Kyle Schwarber has his 2024 assignment, but where should the Phillies hit the slugger?

It sounds like Schwarber won't need to play the outfield in 2024, but as the full-time DH, where should he hit in the Phillies lineup?

Kyle Schwarber, Philadelphia Phillies DH
Kyle Schwarber, Philadelphia Phillies DH / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages
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Will Kyle Schwarber be playing left field again in 2024? Don't count on it.

Todd Zolecki of MLB.com has reported that the Philadelphia Phillies aren't entertaining that as a possibility for next season, and Schwarber will be the team's primary DH going forward.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to Phillies fans, as Schwarber was dreadful in the field in 2023. In a move meant to help the team get Bryce Harper's bat back in the lineup following offseason Tommy John surgery, the defensively limited slugger had a tough time making routine outs, and some of those miscues proved costly.

Speaking to Zolecki, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was pretty clear that Kyle Schwarber was not a consideration for the position when the season begins.

“I’m not sure how the outfield is going to fall with the third spot, but if it is [Johan] Rojas, to me, that’s different,” Dombrowski explained to Zolecki. “We really hadn’t planned on Schwarber being our left fielder on a regular basis. So that’s changed.”

Following the success of the Bryce Harper first base experiment last season, Schwarber shifted back to the DH role. The Phillies were able to install defensively gifted rookie Johan Rojas into the outfield mix, which was a game-changer down the stretch as the Phillies kept pace in the NL Wild Card race. Dombrowski and the Phillies are clearly prioritizing better outfield defense in 2024.

Should Kyle Schwarber still hit leadoff in 2024?

But what do the Phillies and manager Rob Thomson plan to do with Kyle Schwarber's leadoff spot in the batting order on Opening Day next year? That's a question that has to be asked for a team with two traditional options available: Trea Turner and Bryson Stott. Either would add a new dynamic to the top of the Phillies lineup. Has the "Schwarbomb" become overrated?

The question shifts to what has more value in a game that has re-embraced the once-lost art of wreaking havoc on the base paths. Following a season in which Atlanta Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. became the first 40/70 player in the history of the game, have the Phillies fallen behind in identifying the direction baseball is headed? Can they correct it in 2024?

It's not unreasonable to think that a player of Turner's caliber can put up Acuña-like numbers from the leadoff spot. He may never hit 40 home runs and steal 70 bases in a season, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that Turner could become one of the toughest first outs in the game. What damage could the Phillies' two-four spot hitters be capable of doing with a guy standing on second or third more consistently?

Have the Phillies fallen in love with the instant gratification that comes with a Kyle Schwarber home run to lead off a game? It's hard to argue that watching Schwarber ambush a first-pitch fastball isn't a joy in itself. But do the Phillies trust hitting him anywhere else in the batting order? That's a very real possibility.

All things considered, Schwarber's numbers from 2023 are confusing if you didn't watch him hit every day. What will future generations make of a leadoff hitter who hit .197 with 47 home runs and 104 RBI?

Factor in 215 strikeouts and 125 walks, and we arrive at the strange combination of a guy who shows situational patience — almost too much patience — but still has a 31.5 percent whiff rate (16th percentile) and a 29.9 percent strikeout rate (12th percentile) per Baseball Savant.

And all of that for a team that was very close to making it back to the World Series? Exactly.

With the current window to win a championship now entering the three-year mark, it might be time to learn how to win a different way in 2024. Will Rob Thomson and the Phillies be so bold?

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