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Hittin’ Season #543: What will the Phillies’ lineup look like with Kyle Schwarber?

The Phils finally appear to have the monster masher and leadoff hitter they were looking for.

Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Six Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It finally happened.

After months of speculation and a number of stops and starts, the player the Phillies seemed to want the most this off-season was added to the fold. Kyle Schwarber’s reported four-year, $79 million deal will likely be the team’s biggest off-season addition, giving the lineup a much needed left-handed power bat and reuniting him with former hitting coach Kevin Long.

No one argues the Phils needed to add a big bat this off-season and, from the beginning, Schwarber seemed like a perfect fit. He gives the team a second left-handed slugger to pair with Bryce Harper, balancing out the two righty power bats of Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto. Schwarber has a great eye at the plate (a career 13.1% walk rate) and among players with at least 450 plate appearances last season, his wRC+ of 145 was tied for 10th.

He was exceedingly good last year, one of the best middle-of-the-order bats on the market.

Except, he probably will not hit in the middle of the order.

You may have read some items over the last few weeks/months/years regarding the Phillies’ inability to find a satisfactory leadoff hitter. Well, now they have one.

Gone are the days of Vince Coleman and Kenny Lofton running around, stealing 80 bases a season, and Schwarber will be lucky to steal 5 bases this season, but stealing bases is a 1980s thing, not a 2020s thing. Last year, Schwarber was awesome leading off for the Nationals and Red Sox, perhaps the best leadoff hitter in baseball.

  • Schwarber leading off in 2021: .297/.385/.832, 1.216 OPS, 17 HRs

It should be noted that his career numbers are not quite as good.

  • Schwarber career leading off: .230/.323/.534 (.857 OPS) in 561 PAs.

Without Schwarber in the fold, the Phillies really had no answers atop the order. Odubel Herrera started the most games on the team as the leadoff hitter and posted a .256 average and .287 on-base percentage in that spot. Jean Segura started 34 games in the leadoff spot and posted a .312 OBP. Andrew McCutchen was an oustanding leadoff hitter in 2019 before he got hurt, but hit just .199 with a .318 OBP in 43 games in the leadoff spot last year.

Remember last season when Schwarber hit 12 HRs in 13 games leading off and five to start off the game? That was cool.

Clearly, Schwarber is an upgrade there and will likely hit atop the Phils’ order in 2022.

If the Phils make no other major additions, here is what their lineup could look like against right-handed pitchers:

  1. Schwarber (LF)
  2. Segura (2B)
  3. Harper (RF)
  4. Hoskins (1B)
  5. Realmuto (C)
  6. Gregorius (DH)
  7. Bohm (3B)
  8. Herrera (CF)
  9. Stott (SS)

And here’s what it could look like against lefties:

  1. Schwarber (LF)
  2. Segura (2B)
  3. Harper (RF)
  4. Hoskins (1B)
  5. Realmuto (C)
  6. Gregorius (DH)
  7. Vierling (CF)
  8. Bohm (3B)
  9. Stott (SS)

The 1-6 spots in the lineup alternate lefties and righties, something most managers like to do when possible, especially now that left-handed specialists are forced to face at least three batters before being removed.

The first five spots in this lineup could be one of the best top-5s in the National League, if all five play as they did last season. However, the bottom four could be problematic. Without another hitter in the mix, the Phillies will likely need shortstop prospect Bryson Stott to win a job out of spring training, or force Odubel Herrera and Matt Vierling to play everyday. Either of those options could work, but both carry a lot of risk.

Ideally, you don’t want Odubel Herrera in the lineup every day, and Vierling is still a huge question mark. His .843 OPS in 77 PAs last season were encouraging, but his propensity to hit ground balls could cause a big reduction in those numbers. He’s extremely unproven. As for Stott, there’s a good chance he wins a regular job out of Clearwater, but he also has just 10 games at AAA under his belt. Maybe he’s ready, but no one’s sure. And no one is sure how good Alec Bohm is going to be this year, either.

The Phils also have about $10 million in luxury tax space before hitting the $230 million mark, so another hitter could be incoming, too. Some potential options include:

  • Corey Dickerson: 0.8 fWAR (109 games), .271/.326/.408, 6 HRs, 29 RBIs
  • Jonathan Villar: 2.1 fWAR (142 games), .249/.322/.416, 18 HRs, 42 RBIs
  • Brett Gardner: 1.4 fWAR (140 games), .222/.327/.362, 10 HRs, 39 RBIs
  • Tommy Pham: 1.5 fWAR (155 games), .229/.340/.383, 15 HRs, 49 RBIs
  • Jorge Soler: -0.2 fWAR (149 games), .223/.316/.432, 27 HRs, 70 RBIs

There’s no doubt Schwarber is a great fit for the lineup, but the larger question is whether it’s enough to bridge the gap between the Phillies and the Mets and Braves. On the latest edition of Hittin’ Season, Justin Klugh and I talk about that, the insane deal Kris Bryant signed with the Rockies, and Freddie Freeman joining the Dodgers.

Check it out!