The 2022 Philadelphia Phillies are unquestionably better than any previous version we’ve seen head north from Clearwater since the 102-win, 2011 team. They are loaded with a lot of big bats, thanks to the free agent signings of Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber. They should have more players getting on base and driving in runs. There is hope youngsters like Bryson Stott and Mickey Moniak can make third base and center field a little more fun. Their starting rotation, if healthy, could be a top-10 unit, and the bullpen, while always a question mark, has a bunch of high velocity guys who can miss bats when they’re on.
They’re also flawed. They’re not going to play good defense. They’re still a bit top-heavy, and there is real concern about the starting pitching depth after the top five in their rotation. The Phillies did not add any “sure” things to the ‘pen this off-season, and are relying on young arms and veterans of questionable pedigree to get the job done.
It could all work out. It could all go south. With 162 games ahead of them, it should be a lot of fun watching it all unfold.
But where do they stand in the pecking order of the National League? If you look at Fangraphs’ ZiPS projections, the Phils have just a 27% chance of making the playoffs. Seven NL teams have better odds so, even with an expanded postseason, ZiPS doesn’t see the Phils as a playoff team. Baseball America’s preseason power rankings has the Phillies at No. 15, with the same seven NL teams ahead of them. ESPN’s power rankings has the Phils at No. 13 with much higher playoff odds (67%), and six NL teams ahead of them.
You get the idea. They’re not consensus World Series contenders, but they’re in the next tier down, and that’s fair given their remaining question marks. So as the team prepares to face the Oakland A’s for Opening Day in Philadelphia on Friday, here are my National League Power Rankings to start the 2022 season, because let’s be honest, how much do we really care how the American League shakes out until the Phils face them in the World Series?
- Los Angeles Dodgers — The Dodgers are the undisputed super team of MLB. They signed perennial MVP candidate Freddie Freeman to join the other 25 perennial MVP candidates already on their roster, have a ridiculously stacked bullpen, and starting pitching to blot out the sun. So yes, the Dodgers are going to win 100+ games again and strike fear into the hearts of the National League, but as we’ve all seen, once the playoffs roll around, L.A. is not invincible. But they’re pretty close.
- Atlanta Braves — The Braves won the World Series last year after going on a crazy insane October run. They were powered by dudes like Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler and Eddie Rosario and, to their credit, they made it work. Then they went out and had perhaps the best off-season of any team in MLB, even with losing Freeman to free agency. Matt Olson is a beast, Ronald Acuna Jr. will be back in a couple months, Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley are still awesome, and the rotation possesses a nice mix of veterans and youngsters. They’re the favorites to win the NL East for the 5th straight season.
- St. Louis Cardinals — The NL Central is tougher to predict, and I know most are taking Milwaukee because of their outstanding rotation, but I’m going with St. Louis. No, the Cardinals didn’t do a ton this off-season, but the trio of Nolan Arenado, Tyler O’Neill and Paul Goldschmidt is still as good as it gets, their rotation, fronted by the ageless Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson is decent, and their defense should be an above average unit. It’s pretty close between them and the Brewers, but St. Louis seems a bit more balanced.
- San Diego Padres — Fernando Tatis Jr. might not be back with the team from his fractured wrist until June. He’s one of the 2-3 best players in the NL and San Diego will miss him dearly to start the season. That said, they have so much starting pitching, with Yu Darvish, Sean Manaea, Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell, and the lineup is still pretty good with Manny Machado, Jake Cronenworth and Luke Voit, not to mention a solid bullpen, that they should be able to hold the fort until their best player comes back.
- Milwaukee Brewers — Will the Milwaukee rotation be as dominant as it was a year ago? I’m skeptical that it will be, although one will certainly go into battle with the reigning Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes, as well as Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta and Adrian Houser. But the lineup is a bit thin. Nothing against Andrew McCutchen, whom we all love, but if he’s hitting anywhere near the middle of the order, there are going to be problems scoring runs.
- Philadelphia Phillies — If the Phillies pitching staff can stay healthy, they are World Series contenders. The lineup will mash, of that there is no question. The only question is whether they’ll set new team records for runs scored and homers (they will). Can Zack Wheeler replicate his Cy Young-runner-up season? Can Aaron Nola bounce back? What will Ranger Suarez be? Is this the year Zach Eflin figures it out? Do the Phillies finally have a closer in Corey Knebel? What about the rest of the ‘pen? Lots of question marks and depth worries, but this is a good team with a ton of upside.
- San Francisco Giants — Can Gabe Kapler do it again? The Giants are a fascinating team. They are what Kapler wanted the Phillies to be in 2018 and ‘19, but no one was able to figure out how to make it work. In San Francisco, they’re doing all the analytically-nerdy things many of you hate, but they’re making it work for them, hence the monster seasons of veterans like Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt. Posey is gone now, replaced by Joey Bart, but former Phil Darin Ruf is getting a lot of run in San Fran, and that’s pretty fun. The rotation, with Logan Webb, Carlos Rodon, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and Alex Cobb is extremely capable.
- Miami Marlins — The Marlins are going to be the sneaky team no one wants to play this year, mainly because of a dynamic young pitching staff that will be without Sixto Sanchez to start the season due to injury again. Sandy Alcantara, Trevor Rogers, Pablo Lopeez, Jesus Luzardo and Elieser Hernandez will all be tough to hit, but is there enough offense to keep the team afloat? Jazz Chisholm Jr. is a super fun player, and Jorge Soler could be the key to Miami being a team that struggles to score and one that can keep its head above water. It’s definitely an interesting team and, despite skimping on the payroll yet again, have a squad that will cause headaches all season long.
- New York Mets — Yup, I’m the low guy on the Mets. Jacob deGrom is already injured and will likely miss the first 6-8 weeks of the season. Max Scherzer, who is almost 38, is dealing with hamstring issues and Taijuan Walker says he’s developing soreness in his knee. Their prize off-season position player acquisition Starling Marte looks good right now, but he’s 33, Robinson Cano is 39, McNeill, Canha and McCann are all in their 30s, too. Only Brandon Nimmo (29), Francisco Lindor (28) and Pete Alonso (27) are everyday players under 30. Maybe the new Wheeze Kids will keep it together and, if they do, I’ll look dumb. But I see a frustrating summer ahead for Mets fans and their senior citizen players.
- Washington Nationals — Cesar Hernandez is their starting 2B. Maikel Franco is their starting 3B. I know the Nationals like Phillies retreads, but usually they try poaching from good eras of Phillies baseball, not rebuild leftovers! But they do have MVP favorite Juan Soto to help balance things out, catching prospect Keibert Ruiz could be good, and Nelson Cruz will at least be fun to watch. Stephen Strasburg is starting the season on the 10-day IL, he hasn’t pitched more than 30 innings over the past two seasons combined, leaving a rotation fronted by the fading Patrick Corbin. Josiah Gray, acquired from Los Angeles in the Scherzer/Trea Turner deal, has potential, but this could be a very long year for the 2019 world champs.
- Colorado Rockies — Congratulations on that contract Kris Bryant! Hope you enjoy lots of skiing! Charlie Blackmon is a nice player and Ryan McMahon and C.J. Cron can hit a little, but this team isn’t going anywhere and it’s difficult to see why Bryant took the money to be a Rockie. Kyle Freeland and German Marquez used to be good, but are now just a typical mid-4.00 ERA Rockies starter, just like all the rest of ‘em. There’s not much to get excited about here other than their gorgeous ballpark.
- Chicago Cubs — The 2022 Cubs may be the most unrecognizable group of baseball players ever assembled for this franchise. They’ve replaced Kris Bryant with Patrick Wisdom, Anthony Rizzo with Frank Schwindel, and Javier Baez with Nico Hoerner. They signed Seiya Suzuki, which is great, and the top-three of Kyle Hendricks, Justin Steele and Marcus Stroman is decent, but this will be a team lucky enough to get 75 wins this year.
- Cincinnati Reds — Cincinnati could have actually built themselves a nice little roster, but instead decided to go cheap and start selling off parts. Awesome. Poor Joey Votto. Poor Jonathan India. Poor Nick Senzel. Their starting rotation is exceedingly light, led by Tyler Mahle, and there just isn’t much to get excited about, other than Votto and India. Gonna be another long summer in Cincy.
- Arizona Diamondbacks — It is so easy to forget the Diamondbacks exist sometimes, other than the fact Madison Bumgarner is pitching for them and the shocking fact that he’s still just 32 years old! Ketel Marte, David Peralta and Christian Walker are fine, but not spectacular. The only reason to watch Arizona is to see if there are any viable pieces that can be extracted by winning teams at the trade deadline.
- Pittsburgh Pirates — The Pirates signed their star young third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes to an eight-year, $70 million deal, taking a chance that the kid who was worth 2.4 WAR in 96 games is ready to become a cornerstone for the franchise. Between Hayes and center fielder Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh should be building around these two, but they’ve surrounded them with a punchless lineup and the worst starting rotation in baseball in an obvious attempt to tank yet another baseball season. Pittsburgh deserves better than what they’ve had to put up with since the mid-2010s.