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May 23, 2024

How many players could the Phillies send to the 2024 MLB All-Star Game?

The Phillies are an MLB-best 36-14, and they figure to be well-represented when July's MLB All-Star Game comes around.

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Ranger 5.22.24 Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Phillies starting pitcher Ranger Suarez appears well on his way to the first All-Star Game appearance of his MLB career.

The Phillies are the best team in baseball right now, and as voting for the 2024 MLB All-Star Game ramps up in the coming weeks, they are sure to reap the benefits. 

Last season, the Atlanta Braves sent eight players to the Midsummer Classic, just one shy of the all-time record. There is a lot of time between now and the conclusion of All-Star voting, but the Phillies appear to at least have a chance to challenge the mark set by Atlanta in 2023.

Let's break down each of the Phillies' candidates -- ranging from players who appear to be mortal locks to ones who may need to get hot over the next several weeks.

Nearly certain: SP Ranger Suárez, SP Zack Wheeler, 1B Bryce Harper, 3B Alec Bohm

These are the four players whose All-Star cases, based on what we have seen so far, do not need much arguing. 

Let's start with Ranger Suárez and Zack Wheeler: they are likely two of the three strongest candidates to win the National League Cy Young Award so far (alongside Chicago Cubs rookie sensation Shota Imanaga). They are flummoxing opposing hitters nearly every fifth day with consistently masterful pitching.

Suárez has not just realized the maximum amount of potential that people saw in him: he has surpassed it with ease. Entering Thursday, the nonchalant southpaw has thrown more innings (66.0) than any pitcher other than Tyler Glasnow of the Los Angeles Dodgers, while also having an ERA (1.36) lower than any starter outside of Imanaga. His 0.79 WHIP is the best in all of baseball. Suárez does not have a triple-digit fastball in his back pocket, but he simply does not need one: he has a remarkable array of pitches that he locates with precision on both sides of the plate. 

Suárez has made 10 starts this season -- in his first appearance of 2024, the Phillies won but he received a no decision. He has been the winning pitcher in each of his following nine outings.

Wheeler has had a few hiccups as opposed to the nearly perfect Suárez, but has still been largely dominant. Wheeler, quite possibly the most shrewd free agency acquisition in the long history of the Phillies organization, just keeps on getting better despite being a week away from turning 34 years old. He added a splitter to his arsenal in 2024, and it has made him even more unpredictable for opposing hitters. 

Wheeler has the seventh-most innings pitched (60.2) and seventh-best ERA (2.52) in the National League, is tied for third in strikeouts (71) and tied for sixth in WHIP (0.97). He is having an All-Star-caliber year by any measure in any season.

Bryce Harper had an abnormally slow start to 2024, struggling to produce outside of a three-homer game in early April. But everyone knows by now that a heater is always around the corner for Harper, who is slashing .353/.451/.676 through 18 games in the month of May. His .936 OPS on the season is fifth-best in the National League, nearly .100 higher than the next-best first baseman, Freddie Freeman of the Dodgers. He has hit 12 home runs and has a .548 slugging percentage -- both are third-best in the National League and both are tops among players at his new position. 

Speaking of that new position, Harper has (predictably) taken well to first base. Like just about any other player, he will occasionally misread a ground ball, but he has largely been very good in his first full season on the infield dirt: Harper's Outs Above Average is in the 92nd percentile among first basemen, according to Baseball Savant. According to FanGraphs, Harper has been worth 2.0 Wins Above Replacement entering Thursday, with the next-best National League first baseman being Christian Walker of the Arizona Diamondbacks at 1.4 WAR.

Harper has been hot in recent weeks, but the man protecting him as the clean-up hitter has been on fire all season long. 

Before the season began, I voiced my skepticism that Alec Bohm may not be the Phillies' third baseman of the future. "Alec Bohm does not break out," I wrote as one of my predictions.

50 games into the season, I am ready to admit defeat on this one. Even without the major power that the Phillies hoped he would develop when the picked him No. 3 overall in the 2018 MLB Draft, he has become one of the league's best pure hitters. Bohm may not hit the ball out of the yard 35 times this season, but his power has improved -- resulting in a league-best 20 doubles through 49 games. His bat-to-ball skills, which have always been the hallmark of his game, have only gotten better: Bohm has a .330 batting average, and his strikeout percentage (14.4 percent) is the lowest it has ever been in his career -- nearly half of what it was during his first full MLB season in 2021. Bohm is walking more (7.9 walk percentage) than he has since his rookie year in the abridged 2020 season.

Bohm leads National League third basemen in the following categories: batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, doubles, runs batted in and fWAR.

Should be certain: RP Matt Strahm

If All-Star voting was strictly based on merit, Strahm would be in the above category with the aforementioned stars. But it is a process that is, to some extent, based on name recognition -- especially with relief pitching, which is often volatile. But just looking at on-field production, there is no doubt that Strahm should be in the National League's bullpen.

Strahm leads all National League relievers in fWAR (1.1) entering Thursday thanks to pristine command and career-best strikeout numbers. After opening his Phillies tenure as a starter due to injuries in 2023, Strahm has settled into his bullpen role and become one of the sport's most dangerous left-handed relief-pitching weapons.

On Opening Day, Strahm allowed two earned runs in 0.1 innings pitched. In 20 appearances since, he has thrown 20.1 innings without allowing a single earned run to cross the plate. Strahm has faced 75 batters; 30 of them have gone down on strikes and just two of them have been walked.

In the mix: SP Aaron Nola, RP Jeff Hoffman

Aaron Nola got knocked around by the Atlanta Braves in his 2024 debut, his first start after inking a seven-year, $172 million deal in free agency to remain with the only MLB organization he has known despite a strong pursuit by the rival Braves and others. But in his nine starts since, Nola has had only one poor outing. In eight of his 10 total starts, he has been very good to outstanding.

Of course, bad starts factor into a player's All-Star case. But Nola's numbers in his last nine starts have been outstanding and would likely receive more recognition if not for the utter dominance of Suárez and Wheeler:

• 60.2 innings pitched

• 2.37 ERA

• 57 strikeouts

• opponents slashing .180/.239/.309

Those are easily All-Star numbers, and his statistical profile closely resembles that of an All-Star starting pitcher even when his disastrous opening start is brought back into the equation. Nola likely must continue his recent surge to continue to garner consideration, but make no mistake about it, he is absolutely building a viable case to be named to the National League All-Star team for the second time in his career.

When Jeff Hoffman made his Phillies debut on May 6, 2023, nobody would have guessed that a year later, he would be firmly in the mix for an All-Star nod. A former starting pitcher drafted in the first round who went on to flame out, the Phillies took a flier on Hoffman and by the end of the season he was manager Rob Thomson's most trusted right-handed relief pitcher. 

While it is far from the only reason for his breakout, Hoffman putting it all together is in part due to an uptick in velocity: preceding his time in Philadelphia, his four-seam fastball sat around 94 miles per hour. Last season, it averaged 97.1 miles per hour, and this year it is averaging 96.3 miles per hour.

Hoffman has built on his strong first impression thus far in 2024, and the timing could not be better: Hoffman, once on the verge of falling out of Major League Baseball, is just a handful of months away from once again becoming a free agent -- but this time, rather than an afterthought, he will presumably be one of the most sought-after relievers on the market. 

Hoffman's 0.8 fWAR if fifth-best among National League relief pitchers, his strikeout percentage (33.7 percent) is ninth-best. He owns a strong 1.31 ERA and opponents are slashing .200/.265/.320 against him.

In need of a hot streak (or a quick return): C JT Realmuto, 2B Bryson Stott, SS Trea Turner

JT Realmuto has come on strong at the plate since being moved into the second spot in the lineup, slashing .377/.411/.528 in a dozen games in that slot. He is getting more pitches to hit while batting in front of Harper as opposed to batting behind the two-time National League MVP, and his selectivity has increased as well. Realmuto is waiting for pitches he can do damage on and is doing exactly that, raising his OPS by .080 in just his last dozen starts.

Because of his slow start, though, Realmuto is playing catch-up: barring an injury, the starting catcher spot for the National League should be locked up by the Milwaukee Brewers' star backstop, William Contreras. Will Smith of the Dodgers is likely firmly ahead of Realmuto as things stand now as well. 

Realmuto has shown in prior seasons that he is capable of carrying an offense for weeks at a time (not that this one needs to be carried by any one individual). Can he still do that today, even at age 33? If so, he at least has a puncher's chance at becoming a four-time National League All-Star.

Just 30 days ago, Bryson Stott being mentioned on a list like this seemed inconceivable: his plate appearances were not necessarily bad, and he was hitting the ball hard, but the results were just not there. Positive regression was always inevitable for Stott, but nobody could have expected him to go on a tear quite like he has. 

On April 23, Stott's OPS was just .567. 30 days later, it has skyrocketed to .822. Stott is putting it all together: he has utilized his tremendous plate discipline to go from a hitter who could work long at-bats to one who frequently walks: Stott's walk percentage is nearly double what is was in his rookie season. In today's environment, an uptick in walks often coincides with an uptick in strikeouts. Stott has bucked that trend in 2024, posting the lowest strikeout percentage of his career thus far. Stott has walked more times (25) than he has struck out (23).

On top of his rapid improvement at the plate, Stott continues to give the Phillies excellent defense at second base -- and has returned to his original position, shortstop, and served admirably there on occasion in recent weeks. Stott enters Thursday third among National League second basemen in fWAR, only trailing Ketel Marte of the Diamondbacks and Brice Turang of the Brewers. 

Before Trea Turner suffered a hamstring injury on May 3, Turner seemed primed for the third All-Star nod of his career, and his first as a member of the Phillies. But when he hit the Injured List and said he expected to miss roughly six weeks, his chances of heading to the All-Star Game evaporated.

Or did they?

This one is a long shot. If Turner indeed misses six weeks, he still has another three to go. But with every passing update on Turner, the more it seems like he may shatter that conservative timeline. Because they have banked so many wins, it would be foolish for the team to rush back their star shortstop who is in the second season of an 11-year contract worth $300 million. But if Turner comes back sooner than expected and continues the torrid pace he was on before his injury, with a little bit of luck and good fortune mixed in, it is not entirely inconceivable that he makes a push for an All-Star Game appearance.

In 33 games, Turner slashed .343/.392/.460 with 10 stolen bases and just one time caught stealing. That .343 batting average would be second-best in the majors if Turner qualified for the leaderboards, only being the Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani. 

Think about it this way: Turner has missed 17 out of 50 games and is still fourth among National League shortstops in fWAR (1.5). It may seem improbable for him to be a National League All-Star, but it is not impossible.

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