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Fun with Fangraphs’ depth charts!

It’s mid-January and there isn’t anything else to do!

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Listen, we’re getting deep into the heart of January. Much of the team’s starting roster is complete and the moves they’re making these days are the ones that aren’t going to be adding huge amounts of wins to the theoretical ledger. We’re talking around the edges moves, ones that are needed, but by and large, everything is set.

So what better time than now to see how the team stacks up against others!

Fangraphs has a wonderfully fun thing where they use their fancy magic-making machine, create depth charts for each team, figure out their fWAR total for the season and rank them for each position in the game. I’ll link it here so you can check out all the fun things that they have set up over there, but some of the actual rankings per position caught my eye, so made note of them.

The Phillies aren’t the best at catcher?!?! What?!?!?

We’ve crowned J.T. Realmuto as the best catcher in baseball because, well, he is. Others might quibble with the choice, looking to Baltimore or Los Angeles or maybe even Atlanta now as having a better candidate, but it isn’t true just yet. Realmuto is the best and that should vault the Phillies to the top of the catcher’s projected WAR chart right?

Not so fast.

Fangraphs has the Phillies as tied for fifth at catcher, tying them with the Yankees with a 4.6 fWAR projected total. That’s confounding, but it helps to see the methodology the rankings are using. They’re accounting for everyone that might don the tools and composing a cumulative fWAR total, not just ranking the best players at the position. Were they do just do that with individual players, Realmuto still wouldn’t be first (they’re pretty high on Adley Rutschman)

Did you ever think you’d live to see the day...

...when the Phillies were projected to have a top five bullpen (per fWAR) in the game of Major League Baseball?

I know, the shock is still with me as well. The basis of most of this projection is likely due to the fact that whenever the bullpen door swings open to unleash a new reliever for the Phillies, the chances of someone trotting out who can get hitters out without the use of the defense is high. Of the bullpens ranked in the top ten by projected WAR, the Phillies are one of two teams (the Guardians being the other) who have three relievers projected to have 50 innings pitched and a K/9 over 10. That’s rather impressive and something the team hasn’t had in a long time.

It’s a staple of what the team is looking for as well as the belief in their pitching coaches that they can harness what stuff these pitchers have. Caleb Cotham has gotten the lion’s share of credit for transforming hard throwing pitchers who were not really sure where the ball was going into relievers capable to throwing more strikes once he got his hands on them. Hired after the 2020 pandemic season, the team was able to turn Sam Coonrod into a solid reliever in 2021, then create the Jose Alvarado success story last year. We are all aware that Gregory Soto looks to be the next one the team is hoping they can get to throw more strikes, which adds to their stable of hard throwing relievers. Whether they can meet this projection remains to be seen, but their philosophy of betting on their coaching staff and gobbling up hard throwing relievers looks like it might pay off once again.

Speaking of coaches, I hope Kevin Long has spoken to Brandon Marsh

We’re all fans of Brandon Marsh. He came over from Los Angeles and hit well in his time here, even if it all felt a tad empty. Fangraphs, though, is not as optimistic about his coming year, using his projection to push the Phillies’ overall center field production towards the bottom of the league, coming in at 29th, just ahead of.....whatever it is the Red Sox are doing with their center field.

Does that projection feel low? Of course it does. How Marsh played in Los Angeles feels like a complete 180 from how he was playing in Philadelphia. The system, though, has a long memory and doesn’t simply discount what he did while with the Angels. It’s likely why the computers are pessimistic about, who has the lion’s share of the playing time on the depth chart as it stands. What they aren’t taking into account is the fact that Kevin Long will have his hands on Marsh for a longer amount of time, able to work him to get more production out of his bat than he was able to in the midst of a pennant chase environment. We sometimes overlook the time players utilize with the coaches while in spring training, so the time in February and March that Long and Marsh will have together makes me feel a bit more optimistic that the 29th place ranking they have for center field will end up looking much better once the season draws to a close.

These numbers are just what Fangraphs thinks will happen. There is always a decent amount of luck on either side of the coin that plays into how the season will progress. Some players will beat these projections, others will fall short. In mid-January, it is interesting to look at them since it’s a decent barometer of where the team is stacking up right now. How they’ll look at Memorial Day? We’ll have to wait and see.