The Philadelphia Phillies began a three game series against the reigning NL champion New York Mets this evening at Citizens Bank Park.
Prior to each Phillies’ series, I highlight an opposing player for fans to watch as that series unfolds. I don’t think that I need to remind you how my pick for the Washington Nationals series performed. To be fair, I am pretty sure someone who has been living under a rock in recent years would have still picked Bryce Harper as Washington’s key to success.
The reigning NL MVP proved why he is arguably the best player in the game right now. He homered in all three games, terrorizing what had been a strong Philly staff. Harper has now hit a homerun in his last six games at Citizens Bank Park, and in 11 of his 31 games there over his career.
The 23-year old phenom is carving himself a place near the top of a long list of Phillies killers. One of the players he is trying to push aside is the key player I am choosing for the New York Mets as the Phillies open the final series of their first 2016 homestand.
David Wright is not the player he once was. The 33-year old third baseman has just a .364 slugging percentage through the Mets’ first eleven games of 2016. He does not have a homerun or any RBI as yet this season. He has thus been moved from his traditional three-hole spot into the two-hole early in the year.
Wright has walked at least once in every game this short season, and has a high .429 on-base percentage, which comes as no surprise. He has always been able to work deep counts and position himself to get into hitters counts.
The 12 year veteran has had only two seasons in which he did not hit for at least a .280 average with an OPS over the .800 mark. He has posted a WAR of 2.5 or better in every season except 2011, when he missed 60 games. Injuries have plagued him throughout his career, but when he healthy, Wright, is incredibly dangerous.
The reason I am picking the seven time All-Star is not because he is red-hot right now. It is not because there is no one else to pick. Remember, he hits in front of Yoenis Cespedes. And the Mets have strong young outfielder Michael Conforto, who I chose last weekend when these same two clubs met in New York.
I could have chosen Monday night’s starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard, because I think he is going to be a top three Cy Young Award candidate when the year ends. But it is the veteran Wright who gets the nod, mostly because he tears apart Citizens Bank Park.
If he plays all three games at CBP, Wright will have played 100 career games in the Phillies’ home ballpark. How has he done? Not bad. Only a .292 batting average with 20 homeruns and 67 RBI. The 20 bombs are more than any opposing player in CBP’s short lifetime (it may last only until the end of this season, after Harper hits here a few more times…but I digress.)
As long as Wright is in the lineup, he poses a threat to the Phillies, especially when he gets to play the villain in front of the City of Brotherly Love’s endearing fans. Over the last three seasons, Wright has slashed .351/.440/.562 against lefties, and .265/.329/.395 versus righties. While his numbers against right handers are not terrible, the Phillies have to be happy that they are not putting any lefties on the mound this week.
With Jerad Eickhoff, Vincent Velasquez, and Jeremy Hellickson on the mound, Wright could still see success. He had three hits in the previous series at Citi Field (one off Eickhoff and two off Hellickson). He did not play in the middle game against Velasquez.
The scouting report on Wright is difficult because he is so incredibly patient. He has a very short and compact swing. His path to the ball does not have any extra movement. More importantly, Wright refuses to overswing. Now that he is hitting second, he understands this role, and will be an even more difficult out for the Phillies.
As the Mets come in to visit the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, there always has to be extra attention paid to a veteran Phillies killer such as Wright. Stopping him will be a key, but finding ways to score runs themselves may prove the Phils’ biggest challenge.