There is little doubt the Phillies have improved this off-season. The additions of Trea Turner, Taijuan Walker, Craig Kimbrel and Matt Strahm to a National League pennant-winning roster have people thinking big, and that is 100% understandable.
Adding all that talent to an 87-win team, a team that played at a much higher level after Rob Thomson was promoted to manager, has people dreaming of mid-to-upper 90s win totals for the Phils and contending for what should be an extremely competitive, but difficult, National League East crown.
So it came as a bit of a shock when ESPN recently released some win projection totals for 2023.
Projected 2023 wins via ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle:— MLB Metrics (@MLBMetrics) December 27, 2022
90 Blue Jays
82 White Sox
People look at 85 wins for the 2023 Phillies, and there’s a disconnect.
Didn’t we just watch this team just fall two wins short of a title? Didn’t we see this team add four potential impact players to an already excellent roster? How does that equate to a two-win reduction?
It’s easy to forget the Phillies will likely be without their best hitter, their MVP, one of the most impactful bats in all of baseball for the first two and a half months next year.
On the latest Hittin’ Season podcast, Liz Roscher and I chatted about Harper’s absence and what it could mean for the ‘23 Phils...
After Tommy John surgery this off-season, he isn’t likely to play until mid-June at the earliest. The All Star break is a possibility, meaning they could be without Harper for half a season.
We all remember Harper hitting massive home runs throughout the postseason, looking healthy and spry, and we imagine the additions of Turner, Walker, Kimbrel and Strahm to that and get giddy.
But for the first two months of 2023, at least 55-65 games, the Phils will be without their best player. So perhaps that win total makes a little sense?
No one wants to hear that, of course, and the rest of the team around Harper should be good enough to hold the fort until he returns. Last year’s group went 32-20 between the time Harper went down with a broken hand and his return and, if you’ll remember, fans grumbled that perhaps the team had lost its mojo when Harper came back and the team struggled.
The plan for 2023 will be much the same as it was when they went 12 games over .500 without him last year. Darrick Hall will see a lot of ABs at DH against right-handed pitching. Against lefties, Edmundo Sosa and Matt Vierling will likely get some additional playing time, with Alec Bohm, Rhys Hoskins, Kyle Schwarber or Nick Castellanos getting those DH at-bats. You could see more Garrett Stubbs behind the plate to give J.T. Realmuto some days as the designated hitter against right-handers, too.
But last year’s group didn’t have Trea Turner, and that will help. Even with Harper’s absence, 85 wins is still too few, but we shouldn’t forget that the team will be without their dynamic slugger for an extended period of time in 2023.
Again, be sure to listen to this week’s Hittin’ Season, where we also chatted more about the Kimbrel signing and why the Phillies video yearbook this year was highly disappointing.