After over three months of delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philadelphia Phillies will begin their 2020 campaign on Friday night against their NL East rival, the Miami Marlins, in Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies announced the opening lineup for their 132nd season on their Twitter account.
Left fielder Andrew McCutchen will bat in the lead-off position. The 33-year old and 2013 NL MVP is in his second season with the Phillies. A torn ACL sidelined McCutchen for the majority of the 2019 season, as McCutchen played his final game of the year on June 3. Nearly 14 months, McCutchen looks to bring some speed and power to the top of Philadelphia’s lineup.
Homegrown first baseman Rhys Hoskins. The 27-year old needs to improve his average (.226,) but offers some power (29 home runs in 2019) and a decent on-base percentage (.364, 116 walks in 2019.)
Batting third is right fielder Bryce Harper, the second former MVP (2015) in the Phillies lineup. Harper, also like McCutchen, is in his second year with Philadelphia. Harper inked a massive 13-year, $330 million contract in March of 2019. His 2019 season saw him hit .260 with 35 home runs and 114 runs batted in. All three of those numbers were improvements from Harper’s 2018 season with the Nationals, but the superstar still leaves more room for improvement in 2020, in his age 27 season.
Hitting in the cleanup position is catcher J.T. Realmuto. One of the best, if not the best, catchers in Major League Baseball, Realmuto is also part of the core Phillies players entering their second year with the team. The Phillies pryed away Realmuto from the Marlins in exchange for Jorge Alfaro, Sixto Sánchez, Will Stewart, and $250,000 in international bonus slot money. Realmuto is currently due for a contract extension of his own, one that will likely make him the highest-paid catcher in MLB history.
Shortstop Didi Gregorious will make his Phillies debut on Friday night, batting fifth in the lineup. The 30-year old spent his last five seasons with the New York Yankees, after starting his career with the Cincinnati Reds and playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks for two years. Last year, Gregorious hit .238 with 16 home runs and 61 runs batted in: in just 82 games. In a larger sample size, his 134-game 2018 season, he hit .268 with 27 home runs and 86 runs batted in.
Juan Segura will bat sixth in Opening Day, in his second year with the Phillies. But the long-time shortstop will slide over to third base in favor of Gregorious at shortstop. Segura played shortstop for the Phillies last year, as well as for the Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, Milwaukee Brewers, and Los Angeles Angels over the course of his career. Segura hit a cool .280 last season, but struggled to find other ways to get on base, with just a .323 on-base percentage. He smacked 12 home runs, batted in 60 runs, and stole 10 bases in his first year with the Phillies.
Batting seventh as the Phillies first-ever designated hitter in an all-National League matchup is Jay Bruce. While the 33-year old’s best days with the Cincinnati Reds are behind him, he still boasts some power, hitting 26 home runs 98 games last season. This would have equated to 42.9 home runs over a full season. While Bruce’s average is trending downwards (Career: .245, 2018: .223, 2019: .216,) he still can punish opposing pitchers by sending them deep in 2020. The season-long implementation of the DH in the National League should favor Bruce, if he earns the position consistently.
Second baseman Scott Kingery, batting eighth on Opening Day, is the second piece of homegrown material in the Phillies lineup. The 26-year old was selected in the second round of the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Arizona. To say Kingery is versatile would be an understatement: he’s appeared in 137 games for Philadelphia as a shortstop, 66 as a center fielder, 51 as a third baseman, 14 as a second baseman, 14 as a left fielder, 4 as a right fielder, and even once as a pitcher. While 2018 saw Kingery mostly at shortstop, 2019 had him playing most of his games in the outfield. It will be interesting to see how the Phillies utilize Kingery in 2020.
Center fielder Roman Quinn, batting ninth, is also a homegrown talent. Philadelphia selected him out of high school in 2011, groomed him as one of the top minor league prospects in baseball. While Quinn appeared in 15 games in 2016, he didn’t make his real debut until the 2018 season. He still exhibited growing pains adjusting to the major league level in 2019, batting .213 and hitting four home runs with 11 runs batted in across 44 games. He did show his speed, stealing eight bases without getting caught once.
Pitching for the Phillies on Opening Day for the third year in a row is 27-year old Aaron Nola. Nola, whose jersey number will match his age for the entire 2020 season, is entering his fifth year in the majors, all with the Phillies. His best professional season came in 2018, where he finished with 17-6 record and a 2.37 ERA across 33 starts. In 2019, across a league-leading 34 starts, Nola finished 12-7 with a 3.87 ERA.
2020 also brings change at the manager position: with last year’s skipper, Gabe Kapler, out of the picture and moved on to the San Francisco Giants, the Phillies hired former World Series-winning manager Joe Giradi to guide the team through the coming year of the Harper era in Philadelphia. Girardi, the Phillies 55th manager in franchise history, led the New York Yankees to the postseason six times in ten seasons with the team, but just twice in his final five seasons in New York.
Of the ten players spanning the lineup and starting pitcher, the Phillies interestingly have an even split of homegrown talent and players acquired via trade or free agency. Of the non-homegrown players, each one is in their first or second year with the Phillies. The balance between players brought up through Philadelphia’s minor league system and the imported talent could be a unique blend, and potentially, a winning formula.
Friday night’s game against the Marlins in Philadelphia will mark the beginning of an unprecedented season for the Phillies. The team will play just 60 games: 37% of the usual 162-game schedule. In 2019, the Phillies would have qualified for the postseason had the season been cut after 60 games (not so coincidentally, the same time the Phillies lost McCutchen for the season.) Could the 60-game sprint favor a Philadelphia team that has trouble closing out recent seasons?
Other quirks this season include the universal designated hitter, the lack of fans in attendance for the foreseeable future, and the recently expanded 16-team playoff field.
Philadelphia is anticipated to make noise in 2020, with the 9th-best World Series odds according to Las Vegas. However, these are just the fourth-best odds in their division alone, behind the Atlanta Braves, the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals, and even the New York Mets.
Every game will count in 2020, and the Phillies start their 60-game season with three games against the Marlins in Philadelphia, before hosting the New York Yankees for a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park starting Monday.
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