Update: I wrote this two days ago and it already feels dated... but honestly, I think we could all use a little unfettered optimism right now. There may not even be a season. Maybe there never should have been a season. But if there was...
Who would it be coolest to watch have an absolutely monster year?
Back in March, I started writing an article about who I wanted to be the Phillies’ best player in 2020. Not who I thought would be the best player, but who I thought would be the most fun to watch have a huge season. And while I’d love to see Phil Gosselin’s MVP campaign, I only considered the players I thought could actually pull it off. That meant Harper, Nola, Realmuto, Wheeler and—just for kicks—Kris Bryant. (Cause remember when that was something we were genuinely talking about?) Ultimately, I settled on Bryce Harper. I wanted him to have a season so good that he would finally stop those "overrated" chants once and for all.
However, now that the season is only 60 games long, there are far more legitimate contenders for the title of the Phillies’ best player. For crying out loud, Zach Eflin had a 2.88 ERA over his first 12 starts of 2019. Beyond that, I’m a lot less invested in Bryce Harper having a huge season now, because no matter how good he is in 60 games, it won’t be enough to silence his doubters.
The case for JT is still strong. I’d love if he had a season so good that it forced the Phillies’ brass to sign him ASAP. Nola has a good case too. It would be so exciting to watch him reclaim the ace status he earned in 2018. Zach Wheeler has almost as much upside as Nola, and it would be great to see him turn all that potential into actual success. And hey, if by some miracle Kris Bryant is the Phillies’ best player in 2020, you certainly won’t see me complaining (although I might be complaining about all the flying pigs). But I’d rather talk about some of the fringe candidates. The guys who are talented enough to turn it on for 60 games, but not consistent enough to play at that level for 162. The guys for whom 2020 could be their career-defining season.
We know Scotty is an incredible second basemen. We know he can hit like an all-star over a two-month stretch. And now, finally, he has an official starting job at his best position. This year could be big for him. Plus, the pressure is really on. Alec Bohm could get the call up to the big league team any day now, and while Kingery’s versatility will help him get everyday at bats, he needs to play well to stay in the lineup, and extra well to stay at second base. If Jean Segura is hitting better than Kingery when Bohm gets called up, Scotty could once again lose his position. Will that pressure motivate him to new heights in 2020? Only time will tell, but I’d love to see it happen.
As time goes by, Rhys’s incredible rookie season fades further and further into the past. But summer 2017 wasn’t his only incredible stretch. We’ve seen Rhys absolutely crush the ball over short stretches in both 2018 and 2019. When he turns it on, Hoskins can hit just about as well as anyone not named Mike Trout. Rhys has done a great job as a team leader, but he’s got to step it up and play more consistently if he wants to stay in that role. To me, Rhys has the most upside on this list, and a monster 2020 for him could be great for the entire organization.
Alright, this one’s kind of cheating for a couple of reasons. For one thing, we’ve already seen Didi get off to an incredible start over the first few games. Furthermore, unlike the other guys on this list, Didi is already an established star (playing for the Yankees will do that for you). That being said, I was surprised to learn that he’s has never made an all-star team. Didi Gregorius is such a fun player, both on the field and off, and I’d be so happy for him if he had a big 2020. Plus, as a high-risk player, Didi is putting his safety on the line for this season. How could you not want the best for him?
I thought about including Eflin on this list, but considering his back problems and the peripherals underlying all of his successful 12-start stretches, he doesn't seem like a viable enough option. And as much as I’d love to watch Cutch have another MVP season, I just don’t see it happening coming off of major knee surgery at age 33. Lastly, I could have considered Bohm or Howard, but maybe we should wait for them to be on the team before considering them to lead the team.
So who do you want to see as the Phillies’ best player in 2020? One of the established stars? One of the unlikely candidates who could make 2020 his career year? Or someone I forgot to even consider? Sound off in the comments and let me know!