The Hot Stove season this year is now be moving into a period of less signing and more speculation, and Philadelphia Phillies fans are just like all the rest. They get to speculate, and read other speculators’ speculations, for several more weeks in all likelihood since most of the big-name free agents have been signed.
This tends to be at least a little bit of fun and always allows most predictors to look back at the end of the year and admit they were wrong, wrong, wrong usually.
This does nothing to slow down the speculation.
Most recently, for example, MLB.com’s Phillies writer Todd Zolecki delivered himself of five predictions for the NL-champion Phillies. You may make what you will of his predictions yourself. For myself, it seems his most likely foretold outcome is that Aaron Nola will sign a contract extension this spring. Zolecki could have followed this prediction with only one of his supporting sentences: “Nola’s presence in the rotation is a major reason why the Phillies never pursued deGrom, Justin Verlander or Carlos Rodón this offseason.”
The writer’s least likely prediction would have to be that minor-league pitcher Andrew Painter will be among the top three in Rookie of the Year voting. This is a tough row to hoe for any pitcher, let alone one who won’t even be 20 years old on Opening Day and whose total innings, as Zolecki notes, will be closely monitored. A top three finish would cause some to declare that Painter is Dwight Gooden 2.0.
By all accounts Painter will be “the real deal.” Just don’t expect it this year.
On to our own Philadelphia Phillies predictions for 2023
First, Philadelphia will win at least 90 regular-season games for the first time in a dozen years. Even with Bryce Harper on the mend from surgery until June, minimally, that figure seems very much a goal the Phillies can reach. After all, Trea Turner (Harper’s “favorite” player) and Taijuan Walker have been added to the roster, and last season, when Harper went down for an extended time with a broken thumb, his teammates did not fold. In fact, almost immediately they picked up their pace with players who seemed unlikely contributors even as late as mid-June.
The Phillies have a very good clubhouse, an invaluable intangible.
Second, Kyle Schwarber will have a higher batting average than .218, the figure he posted in 2022. Of course, a similar prediction could be made for many players because the defensive shift will be banned next season.
Oh, the analytics teams will work feverishly to figure out how to handle this, but they won’t have it figured out by next season. Foul lines will be open; holes will be open. And infielders will have to begin plays with both feet in the infield.
Next, former Phillies second baseman, Jean Segura, now a Miami Marlin, will hit at least .310 against Philadelphia. A smart hitter, Segura played for four years behind many of the Phillies pitchers. His stay in Philly was as long as he played in Milwaukee, and longer than he played in Los Angeles, Arizona or Seattle. He has only become a smarter hitter with age and will know what’s coming against the Phils, and as per point two above … no shifts.
Fourth, Matt Vierling, who basically platooned with Brandon Marsh after the trade deadline this past season, will be traded at the coming season’s trade deadline for an unknown need at this point. Marsh will become the everyday Phillies center fielder after his 2022 batting improvement from .226 with the Angels to .288 with the Fightin’s.
And finally, the out-on-a-limb prediction: Aaron Nola will finally win the NL Cy Young at the age of 30 after two top four finishes since 2018, and three in the top 10 in his career. According to casual fans, Nola “never” gets any run support, but, in fact, was 14th in the NL in run support in ’22 at 4.57 per nine innings. Next season, the Philadelphia Phillies offense will push him into the top 10 with more than five runs per nine frames.