Mid-days With Bob Cooney: Weekdays 10am – 2pm

Mid-days With Bob Cooney: Weekdays 10am – 2pm

Mid-days With Bob Cooney: Weekdays 10am – 2pm

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 17: Brandon Marsh #16 and Johan Rojas #18 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrate a 10-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks during Game Two of the Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 17, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A lot of the Phillies’ off-season has been focused on what players they could add that would help get them over the hump. Phillies fans coveted guys like Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Josh Hader, Cody Bellinger, and Juan Soto. But all of those players signed elsewhere. And it seems like the Phillies will mostly be the same team this season. Whitt Merrifield is the only notable addition, but he will come off the bench. So if the Phillies are going to get over that hump, they will have to rely on the guys already here.

Believe it or not, some teams rely on homegrown talent to win baseball games. We have seen that a bit here with guys like Aaron Nola, Bryson Stott, Ranger Suraez, and Alec Bohm. But they have just 1 homegrown All-Star since 2014. That said some young guys in the organization could help the team get better next season.

I am not just talking about prospects. Though there are a few of them that could help the Phillies in 2024. There are also some guys already on the team, who could be ready to step into bigger roles. Can a guy like Cristopher Sanchez become a legit starter? Will Orion Kerkering step into a big role in the bullpen? Can Johan Rojas claim an everyday role? Those 3, and more, may be able to help the Phillies become a much better team. Even if the Phillies never made a big move in Free Agency.

I left out guys like Alec Bohm and Bryston Stott. Not because I don’t think they can take another leap, but because they are already everyday players and were big parts of the team last season. These are guys who can step into bigger roles, or maybe even bounce back from a bad season last year.

Here are 6 Phillies Players Who Could Have Breakout Seasons in 2024:

  • Brandon Marsh

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 24: Brandon Marsh #16 of the Philadelphia Phillies reacts after his single against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the third inning in Game Seven of the Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 24, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

    It is time to unleash Marsh as a full-time player and see if he sinks or swims. He was one of their more consistent hitters last season. But Rob Thomson often sat him vs lefties. Granted his numbers vs lefties left a bit to be desired. But a slash line of .229/.321/.396/.717 was still better than what their platoon options gave them. We saw Thomson give Stott more run against lefties last year, now it is time to end the platoon with Marsh. He earned that chance last year with his production.

    The injury may change the timetable on him playing every day. And them signing Whitt Merrifield is likely a sign that at least to start the season, Mars will sit vs lefties. But at some point we need to see what he is capable of.

  • Cristopher Sanchez

    PHOENIX, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 20: Cristopher Sanchez #61 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks during Game Four of the National League Championship Series at Chase Field on October 20, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona.

    (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    When Cristopher Sanchez came up to fill in for the Phillies rotation last year, the expectation was that it would be a temporary band-aid until they could find a more long-term solution. But then he actually pitched well. He kept pitching well till the end of the season. To be honest, he was likely their most consistent starter in the 2nd half of the season. Thomson did not give him much of a chance in the playoffs. Just one start with a very short leash. But even in that game he pitched well considering. Now he may be ready to be a real starter for them.

    What led to him getting so much better? He seems to have found his command. He was throwing a lot more strikes, and his 30.1% called strike rate was amongst the best in baseball. He also took a lot off of his changeup and added more spin on his slider. He is still throwing the same pitches, but they all got better, and he commanded them better. Which bolds well for it being real progress, and not just blind luck.

  • Orion Kerkering

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 23: Orion Kerkering #50 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches in the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks during Game Six of the Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 23, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Orion Kerekring was so good in the minors last year, the Phillies were willing to give him a role in the playoffs with pretty much no MLB experience. It did not go very well. Part of that may be his inexperience, but the Phillies also made him throw way too many sliders. But despite his struggles there, he still figures to be a big part of the bullpen this upcoming season. And there is good reason to think he will do very well there.

    In 53.2 innings down in the minors, he struck out 79 batters with only 12 walks. He had a 1.512 ERA, and a WHIP of only 0.89. He was filthy. When you watch him pitch, it is easy to see why. His fastball touches 100, and his slider has crazy moment. Kerekering has the stuff to be a closer. That is why MLB Execs recently voted him as the 4th best future closer among all MLB prospects.

  • Johan Rojas

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 12: Johan Rojas #18 of the Philadelphia Phillies fields a ground ball in the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves during Game Four of the Division Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 12, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

    Johan Rojas quickly made himself into a fan favorite last season when he came up in August. He played gold glove-caliber defense and was a terror on the basepaths. But we saw in the playoffs that his bat is still a work in progress.

    If he can learn to make contact, and just put the ball in play, he has a chance to be a special kind of player. The gold glove thing is not an exaggeration. He finished 14th in Defensive Runs Saved among all Major League players despite only playing 59 games. If he plays a full season, he will absolutely be in the running for the award. That speed pays off on the bases too with 14 steals.

    They don’t even need him to be a good hitter. Just be an okay one. Put the ball in play and have a better approach at the plate. In the playoffs, he swung at everything. If he can be more patient, draw some walks, and find ways to get on base, that is all he needs to do. The Phillies have enough pop elsewhere. They just need him to not be a liability at the plate and that will be enough given how great his glove is.

  • Seranthony Dominguez

    PHOENIX, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 21: Seranthony Dominguez #58 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning in Game Five of the National League Championship Series at Chase Field on October 21, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona.

    (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    This is more of a bounce-back candidate than a breakout candidate. But expect Dominguez to be much better this year. He was a huge part of their run in 2022. Injuries and fatigue caused him to have a down 2023. Like most relief pitchers, he can be a bit volatile. Only a select few guys are great or even good every season. And in his defense, 2022 was a huge leap in innings pitched after how much time he has missed in his career. Now he should be used to it though. And hopefully, that means we will see him be much closer to his 2022 form.

  • Mick Abel

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JULY 08: Mick Abel #25 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at T-Mobile Park on July 08, 2023 in Seattle, Washington.

    (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    This one is more wishful thinking than based on anything concrete. But despite still not putting together a great season in the minors, scouts sing the praises of Mick Abel, because his stuff could be that good. At 21 it is probably time that his stuff starts to lead to great results though.

    He will not be with the team at the start of the year. But there is next to no chance they make it through the season without an injury or two in the rotation. And with Painter recovering from Tommy John, and Griff McGarry imploding after he got to Lehigh Valley last year, it very well may be Mick Abel who gets that chance to make the jump. And like we saw with Rojas last year, a small chance can turn into a spot on the team if you play well enough.

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