Phillies look to ride Philadelphia’s winning karma
March 08, 2018 8:52 AM
by Mark Mayer
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 11th of 30 at-bats for the upcoming 2018 major league baseball season. On deck Friday, the Baltimore Orioles).
It didn’t used to be this way in Philadelphia, which couldn’t find a winner between the Eagles, Flyers, 76ers and Phillies for decades. Now the Eagles are Super Bowl champs, the Flyers are threating for the best record in the NHL’s Eastern Conference and the Sixers have gone from laughing stock to almost a lock to make the NBA playoffs.
So why not the Phillies? Well, they get to see the teams in their way of the front-running Washington Nationals in the first week of the regular season. They open on the road against Atlanta and the New York Mets, then return home to face rebuilding Miami. Washington doesn’t even come up until May 4.
By that time Rhys Hoskins may have 15 homers. It was Hoskins that became an instant celeb in Philly by doing what no player in major league history had ever done at the start of a career – 18 homers in his first 34 games. That made him the most impactful player in fantasy leagues over the last two months, although his batting average dipped way down to .227.
On the depth chart, Hoskins is listed to play either first base or left field. His odds to win the MLB home run title are 40-1. Well, at the very least he figures to hit more homers than Reese Witherspoon but she does have the edge in Academy Awards.
At age 24, Hoskins joins third baseman Maikel Franco (25) and pitcher Aaron Nola (24) as the future foundation for seeing the Phillies make their way back to prominence. Nola is in fine form this spring, coming off a 4-inning, 1-hit, 0-runs, 0-walks, 5-strikeout gem Wednesday. The ace right-hander is off two straight 12-11 seasons with a career ERA of around 3.70.
Franco, despite hitting 63 homers in his short career including 24 last year, is not a fan of fantasy geeks due to a low batting average and failure to show advancement in their eyes. Philly management would tend to disagree though likely would concede that it’s time for him to have a breakout 2018.
The Phils are still very much a work in progress. Unless you follow the team on a regular basis chances are you couldn’t name anyone else on the roster or even the manager Gabe Kapler. That’s the challenge this season – to become more than a 3-player team.
The Phillies are 125-1 to win the World Series and 10-1 to unseat the Nationals as NL East champs. That’s good enough for third according to the boys at South Point, but both the Braves and Mets figure to be much better than a year ago.
Encore: Signing either Jake Arrieta or Lance Lynn sure would take a lot of pressure off Nola in the starting rotation. Just sayin’.
2017 record: 66-96
2016 record: 71-91
2015 record: 63-99
World Series win odds: 125-1
Odds to win NL East: 10-1 (3rd)
2018 season win total: 76