Philadelphia Phillies: How many things actually must work in 2020?

Haseley produces the winning run, but will critical fans see him as more than a reserve outfielder? Photo by Nicole Fridling/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.
Haseley produces the winning run, but will critical fans see him as more than a reserve outfielder? Photo by Nicole Fridling/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. /
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(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Phillies seem to have largely assembled their team for 2020. Now, what has to go right for them to compete in the NL East?

As it is now abundantly as clear as it was about a month ago that the Philadelphia Phillies are basically going into the 2020 season with what they had ten days before Christmas, the mainstream sportswriters are beginning to deliver themselves of pieces about what needs to go right, or what might go wrong, with that squad.

Jan. 13 writer Matt Breen, who certainly knows this team, penned such a piece, enumerating several factors that would propel the Phillies into the playoffs.

These “high hopes,” to borrow from the late Harry Kalas, included, first, a “resurgent” Rhys Hoskins and, second, a “productive” end-of-contract, 34-year-old Jake Arrieta.

Next, Breen hopes Andrew McCutchen will have a full season of leading off for the team. And, finally, we have his fairly vague discussion under “better coaching” and the presumed arrivals of minor league third baseman Alec Bohm and minor league pitcher Spencer Howard.

Those last two guys, between them, have appeared in 69 Double-A games and have been invited to Spring Training. Both players have been college-level players before becoming pros; Bohm, as a position player, has the bulk of the 69 games between them, but the reviews of Howard’s work, which includes a Single-A no-hitter have been more glowing.

Breen seems confident both players will arrive in the Phillies clubhouse before the All-Star break, after pushing their free agency back another year with some more minor league work (which might actually be needed).

Clearly, of course, if all these matters work out well, the Phillies chances for the playoffs are in very good shape indeed. Among other things, if Howard could step into the rotation, say, in June, this would fill a hole in the rotation, specifically, the number four slot.

The number five spot should finally be awarded to one of three hurlers who have been trying to demonstrate they belong in an MLB rotation (or lately, bullpen) seemingly since the Kennedy administration, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez, and Nick Pivetta. What happens at number four before Howard arrives seems to involve a sketchy plan to fill-in with another of those guys, or somebody available on the cheap before or just after the team goes to Florida.

Here’s the problem with Breen’s list: At least three of those six predicted “happenings” seem more likely not to materialize than to produce fruit. You may pick your three; I know mine, and the list is topped by the notion that one of the two Double-A players really isn’t ready. Beyond that, there are a lot of known unknowns to the Philadelphia Phillies this year, chief among them the effects of new manager Joe Girardi and key coaches.

Thus, it would seem more hopes should be piled onto Matt Breen’s, suggesting other routes to the playoffs.