Phillies' Loaded Offense Will Be About a Lot More Than Bryce Harper

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterMarch 29, 2019

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 28: Rhys Hoskins #17 and Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrate Hoskins grand slam in the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves on Opening Day at Citizens Bank Park on March 28, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

The first official test of the Philadelphia Phillies' new Bryce Harper-infused offense resulted in 10 runs.

Not bad, considering that Harper himself had little to do with it.

If this is an exaggeration, it's only because the one walk that Harper drew in Thursday's opener at Citizens Bank Park played a key role in the 10-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves. The $330 million man was walked intentionally in the seventh inning with two on and nobody out, which set up Rhys Hoskins for a grand slam payoff.

Hoskins isn't the only returning member of the Phillies' 2018 lineup—which scored a modest 4.2 runs per game amid the team's 80-win season—who grabbed the spotlight on Opening Day. Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez each pitched in RBI singles, and Maikel Franco drilled a long three-run home run.

As to the new guys, it was the other former MVP outfielder the Phillies added this offseason who made the biggest impression. Andrew McCutchen was Philadelphia's first batter of the 2019 season as well as its first entry into the home run column.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 28: Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a home run on his first at bat in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves on Opening Day at Citizens Bank Park on March 28, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Elsewhere, newcomer shortstop Jean Segura went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles, while newcomer catcher J.T. Realmuto drew a walk and scored a run. 

Relative to all this, Harper actually had the worst time of any Phillies hitter on Opening Day. He presumably enjoyed the ovations he got, but he surely would have enjoyed himself more if he hadn't gone 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

Of course, Harper will hit in the long run.

That's made plenty clear by the 26-year-old's track record, which included a .900 OPS and 184 career home runs when the Phillies inked him for the next 13 years in early March. The peak of that output was in his MVP-winning season in 2015, when he led MLB with a 1.109 OPS and co-led the National League with 42 home runs.

It speaks to Harper's offensive upside that he could put up an .889 OPS and 34 homers in 2018 and still have people feeling disappointed. To boot, said upside may go higher with the Phillies than it ever could with the Washington Nationals. In Philly, after all, he'll have the advantage of a bandbox home ballpark.

If Opening Day hinted at anything, however, it's that the Phillies offense will hardly need Harper to carry it.

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Start with Hoskins, who came into the season with an .889 OPS and 52 home runs in only 203 career major league games. Such numbers practically scream, "Middle-of-the-order hitter!" And between Hoskins' patience and his penchant for pulled fly balls, the goods are there to keep 'em coming.

Then to McCutchen. Though he's not the same hitter he was when he won the NL MVP in 2013, he's been good enough to put up an .820 OPS with 48 homers over the last two seasons. Hence the three-year, $50 million deal he signed last December.

McCutchen is also yet another hitter who must be thrilled to now be calling Citizens Bank Park home. He spent the first nine-and-a-half years of his career playing his home games at Pittsburgh's PNC Park and San Francisco's AT&T Park, which are both notorious power suppressors. 

Ditto for Realmuto, who escaped from the cavernous dimensions of Marlins Park when the Phillies traded for him in February. Between that and the upward trend his power output has been on, the Phillies can expect much more than the .825 OPS and 21 homers that drove his big 2018 breakout.

With Segura, a fellow trade acquisition, there might not be as much upside to explore. But based on his last three seasons, the Phillies know they can count on him for a batting average over .300 plus double digits in homers and stolen bases.

Between these five players, the Phillies can at least count on their offense to have a strong backbone this season. That alone would be a night-and-day difference from 2018, when Hoskins was the only Phillie to top an .800 OPS or 25 homers.

But if ever there's a time to think that the rest of the lineup shouldn't be sold short, it's right now.

Hernandez may not be the flashiest hitter, but he's quietly gotten on base at a .366 clip over the last three seasons. Herrera's returns have been diminishing of late, yet any center fielder who can average a .763 OPS with double digits in homers and steals is worth his keep.

As for Franco, whether he can hit or field consistently enough to improve the minus-0.3 wins above replacement (per Baseball Reference) that the Phillies got out of third base in 2018 remains an open question. But at the least, the bomb he hit Thursday is a sign that the power that produced 71 homers over the last three seasons is still there.

From top to bottom, this is a lineup without a true lightweight in it. That obviously doesn't mean the Phillies will realize their current pace of 1,620 runs, but offensive outbursts like the one they enjoyed on Opening Day shouldn't be uncommon.

Because if Harper is not hitting, chances are others will be.


Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.