It happens every spring.
There is endless, boundless enthusiasm for the team that leads to expectations of parades and confetti. Thus far in spring training, the performance of the offense has done nothing to dampen these feelings. Why just the other day, in our TGP Slack channel, someone declared this season one where a championship trip down Broad Street was in our future. I think he was kidding...
Still, when the season begins, we as a fanbase hold our collective breath that everything that caused our hopes to rise in Clearwater won’t be dashed by the beginning of May. We try and hang on to hope that it’ll all be alright, no matter how dire things may become. Yet we have to ask the question: what if this goes wrong? What if that person breaks? What then? So, let’s lay out some of the bigger concerns that are sitting in the back of our minds in regards to the offense as the season creeps ever closer.
What if Rhys Hoskins doesn’t get back to that magical late-2017 run?
Watching Hoskins flail at pitches last year was almost painful to watch. It was clear that mentally, he was just completely shot. Though he would never come out and say it, it was reminiscent of 2009 Cole Hamels, where a player openly wonders when the season will end so that he can recharge and end what is a difficult season.
It was a shame too. He was so good in those final two months of 2017 that the expectations of him could not be any higher for the following year. Not only were people expecting great things in 2018, people were also expecting that he would take another leap in 2019, a leap that never manifested itself. Whether those expectations were justified is something that should finally be answered in 2020 now that an entirely new coaching staff is on board and Hoskins can finally get the coaching he needs.
But what if it doesn’t work? What if Hoskins the hitter is closer to his late 2019 self than to his late 2017 self?
We’d all like to say that the happy medium is somewhere in the middle, that Hoskins can fit the mold of a .260/.350/.500 guy that puts out 30-35 home runs a season. Sure he has already done that before, giving us a stat line similar to that in 2018 (.242/.352/.496 with 34 HR), but even then, it always felt like he could be better, that there was another gear. Yet it’s difficult to shake the feeling that maybe, just maybe, Hoskins just isn’t going to become that hitter. We saw the glimpse of greatness in 2017, the steady production in 2018, then 2019 happened and all of our concerns about him came out and to the forefront. Now we’re just not sure what to think.
It’s great that Hoskins has taken it upon himself to improve by completely overhauling his swing. Last year being such an obvious mental grind, one might have thought that just an offseason of relaxing might be in order. But he put in the work, changed how he has done things his whole life and is now going to see how he fares once the regular season kicks off. It’s just really important that everything goes well for him this year. The team needs it.
What if injuries plague the offensive side of the roster?
The injury situation last year reached an almost biblical level. Players were dropping left and right, not able to finish games, not able to finish months and for some, not able to finish the season. Most of the injuries were on the pitching side of things, with the offense, outside of Andrew McCutchen, not having too much issue. Sure there were bangs, bumps and bruises, but nothing catastrophic.
But what if that changes this year?
The team is fortunate in that there has been enough shown from some of the minor league contracted players this spring that they might be able to withstand an injury to someone for a week or two. Seeing Logan Forsythe at the keystone for a little bit is not the worst possible outcome. Having Kyle Garlick or Jay Bruce or even Nick Williams patrol the outfield for a few weeks is not the something that will cause this team to sink suddenly in the standings. This team, though, is not built to have injuries at all of these positions at the same time in the way the bullpen was decimated in 2019. Depth is great to have as we witnessed last year, especially when you see that not having it can be detrimental to your playoff aspirations. But there isn’t enough depth in the world to cover the team in case of injury to three or more batters.
And that’s not even mentioning what might happen if one of those injuries was one of the big guns. Imagine a lineup without Bryce Harper and/or J.T. Realmuto. No offense to their backups, but this team will do nothing if either of them go down. The injury bug and its effects are one of the bigger things to look out for this coming season.
What if Didi Gregorius isn’t recovered from Tommy John surgery?
$14 million for a one-year, pillow contract is always a good idea. Giving it to someone coming off of a major injury, particularly one that struggled in his return from the injury last year?
Look, I’m one of the bigger fans of the Gregorius signing. I believe it was the correct move since it put the other players like Scott Kingery and Jean Segura in positions that are more suited to them (though the Segura to 3B experiment remains to be seen) as well as potentially improved a lineup that could use it. But when you look at his numbers in 2019 compared to his average numbers with the Yankees prior to that (.274/.318/.447 vs. .238/.276/.441 last year), there has to be some pause. We can, and probably should, chalk it up to a player that was coming back from surgery and still wasn’t quite right. It’s the most plausible reason and should be what we lean on looking at the numbers.
But what if it isn’t?
What if this is the new norm for Gregorius? If the 2019 numbers that Gregorius put up are what he is only capable of doing now, now the team has sunk a not unsubstantial amount of money into a roster spot that is below league average and would be impossible to move in a deal. Plus, his contract has bumped the team up to the dreaded luxury tax and would not allow them to add someone else to help push them into contention. It puts them in a really difficult situation. It’s something that isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility and that is slightly terrifying of possibilit.
What if Alec Bohm turns into the second coming of.....I can’t even say it...
There is a lot of pressure on Alec Bohm. Maybe not now, maybe not this year even, but there are expectations that Bohm will be the first hitting prospect that really becomes an impact bat that the team has drafted and developed themselves since....who? The Utley/Rollins/Howard triumverate?
No prospect has gotten this much hype among Phillies fans since Domonic Brown, who had expectations to replace Jayson Werth once he left for greener pastures in Washington. Brown, as we all are painfully aware, could not carry the weight of those expectations and is no longer in organized baseball. While Bohm does not have this type of weight on his shoulders (Brown was once ranked ahead of Mike Trout after all), he is still expected to come in and contribute with his bat. If he doesn’t, there isn’t another impact bat coming for a long while, meaning the team will have to go out and buy that bat if they want to improve the offense.
Granted, these are all doomsday scenarios and in these days of coronavirus, it’s not something you probably want to think about. It’s probable that many of these issues never come to fruition and that everything will be fine and dandy at Citizens Bank Park in 2020. But until the season starts and the games eventually begin, these worries will be keeping some people up at night.