Phillies stars are heating up at just the right time as team makes 2023 playoff push

Philadelphia Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber (12) celebrates after his grand slam off of Chicago Cubs’ Jameson Taillon (not shown) with Nick Castellanos, left, Bryson Stott (5) and Bryce Harper (3) during the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, May 20, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Philadelphia Phillies have a lot of money invested into their offense. In fact, between Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, J.T. Realmuto, Nick Castellanos, and Kyle Schwarber, the Phils have $118 million invested into the offense just this year alone. Over half of the Phillies’ active roster payroll is devoted to five position players. And the return on investment is reaching its’ highest at just the right moment.

As the month of August starts to come to a close, the Phillies find themselves in sole possession of the first Wild Card spot in the National League. Their record of 16-9 in the month of August has helped them begin to distance themselves in the race, though there is still plenty of work to be done. Their success in August comes in no small part due to the resurgence of Philadelphia’s offense, which has scored 156 runs on the month.

The only team to have scored more on the month? The Atlanta Braves, who continue to outpace the Phightins in the NL East.

In the month of August, however, the Phillies do lead Major League Baseball in one category of note: home runs. Philadelphia has combined to slug 52 home runs and counting on the month, the most in any single month in Phillies’ history. Of those 52 home runs, 35 have been hit by the team’s “big five.”

Monday night’s 6-4 victory over the Angels is the perfect testament to this. The Angels outhit the Phils 11-5 and yet the good guys scratched out the win on the night. The Phillies took advantage of the long ball, scoring five of their six runs on three dingers from Turner and Harper. This being said, let’s check in with each of the their money bats and see how they are doing.

Phillies big bats are coming through

Bryce Harper

There is nowhere else to start than with Bryce Harper, the cornerstone of this Phillies team. Despite his recovery from Tommy John surgery seemingly hindering his swing, Harper has finally turned a corner on the 2023 season. 13 home runs on the year does not sound like much for a clutch slugger like Harper, but when you consider that seven of them have been hit in the month of August alone, you see how hot Harper has gotten. Now, Harper stands at 298 career home runs, just two away from the next big milestone at 300.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper rounds the bases after a two-run home run during the eighth inning in Game 5 of the baseball NL Championship Series between the San Diego Padres and the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

With the picture of Bedlam at the Bank still in the minds of every Phillies fan, there is no doubt that Bryce Harper has returned to form going into the September playoff push. Expect more pitchers to intentionally walk Harper as the Angels did on Monday night.

Nick Castellanos

Many Phillies fans were skeptical of Nick Castellanos after his below-average 2022 season. If anyone is still doubting Castellanos, they’re either lying or they simply don’t know baseball. Castellanos has given some on-point defense in right field this season and has returned to form with 22 home runs and 82 RBI on the year. In fact, Castellanos’ batting average on the year, .275, is perfectly in line with his career average of .276.

Phillies Nationals
Philadelphia Phillies’ Nick Castellanos rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run against Washington Nationals pitcher MacKenzie Gore during the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

This is Nick Castellanos. And this is $20 million well-spent.

Phillies August comeback player Trea Turner

Speaking of the skeptics within the Phillies’ community… There are many who made the call that Turner was a bust way too early. The shortstop hit two home runs against fellow ex-National Lucas Giolito on Monday night against the Angels. On the month, Turner owns a .302 batting average and a strong .882 OPS. While his overall average is fifty points lower (150 points when it comes to OPS), Turner is turning the heat up just in time for the September playoff race.

Phillies Trea Turner
Philadelphia Phillies’ Trea Turner follows through after hitting a home run against Detroit Tigers pitcher Joey Wentz during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Monday, June 5, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

We all know the story of how Turner has found his stride since the standing ovation. And it’s true. It’s amazing how much a stadium full of fans cheering you on can pump you up. It revived Turner’s season just in time.

Phillies BCIB, J.T. Realmuto

Perhaps the weakest bat amongst the Phillies’ “big five,” Realmuto provides the most value of all in the field. Realmuto commands the Phillies’ pitching battery in a way that few catchers do nowadays. Until robotic strike zones take over the league, Realmuto’s value in pitch framing alone makes him an asset to any team. And don’t get me started on his pop time when throwing out baserunners.

Philadelphia Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto celebrates as he runs the bases after hitting a solo home run off Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Mitch Keller during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, July 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

While Realmuto has only hit three home runs on the month, he too is having his best month of the season as he is hitting for a .288 average and an .814 OPS. Not every batter needs to be a slugger, and Realmuto is getting on base at a strong rate for someone in the bottom half of a very stacked order.

Kyle Schwarber

With nine home runs on the month and 36 on the year, Kyle Schwarber is continually one of the most interesting players to watch in baseball. Schwarber has over four strikeouts to every one home run, but that trade-off is worth it for the Phillies, especially now at a time when there isn’t a single easy out in the Phillies’ lineup.

Phillies Kyle Schwarber
Philadelphia Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber, left, hits a grand slam off of Chicago Cubs’ Jameson Taillon (not shown) during the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, May 20, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

No one wants to see a batting average under the Mendoza line, but 36 home runs and 100 walks makes Schwarber an unconventional staple at the top of the Phillies’ lineup.

With 31 games to go, it seems like Red October is on the horizon yet again for the city of Philadelphia. And with a lineup as packed as this one leading the way, it may just push into Red November as well.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke