The Phillies’ starting lineup has been anything but constant this season, having used 84 different variations (excluding starting pitchers). The Phillies won’t be the first to tell you they’re looking for a bit more consistently throughout their lineup as they look to end their five-year playoff drought, their longest since they failed to reach the postseason during a 13 season stretch from 1994-2006.
With multiple top level prospects expected to arrive next year, expect the 2018 lineup to be much different. The current lineup has failed to produce, averaging 4.10 runs per game (third worst in the majors). The 2017 season is nearly complete, leaving many fans looking ahead to next year, hoping the lineup below offers a bit more promise than this past season.
Catcher: Jorge Alfaro
Alfaro was one of the main pieces of the blockbuster trade which saw the Phillies trade long tenured pitcher Cole Hamels to the Rangers last season. Alfaro, having been promoted weeks ago, looks to stick around for good. Cameron Rupp, the current starting catcher, has regressed after a promising 2016 season where he hit .252 with 16 home runs. Alfaro has impressed in a limited sample size, hitting .347 this season. He’s also showcased his impressive arm strength, throwing out one third of all runners (12th in all of Major League Baseball). Unless Alfaro struggles mightily from now until the 2018 opener, expect him to be the Opening Day catcher.
First Base: Rhys Hoskins
Hoskins has been good as advertised for the Phillies, breaking records left and right and winning over the fans in just a few short weeks. Hoskins has been able to showcase a rare combination of both power and plate discipline, boasting a .420 on base percentage paired with a .776 slugging percentage. Hoskins has always had a knack for finding a way to get on base, and it has stuck with him so far in the majors. Current first baseman Tommy Joseph is no slouch, smashing 20 home runs on the season, but his sub par .250 average has greatly diminished his chances of being the Phillies first baseman for next season. Expect the Phillies to look for a trade partner now, while his value is still somewhat high. Hoskins has earned the Phillies first base job for next year. I’m expecting the Phillies coaching staff to agree.
Second Base: Scott Kingery
Having impressed through all levels of the minors since being selected 48th overall in the 2015 draft, Kingery has quickly risen all the way to Triple-A this season. He has handled the promotion in stride, slashing .293 to go along with eight home runs in 60 games. His defense and versatility have been outstanding as well, having committed just three errors across 57 games at three positions (2nd, 3rd, and shortstop). Cesar Hernandez, the current second baseman, is expected to be the Phillies top utility player provided he remains with the club beyond this season. Kingery has all the tools to be a successful second baseman at the next level, expect him to be on the Opening Day lineup card at second base.
Third Base: JP Craword
While the hype around Crawford might not be what it was a season or two ago, Crawford is still a solid player. Despite hitting just .239 on the year, his ability to get on base has remained high at .347 this season. Crawford has been a shortstop his entire career, but with Galvis playing Gold Glove defense, that might change. Crawford has recently begun taking reps at third base, which is currently occupied by Maikel Franco. After showing promise early in his career, Franco has failed to build on it, posting career lows in batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage (minimum 80 games played). Crawford may never live up to the shortstop of the future every fan and analyst though he would be two years ago, but he can still be a starting player in this league. I expect him to get his opportunity next year.
Shortstop: Freddy Galvis
I can’t imagine a scenario where Freddy Galvis isn’t the Phillies starting shortstop next season. Galvis has done everything he’s been asked since taken over for franchise icon Jimmy Rollins. Galvis has played stellar defense, with just six errors this season and eight last season (290 games). His offensive game has improved as well, slashing .252 on the year. Galvis should and will be the Phillies shortstop for next season.
Left Field: Aaron Altherr
Left field may be the most difficult position to predict. The Phillies have a slew of outfielders right now, but many likely won’t be with the club next year. At just 26 years old, I can’t imagine players like Daniel Nava and Michael Saunders being on the opening day roster over Altherr next season. When healthy, Altherr has impressed, playing solid defense and showcasing the necessary power for a corner outfielder, amassing 16 home runs in just 87 games in 2017. While Altherr may never be a superstar, he is a solid player who shouldn’t have too much trouble manning left field on opening day.
Center Field: Odubel Herrera
In the first of a five-year, $30.5 million contract handed to him just before this season, Herrera has played fairly well, batting .287 with 12 home runs in 110 games. Herrera has committed just two errors in the field as well after spending most of his minor league career at second base with the Rangers. Herrera has been one of the Phillies best hitters this season before his injury. I expect him to be our Opening Day center fielder for the fourth straight season.
Right Field: Nick Williams
Williams, a June call-up, has played good all around baseball. Williams has yet to commit an error while making plenty of highlight reel plays. At just 23 years old, Williams should only improve. Expect him to see more pitches next year with better hitters surrounding him.
Opening Day Starting Pitcher: Aaron Nola
Nola has looked good this season, posting a 3.72 era in 142 2/3 innings to go along with 148 strikeouts. Nola still has room to grow at just 24 years old, and could benefit from some actual run support next year. Nola, who has yet to pitch on Opening Day, should finally get his first chance when the 2018 season begins.