Five bold Philadelphia Phillies predictions for the 2021 season
Now is a good time for baseball fans to look ahead — with the new year right around the corner and a new season inching closer. Here are five bold predictions for the Philadelphia Phillies next season — their second under manager Joe Girardi.
5. Zack Wheeler will be named a Cy Young Award finalist.
New Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham believes that Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Zach Eflin are each Cy Young Award contenders. For Wheeler, he finished 12th in Cy Young voting this season, his first time receiving votes. With a career year in his inaugural Phillies campaign, 2021 could very well see him be named one of the three finalists for the top pitching honor.
Wheeler posted a career-best 2.92 ERA and .667 win-loss percentage, which ranked eighth and sixth respectively in the National League. That ERA and his 2.0 walks per nine innings were best among Phillies starters, while his team-leading 2.9 WAR ranked second among NL pitchers. He could’ve had a chance at the Cy Young this year, where he had a 4-0 record, 2.20 ERA, and 1.089 WHIP through his first seven games, before struggling during his final four outings.
Wheeler seems to be at a good spot in his career. He’s in the second year of a five-year deal with the Phillies, which should mean less pressure, as he’s had time to get used to the team and doesn’t have to worry about free agency.
He also has four seasons under his belt since returning from Tommy John surgery, setting him up for a similar story to Hyun Jin Ryu, who missed nearly two seasons due to injury. Ryu’s numbers weren’t great in his first year back in 2017, but he did well in a 2018 campaign that saw him miss some time, before becoming a Cy Young finalist in each of the last two seasons, with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays.
Pitchers have seemingly snuck into the Cy Young picture before and Wheeler’s impressive 2020 performance, plus his contract position and new pitching coach to work with, put him in a good spot to be a finalist in 2021.