Baseball is back in Philadelphia, and if you haven’t started to plan your trips down to Citizens Bank Park, it’s time. The Phillies have loaded up this off-season, and the boys in red pinstripes are looking to end the club’s 11 season playoff drought.
The Phillies took a patient approach to the start of the MLB off-season. With the lockout looming, the club made two signings to their big league club in December. The team added infielder Johan Camargo to bolster depth for their bench and signed closer Corey Knebel to anchor down the back end of the ‘pen.
While the Phillies began to sign some players, the team also lost some long-time teammates from their club. Andrew McCutchen (Brewers), Hector Neris (Astros), Andrew Knapp (Reds), Brad Miller (Rangers), and Roman Quinn (Marlins) were all valuable members of the Phillies the past few seasons. All of the players mentioned contributed to some memorable highlights in the last few years, and we wish them the best going forward.
Baseball went into a lockout, and all transactions would be frozen. As time went along, speculation would arise on potential signings the team could make once baseball returned. On March 10th, the lockout would end, and the Phillies started to spend.
The team signed veteran relievers Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia to major league deals to rebuild a dumpster fire they called a bullpen. President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski didn’t just stop there. Dombrowski signed former World Series Champion Kyle Schwarber to bat leadoff and fill the vacant left-field spot in the lineup. Many fans thought the team was done spending, as the Phillies had never surpassed the luxury tax in their team’s history. On March 18th, news broke that the Phils had come to terms with All-Star outfielder Nick Castellanos. This move signified that the Phillies were serious about competing in 2022, and it’s time to buy in.
Players to Watch
While it is easy to get carried away with the new additions to the Phillies’ lineup, there is no one more exciting than Bryce Harper. Coming off his second career MVP season and first with the Phillies, Bryce Harper is primed to have an even better season in 2022. Harper was the only offensive threat in the second half of the Phillies’ season. Bryce carried the Phillies down the stretch and kept the club in contention for the playoffs heading into the last week of the season. Now that Bryce Harper is surrounded by guys such as Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, and a healthy Rhys Hoskins and JT Realmuto, you can only expect his numbers to explode again.
How can you not be excited about Bryson Stott?
The Phillies’ top prospect has been brilliant this Spring Training. Stott has earned the right to be an everyday starter for the club, whether at shortstop or third base. Bryson can work a count like some of the best in the game, and his patient approach at the plate typically results in Stott getting on base.
His defense is a welcome sight to a team that significantly lacks in the category. Bryson’s glove will be an improvement regardless of what position he plays this year. He is currently one of the favorites to win NL Rookie of the Year, and baseball knows this kid can play. Expect big things out of the Phillies rookie this season.
Corey Knebel has a chance to be the Brad Lidge of the 2022 Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies took a gamble on Brad Lidge heading into the 2008 season. Lidge was a dominant closer earlier in his career but had suffered injuries and a performance drop that led to the end of his time in Houston.
Corey Knebel has had a similar path. Knebel was an excellent closer in Milwaukee, but injuries caught up to him. He spent some time away from the game and even moved on to Los Angeles last season to try and find himself. After another injury, Knebel missed a majority of the 2021 season. Corey, like Brad in 2008, is coming into camp healthy with a chance to find himself. His Spring Training outings have been fantastic thus far and Knebel looks like the pitcher of old.
While he might not go a perfect 48/48 in save opportunities and pitch the last out of the World Series, keep an eye on Corey Knebel, as he has a chance to become the closer the Phillies have been chasing for years.
The 2022 Philadelphia Phillies will make the playoffs. This is a guarantee and a promise. After four straight years of a late-season collapse, the Phils have finally added the pieces they need to get over the hump. A combination of MVP caliber talent, a solid starting rotation, veteran players with World Series experience, and young rookies looking to make their mark on the game, will prove to be the right recipe to end the Phillies’ playoff drought.
Bryce Harper will be in the conversation for another MVP trophy and he will finally make the All-Star game as a Phillie. He will be joined by Zack Wheeler, Nick Castellanos, and Corey Knebel at Dodger Stadium in the summer classic.
I expect the team to have a record of 87-75 this season. This should be good enough for one of the three Wildcard slots in the newly expanded playoffs. The Phillies will have their work cut out for them, as the reigning World Series champion Braves look to show they still own the NL East.
Steve Cohen and the New York Mets have gone out and spent an insane amount of money this off-season and added top-tier talents such as Max Scherzer, Chris Bassett, and Starling Marte to their team. It will be a three-team race in the East and the Phillies will need to finally feed on the Nationals and Marlins if they want to make a run for the NL East crown.
I expect the Phillies to finish third in the division and hold the 5th seed in this year’s playoffs. Once they get in, anything can happen, and the Phillies certainly have the pieces to make a run for the World Series.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire