The Philadelphia Phillies will welcome the division-rival Atlanta Braves to Citizens Bank Park on Thursday, March 28 as they kick off the 2024 season. Here’s our second look at what manager Rob Thomson‘s lineup might look like to open the season.
No. 1: Kyle Schwarber, DH
Schwarber isn’t the prototypical leadoff hitter, but he’s comfortable at that spot and the Phillies have reached the NLCS in consecutive years with him hitting primarily out of the top spot in the lineup. It probably makes more sense for the Phillies to have a left-handed hitter at the top of the lineup, and while they could be Bryson Stott, we’re going to guess Thomson will give Schwarber the first crack.
No. 2: Trea Turner, SS
So much has been made about the standing ovation a struggling Turner received at Citizens Bank Park in early August, that not enough attention has been paid to just how staggering his offensive production was in the second half of the season. Even though he didn’t hit his stride until weeks after the All-Star Break, Turner slashed .292/.348/.554 with 16 home runs, 44 RBIs and a .902 OPS. That’s MVP-level production if Turner comes close to sustaining it over the course of a full year, particularly if he has a defensive bounce-back.
No. 3: Bryce Harper, 1B
Between 2018 and 2020, Harper slashed .257/.388/.509 with an .897 OPS in 374 games between the Washington Nationals and Phillies. He was an All-Star level player, but not a superstar. Since the start of 2021, Harper has slashed .297/.402/.546 with a .948 OPS in 366 games. His biggest issue has been his availability. The conclusion you’re left with is that if Harper is indeed able to stay on the field in 2024, he could compete for his third NL MVP.
No. 4: Nick Castellanos, RF
If history is any indicator, there are going to be some ice-cold stretches from Castellanos where Thomson can’t justify having him hit cleanup. But Castellanos homered 29 times, drove in 106 runs and was an All-Star a year ago. As he enters his third season of a five-year/$100 million free-agent deal, the guess here is Castellanos will be given an opportunity to hit higher than seventh, the spot he occupied during last postseason.
No. 5: Alec Bohm, 3B
Bohm could hit cleanup for the Phillies to open the season, which is what he did during last postseason. However, despite an NLCS Game 7 home run, Bohm was one of the few Phillies hitters who struggled for most of the playoff run, hitting .239. Bohm set career-highs in home runs (20) and RBIs (97) a year ago, but it still doesn’t feel like the former first-round pick has reached his ceiling at the plate yet.
No. 6: Bryson Stott, 2B
Stott could very well lead off for the Phillies, but he did his best work out of the No. 6 spot a year ago, hitting .357 with a .900 OPS in 139 plate appearances. As a leadoff hitter, he hit .253 with a .635 OPS. Wherever he hits, Stott is an excellent contact hitter, who was a Gold Glove finalist a year ago. If the 26-year-old hits closer to .300 in 2023 — after hitting .280 a year ago — he could be an All-Star candidate.
No. 7: J.T. Realmuto, C
Realmuto had arguably the best season of his career in 2022, slashing .276/.342/.478 with 22 home runs, 84 RBIs and an .820 OPS. But after winning his third-career Silver Slugger Award in 2022, Realmuto saw quite a bit of dip offensively in 2023, slashing .252/.310/.452 with 20 home runs, 63 RBIs and a .762 OPS. Realmuto is still among the better catchers in baseball, but when you factor in that two-time Gold Glover also had -4 defensive runs saved in 2023, he probably has relinquished the best catcher in baseball title. Can you win a World Series title with the 2023 version of Realmuto? Absolutely. But it would be a shot in the arm for the Phillies if Relamuto, set to turn 33 in March, has one more elite season in him.
No. 8: Brandon Marsh, LF
Marsh underwent successful arthroscopic debridement surgery on his left knee Friday, with the Phillies noting that they believe the 26-year-old will “return to playing at three-to-four weeks and be ready to play by Opening Day.” The Phillies continue to say they believe Marsh is an everyday player, and he improved quite a bit against left-handed pitching a year ago, posting a .717 OPS in 110 plate appearances. For context, Marsh had a meager .486 OPS against left-handed pitching across 105 plate appearances in 2022. The question then becomes, has Marsh improved enough against left-handed pitching to get even more at-bats against southpaws, or do the Phillies believe he’ll be exposed if given a larger sample size?
No. 9: Johan Rojas, CF
Recent quotes from Thomson and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski — along with the lack of a serious internal challenger — lead you to believe that Rojas will be the Opening Day center fielder. We’ve written ad-nauseam about how his .410 batting average on balls in play during the regular season was unsustainable, and he was exposed in the playoffs, striking out 15 times in 43 at-bats. From here, he needs to see some more pitches in 2024, while also becoming a more effective bunter.
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