By Gregory Brower
Finally, it’s baseball season. That is a sentence that hasn’t been uttered in Philadelphia for what feels like forever. But, here we are, about to kick off the 2019 campaign, and the Philadelphia Phillies are back to being entertaining and, more importantly, competitive.
Biggest Breakout Star: Nick Pivetta
The most over-hyped player in baseball for the 2019 season is probably Nick Pivetta. Not over-hyped because people are calling for him to win 20 games and compete for the Cy Young, but because many people see a breakout season for Pivetta.
Pivetta has a lot going for him this season. First off, if you have a career ERA 5.33, you only have one way to go, and that way is up. Last season he posted a 4.77 ERA and only went 7-14. You’re probably thinking, “Why would he be poised for a breakout year?” Easy; don’t be a sucker and look at the tape.
In baseball, it’s all about the tape. The same way we all knew Ben Simmons would be an all-time great by the way he moves on the correct, Pivetta’s tape says he’s better than 4.77. Last year, he ranked top-15 in baseball when it came to strike out percentage (27.1 percent), ground ball percentage (46.7 percent) and K/9 (10.32).
Pivetta also isn’t being leaned on as “the guy” for the Phillies, he’s not even the second “guy.” With Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta, Pivetta can fly under the radar. So, I’m not just calling for a breakout year from Pivetta, I’m calling for a possible All-Star appearance and he will receive Cy Young votes. Probably just about one or two, but that still counts.
Boldest Prediction: Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper out-homer Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge
That’s right, the Bronx Bombers won’t be able to outslug the Bash Bros in South Philly. I’m thinking Hoskins knocks 37 and Harper hits 42 for a combined 79 homers while the boys in the Bronx will just pass 70.
Phillies Biggest Trade: Zack Wheeler
The Phillies didn’t sign a starter this offseason, and at the trade deadline, they will be forced to be big-time buyers. The Mets are the Mets, and some people have them as the dark horse to win the NL East. Wheeler will be a free agent after this season. With New York signing Jacob DeGrom to a hefty extension, they will have to decide if they want to shell out big money for Wheeler, as well. My guess is the answer is no.
At the trade deadline, the Phillies, Nationals and even the Braves will be in front of the Mets in the standings, forcing the Mets to be sellers in the trade market. It will take a lot to get it done, but I think the Phillies will pull the trigger and, not only add Wheeler, but also re-sign him at season’s end.
Biggest Surprise: Phillies sign Craig Kimbrel
The 2019 baseball season is a week into play and Kimbrel is still unsigned. What in the world? The rumors out there say that Kimbrel is getting interest from the Brewers, Braves, Nationals and Phillies. If this is true, then the Phillies need to pay whatever the asking price is just to keep Kimbrel off of the other three rosters. At this point, the National League is a dog fight. If you’re the Phillies you can’t, under any circumstances, let your biggest competitors go get a guy that can swing the power of the league.
Official Season Result: 92-70
The Phillies will go 92-70 this season. They will also clinch the NL East on the very last day of the season after being one game behind the Nationals, just to keep things interesting. They will sweep the Marlins in the final series of the season while the Nationals go 1-2 versus the Indians. Philadelphia makes it to the World Series after beating the Brewers in the NLCS after seven games. Unfortunately, they just aren’t ready to hang with the big dogs that are the reigning World Series champions, and Boston takes care of Philadelphia in six games.
Whatever happens, exciting baseball is back in Philly.