5 predictions for Phils ahead of Opening Day

April 4th, 2022

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins put on their Phillies home uniforms, grabbed their bats and walked to the field at BayCare Ballpark early one morning last week for a photoshoot.

As they returned to the clubhouse, Phillies photographer Miles Kennedy snapped a photo of the five.

The image blew up on social media.

Fans are excited about the Phillies’ chances in 2022. They are particularly excited about the offense following the acquisitions of Castellanos and Schwarber. The Phils should score a ton of runs this season. If they do, and if they get just enough pitching, they should snap a postseason drought that extends more than a decade.

What needs to go right?
It’s simple. The Phillies have to hit. Schwarber, Realmuto, Harper, Castellanos and Hoskins could be the top five hitters in Joe Girardi’s lineup. The bottom four spots could go to Didi Gregorius, Jean Segura, Bryson Stott/Alec Bohm and Matt Vierling. If Gregorius returns to form, if Segura hits like he did last season, and if Philadelphia gets anything from third and center, it will be one of the best lineups in baseball.

But the Phils will need more than offense. They will need innings from their rotation, and they will need to see some real improvement from a bullpen that has been their Achilles' heel for years.

The Phillies are expected to be a below-average defensive team, but they can live with that. They just need to catch the balls they get their gloves on.

Great unknown
Who’s on third? Bohm entered camp as the heavy favorite. Then Johan Camargo entered the picture. Then top prospect Stott entered the picture with less than two weeks remaining in camp. Stott has outplayed everybody, but it might not be a Stott or Bohm thing. Phillies manager Joe Girardi has hinted repeatedly that the club could carry both Stott and Bohm on the roster, at least to start the season. Regardless of who starts at third base on Friday, if the Phillies get solid production there it could truly turn the lineup into a meat grinder for opposing pitchers. If the Phillies can get even average defense at third, that could shorten a lot of innings for the club's pitchers, too.

Team MVP will be…
Harper thrived in a lineup last season that didn't yet have Castellanos and Schwarber, and was also without Hoskins for the final month of the season because of an injury. Harper won his second NL MVP anyway. He could put up even bigger numbers this season, especially if the Phils' top two hitters get on base.

Team Cy Young will be …
Zack Wheeler had a strong case to win the NL Cy Young last year, but too many voters ignored the fact that he threw an MLB-best 213 1/3 innings to Corbin Burnes’ 167. Wheeler is scheduled to start the Phillies’ fifth game of the season because he entered camp behind schedule. But if he is healthy, he will be the Phils’ ace and one of the best pitchers in the Majors.

Bold prediction
Corey Knebel has the Phillies’ best season as a closer since Brad Lidge’s 48-for-48 save performance in 2008, when they won the World Series. Knebel signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Phils in December, as opposed to a multiyear deal, because he is betting on himself to have a monster season, then hit the market again for a bigger payday. Knebel’s bet pays off. He has an All-Star season and helps Philadelphia make the postseason for the first time since 2011.