Regardless of what’s happened in the previous year, the turning of the calendar every January feels incredibly renewing. Everything that went on in 2017 is firmly in the rearview, and we can start 2018 fresh. It’s just the turning of a page and the flow of time, but it feels significant. It’s psychological, and sometimes that is more important than anything.
It’s in that spirit that I want to remind you that in just 45 days we’ll be watching our boys in Clearwater, and in roughly 90 we’ll be watching them play real live games. It’s been three long months since we’ve seen the Phillies play, and while it feels like an ETERNITY, we’re over the hump. It’s all downhill from here. Wheeeee!
So as we turn the page from 2017 to 2018, I’m going to remind you of the many things to get ready for in the coming year. I’m not going to sugarcoat anything — we’ve got both positive and negative on this list — but the fact that there’s an actual list shows how far we’ve come in a year (or even just a few months).
In the few short months since he was named the Phillies’ new manager, we’ve gotten to know Kapler a little bit. We’ve read his website, we’ve listened to his words, we’ve read articles about him. But we don’t really know him yet, especially as a manager, and in 2018 we’re going to get the chance. For better or for worse, this season is going to be about him, at least in part.
I have no clue how it’s going to go. Kapler has a lot of ideas and he’s not afraid to try things. There’s an actual reason behind every single thing he does, and the reason is never “that’s the way things have always been done.” That opens the door to a lot of changes. On the other side of the coin, he’s an intense guy. We have no idea how he’s going to mesh with the players. I’ll admit that I’m wary, but I’m also really excited. Here at The Good Phight, we’ve been urging the Phillies to be more daring and less traditional for years. Hiring Kapler proves that those deeply held wishes are coming true. That doesn’t guarantee success, but it guarantees that for the first time in years, failure is no longer acceptable.
The outfield situation
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the Phillies have one too many outfielders. When they signed Carlos Santana, it pretty much meant the end of Rhys Hoskins at first base. Santana hasn’t been a catcher in years (which is fine since the Phillies have too many of them, too), so the only place he can go is first base. That displaces Rhys Hoskins, and the only place he can go is left field. And that means one of the Phillies’ three other outfielders have to go somewhere else. By the time the season starts, one of Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr, or even possibly Odubel Herrera (nooooooo) will most likely be on another team.
And since I mentioned catchers, the Phillies are going to have to figure out what to do there as well. They have Jorge Alfaro, Andrew Knapp, and Cameron Rupp, and that’s just too many. Someone has to go, and it’s dollars to donuts who it’ll be. I have to imagine that it’s either Knapp or Rupp, but you never know what will be needed to trade for a pitcher. It’s hard to imagine anyone, save for a precious few, are truly safe.
It’s hard to remember the last time I experienced so much joy while watching the Phillies. The second half of the 2017 season was better than I could have hoped for, and it showed us a glimpse of what the 2018 could be. And we’re just a few short months from actually getting to watch them! J.P. Crawford, Rhys Hoskins, Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, Odubel Herrera, Jorge Alfaro, Andrew Knapp (maybe), Nick Williams (maybe?), and Aaron Altherr (also maybe?). It’s all just awesome. And that’s not even the entire list!
I know that there are still kinks to work out. We don’t quite know what “normal” is for Rhys Hoskins. There’s a logjam at second base that will result in either Scott Kingery or Cesar Hernandez going somewhere else. (Not to mention the logjams at catcher and left field). Maikel Franco has to figure himself out. But there’s just so much potential here! It’s impossibly exciting.
The Phillies still have a big item on their to-do list before the season starts, and that’s to find a pitcher to bolster the rotation. Aaron Nola needs some help, and no one else in the rotation has been consistent enough to give it to him. They can either sign a free agent pitcher (someone like Lance Lynn, Jake Arrieta, or Yu Darvish), or use some of their depth and trade for a pitcher (like Gerrit Cole, or also Gerrit Cole, and hi, Phillies please trade for Gerrit Cole).
No matter who they trade for, the rotation is still very much a work in progress. They desperately need a consistent and injury-free season from Jerad Eickhoff. Ben Lively and Nick Pivetta need to take steps forward. And something has to happen with Vince Velasquez. No matter how committed the Phillies say they are to keeping him a starter, I can’t help but feel his future is in the bullpen. The 2018 season could be his last chance to prove he can hack it in the rotation. He needs to figure out how to throw fewer pitches, or I’m afraid his arm is going to fall off.
Here’s the good news: we get to watch Aaron Nola again.
Good Lord I’m excited.
Looking at this list, there’s no way that 2018 isn’t the most interesting season the Phillies have had in ages. There’s so much to look forward to, and the best part is that all of it is about moving forward. The Phillies are finally progressing after years of building, and what I really need right now is a time machine, because I’m just so ready for baseball.
Happy 2018, gang. And get ready for the Phillies.