Making predictions is a fun pastime. Others think it foolhardy to try and predict the future, especially in baseball where any little sample size can change the outlook of an entire season. Fear not, though, for we shall not shy away from making some bold predictions of our own, ones that are sure to come true during the season in some form or shape.
Without further ado, here are your boldest of the bold, the predictions that are sure to come true by the time the season ends this year!
Ethan Witte: Sometimes, being bold can also be boring. It would be bold to say “Zack Wheeler is going to repeat his outstanding 2021 season” since he has the talent to do so, but that’s not bold. We all know what Wheeler is capable of, so why say that kind of prediction is bold? Instead, let’s go BOLD bold, maybe even a little crazy.
Hear me out: the bullpen will be a top 12 or higher unit, via WPA.
For me personally, when I evaluate relievers, I just want to know: are they helping the team win? If they are, naturally you’d expect them to have a WPA on the positive side, maybe even well above average, or in this case, uh...well above positive (?). However you want to put it, I think this unit has the potential to do something that hasn’t been done in a while. The last time the Phillies’ relief corps has registered a positive WPA was in 2019 (2.63, 15th in MLB). Before that, they were 11th in 2018 (2.71 WPA), so they weren’t the smoldering trash heap they’ve been the past few seasons. But this year, I think they’ve added just enough arms that have better upside than they have in the past. Corey Knebel will be a 30 save closer, Brad Hand will rediscover something that makes him a solid 1-2 WAR reliever and Seranthony Dominguez will get back to his old self and be one of the more dominant middle relievers in the game. The rest of the bullpen will do just enough to make sure that this unit as a whole goes under the radar all season and helps lead this team to a playoff spot.
Jay Polinsky: The Phillies...are going to win the division by at least 3 games. Yep, they are not only going to break their playoff drought, but destroy the competition and take their first division title since 2011. It is only Spring Training, but I’ve seen enough out of this offense to believe that this team is just going to crush the ball almost each and every night to overcome even the worst bullpen struggles (which of course are going to happen). With potential Mickey Moniak and Bryson Stott breakouts there are no soft spots in the lineup and even if they can’t hit them around each inning, they are going to grind through pitchers like it is nobody’s business. If you can’t tell already, I’m absolutely hyped up by this team.
Allie Foster: The team leader at the All Star break in home runs won’t be one of the obvious choices.
I said this in the TGP group chat last week and was met with a bunch of “this chick is crazy” responses, and maybe I am. It’s insane to think that the team leader in homers at the midpoint of the season won’t be one of Harper, Realmuto, Hoskins, Schwarber, or Castellanos. But I think pitchers are going to be extremely wary of how they face the big guns in this lineup. Teams are going to have more video review on where not to throw the ball when facing the five-headed power monster and in the beginning of the season, it might work in their favor. Since teams will focus so much on those five players, they’ll be less concerned with the rest of the lineup. Because of that, Segura, Gregorius, Bohm, and whoever is in center will get better pitches and more mistakes to hit. Segura has sneaky power and could easily find himself as the team home run leader with the right opportunities, Gregorius and Bohm (if they have bounce-back offensive seasons) are both capable of stringing together enough clusters of homers to lead in the beginning, and if Mickey Moniak somehow finds himself as the starter in center with any regularity he’s shown in spring training that he’s more than capable of keeping up with the big boys. At the end of the season, it will be one of the five heads atop the team leaderboard. But I wouldn’t be too surprised if someone else leads the pack in the first half.
Leo Morgenstern: Bryan Reynolds will be on the Phillies by August 2 at 5:59pm.
Maybe I’m getting greedy. We were just gifted with the most exciting offseason since Cliffmas, and now I’m predicting the most exciting trade deadline move since Hunter Pence. But as we learned when the Phillies finally went over the luxury tax to sign Nick Castellanos, nothing is off the table anymore.
The Phillies are set to be a good team in 2022, but they’ll still have plenty of competition in the NL East and Wild Card race. They’re going to need a big acquisition to help them out down the stretch, and Reynolds is the perfect man for the job. He’ll be one of the best players available on the trade market, and the Phillies don’t have a full-time center fielder.
I know we’re all excited about Matt Vierling and Mickey Moniak (and rightly so!) but neither of them really projects as a longterm answer in center field. Bryan Reynolds, however, could be the Phillies’ center fielder of the future, and he could be the final piece that helps them secure their first NL East title since 2011. After all, we’re being bold here, right?
John Stolnis: Phillies set an all-time franchise record in team home runs.
We all know the Phils are going to wear out the recently-repaired animatronic Liberty Bell that hangs high above the right field wall. Dingers will blot out the sky. But can this group challenge the 2009 Phillies for all-time homer supremacy?
The defending world champs hold the franchise record with 224 home runs as a team that season. The ‘06 Phils are 2nd, by the way, with 216, followed by the ‘04 and ‘19 Phils with 215. In fact, this whole idea is perhaps even likely to happen, considering last year’s team finished 7th in franchise history with 198 bombs. So, let’s do the math.
Let’s say one of Schwarber, Castellanos, Harper and Hoskins gets to 40 homers, and the other three all hit around 35. That’s 145 bombs right there. ZiPS projects 20 for Realmuto, that’s 165. Didi Gregorius, if he plays everyday and is somewhat productive, could hit 20, and let’s give 15 to Jean Segura. That’s 200 homers among the top seven players in the Phils’ lineup. Let’s also say the Phils get a combined 15 homers from center field (Vierling & Moniak/Herrera), and another 15 combined from third base (Stott, Bohm, Camargo). That’s 230 and, boom, you’ve got a new record.
Of course, having the designated hitter for the first time ever in a full season gives the 2022 Phillies a clear leg up over their predecessors, so maybe this isn’t so bold, but I’ve already written this many words about it so I’m staying with it.
Austin DeCouta: Aaron Nola will finish top three in Cy Young voting
It seems like ages since Aaron Nola finished third in Cy Young Award voting. That was in 2018, a year in which the Opening Day starter pitched to a 17-6 record with a 2.37 ERA, 20.0 K-BB%, and an ERA- of 59. Although Nola finished the 2021 season with a 4.63 ERA, most other stats suggest his ERA was inflated and not a true representation of how the righty pitched last season. Nola posted a career best 5.2 BB% and his strikeout percentage of 29.8 was second best of his career. The control Nola showed last season was at an elite level and he continued to strikeout hitters at a stellar rate. Although Nols piles up the punch outs and limits the free passes, there are still some concerns.
The long ball has been the kryptonite of the former LSU Tiger, even in Spring Training 2022. Last season saw Nola post a career worst 1.30 HR/9. Opponents also posted a batting average against of .235, the highest he’s allowed since 2017.
Even with the concerning number of balls leaving the yard, another year with Caleb Cotham should help the ace get back on track. 2022 should serve as a career best year for the former Cy Young finalist.
Jarrett Prendergast: Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos will combine for 80+ home runs.
The Phillies’ newest additions are going to love hitting in Citizens Bank Park. Schwarber’s career-high in homers is 38 in 2019, while Castellanos belted 34 homers last year in Cincinnati.
The most important factor for both players will be health. If they can each play 150+ games then 40 homers each is well within the realm of possibility. With Schwarber expected to bat leadoff and Castellanos fourth, both will see plenty of good pitches to hit due to the potent Phillies lineup.
CBP remains one of the more hitter-friendly parks in the league with 199 homers being hit there last year, ranking 14th in the MLB. This Phillies offense has a chance to put up historic numbers and the two newcomers will be a big reason for it.
Smarty Jones: Ranger Suarez proves to be the real deal
After recording a 1.36 ERA in 39 games - including 12 starts - in 2021, most pundits predicted that he wouldn’t be able to repeat that performance in 2022. After all, unless your name is Kerhsaw or deGrom, sub-2.00 ERAs aren’t something pitchers generally finish the season with.
I’m not predicting that Suarez’s 2022 ERA begins with a 1. But somewhere in the low 3.00 range? I think that’s possible. The number of home runs he allowed in 2021 was unsustainably low, but nothing else about his season screams that a massive amount of regression is coming. And it should be remembered that before COVID ruined things, Suarez looked poised to break out in 2020.