If the Phillies are going to take the next step in 2024 and return to the World Series, Zack Wheeler and Bryce Harper will be two of the main reasons why. In this respect, fans should be encouraged by FanGraphs' Steamer player projections for next season.
Starting with Wheeler, FanGraphs projects him to have the second-best WAR among all pitchers in 2024, at 4.7. Only the Braves' Spencer Strider is placed ahead of him, with a 4.9 WAR.
As anyone who's familiar with FanGraphs and Steamer would expect, they go very in-depth with their player projections. They have the Phillies staff ace going 13-10 in 32 starts and pitching a combined 197 innings.
In the process, Wheeler is projected to produce a 3.54 ERA, 3.67 FIP, and 1.15 WHIP. He is also predicted to have a 24.7 percent strike rate and a 5.8 percent walk rate.
While positive in general, what's interesting about these projections is that the 2021 NL strikeout leader would actually be less productive than this past season. He's coming off a campaign where he had the second-best WAR of his career, as per FanGraphs, at 5.9. (His best WAR came in 2021, at 7.2.)
While Wheeler's projected ERA would be slightly better than the 3.61 ERA from this year, it's the opposite story in most other categories already mentioned. He's coming off a season where he had a 3.15 FIP, 1.078 WHIP, 26.9 percent strike rate and 5.0 percent walk rate.
Of course, none of this takes away from FanGraphs still having the 33-year-old projected to be one of the very best starting pitchers in all of baseball. As a collective the Phillies rotation needs to step it up next year, but at least they appear set to be able to once again rely on Wheeler as their one constant.
Bryce Harper set to return to form in 2024
As for Harper, while he certainly had his moments during 2023, overall it wasn't the greatest, with him capable of more. With this in mind, he looks set to be more consistently productive next year, at least according to Steamer's projections.
For a start, compared to 21 home runs and 72 RBI, the seven-time All-Star is projected to hit 30 and 97 respectively next season. For some context, the home run total would be the fifth best of his career, while the RBI figure would be fourth best.
Further, Harper is predicted to have a .283/.339/.517 slash line and .906 OPS. While the batting average and OBP would be down, his slugging percentage and OPS would trend upwards, while also being projected as 12th and seventh best respectively among all players.
Interestingly, the two-time NL MVP's wRC+ of 142 would be exactly the same as this past season, but for what it's worth, it would still be tied for 10th best among all Major Leaguers. Finally, his projected 4.0 WAR would be an improvement on this year's 3.3.
Overall, we realize that statistics can often be manipulated to support an argument, plus, we appreciate the numbers being discussed are not even guaranteed. Regardless, the overriding point is that FanGraphs see Wheeler and Harper as both being extremely productive next season, which is a more than reasonable assessment to conclude.