February 15, 2023
On the surface, it's an incredibly tough task. The only way for the 2023 Phillies to be better than the 2022 squad is if they win the World Series.
No big deal, right?
Playoff success is oftentimes a total crapshoot. The Phillies had the unique combination of red-hot pitching and timely hitting and were just firing on all cylinders as a team at the exact right time last fall. There's no telling when/if the 2023 squad will hit its stride.
However, the 2022 Phillies did just barely sneak into the expanded playoff field with 87 wins. One would think they're in a position to win more games this season, right?
Before we look at whether this year's roster is better than the 2022 NL pennant winners, it's worth mentioning that there is a new schedule for the 2023 season and it does favor the Phillies winning more games. Why? Major League Baseball is going for a more even schedule now, for the first time in its history. It's a slate of games that resembles the ones in the NHL and NBA. Philly will play every single baseball team this season instead of a National League and NL East slanted one. They still will have 52 games against divisional foes, but this is way down from 76 of those in recent years.
Fewer matchups against the Mets, Braves and even Marlins could give the Phillies an easier time at getting a respectable playoff seed in 2023.
There are some other rules that could have a slight effect on the team, but none worthy of deep discussion.
So is the soon-to-open Spring Training Phillies squad better on paper than its predecessor? For $387 million (the amount the team spent in free agency this offseason), we better hope so:
We won't waste too much space on the catcher spot, which will be identical this season. J.T. Realmuto and Garrett Stubbs will be the backstops after pretty good 2022 seasons. Realmuto remains in legitimate "best catcher in baseball" territory.
Hard to argue otherwise here. Trea Turner is an upgrade over Didi Gregorius. Having Bryson Stott playing a more comfortable second base role is an upgrade from last year (though Jean Segura was very good, especially in the playoffs). And Alec Bohm really seems to have gotten better playing third base defensively. This unit should be better both at the plate and in the field this season. And Rhys Hoskins, in a contract year, could play with a chip on his shoulder — or be relegated to DH if they opt for a better defensive first baseman a few days a week.
The Phillies will have a similar situation this year to the one they had last year. They'll have Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos at the corner outfield spots for about half the season, with hopefully a half-season of Bryce Harper mixed in due to his injury recovery. The difference in 2023 is they will have a full season of Brandon Marsh, as opposed to Matt Vierling and Odúbel Herrera.
The defense will be a little better up the middle with Marsh, but the corner spots will not be the greatest. Offensively they have two (and eventually three) All-Star caliber sluggers who'll cycle into the DH spot as well.
We don't know what the 2023 bench will look like yet. We do know that Nick Maton and Vierling won't be on it, as they were traded away. We do know that the team loves Edmundo Sosa and he will have a role on the bench. Josh Harrison was signed as a free agent who can play multiple positions. But beyond that, there will be an open competition for what is likely to be two more spots.
In 2023 Philly will return Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suárez as the top three starters. The front office spent $72 million on Taijuan Walker, so clearly they think he's an upgrade over Noah Syndergaard. And the last spot, well, it seems pretty likely that one of the team's young stud prospects — Mick Abel, Andrew Painter or Griff McGarry — could open the season as the No. 5 starter. All three of those guys seem to have a very high ceiling if you believe scouting reports.
The biggest question here will be if they will have enough depth to weather injuries and last deep into October (and November) with their pitchers intact. In the World Series, the Astros arguably won with a lesser offense because they had such a wealth of starting and relieving pitching. The Phillies are going to be banking on their young guys providing that depth.
Dave Dombrowski and co. spent considerable resources and time overhauling the bullpen from a year ago. Via our own 2023 26-man roster projections, here's how we see the unit shaping up for the upcoming season with very few openings for Spring Training position battles:
|World Series||2023 Projection|
|Nick Nelson||Matt Strahm|
|Brad Hand||Craig Kimbrel|
|David Robertson||Gregory Soto|
|Zach Eflin||Bailey Falter|
Of course, as we mentioned with the starters, the Phillies will need depth and they hope they have it in Clearwater this spring and in the minors during the season. With four of eight relievers returning, it's hard to argue that Strahm, Kimbrel and Soto will not be upgrades over Nelson, Hand and Robertson.
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