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Aside from perhaps Dave Dombrowski, no one has a crystal ball into what might befall the Phillies in 2022. Few things are a given when determining how this team may look or play come April. Just as fans around the Delaware Valley believe they know the solution to all the Phillies problems, we at Inside the Phillies take a look at how things may appear next September.

Free Agents:

Michael Conforto: 3 yrs/$55 million

Dombrowski began the offseason in October by listing the Phillies biggest needs: center fielder, left fielder, leadoff man, closer, “maybe shortstop.” Conforto would erase two of those needs. His prowess as a leadoff bat is unmistakable, but understated. For his career Conforto has a .379 OBP from the leadoff spot. His qualifying offer may make the Phillies somewhat hesitant as they’d lose a draft pick for signing him, but the team is without a doubt in “win now” mode.

Starling Marte: 3 yrs/$62 million

Marte put up a career year in 2021, playing solid defense in center field while hitting .316 with an OPS of .824. Due to age, Marte is unlikely to receive a long-term contract; the only player over 33 to receive a 3 year+ deal in the free agent classes of 2021 or 2020 was 34-year-old Josh Donaldson, who signed a four-year deal. Marte would slot nicely into the top of the Phillies lineup with blazing speed even at age 33.

Andrelton Simmons: 1 yr/$3 million

Simmons would be a nice stop-gap shortstop for the Phillies until Bryson Stott is ready to play for the big club, especially so as the right-handed Simmons could platoon with left-handed hitting Gregorius or Stott. Even if Simmons has trouble at the plate, his defense more than makes up in value for poor hitting. A decent bounce-back candidate with his lowest BAbip since 2013, Simmons could be a cheap upgrade at shortstop.

Mark Melancon: 1 yr/$8 million

“If I had to say one thing, I'd probably say I'd like to have somebody that can close a game for us, and count on it,” said Dombrowski in an NBC Sports interview with Jim Salisbury. Melancon’s days of multi-year free agent deals are probably over for what will be his age 37 season, but he’s handled big moments before and a proven closer is clearly in the books for the Phillies this winter.

Hector Neris: 3 yrs/$13 million

It’s hard to imagine the Phillies franchise strikeout record for relievers pitching anywhere outside of Philadelphia. Lacking a set bullpen for 2022, it’d be easy to bring “fan favorite” Neris back to Citizens Bank Park on a low AAV multi-year deal.

Off-season Trades:

Rafael Marchan and Didi Gregorius for Mike Moustakas:

The Reds will be happy to get any value for Moustakas who had a .717 OPS in two years with the club. It’s safe to say he needs a change of scenery after signing a 4 year/$64 million deal in December of 2019, and the same could be said of Gregorius. Both players are blocked by young talent on each team, Moustakas by Jonathan India and Gregorius by Bryson Stott. The Phillies have an abundance of catching prospects, so moving Marchan for infield insurance if Alec Bohm struggles in 2022 might not be a bad plan.

Player Predictions:

Rhys Hoskins:

For his career, Hoskins has been remarkably consistent outside his torrential rookie season. Since then, his OPS has been between .819 and .887 at the conclusion of each year. However, in 2020 and 2021, injuries befell Hoskins in what were shaping up to be impressive seasons for the veteran slugger. Slowly, this seems to be becoming a trend.

It seems almost inevitable that Hoskins misses time this season, whether that’s through the groin injuries that nagged him throughout the 2021 season or another freak accident like his UCL tear in Miami during Sept. 2020.

Either way, just like the last few seasons, Hoskins will probably have an OPS of about .860 and if he plays a full season, 2022 could be the year Hoskins breaks his home run record of 34 set in 2018.

Bryce Harper:

Harper’s second Hank Aaron Award in 2021 was a welcome surprise, but not wholly unexpected. The Phillies signed Harper to be a superstar hitter and he was all that and more in 2021 while outperforming his career BAbip by .039.

That probably indicates some regression from the 2021 MVP finalist, but even factoring in a deviation back to the norm, Harper's career OPS is still .916. More than likely he won’t repeat 2021, a slashline for Harper in 2022 could look something like his 2020 season, .288/.415/.535 with 32 home runs. Baseball Reference predicts .275/.390/.529.

J.T. Realmuto:

Year in and year out, Phillies fans can expect phenomenal defense from at least one position on the diamond. Though Realmuto should have won his third Gold Glove in 2021, it's easy to predict that he’ll pick up that award next year. Less easy to predict is Realmuto’s year-to-year hitting.

Since arriving in Philadelphia from Miami, Realmuto has an .808 OPS with the Phillies over three seasons. While his batting average and OBP have been consistent, fluctuating between .263 to .275 and between .328 to .349 respectively, Realmuto’s slugging has been less so.

Realmuto’s slugging in 2021 dropped from .491 to .439, his lowest since 2017, the same for his ISO(.176) and HR%(3.2%). Hopefully that drop in power is simply due to the nagging back injuries from which the Phillies catcher suffered from throughout the second-half. A healthy slash line for Realmuto might look like: .265/.340/.470.

Alec Bohm:

There’s no denying Bohm’s struggles last season, both at the plate and in the field. If the Phillies want to succeed in 2022 and beyond, Bohm must avoid being the latest Phillies' development bust. Hope is, however, apparent for the lanky third basemen. Starting in June, Bohm hit .293 with an OBP of .361. While his power was still nonexistent—he slugged .383 in that span—his bat to ball skills finally showed up.

In October the Phillies fired hitting coach Joe Dillon just to bring in his mentor Kevin Long from the Washington Nationals. This move, while sure to please veterans who’ve worked with him in the past like Harper, is also meant to help fix Bohm’s long, loopy swing. Looking ahead, Bohm’s 2nd half might be a model to base upon 2022 predictions. His slash line next year might look something like .290/.355/.400 with 12 home runs.

Zack Wheeler:

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Just like Bryce Harper, it isn’t entirely realistic to expect Zack Wheeler to repeat a Cy Young finalist season. It is realistic to expect what we’ve seen of his past two years with the Phillies to continue.

Wheeler’s FIP in 2021 was 2.59, indicating that the Phillies defense failed him to an extent given his 2.78 actual ERA. However, a .291 BAbip vs his career .302 BAbip mean that Wheeler has also had some luck involved in his brilliant season.

In 43 starts for the Phillies since 2020, Wheeler has averaged 6.2 IP per start, an elite total for the era in which he plays. If Wheeler can stay healthy, he’s the sort of player who could consistently throw 200 innings a season. In 2022, his line may look something like: 2.98 ERA, 31 starts, 202 IP, and 213 strikeouts.

Aaron Nola:

As consistent as Wheeler has been since arriving with the Phillies in 2020, Nola has been a model of inconsistency since 2018. On the surface, a 3.54 ERA over the four seasons since 2017 seems solid, until you factor in a low of 2.37 in 2018 and a high of 4.63 last year.

However, advanced stats tend to show Nola severely underperformed in 2021, his FIP was 3.37, his xERA 3.39 and his SIERA 3.26. What these formulas fail to take into account is Nola’s lack of fastball command. Unable to establish command of his fastball, hitters in 2021 were able to sit on a breaking pitch in pitchers counts, and to say batters feasted in those situations puts things mildly.

In 0-1 counts, opponents hit .365 and in 0-2 and 1-2 counts, opponents hit eight home runs. Should Nola return to form, he’ll need to work on controlling his fastball this offseason. A prospective line for him might look something like: 3.71 ERA, 33 starts, 191 IP, and 225 strikeouts.

Ranger Suarez:

Suarez burst onto the scene with an explosive 2021 in which he had an ERA comparable with Bob Gibson and a 2021 comparable with Jacob deGrom. Obviously, that won’t happen next year due to variance and luck.

Yet, that’s not to say Ranger won’t still be a force in the Phillies rotation in 2022. The deceptive lefty boasts a wicked sinker/changeup combo with a decent fastball and a slider that improved drastically once Suarez moved into the rotation in August. Should those pitches continue to be effective for Suarez, he could establish himself as an impressive MLB starter.

However, Suarez has never pitched more than 140 innings in a season, and he did that last in 2018. With a history of nagging injuries, Suarez may have trouble getting through the 2022 season without missing a couple starts. A 2022 pitching line for Suarez might look something like: 3.34 ERA, 25 starts, 154 IP, and 141 strikeouts.

NL East Predictions

Atlanta Braves: 89-73

The Braves have been the class of the National League East for years now, winning the NL East consecutively with apparent ease. However, they are losing a considerable haul of impact players to free agency: 1B Freddie Freeman, SP Drew Smyly, OF Jorge Soler, OF Eddie Rosario, OF Joc Pederson, and OF Chris Martin.

Though it seems almost a given the Braves will retain hometown hero Freeman, the rest will likely command large salaries after stellar World Series performances. The Braves do have money to spend, but more likely they’ll spend it on the rotation and Freeman than retaining their trio of free agent outfielders as Ronald Acuna, Jr. is still set to return mid-season.

Philadelphia Phillies: 87-75

The Phillies have improved one win per year since 2018 (not counting the shortened 2020 season), perhaps this will be the year they finally leap forward. With future Hall of Famer Dombrowski and the new front office at the helm for a full offseason, the Phillies are poised to make significant moves. Dombrowski isn’t the type to content himself with mediocrity.

However, the farm is bleak, the only resource the Phillies have in excess is money. Should the Phillies want to really compete, majority owner John Middleton must open his wallet this offseason and break the luxury tax for the first time in club history.

New York Mets: 82-80

With Steve Cohen at the helm, the Mets seem just as much a debacle as they ever have. While Cohen is surely willing to spend what seems to be a Scrooge McDuck level fortune, he must first find a general manager, a search which has not gone well.

The Mets are losing OF Michael Conforto, SP Marcus Stroman, INF Javy Baez, RP Jeurys Familia, RP Aaron Loup, SP Rich Hill, OF Kevin Pillar, and SP Noah Syndergaard to free agency this offseason. Much like the Phillies, if the Mets want to see their way out of the mediocrity quagmire, they must spend their way out.

Miami Marlins: 77-85

For the first time in what seems like ages, the Marlins are poised to be somewhat competitive in 2022. With new General Manager Kim Ng at the helm, a wealth of prospects/young talent, and a diminutive payroll, the Marlins have a bright future.

While they aren’t ready to be truly competitive in 2022, players like Jazz Chisholm, Jr., Trevor Rogers, Pablo Lopez and Jesus Luzardo are primed to break out. Couple that with prospects like Edward Cabrera, Sixto Sanchez and Max Meyer ready to see MLB action in 2022, the Marlins have the makings of a dominant young rotation.

Washington Nationals: 69-93

The Nationals are in a sad place. Just three years removed from a World Championship in 2022, they’re already uncompetitive. Winning just 65 games in 2021, their post trade deadline record was 17-41. Still, hitting-wise the Nationals do have talent in bats like Juan Soto and Josh Bell.

However, their pitching situation is bleak. They’ll feel the weight of Pat Corbin’s $140 million deal for another three years, he’s owed $35.4 million in 2024. Even Steven Strasburg, who signed a seven-year, $245 million extension prior to 2020 is a question mark for 2022, having received surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome midseason.

If Nationals fans have anything to cling to, at least they get to watch Juan Soto for another three seasons… as long as he isn’t traded.

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