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By Connor Thomas

 

Opening day is officially a week away, and it’s time to start taking a look at potential opening day lineups for teams across the MLB. In a division that may end up being the best in baseball, the Phillies will attempt to put their best foot forward next Thursday when they roll out their first lineup of the season. But where will Joe Girardi’s starting 9 rank in the hypercompetitive NL East? Let’s go player by player and rank them against the 4 other projected starters in the division to see how the Phils look against their peers.

 

First, here’s a look at how the Phillies will probably start out the season. We’ll go in order of position number for sake of not having to guess at a batting order:

 

1 – SP Aaron Nola

Nola has been the Phillies opening day starter for 3 years now, and will be making his 4th straight this coming Thursday. While Nola has shown elite level pitching for stretches of his career, the number 1 starters across the division are strong. I can’t, in good conscience, put Nola above deGrom or Scherzer. Here’s where Philadelphia’s ace ranks:

  • Jacob deGrom – NYM
  • Max Scherzer – WAS
  • Aaron Nola – PHI
  • Max Fried – ATL
  • Sandy Alcantara – MIA

2 – C JT Realmuto

The Phillies’ biggest offseason move was signing their star catcher to a new 5 year contract worth upwards of $100 million. The reason they felt so compelled to do so is that Realmuto has been close to or the best catcher in the entire sport over the past couple seasons. Just entering his 30 year old season, JT should continue his reign as an elite backstop, and the best in the division:

  • JT Realmuto – PHI
  • Travis d’Arnaud – ATL
  • James McCann – NYM
  • Yan Gomes – WAS
  • Jorge Alfaro – MIA

3 – 1B Rhys Hoskins

Hoskins is an interesting projection this year. He has done a lot of work on his swing over the past couple seasons, and while he struggled to start out the 2020 campaign, he showed flashes down the stretch of a return to his rookie year dominance. Unfortunately, with the Nationals acquisition of Josh Bell, Hoskins will be in the bottom part of the division for 1st basemen:

  • Freddie Freeman – ATL
  • Josh Bell – WAS
  • Pete Alonso – NYM
  • Rhys Hoskins – PHI
  • Jesus Aguilar – MIA

4 – 2B Jean Segura

Segura is not a bad option at 2nd base, and you could certainly do worse. But he is not the over .300 hitter that he was in Seattle for a couple seasons prior to the Phillies trading for him. He hasn’t totally worked out as planned in Philly, and though he has been solid defensively, overall he is probably in the bottom half of the division as well:

  • Ozzie Albies – ATL
  • Jeff McNeil – NYM
  • Starlin Castro – WAS
  • Jean Segura – PHI
  • Jazz Chisolm – MIA

5 – 3B Alec Bohm

The Phillies rookie of the year candidate made an impressive debut in 2020, and has already had a strong spring that hints towards more growth as a player in the upcoming season. Defensively, he will need some strong improvement this year, but offensively he has the potential to be top tier. Here’s where the kid ranks:

  • JD Davis – NYM
  • Alec Bohm – PHI
  • Austin Riley – ATL
  • Carter Kieboom – WAS
  • Brian Anderson – MIA

6 – SS Didi Gregorius

The second biggest acquisition of the Phillies’ offseason, bringing back Gregorius was a huge move for the middle of the infield, and the middle of the lineup. Shortstop is stacked in the NL East, especially with the arrival of Francisco Lindor in New York, so even though Sir Didi will be a huge help, he still does not stand out against the landscape of the division:

  • Francisco Lindor – NYM
  • Trea Turner – WAS
  • Dansby Swanson – ATL
  • Didi Gregorius – PHI
  • Miguel Rojas – MIA

7 – LF Andrew McCutchen

The former AL MVP has become long in the tooth since winning the award for the American League’s best player, but even though he is on the back 9 of his baseball career, he still gives the Phillies some veteran presence at the top of the lineup. The potential leadoff man for the Phils isn’t standing out like he used to, but he also isn’t as invaluable as the rankings here make him seem – LF is another stacked position in the NL East:

  • Juan Soto – WAS
  • Marcell Ozuna – ATL
  • Jeff McNeil – NYM
  • Andrew McCutchen – PHI
  • Corey Dickerson – MIA

8 – CF Odubel Herrera

Yes, it will probably be Herrera that takes the middle of the outfield over on opening day at Citizens Bank Park. While he is better than the other options for the Phillies, he still ranks dead last in the CF power rankings for the East, partially because of his long hiatus from the majors:

  • Ronald Acuna – ATL (yes I moved Acuna to CF so Bryce Harper could be the best RF)
  • Starling Marte – MIA
  • Victor Robles – WAS
  • Brandon Nimmo – NYM
  • Odubel Herrera – PHI

9 – RF Bryce Harper

Finally, in the last corner of the outfield, the Phillies find their 2nd player that ranks as the best at their position in the NL East. Harper is a perennial power house, who every year seems to become more physically imposing somehow. He has been as advertised since coming to Philadelphia in 2019, and he still has a next gear to his game that he hasn’t quite hit in red pinstripes yet. Maybe this will be the MVP level year the team paid for:

  • Bryce Harper – PHI
  • Michael Conforto – NYM
  • Kyle Schwarber – WAS
  • Adam Duvall – MIA
  • Christian Pache – ATL

So by the numbers, the Phillies average is 3rd in the division for their projected starters, just behind the Braves and the Mets. They are the only team besides the Braves with multiple position players who are best at their position, however, which shows that the star power may be enough to carry them to a top 2 spot in the division. For how tough the division is, the Phillies have a very respectable lineup to put out on the grass at Citizens Bank Park come April 1st, and if a couple things break their way, it may be a Red October for the squad this year for the first time in a long time.