The wait is over. Philadelphia Phillies spring training will get underway this week down in Clearwater, Florida, as pitchers and catchers report on Tuesday ahead of their first workout the following day.
Manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Caleb Cotham, and the rest of the coaching staff will begin to assess the new-look roster, particularly its bullpen and starting rotation additions.
Constructing the perfect 2021 Phillies lineup
As for the starting lineup, the names are pretty much the same from the 2020 season, especially given the Phillies re-signed both Didi Gregorius and J.T. Realmuto. The only significant change is that there will not be a universal designated hitter this coming season, meaning pitchers will once again hit against other National League teams.
Here is the ideal 1-through-8 lineup order Girardi should consider in his second year with the team.
1. Andrew McCutchen, LF (R)
Returning for his third season in red pinstripes, the 2021 season might be the last chance for Phillies left fielder Andrew McCutchen to be on a team with a deep postseason run. The 12-year veteran — who has a $15 million team option or $3 million buyout for 2022 — has played in 13 postseason games in his career, but none beyond the Division Series level.
The five-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger, and one-time MVP is a .269/.363/.461 career hitter in the leadoff position, slugging 59 home runs and 196 RBI spanning 397 games and 1,780 plate appearances.
McCutchen thrived in the role in 2019 while donning red pinstripes, before his season-ending ACL injury. In 59 games, he produced a .378 on-base percentage and .457 slugging percentage, scoring 45 runs and recording 12 doubles, 10 home runs, 29 RBI, and 43 walks. He logged 236 plate apeparances batting first this past season, recording a still-respectable .322 on-base percentage, .423 slugging percentage, nine doubles, nine home runs, 31 RBI, and 21 walks across 53 games.
Any ideal leadoff hitter is able to work deep counts and get on-base for power hitters later on down in the lineup. The 34-year-old still fits this description to the tee.