March 28, 2019
The Phillies haven't even officially started their 2019 season — they open at 3:05 on Thursday against the Atlanta Braves — but that doesn't mean the winners of the past offseason are working with a blank slate. That's right, even though there haven't been any games played yet, there are already plenty of power rankings out there.
As we'll do each week throughout the baseball season, let's take a look around the country at some various power rankings and how the Phillies stack up compared to the rest of the league.
On Wednesday, we took a look at where various sports books are placing their odds to win the 2019 World Series, and for the most part, the Phillies' odds were somewhere around the fifth best in baseball and either the best or second best in the National League.
Interestingly enough, those making the power rankings see the Phils slightly further down the pecking order...
Over at ESPN, they're not as high on the Phillies as other outlets are. From their projected win total to their odds, the Phillies aren't getting much love in Bristol. In fact, while ESPN ranks the Phillies third in their own division behind the Braves (8th) and Nationals (9th), they actually think the Phils will finish the season with the fourth best record in the NL East, with the Mets, who they have ranked 14th in their Opening Day power rankings, also finishing above the Phillies.
If nothing else, this tells us that the division is going to be ultra-competitive this season, with four of the five teams in the top 15 of ESPN's rankings, and three of those four cracking the top 10.
2019 projected record: 84-78 (fourth in NL East)
World Series odds: 12-1
Best case: It's all on the table for a team that hasn't posted a winning record since 2011. The offense should be one of the league's best, especially if a certain high-profile free-agent acquisition pays off. The defense? Well, it can't be worse, right? The bullpen looks strong, whether or not the Phils add to the back end. That puts the onus on a top-heavy starting rotation. Aaron Nola must approximate his great 2018 season; Jake Arrieta needs to remain a legit No. 2; and Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez need to nail down their spots. If the Phillies get strong starting pitching from stem to stern, they will win the NL East.
Worst case: What if, in Year 1 of 13, Bryce Harper hits .230? The Phils could find that their window of contention, which seems to just be opening, is stuck. Those Phillies fans standing outside looking through it? You don't want to hear what they are saying.
Make-or-break player: Clearly, this season will be all Harper, all the time in Philadelphia. His defenders see his 2015 season as more representative of his true talent level than what has occurred since then. Vegas sees him as the odds-on favorite to win this season's NL MVP. His detractors say we've already seen the best of Harper and that he's too inconsistent to be considered an upper-level star. For better or worse, Harper and the city of Philadelphia are in it together. [espn.com]
Over at The Ringer, they're slightly higher on the Phillies overall, as well as where they rank in their division. Only the Nationals (6th) are above the Phillies in these rankings, with the Braves and Mets ranking 11th and 12th, respectively.
The Phillies are definitely serious about contending in 2019; they locked up ace Aaron Nola, traded their top prospect for catcher J.T. Realmuto, picked up All-Star shortstop Jean Segura, and spent several hundred million dollars on a crop of free agents that includes reliever David Robertson, outfielder Andrew McCutchen, and, oh yeah, Bryce Harper.
And yet there’s kind of a last-shot-of–The Graduate feeling to this club heading into 2019: They made the big trades, they signed the big free agent, they busted up the wedding and hopped on the bus, and it’s awesome … but now what? (Alternatively: The Phillies are like Heavy D & the Boyz, because “Now that we found glove, what are we gonna do?”) Even after they made their big play, the Phillies find themselves in a four-way dogfight for the NL East with three other clubs that also made substantial additions this offseason. The lineup is awesome, Nola is awesome, and with Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez at the back end, the bullpen should be good too, but they’ve got substantial, possibly fatal question marks elsewhere on the pitching staff. That’s to say nothing of the clubhouse issues that plagued the team last year, as illustrated by Santana v. Television (2018).
The Phillies could win the World Series this year, or they could just as easily end up drifting back to .500 in a noisy and embarrassing fashion. Anything is possible with this team. [theringer.com]
The top half of these rankings look very similar to The Ringer's rankings, with the major exception being that the Phillies are ahead of the Brewers. They're still behind the Nationals (6th, again), and just a few spots ahead of the Mets (10) and Braves (11), who find themselves in the opposite order (Mets ahead of Braves) for the first time today.
While we fawn over the top five in the lineup, let's not forget that Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez have flashed good offensive upside at some point in the past. [cbssports.com]
Well, well, well. Look at the Phillies moving their way up the rankings. So are the Braves, according to Reuter, who has Atlanta (8) as the second-best team in the NL East, one spot ahead of the Nationals (9). The Mets are ranked 11th. Don't worry about the Marlins.
The Harper signing was enough to vault the Phillies to favorite status in the NL East. That said, winning the division title is far from guaranteed. By not signing a veteran starter, they're placing a lot of eggs in the "Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez take another step forward" basket.
This still looks like a playoff team, and Pivetta is one of my favorite breakout candidates in 2019. [bleacherreport.com]
Finally, we arrive at the Phillies' highest ranking yet. And we get a TTP just for good measure...
"Trust the Process" seems to have also been applied to the city's baseball team. [usatoday.com]
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