Fans expect the outfield defense to be better in 2024
If anything defined the 2023 Phillies, it was a period when the outfield defense was simply dreadful. With Bryce Harper recovering from offseason Tommy John surgery, and a knee injury in Spring Training that would find Rhys Hoskins lost for the entire season, the depth of the Phillies was challenged from opening day until the middle of summer.
Ever the selfless leader, Kyle Schwarber accepted the role as the everyday left fielder to help Bryce Harper get at-bats at DH when he first returned to the team in May and was still a few months away from being able to field a position. It became abundantly clear that Schwarber was not the right man for the job almost from the start.
Kyle Schwarber has never been fleet of foot, but his time in left field last season was a frustrating mess of poor routes to fly balls and an inability to make routine plays when the team needed it most in close games. Schwarber's time as the everyday left fielder came to a merciful end when Bryce Harper shifted to playing first base in the middle of July, and the team was able to call up defensively gifted outfield prospect Johan Rojas in a last-ditch effort to save runs.
According to FanGraphs, the Phillies ranked 26 out of 30 teams last season in overall outfield defense with -5 DRS and a -15 Ultimate Zone Rating. They saw improvement once Rojas was brought up, but questions regarding how his hitting will develop alongside his defense is a major topic of speculation this offseason.
If Rojas isn't going to be that guy in 2024, last season's defensive numbers prove that the Phillies need to sign or trade for an outfielder who can defend at an average to an above-average level.