A playoff drought closing in on 10 years. A $200 million-plus payroll. A different manager for the third time in four years. You don’t need to look too closely to see that the Phillies — from top to bottom — are under a good deal of pressure to win and to win now.
But every player isn’t on such thin ice. We know Bryce Harper’s going to be around for a while; it’s almost assumed that J.T. Realmuto is getting a new contract by April; Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler are snug in their rotation spots. At the same time, though, players like Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, and Vince Velasquez could be feeling a bit more heat, either for their spot on the roster or for the effect they’d have on their next payday.
What kind of pressure the players, coaches, and management feel is one thing. To get a sense of how things are looking from the outside in, we took an informal survey of nearly 100 fans and readers, as well as TGP staffers, to get an idea of how much leash is left for some key Phillies players entering 2020.
We took 12 Phils players and asked for a rating on a scale from 1 to 10 — 1 being worry-free, 10 being on the thinnest ice imaginable — to get a sampled sense of how much patience is left for some key members of the roster, and how much “pressure” is on them from the fanbase. So, the higher the number, the lower the margin for error among the rooting public. Everyone selected is expected to be a key contributor to the team.
TGP Staff: 6.7
As far as his future with the Phillies is concerned, there may not be much that changes Arrieta’s fate after the season: The club seems likely to decline his 2021 club option, and the 34-year-old Arrieta would be a free agent again. But a strong, rebound season could change some hearts and minds. At the very least, Arrieta needs to perform respectably and stay healthy to have a shot at a decent payday next winter, whichever team he gets it from.
TGP Staff: 6.1
There’s still a decent amount of heat on Eflin, mostly out of uncertainty. We’re still not really sure what to make of him yet. Although he managed to avoid injury last year and his knees seemed to hold up through the season, he went through drastically different stretches of performance. Things seemed to work best for Eflin when he went back to a more familiar approach toward the end of the season, ditching the elevated fastball tendency the old guard seemed to prioritize, but Eflin isn’t overpowering either way. It’s difficult to thrive in today’s game as a pitch-to-contact guy, but Eflin seems like he’s giving it his all.
TGP Staff: 2.0
Not all ratings are created equal. The scale for Harper is a bit different: Folks want to see something more closely resembling the MVP-type Harper, but the 2019 version is pretty damn good already. The most important thing would be to not take a step back.
TGP Staff: 4.9
Hoskins’s half-season slump is concerning. A guy who’d previously found ways to adjust and correct in order to get out of slumps found no answers in the latter half of last season. In spite of that, though, Hoskins feels like something of a known commodity: He’ll have hot-and-cold streaks, but will always work a tough PA and grind his way on base even during the worst of it. Like Harper, it’s crucial he doesn’t slide back any further, but it’d take a disaster for him not to be considered the starting first baseman through this season.
TGP Staff: 3.4
Kingery Jekyll-and-Hyded his way through 2019, hitting the cover off the ball for the first month then cooling off significantly after returning from injury. Whether his offensive ability hangs around for more than a month in 2020 isn’t quite so dire a dilemma as long as he stays able to capably play so many positions around the diamond. But...well, it’d be nice if he hit like he did for that one half-season in Double-A.
TGP Staff: 5.3
Maybe no one player’s fan perception differs so greatly from his more objective performance. By some measures, Neris is one of the best relievers in franchise history. But sometimes, you can’t seem to shake the feeling that something’s going to go wrong during his appearances. I can’t explain it. Either way, he’s really good, and the bulk of the pressure might just be on how well he positions himself to get a multi-year deal at some point.
TGP Staff: 2.6
It would be great if he left the walks behind. But after a rough start to April, Nola had a 3.45 ERA with 201 strikeouts over his final 29 starts (177.1 innings). He’s fine and signed, and the low ratings here line up.
TGP Staff: 8.4
Oh, the sauna’s steaming now. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most Phils fans, but the scrutiny on Pivetta is going to be capital-I Intense. Coming into last season, he was hyped as one of the game’s prime breakout candidates, and instead he struggled through role conversions and a demotion. He still possesses talent and stuff, but he has to win his rotation spot. How he responds if he doesn’t win the spot will also go a long way toward clearing up his future.
TGP Staff: 7.7
Out in some alternate universe, Quinn has healthy legs and is entering his third or fourth season as the Phillies’ starting center fielder. In this one, though, Quinn is only counted on as a bench player, a useful spell guy who (when he is healthy) is a lightning-quick switch-hitter with an ounce of pop and enough speed in the field to cover for many route-running mistakes. Until he proves otherwise he can’t be counted on for much more than that, but that kind of production has a place on this bench just the same.
TGP Staff: 1.7
A Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, and a scalding hot stretch at the plate that almost single-handedly kept the Phillies in the playoff chase through August and into September are plenty on their own. He’s already immensely popular, and there’s been no louder offseason refrain than the one calling for his extension. The pressure level here is probably closer to 1.0, honestly. All he has to do is stay productive, and hopefully not need to play 150 games. That second part’s a bit out of his control, though.
TGP Staff: 6.6
Things are a little strange here. Segura was acquired last winter in the Carlos Santana do-over with the hope that he’d stick at shortstop for more than just one season of the four he had remaining on his contract. Now, he’s off of shortstop and without a defined position: He’ll either play 2B or 3B, but that hasn’t been confirmed. He hit for an emptier average than he had in previous years, and if he’s losing both range in the field and ability at the plate, things could get hairy quickly. We staffers seem to be a bit more concerned about that right now, but a hot start would assuage some of those fears.
TGP Staff: 8.6
The two sides of the fifth starter coin reflect slightly differing opinions between fans and TGP. Among the writers, there’s more pressure on VV than Pivetta; for fans, the script is flipped. Both ratings reflect a good bit of nervousness about the forthcoming rotation battle in Spring Training, the results of which will not only finalize the Phils’ starting pitcher brigade but also have major repercussions on the career of the player that loses out. Velasquez is an incredible athlete, but falls short of the Shohei Ohtani/Michael Lorenzen ideal of a two-way player. Some part of his repertoire or overall game has to take a step forward.