Phillies well positioned to be a force in NL

March 27th, 2023

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- stopped for a quick chat outside the Phillies’ clubhouse one afternoon in February at BayCare Ballpark. He was asked how this spring felt different for the Phils. He smiled.

“There just seems to be a belief,” Hoskins said.

The Phillies still believe they can defend their National League championship. It just got more difficult on Thursday, when Hoskins suffered a season-ending ACL injury to his left knee. It is a crushing blow to the club and to Hoskins, who might have played his final game in Philadelphia, as he will be a free agent following this season. But it does not need to be a fatal one. Hoskins would be the first person to say that.

The Phillies have enough offensive firepower to overcome Hoskins’ injury. Besides, every team deals with ailments at some point -- just look at the Mets and closer Edwin Díaz. Philadelphia remains well-positioned to be a force in the NL, not only because of what the club returned from its magical postseason run, but because of what it added in the offseason: , , , , and .

What needs to go right?
The talent is there. Just look up and down the lineup, up and down the rotation and up and down the bullpen.

But can the Phillies stay healthy? They already lost Hoskins for the season. They already will start the year without , who could be back anywhere from late May to mid-July. The rotation already showed cracks this spring with injuries to , , and .

The Phillies have enough depth to handle most injuries -- they played very well for a couple of months last season when Harper was sidelined with a broken left thumb -- but they cannot keep testing that depth. Every team has a breaking point.

Great unknown
Is ready for his shot? He batted .250 with nine home runs, 16 RBIs, an .804 OPS and a 121 OPS+ in 142 plate appearances last season, primarily serving as the team’s DH while Harper recovered from a broken left thumb. But Philadelphia protected Hall, limiting him to only 12 plate appearances against lefties.

Hall will need to do more for longer with Hoskins gone. The good news is the 27-year-old worked hard this offseason to narrow his strike zone and hit left-handers better. The results this spring have been encouraging.

Team MVP will be ... Turner
He put on a show for Team USA at the World Baseball Classic, which included a game-winning grand slam to beat Venezuela in the quarterfinals.

Turner didn’t need a big Classic to show everybody he is a superstar. Everybody already knew that. But it gave Phillies fans a better sense of how truly impactful Turner can be. He should put up huge numbers hitting at the top of the Phils’ lineup.

Team Cy Young will be … Zack Wheeler
Wheeler is healthy this spring, which he could not say around this time last year, when he was recovering from a balky right shoulder and illness. Wheeler was already one of the best pitchers in baseball, but he came to camp looking to be even better. He is incorporating a new pitch -- the sweeper -- into his repertoire, which Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham said is one of the best pitches in baseball, especially in the hands of a talent like Wheeler.

Bold prediction
The Phillies will have one of their greatest offensive seasons in franchise history.

They have scored 800-plus runs only nine times since 1930, but this feels like a team that could become the 10th.

Even without Hoskins? Yes. Here is why: is primed for a rebound; , and are capable of taking significant steps forward in their development; Turner is a superstar; Harper will be back by mid-season; the infield shift is restricted; the bases are bigger and pitchers are limited in their pickoffs -- which should boost the running game.