2021 Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies haven’t had a winning record since 2011, which extends their streak with no postseason appearances to nine years. They sure could use the next generation of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay. Philadelphia had the fourth-worst ERA (5.14) in baseball. Its offense moved to fifth in runs scored (306) and 11th in home runs (82).
The most important deal for Philadelphia in the offseason was re-signing catcher J.T. Realmuto for a mere $110 million for five seasons. It also brought back shortstop Didi Gregorius.
Philly added RP Archie Bradley, RP Tony Watson, RP Brandon Kintzler, SP Chase Anderson, IF Brad Miller, and SP Matt Moore via free agency. In three minor trades, Philadelphia brought in IF C.J. Chatham, RP Jose Alvarado, and RP Sam Coonrad.
Their offense has the structure to blast a ton of home runs with length in the starting lineup. Third baseman Alec Bohm played well in his 23 games in the majors. The combination of OF Bryce Harper, 1B Rhys Hoskins and Realmuto lays the foundation in the middle of the lineup. Philly would love for OF Scott Kingery to find his stride to add another formidable bat at the back end of the lineup.
Aaron Nola gives the Phillies one ace, and Zach Wheeler showed more growth in his first season in Philadelphia. The rotation's backend has one competitive arm (Zach Eflin), and Spencer Howard does offer a boost when his arm is finally major league-ready. Overall, the final three pitchers in the starting rotation only need to win half of the games while keeping the Phillies in games.
The top three relievers in the bullpen have flashed in the majors. The closing role will be a battle between Hector Neris and Archie Bradley. My lean is toward Bradley if he can build on his 2020 growth in command.
Philadelphia looks positioned to win more games than it will lose in 2021. If the backend of the rotation holds up, the Phillies will be in the postseason. The NL East looks exceptionally competitive, requiring a few players to have career years for Philly to make a run at the division title.
1. OF Andrew McCutchen
In his first two seasons with the Phillies, McCutchen almost posted identical stats while playing 59 and 57 games. His only significant change was a career-low walk rate (9.1) in 2020. Over his first 11 years in the majors, McCutchen drew a walk 12.2% of the time.
His stats with Philadelphia in 2019 and 2020 projected over 550 at bats would come to 97 runs, 25 home runs, 79 RBIs and eight steals. Over this span, McCutchen had all but four at bats from the leadoff spot in the batting order.
He did have a slight regression in his contact batting average (.325 and .341 in 2019) while continuing to hit well with runners on base (RBI rate of 20).
Last season McCutchen tried to hit more fly-balls (43.5% and 38.3 in his career), but his HR/FB rate (13.5) almost matched his career average (13.2).
Over the previous five seasons, he hit .261 with 335 runs, 92 home runs, 295 RBIs and 37 stolen bases over 2,173 at bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: McCutchen no longer has the luster of a plus batting average despite only a slight regression in his strikeout rate (20.0 and 16.9 over his first six years in the majors). He now falls into a steady category in three categories (runs, home runs and RBIs). I wouldn’t dismiss a rebound in batting average, but his ceiling looks to be about 10 steals. McCutchen has an early ADP of 198. A veteran player with a proven résumé works as a steady player with a reasonable price point. His floor should be .270 with a 90/20/75/5 type skill set.
2. 3B Alec Bohm
Bohm made the jump from AA (238 at bats) to the majors with relative ease in 2020. He posted an elite contact batting average (.435), which came in well above his success in college (.365) and the minors (.347). His average hit rate (1.426) fell well short of expectations for his size (6' 5" and 220 lbs.) and his college career (1.731).
He finished last year with a league-average approach (strikeout rate of 20.0 and walk rate of 8.9). Bohm projects to have an elite walk rate when he hits his stride in the majors.
His struggles with power with Philadelphia came from a ground ball swing path (53.2) that may have helped his batting average when paired with his hard-hit rate (46.8).
Bohm hit .293 over 614 at bats in the minors with 93 runs, 21 home runs, 97 RBIs and nine stolen bases. With about the same playing time (635) in college, he hit .317 with 121 runs, 33 home runs, 125 RBIs and 14 steals.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Bohm has an ADP of 105 in his second year with the Phillies. The baseline of his foundation skill set projects high, but he may not be ready to be a difference-maker in 2021. His ability to take walks and hit for average should lead to him hitting in a favorable part of the batting order. I’m going to set his bar at .290 with 90 runs, 25 home runs, 95 RBIs and a chance at double-digit steals while understanding Bohm may beat all categories by a wide margin except stolen bases. His power will come fast with more loft on his swing.
3. OF Bryce Harper
Harper’s draft value in 2021 will be interesting to follow. He comes off three straight years with underperformance in batting average (.249, .260 and .268), plus he only hit .243 in 2016. On the positive side, Harper had the best approach (strikeout rate of 17.6 and walk rate of 20.1) of his career.
With runners on base, he hit .265 with less value when they were in scoring position (.233). His RBI rate (13) was well below his success over the previous three seasons (18.3). Harper has the highest average hit rate (2.020) of his career.
If given 550 at bats last year, Harper’s counting stats came to 119 runs, 38 home runs, 96 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. He finished 14th in SIscore (2.35) for hitters.
Harper added more loft to his swing (fly-ball rate: 45.8 and 37.6 in his career), but his HR/FB rate (19.7) fell short of his previous three seasons (24.0, 23.1 and 23.5). He also held serve vs. left-handed pitching (.281 with four home runs and 10 RBIs over 57 at bats).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: There is greatness in his bat with tremendous upside in power if Harper gets locked in for a season. He has talent around in the starting lineup, and his approach is one of the best in the game. Twice over the past six seasons, Harper had a massive contact batting average (.441 and .417). With an ADP of 20, he looks poised to be a value, especially if Harper continues to run. I sense .300 with 120 runs, 40 home runs, 120 RBIs and 15 steals, so tee him up if you get a chance as your second player in fantasy drafts.
4. 1B Rhys Hoskins
Hoskins is going to be a steal in drafts in 2021. He struggled in 2019 while tripping out of the gate over his first 14 games last year (9-for-45 with no home runs and one RBI). A left shoulder injury (needed TJ surgery) in mid-September cost him the final 17 games. From Aug. 15 to Sept. 12, Hoskins hit .264 with 25 runs, 10 home runs and 25 RBIs.
He continues to take a ton of walks (15.7% and 15.3% in his career) while trailing the league average in his strikeout rate (23.2). Hoskins has a massive fly-ball swing (51.9%), leading to 40+ home runs, average hit rate (2.044) over the past four seasons. His HR/FB rate (17.9) has strength while falling short of the game's top power hitters.
When out of rhythm, Hoskins hits a ton of infield fly balls (17.9% in 2020), leading to easy outs and some risk in batting average. His hard-hit rate (42.6, 104th) improved from 2019 (38.7, 191st), but it ranked 22nd in 2017 (45.2).
In a way, pitchers at the major league level have figured him out, which means pitching higher up in the zone with the idea of weaker contact.
Over four seasons with the Phillies, Hoskins hit .239 with 91 home runs, 255 RBIs and 10 stolen bases over 1,449 at bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: This draft season Hoskins is the 15th first base option drafted (I removed the players that qualified for second base – D.J. LeMahieu, Max Muncy, and Mike Moustakas) with an ADP of 168. Hitting behind Bryce Harper creates a ton of RBI chances, and Hoskins also adds value in runs due to his high number of walks. When adding a chance at 40-plus home runs, Hoskins is almost a layup based on his price point. His batting average has risk, but he makes enough contact where .270 is not that far out of the equation.
5. C J.T. Realmuto
Realmuto missed 10 days in September last year with a hip injury. His bat produced only six hits over 23 at bats with two RBIs over his final six games after returning to the starting lineup.
He finished as the 44th most valuable hitter in SIscore (0.77). His stats projected over 525 at bats (532 in 2017 and 538 in 2019) came to 100 runs, 33 home runs, 97 RBIs and 12 steals, which would have been an impressive season.
With the NL having a DH last year, Realmuto picked eight games, and the injury to Rhys Hopkins led to some time at first base (six games). All of these factors help gain an edge at catcher in playing time.
His average hit rate (1.848) was a career-high with a fourth straight season of improvement. At the same time, Realmuto added more ticks to his contact batting average (.368) at the expense of his strikeout rate (24.6 and 19.0 in his career).
The batting average drop was tied to a weaker swing path, leading to a minuscule line drive rate (14.4 and 20.9 in his career) with a jump in his ground ball rate (48.0 and 39.0 in 2019). Realmuto has a bounce up in power thanks to a jump in his HR/FB rate (23.4 and 15.7 in 2019).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: I debated Realmuto hitting second for the Phillies, but I settled into Bohm based on more upside in his walk rate and a higher ceiling in batting average. Realmuto is a significant edge with five-category value, but his ADP (35) does put him in a range with excellent pitchers and impact batters. His stats in 2019 only ranked 60th in baseball. If he matches his path last year over a full season, fantasy owners would have a first-round player's stats. An edge is an edge if the drafted player plays up to expectations. The Phillies bet $110 million on him. Now, it’s your turn.
6. SS Didi Gregorius
When building a Ferrari of a fantasy baseball team, finding value later in drafts is a must while also securing strength at the front of your starting rotation and adding foundation bats. Gregorius played exceptionally well last year, and his stats projected over 550 at bats came to 87 runs, 26 home runs, 102 RBIs and eight steals. He finished 29th in SIscore (1.25) for batters, yet he is the 112th hitter drafted in early January.
Gregorius graded well in his RBI rate (19), which was also the case in 2017 (18) and 2019 (22). His average hit rate (1.721) had a slight step back while supporting over 25 home runs. He remains tough to strikeout (11.8 and 14.1 in his career) with a below-par walk rate (6.3).
His contact batting average (.326) has never been high, but it did fall in range with his 2016 (.323) and 2017 (.330). Gregorius has a fly-ball swing path (43.1%) with only a steady HR/FB rate (12.3). His bat continues to struggle against lefties (.203 over 64 at bats with four home runs and 12 RBIs).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: When reviewing his major résumé, Gregorius checks the batting average, home runs and RBI boxes compared to the hitters selected near him in drafts. I expect plenty of RBI chances with some explosive games. At a minimum with a full season of games, he should hit .275 with 80 runs, 25 home runs and 90 RBIs with a chance at a handful of steals. Gregorius has an ADP of 163 in the early 12-team draft season in the high-stakes market.
7. 2B Jean Segura
Segura is drifting off fantasy owners' cheat sheets with a sliding opportunity in the batting order and lost value in stolen bases.
Last year he was on pace for a career-best in home runs (20 and 23 if he matched his 2016 at bats) and RBIs (71). Segura pushed his average-hit rate (1.588) to an all-time high while regaining his lost value in his contact batting average (.347).
For the first time in his career, Segura finished with a ground ball rate (47.9) under 51.0%. He hit the most fly-balls (33.6%) of his career, along with setting a new top on his HR/FB rate (14.3 and 13.5 in 2016).
In 2020, Segura had 166 of his 192 at bats batting fifth and sixth in the batting order. This season he’ll fall even further in the starting lineup unless someone has an injury.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Without stolen bases it will be hard to fight for a piece of Segura in drafts. Last season the Phillies swiped 35 bags (8th), so his decline looks tied to his change in body and age. His ADP (189) is much too high for me. He has a chance to help in batting average while looking like a 70/15/65/5 player. Segura is listed as 5' 10" and 220 lbs. this year, which may be a signal of more power.
8. OF Scott Kingery
Kingery played his way out of a starting job in 2020 after going 9-for-67 with one home run, four RBIs and 16 strikeouts. In August, he missed time with a back issue that ultimately led to a trip on the injured list in September. His bat was worthless over his final 42 at bats (.215 with two home runs, two RBIs and 17 strikeouts).
His strikeout rate (27.8) does deter his growth at this point in his career. Kingery has a below-average walk rate (6.1).
A fantasy owner was attracted to his combination of home runs (19) and stolen bases (15) in 2019 while adding in an improved average hit rate (1.839) and contact batting average (.379). Kingery flashed in June (.295 with seven home runs, 16 RBIs and three steals over 105 at bats), but his bat was exposed with a full-time job after the All-Star break (.230 with eight home runs, 28 RBIs and 10 stolen bases over 256 at bats) while striking out 86 times (30.5%).
Over four seasons in the minors he hit .283 with 34 home runs, 134 RBIs and 71 stolen bases over 1,340 at bats. His strikeout rate (16.5) in the minors does paint a better picture. His HR/FB rate (15.2) matched his success in 2017 at AA (15.7).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: His struggles last year were tied to an injury, leading to questions about his playing time in 2021 and a fading ADP (322 and 167 in 2019). Kingery offers speed and power, but he’ll have to earn his keep at the bottom of the batting order. He won’t be in the lineup every day without a better approach. Based on his balance skill set, Kingery is well worth a bench investment to get a free look at the start of the year.
3B Brad Miller
After delivering a power season in 2016 (.243 with 73 runs, 30 home runs, and 81 RBI over 548 at-bats), Miller hasn’t had a starting job over the past four seasons. His bat flashed off the bench in 2019 and 2020, leading to 20 home runs and 50 RBI over 296 at-bats while hitting .247.
His average hit rate (1.939) gives him 30-plus home run power with a full-time job. He will take some walks (9.7 percent in his career), but his strikeout rate (26.9) remains on the wrong side of the league average.
Last year Miller lost some loft off his swing path (34.0 percent fly-ball rate – 47.2 in 2019) while continuing to have a high HR/FB rate (21.2)
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Miller has the power to cover short-term injuries when receiving starting at-bats. He has some experience in centerfield, so a slow start by Scott Kingery may give Miller more playing time than expected out of the gate.
OF Adam Haseley
Over three seasons in the minors, Haseley hit .292 with 24 home runs, 113 RBIs and 18 steals over 914 at bats. In 2019 he made the push from AA to the majors with reasonable success.
With Philly over the past two seasons, Haseley held value in his contact batting (.361), but his strikeout rate (23.1) showed risk.
In his last season in college, Haseley had a great walk (44) to strikeout (21) ratio. His walk rate (8.4) was league average in the minors with a much lower strikeout rate (16.2). The Phillies added him with the eighth pick in the first round in 2017.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: I don’t view him as a future center fielder, which is where his opportunity is the highest in 2021 if he makes the opening day roster. Haseley is more of a line-drive hitter who projects better in batting average than power early in his career. He should start the year at AAA, but a DH in the National League would improve his chance at starting playing time. Haseley has a waiver wire ADP (697) in the early draft season.
Andrew Knapp (C): Knapp hit .275 over five seasons in the minors with 210 runs, 31 home runs, 186 RBIs and 14 stolen bases over 1,464 at bats. He’s struggled to find the same success over the past four years as the backup catcher for Philly (.230 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs over 566 at bats).
His struggles come from a high strikeout rate (30.1 and 21.4 in 2019) while doing an excellent job taking walks (13.2%).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Knapp has no starting upside without an injury.
C.J. Chatham (SS): Over four years in the minors he hit. 298 with 14 home runs and 124 RBI over 1,024 at bats with minimal experience at AAA (.302 over 86 at bats with two home runs and 10 RBIs).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Chatham needs to get stronger to add more pop to his swing. He may develop into a utility-type option for the Phillies.
Roman Quinn (OF): Quinn struggled over the previous three years (.231 with eight home runs, 30 RBIs and 30 stolen bases over 347 at bats) with Philadelphia.
Over eight seasons in the minors he hit .280 with 28 home runs, 148 RBIs and 186 stolen bases over 1,721 at bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Quinn is a possible value in speed if he earns starting at bats at some point of the year.
1. SP Aaron Nola
Over the past three seasons batters hit only .214 against Nola, with an improving strikeout rate (12.1). He went 34–18 with a 3.13 ERA and 549 strikeouts over 486 innings.
His highlight season came in 2018 (17–6 with 2.37 ERA and 224 strikeouts over 212.1 innings). He averaged 6.15 innings over his last 79 starts.
His AFB (93.2) is about league average. Nola has an elite curveball (.181 BAA) and edge changeup (.211 BAA). His four-seamer (.155 BAA) gained steam with some improvement in his sinker (.265 BAA).
Nola is a ground ball pitcher (50.5%). Even with a low fly-ball rate (29.5) in his career, he has a high HR/FB rate (14.1).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: His ADP (23) is 27 spots higher than 2019. Nola has the skill set to be a foundation ace. I expect a run at over 15 wins with a sub-2.75 ERA, and over 250 strikeouts with 33 starts with only a slight improvement in his command.
2. SP Zack Wheeler
Wheeler finished with his best success in ERA (2.92) with a career-low walk rate (2.0), but his strikeout rate (6.7) came in well below his previous two seasons (8.8 and 9.0).
He went 27–17 with a 3.53 ERA and 427 strikeouts over 448.2 innings over the past three years. Wheeler didn’t dominate right-handed (.258 BAA) or left-handed batters (.250 BAA). In 2019 lefties gave him trouble (.275 BAA) as well. Wheeler allowed three runs or fewer in his first 10 starts.
His AFB (97.3) continues to rise while gaining his edge with a slider (.241 BAA), curveball (.152 BAA), and a low-volume changeup (.200 BAA). Wheeler did lose the feel of his split-finger fastball (.333 BAA) and four-seam fastball (.292 BAA).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Wheeler works best as an upside SP3 in the high-stakes market with an ADP of 93 in the early draft season. To reach a higher level, he needs to regain his lost strikeouts and find a way to get batters out more often. Not a slam dunk, but his big fastball set the floor for explosive upside if all of the pieces come together. I’ll start the bidding at a 3.25 ERA with at least 175 strikeouts.
3. SP Zach Eflin
Eflin had a jump in strikeout rate (10.7) while delivering a low walk rate (2.3). Even with growth in his base skill set, batters hit .263 against him, which almost matched 2018 (.261) and 2019 (.268).
In his four bad starts, Eflin allowed four runs in each game, leading to 16 combined runs and 33 baserunners over 20 innings. His downside comes from failure against left-handed batters (.279 BAA with seven home runs over 104 at bats).
His AFB (94.8) is better than expected when looking at his strikeout rate (6.8) over his first four years with the Phillies. Eflin only had success with two secondary pitches (curveball: .103 BAA and four-seam fastball: .133 BAA). Both of his top two pitches thrown (sinker: .304 BAA and slider: .292 BAA) don’t create an edge.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Flashes of growth as a viable innings eater with better velocity than meets the eye, but his secondary stuff isn’t good enough at this point of his career. On the positive side, Eflin will throw strikes while posting his lowest ERA (3.97) of his career. His ADP (203) is an area where I won’t be taking a dance.
4. SP Spencer Howard
Over his two seasons in college, Howard went 11–2 with a 2.24 ERA and 136 strikeouts over 124.1 innings. Philadelphia drafted him in the second round of the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft.
After some success in 2018 at A Ball (3.78 ERA and 147 strikeouts over 112 innings), Howard looked sharp over short innings (71.0) in 2019 (2.03 ERA and 94 strikeouts). His step forward came from improvement in his walk rate (2.0) while already owning an elite strikeout rate (12.0). Howard missed some development time in 2019 with a sore right shoulder.
With only six career starts at AA (2.35 ERA) and no AAA experience, the Phillies gave Howard six starts in 2020. He finished with crooked numbers across the board (5.92 ERA, 1.644 WHIP, .300 BAA and six home runs over 24.1 innings).
His average fastball came in at 94.5 mph while working off a slider, changeup and curveball combination of pitches.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Howard needs more development time, but Philadelphia also lacks upside arms at the back of the rotation. His ADP (397) puts him in the free-agent pool in 12-team leagues or smaller. Tempting buy and hold if he’s throwing more strikes in spring training.
5. SP Matt Moore
Moore came to the majors with a live arm and elite minor league résumé (30–24 with a 2.74 ERA and 769 strikeouts over 552.2 innings). One TJ surgery later, he became a weak pitching link in the majors from 2015 to 2019 (25–39 with a 5.13 ERA, 1.448 WHIP and 467 strikeouts over 547.2 innings).
In 2017 he allowed the most runs (107) in the National League while struggling with walks (3.5 per nine) and home runs (1.4 per nine).
Moore never found his command in the majors (3.7 walks per nine) with a steady strikeout rate (8.1).
A right knee injury in 2019 ended his season after 10 shutout innings with one walk and nine strikeouts.
He took his left arm to Japan in 2020, leading to a successful campaign (6–3 with a 2.65 ERA and 98 strikeouts over 85 innings). His strikeout rate (10.4) and walk rate (2.8) fell into an attractive area.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Moore added a split-finger fastball in Japan to work as his off-speed pitch. His fastball still has mid-90s upside. He should win the fifth starting job for Philadelphia after signing a one-year for $3.5 million. Keep an open mind and a short leash.
SP Adonis Medina
Medina looked ready to make a push toward the majors after success at A Ball in 2017 (3.01 ERA and 133 strikeouts over 119.2 innings), but his arm stalled at High A (4.12 ERA and 123 strikeouts over 111.1 innings) the following season.
In 2019 at AA, he had further regression (4.94 ERA) with a massive drop in his strikeout rate (7.0 and 10.0 in 2017 and 2018) and a higher walk rate (3.5).
The Phillies gave him one start last year (two runs over four innings with three walks and four strikeouts).
Medina offers a fastball with a high 90s upside while his slider is getting closer to being a trusted strikeout pitch. The last piece to his growth will come from his changeup that has major league potential.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Medina has a lot to prove in 2021 while expecting to start the year at AAA.
SP Enyel De Los Santos
Over his first four seasons in the minors, De Los Santos went 34–16 with a 3.40 ERA and 416 strikeouts over 460 innings. In 2018 his stuff played well at AAA (10–5 with a 2.63 ERA and 110 strikeouts over 126.2 innings), but he did have some regression in his walk rate (3.1) and strikeout rate (7.8).
After failing to make the major league club out of spring training in 2019, De Los Santos was forced to repeat AAA with no success (4.40 ERA and 83 strikeouts over 94 innings).
Philly gave him 12 appearances in the majors in 2018 and 2019, leading to a 5.70 ERA and 24 strikeouts over 30 innings.
Last year De Los Santos didn’t pitch in the majors.
His AFB (93.7) had less velocity in 2019 while tossing a slider and changeup.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Only a player to follow this spring as his early minor league résumé gives him a chance to be much better with more experience.