Phillies 2024 Preview
After their defeat to the Diamondbacks in the NLCS last year, the Phillies find themselves viewed differently. The atmosphere has changed, leading to adjusted expectations. While reaching the NLCS is significant, it's now the standard for the organization in 2024. However, the primary objective remains winning a World Series ring, with anything less considered a letdown. 

The shift in vibes and the weight of expectations are unmistakable. 

"I want our (expletive) trophy back, go get it, it's time." a passionate John Middleton reportedly conveyed to the team behind closed doors in Clearwater before their first full-squad workout.

Middleton holds the majority stake in the club and is one of the most visible owners in professional sports. He deeply cares about the product and exhibits unwavering passion for his investment. He has demonstrated his readiness to invest substantial funds to enhance the roster. 

This offseason, the club secured Aaron Nola with a lucrative $172 million, seven-year extension and extended Zack Wheeler with a substantial $126 million for a three-year deal. As a result, the team's payroll for 2024, as reported by Spotrac, stands at approximately $245 million. Factoring in the MLB luxury tax, this figure balloons to around $262 million—marking the highest payroll in franchise history by a significant margin. 

Middleton's now-famous "be a little bit stupid with money" statement from 2018 resonates as a bold declaration. Yet, his subsequent actions have underscored his readiness to invest substantially and surpass luxury tax limits if it means constructing a championship-caliber team on the field. And that's precisely the vision for the Phillies in 2024. With most sportsbooks setting the Phillies' over/under win total at around 88.5, excitement is building. Additionally, the club finds itself with the third shortest odds to claim the World Series title, trailing only the formidable Dodgers and division-rival Braves. 

As the Phillies gear up to launch the 2024 season at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday, locking horns with the Braves at 3:05 p.m., a feeling of déjà vu permeates. The Opening Day roster resembles the squad that trailed the Braves by 14 games each of the past two seasons, but won decisively both times in the postseason. 

Last year, the Phillies hit their lowest point in June, slipping seven games below .500. Yet, they orchestrated a remarkable turnaround, finishing the season with a strong 65-40 record. This pace, if maintained through a 162-game season, equates to a 100-win performance. Avoiding a sluggish start will be crucial this year. 

Fortunately, the team will begin the season with Bryce Harper back in the lineup. Harper missed the first six weeks last season while recovering from elbow surgery. In addition to his formidable batting skills, Harper significantly boosted the team's defense with his above-average performance at first base. He concluded the regular season with a +2 outs above average, as per Statcast, tying for the third-highest OAA among Phillies first basemen since 2016. Additionally, he accumulated one defensive run saved, according to FanGraphs 

Phillies projected lineup 
Kyle Schwarber, DH 
Trea Turner, SS 
Bryce Harper, 1B 
J.T. Realmuto, C 
Alec Bohm, 3B 
Bryson Stott, 2B 
Nick Castellanos, RF 
Brandon Marsh, LF 
Johan Rojas, CF 

Kyle Schwarber's power-hitting ability is well-established, even if his batting average tends to be lower. J.T. Realmuto posted a putrid slash line at Citizens Bank Park last year (.198/.257/.320), not reflective of what he brings to the plate. Alec Bohm showcased promising power, achieving career highs in home runs (20) and RBIs (97). There's reason to believe he could surpass these impressive figures in the upcoming 2024 season. 

The biggest question mark in the lineup looms over Johan Rojas, the 23-year-old centerfielder. Throughout the regular season, he showcased promise with a 111 OPS+ and an impressive .302 batting average over 59 games. However, doubts emerged as he disappeared entirely in the postseason, tallying just four hits in 43 at-bats. Despite his elite glove and remarkable speed, Rojas may find himself on a short leash, especially with Cristian Pache as an option off the bench. Rojas struggled in the spring too, posting a woeful .170 average. 

In addition to Pache, manager Rob Thomson can also move Marsh to center and put newly added Whit Merrifield in left field. 

Phillies projected rotation 
Zack Wheeler, RHP 
Aaron Nola, RHP 
Ranger Suarez, LHP 
Cristopher Sanchez, LHP 
Spencer Turnbull, RHP 

Taijuan Walker would be the No. 5 starter, but he's had an abbreviated spring because of an illness and an impingement in his throwing shoulder. Wheeler, Nola, and Suarez are known commodities at this point, and the 27-year-old Sanchez was a surprise last season, finishing 3-5 while posting a 3.44 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in 18 starts. Turnbull was signed as a free agent in mid-February after spending the previous five seasons with Detroit. He has a 4.55 career ERA over 60 starts. 

If there's a weak spot on the Phillies roster, the backend of the starting rotation could be it. 

As for the bullpen, Thomson opts not to designate specific roles, suggesting a closer-by-committee approach with Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, and potentially Jeff Hoffman sharing closing opportunities. Additionally, Orion Kerkering could play a role in high-leverage situations, but he's opening the year on the injured list after falling behind in his preparation in camp because of an illness. 

The Phillies possess postseason experience and the requisite talent to secure a World Series trophy for Philadelphia. Backed by proven resilience and strong team chemistry, all the essential elements are present to turn Middleton's demand for his trophy into a reality. 

However, merely making a deep postseason run won't be enough.

The vibes at Citizens Bank Park this summer will sure feel different.

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