 3.25 ERA, with 235 strikeouts and just 29 walks.
There wasn’t one reliever that stuck out from the start of the year all the way to the end. But, as the season progressed, Seranthony Domínguez and José Alvarado shored up the back of the bullpen.
Domínguez pitched his first meaningful big league innings for the first time in three years after having elbow issues that eventually resulted in him having Tommy John Surgery. His 3.00 ERA in 51.0 innings of work was inflated after a bad stretch of outings in September and October (11.57 ERA in 8 appearances). For the most part, though, he was very good.
As for José Alvarado, he struggled heavily at the beginning of the season. So much so the club sent him down to Triple-A in late May. After being brought back up to the big league club on June 12th, Alvarado was lights out from that point forward. He threw 38.0 innings in that time period, averaging 15.16 K/9 with a 1.66 ERA.
Defense and Base Running:
The defense was bad. The team was towards the bottom of the league in both DRS (-33) and OAA (-34). On the other hand, their base running was toward the top of the league. They finished the year 6th in BsR (9.9).
J.T. Realmuto was the team’s best defender and baserunner. He led big league catchers in pop time to second base (1.82) and caught stealing rate (44%). Realmuto also stole 21 bases on the year and was only thrown out once. His BsR was 6.6.
The Phillies started the playoffs in St. Louis against the Cardinals in the National League Wild Card Series where they swept the redbirds two games to none. They faced off against their division rival, and champion, Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. After splitting the first two games in Atlanta, the Phillies won the next two at home, beating their rival three games to one.
The club’s first NLCS appearance since 2010 came against the Padres. The series began on the west coast in San Diego, where the teams split the first two games. After arriving in Philadelphia to a raucous crowd, the Phillies won three straight games to win the series four games to one. As previously mentioned, they ended up losing in the World Series to the Astros in six games.
During their time in the postseason, the pitching and offense had their ups and downs. Aaron Nola and José Alvarado started off the playoffs in great form. Both ran out of gas and struggled at the end. Zack Wheeler was great, as he tossed 35.2 innings, with 33 strikeouts, and a 2.78 ERA in 6 starts. Ranger Suárez (1.23 ERA in 14.2 innings) and Seranthony Domínguez (1.69 ERA in 10.2 innings) were also very effective.
Offensively, Bryce Harper led the way. He slashed .349/.414/.746 with 6 home runs, 7 doubles, and 22 hits. He also created one of the greatest moments in Citizens Bank Park history that will forever be dubbed “Bedlam at the Bank” thanks to Phillies’ radio play-by-play announcer Scott Franzke.
Rhys Hoskins and Kyle Schwarber were important to the team’s offense, as well. They each hit 6 home runs. Schwarber also walked 15 times with a total on-base percentage of .392.
There was a lot of talk about what the Phillies were going to do during the offseason. President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski noted in an end-of-the-season media availability session the front office wanted to address the starting rotation and bullpen. He also mentioned the club would look into an upgrade for the middle of the infield.
The Phillies addressed all of those needs and more. They made a plethora of moves to upgrade and reorganize their roster heading into 2023.
Here is a list of notable offseason moves made by the organization:
- SS Trea Turner, signed to an 11-year, $330 million contract.
- RHP Taijuan Walker, signed to a 4-year, $72 million contract.
- LHP Matt Strahm, signed to a 2-year, $15 million contract.
- RHP Craig Kimbrel, signed to a 1-year, $10 million contract.
- LHP Gregory Soto, acquired from the Detroit Tigers.
- INF/OF Kody Clemens, acquired from the Detroit Tigers.
- INF Josh Harrison, signed to a 1-year, $2 million contract.
- 2B Jean Segura (club optioned declined), signed a 2-year, $17 million contract with the Miami Marlins.
- RHP Zach Eflin (mutual option declined), signed a 3-year, $40 million contract with the Tampa Bay Rays.
- RHP Noah Syndergaard, signed a 1-year, $13 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
- RHP Kyle Gibson, signed a 1-year, $10 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles.
- RHP David Robertson, signed a 1-year, $10 million contract with the New York Mets.
- INF/OF Matt Vierling, traded to the Detroit Tigers.
- INF/OF Nick Maton, traded to the Detroit Tigers.
- RHP Corey Knebel, currently a free agent.
- LHP Brad Hand, currently a free agent.
The Phillies were linked to Trea Turner dating back to last summer. The way they constructed their roster made it almost obvious they were going to pursue the big free agent shortstops this winter, and as the offseason progressed, it seemed as though Turner was indeed their guy. He brings one of the best skill sets in the game to Philadelphia. He can hit for both contact and power, has great speed, and his league-average defense is an upgrade for the Phillies. Last season with the Dodgers, Turner hit .298/.343/.466 with 21 home runs and a 121 OPS+. He also stole 27 bases and scored 101 runs. The club will decide how they will construct the lineup during spring training, but Turner figures to be in the first or second spot of the batting order.
Taijuan Walker is a great fit for the Phillies. They lost Zach Eflin, Noah Syndergaard, and Kyle Gibson this offseason, so there was a need for back-of-the-rotation pitching. Once one of the best prospects in baseball, Walker has enjoyed success over the last two seasons with the Mets, including an All-Star campaign in 2021. The right-hander started 29 games with the Mets last year, pitching to a 3.49 ERA in 157.1 innings. He also posted a 1.195 WHIP and struck out 132 batters. Walker will likely fall fourth in the Phillies’ rotation this year behind Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Ranger Suárez.
Matt Strahm, Craig Kimbrel, and Gregory Soto were all acquired to strengthen the bullpen. Last year with Boston, the left-handed Strahm threw a total of 44.2 innings, with a 3.83 ERA, 10.5 K/9, and 3.8 BB/9. Kimbrel pitched for the Dodgers last season. His regular season performance was solid, but he was left off L.A.’s postseason roster. The righty threw 60.0 innings, with a 3.75 ERA, 10.8 K/9, and 4.2 BB/9. Soto was an All-Star in 2021 and 2022 for the Tigers. He pitched 60.1 innings, with a 3.28 ERA, 9.0 K/9, and 5.1 BB/9 a year ago. Kimbrel and Soto bring late-game experience with them to Philadelphia. Kimbrel had 22 saves last year and is 7th on the all-time saves list (394). Soto recorded 48 saves over the last two seasons.
Kody Clemens and Josh Harrison were brought in to help reestablish bench depth heading into the year after Matt Vierling and Nick Maton were dealt to Detroit. While Clemens isn’t a lock to make the roster out of spring training, Harrison’s 1-year, $2 million deal means he will be on the club’s day one roster. Each player can play more than one position, but Clemens provides a little more versatility. The 26-year-old made his big league debut in 2022, and played solid defense at first base, second base, third base, and left field for the Tigers.
Harrison saw most of his playing time at second base last season, with some innings at third. His OAA landed in 84th percentile according to Statcast. Harrison probably won’t see much time in the outfield but could be used there in an emergency. Neither were acquired for their bats, as Clemens slashed just .145/.197/.304 in limited plate appearances a year ago, and Harrison hit .256/.317/.370. However, with their abilities to play multiple positions, they are valuable bench players.
The Phillies spent a little more than $425 million in free agency this winter and will be over the luxury tax threshold again. While they are looking for established big league players currently on their roster to be the main contributors this season, there are some interesting pieces in Philadelphia’s farm system that could be in the mix to lend a helping hand in the majors this year.
Although the Phillies don’t boast one of the deeper farm systems in baseball, they do have three very intriguing prospects currently sitting atop their system. Two of those three could be in the big leagues sooner rather than later.
Andrew Painter, Griff McGarry, and Mick Abel are the best prospects in the organization at the moment. They are all right-handed starting pitchers and will be in big league camp this spring as non-roster invitees. Painter could start the year in the big league rotation, McGarry could be pitching in red pinstripes sometime this summer depending on how things unfold, and even though Abel is the furthest from the majors, he is one breakout year away from seeing some time on a big league mound when rosters expand in September.
Before providing an insight into each pitcher, this is where they fall in the pre-season rankings for MLB Pipeline, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus:
|Name||MLB Pipeline Ranking||Baseball America Ranking||Baseball Prospectus Ranking|
|Griff McGarry||Not Ranked||Not Ranked||51|
Now, let’s get into breaking them down.
Painter is only 19 years old and was the 13th overall pick in the draft in 2021. He stands at a tall 6’7″ and is regarded by many as the top pitching prospect in baseball. Last year was his first full season of minor league competition, and he made starts at three different levels; Low-A, High-A, and Double-A. The righty made a total of 22 starts and threw 103.2 innings. In that workload, Painter posted impressive numbers. He faced 401 batters, and had a 1.56 ERA, with 155 strikeouts and only 25 walks.
Outside of his impressive statistics, Painter has a great repertoire. He throws a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. His fastball and slider are his best pitches, followed by his curveball, and minimally used changeup. Reports say Painter’s fastball sits in the high 90s and he can reach triple digits with ease. His slider is more of a sweeping slider and registers in the low to mid-80s. Both of those pitches work well off one another. His curveball sits in the 78-80 mph range and is a good pitch to use when batters are looking for his fastball and slider combination. He rarely used his changeup in 2022, but when he did, it sat in the high 80s.
McGarry is a 23-year-old righty who was drafted out of the University of Virginia in the 5th round of the 2021 draft. The Phillies seem set on developing him into a starting pitcher, but if that fails, he has the stuff to be a good bullpen arm. Like Painter, he pitched at three different levels in 2022; High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A. He appeared in 27 minor league games (19 starts and 8 relief appearances). Altogether, he faced 364 hitters, and threw 87.1 innings, with a 3.71 ERA, 130 strikeouts, and 53 walks. Lack of control has plagued McGarry during his collegiate and short professional careers but is something he has improved upon.
While Andrew Painter is the most polished starting pitcher in the Phillies’ system, Griff McGarry might have the best raw stuff. His fastball sits in the mid to high-90s and works well in the top of the zone. He started to work on a slider and cutter combination last year that works well together as his best secondary pitches. The right-hander also offers a look at a curveball and changeup.
At 21 years old, Abel isn’t ready to pitch in the majors right now, but he has some promise. He was selected 15th overall in the 2020 draft out of high school. He made 23 starts in the minors last season and started games in High-A and Double-A. Most of his innings came in High-A, though. In total, Abel pitched 108.1 innings and faced 471 batters. He posted a 3.90 ERA, with 130 punchouts and 50 walks.
Abel’s pitch mix includes a fastball, slider, changeup, and curveball. As is the case with Painter and McGarry, his fastball and slider combination is very good. The righty’s fastball sits in the mid-90s, but it can hit the upper-90s. His slider, just like Painter, has good sweeping action. Abel’s changeup is his third-best pitch, followed by the curveball. Both need work if he wants to get eventual major league hitters out using them, though.
As mentioned above, the Phillies aren’t rich with high-level prospects, but there are some interesting players sitting in their minor league system. Some names to keep an eye on this season include CF Johan Rojas, CF Justin Crawford, INF Hao-Yu Lee, OF Símon Muzziotti, and RHP Andrew Baker.
Rojas needs to improve his offense as a whole if he wants to survive as an everyday center fielder. Crawford was the organization’s 1st round pick last year and will be playing in his first full minor league season in 2023. Lee has the best hit tool of all of the Phillies’ hitting prospects. Muzziotti will likely be a fourth outfielder one day, but he has shown promise in the field and at the plate. Baker is a hard thrower who could make an impact out of the bullpen one day.
NOTE: All of the information about the prospects mentioned in the section above were learned from reading Matt Winkelman‘s recently published pieces ranking players in the Phillies’ minor league system at philliesminorsthoughts.com. He does a great job following the Phillies’ farm system all year long and has great insight into the organization as a whole.
With Bryce Harper set to miss the first half of the season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery this offseason, the players that will be healthy at the start of the year are going to need to step up. The addition of Trea Turner helps, but everyone else will need to produce, too. Nick Castellanos is going to have to get back to form after a disappointing first year with the Phillies. Other players like J.T. Realmuto, Kyle Schwarber, and Rhys Hoskins will have to avoid starting the year off cold as they did in 2022. It is important to mention that with Harper out, the club is going to rotate who their DH will be on a day-to-day basis, so bench players are going to be used in the everyday lineup regularly at the beginning of the season.
Even though some people feel that Harper’s absence will hurt the team, they were okay without him during a two-month stretch a year ago. As long as everyone performs to their capabilities, the team should have no issues scoring runs without the two-time N.L. MVP.
The starting rotation should be good again this year. How the club handles the starting rotation will be interesting, at least to start the season. With Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola coming off heavy workloads, the team might not push them too hard this spring or during the first few months of the season. This would help ensure neither run out of gas over the final months of the regular season nor during postseason play. Ranger Suárez and Taijuan Walker should provide solid innings all year long in the middle of the rotation.
There has been discussion about the Phillies possibly using a six-man rotation to start the year. Using that strategy would provide more rest between outings for their starting staff as they have very few off days during the first few weeks of the season. Bailey Falter and top prospect Andrew Painter will be fighting for the back of the rotation job(s). The organization is okay with the 19-year-old Painter starting the year with the big league club, but if they feel he needs more time in the minors before facing big leaguer hitters, Falter, who made 20 major league appearances in 2022 (16 as a starting pitcher and 4 as a reliever) would be the fifth man in the rotation.
As for the bullpen, on paper, it looks to be better than it was a year ago. Manager Rob Thomson has a number of options to use however he sees fit. Right now, the plan is to not commit to using one guy as the “closer” as Thomson will mix and match his relievers based on situations over the course of a game much like he did in 2022.
As the reigning National League champions, the Phillies have high expectations heading into 2023. With the core group of players from last season still intact and a hefty financial investment from the front office this offseason, it is clear that reaching the postseason is once again the club’s goal.
How they get to the postseason will be interesting, though. The N.L. East is going to be a tight race this year as the Braves and Mets, along with the Phillies, improved their rosters this offseason. Atlanta has won five straight division titles and should be the favorites this season, too. New York won 101 games in 2022, and owner Steve Cohen has a lot of money invested in the team heading into the year. The Mets are going to be good, just how good is the question. Competing with the Braves and Mets will not be easy, and only one team can win the division. The Phillies are in for a fight, but it isn’t outlandish to say they have a shot at winning the N.L. East.
Overall, 2023 should be a good year for the Phillies. If they start the year off on the right foot, they should have no issues battling for the division, and at the very least, clinching one of the three wild card spots in the N.L. Without knowing how many wins it will take to win the N.L. East, an appropriate projection for the upcoming campaign would be a total of 88 to 93 wins, and a spot in the postseason via the wild card.
Opening Day Roster
Here is a look at what the roster could look like as the Phillies start the year on the road against the Texas Rangers:
- Zack Wheeler
- Aaron Nola
- Ranger Suárez
- Taijuan Walker
- Andrew Painter
- Seranthony Domínguez
- José Alvarado
- Gregory Soto
- Craig Kimbrel
- Matt Strahm
- Andrew Bellatti
- Connor Brogdon
- Nick Nelson
- J.T Realmuto
- Garrett Stubbs
- Rhys Hoskins
- Bryson Stott
- Trea Turner
- Alec Bohm
- Edmundo Sosa
- Josh Harrison
- Kyle Schwarber
- Brandon Marsh
- Nick Castellanos
- Dalton Guthrie
- Kody Clemens
As previously mentioned, the Phillies could start the year with six pitchers in their starting rotation, so Bailey Falter could start the year in the majors. How they navigate that plan is still unknown since teams can only have thirteen pitchers on their roster at a time. Employing six starters would mean only having seven arms in the bullpen.
1B/DH Darick Hall and OF Jake Cave are also candidates to be on the Opening Day roster. Hall provides left-handed pop against right-handed pitching, while Cave can play solid defense at all three outfield positions.
The Phillies are in the midst of a window of contention. The front office made the team even better this offseason, and they have one of the deeper rosters in baseball. They should be regarded as one of the teams with a good chance of not only making it to the World Series but also winning it.
Some questions will have to be answered, though. Can they keep up with the Braves and Mets? How does Bryce Harper starting the year on the injured list impact the offense? While the addition of Trea Turner should help the offense, who else will step up when Harper is out? Will Nick Castellanos turn things around? What does the pitching staff look like on Opening Day? Does Andrew Painter start the year in the majors or minors?
With Opening Day scheduled for March 30th in Texas against the Rangers, it will take some time to get the answers to most of those questions. For the time being, the Phillies look to be one of the top teams in baseball heading into 2023.
Featured Photo: Twitter / @Phillies