You have to be very careful when it comes to any "absolutes" in sports — especially baseball. After all, its unpredictable nature is why we hang on every pitch and every play. Even after decades of being a fan, you only need to watch an inning or two to see something you have never witnessed before. It's amazing and chaotic. But the reigning National League champion Philadelphia Phillies do offer some degree of certitude, as we get set to embark on the 2023 MLB season.
Maybe other clubs can make claims of their own, but I believe that we can count on these things from the 2023 Phillies:
When Bryce Harper returns, the Phillies will have the NL's best offense.
This might be an undersell, actually. But think about how this lineup will look once Bryce Harper presumably returns midseason from his elbow surgery. Manager Rob Thomson has several options regarding how and where to deploy bats such as Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, and J.T. Realmuto. You already knew that. But a full season of Bryston Stott and the impending breakout of Alec Bohm make these guys downright scary for opposing pitchers. This will be the case even sans Harper for a few months, and then doubly so after his return.
What other NL lineup stacks up as favorably? The Dodgers? They're still potent, but Turner switching from LA to Philly tips the scale. Atlanta is certainly in the ballpark, but the loss of Dansby Swanson hurts their case. Maybe the Mets would have a claim if they actually landed Carlos Correa, but they fall just short of the Phillies in this regard. Across MLB, it might just be Toronto and Houston who are on par with the Phils. Not to say that other teams — the Padres and Yankees to name a couple — aren't close as well, but someone has to be No. 1. As far as the NL is concerned, a Phillies team equipped with Bryce Harper is tops.
The kids will have an immediate impact on the mound.
I can't remember the last time that the Phillies had a prospect as exciting as Andrew Painter. Still just 19, he has the makings of an absolute stud. We've seen phenoms flame out before, so caution is warranted. But the Phillies undoubtedly have a plan on how to handle him. Whether he breaks camp with the team or comes up in the months that follow, Painter will immediately bolster their already impressive rotation.
And don't forget Mick Abel — another huge right-hander with pedigree. Big things are expected from this former first-rounder. When paired with Painter, this duo offers 13 feet of added height to the staff. In a way, Griff McGarry might be the most impressive of all — a developmental success by the Phillies after being taken in the fifth round in 2021. We should see all three of these talented hurlers debut in Philadelphia this year. Some teams fall just short in their quest because they don't have the horses to get them there. The Phillies rotation will definitely have the horses.
October will be fun again.
Look, we still have months of games ahead, so let's enjoy the ride. There will be the inevitable downs throughout the full 162, but w e all have eyes on the prize. This team came tantalizingly close to baseball immortality last year. It was loads of fun — shades of 1993 — but they can't stop now. And they won't, thanks to competent management and willingness to spend money (see: Trea Turner) to keep up with the Mets and Dodgers.
This team was in a bit of a "house money" situation in last year's postseason after finally breaking a decade-long postseason drought. What followed was amazing. But now, there is expectation. The resulting excitement will be higher this year, but so will the pressure. In the end, there is zero chance that this Phillies club isn't back in the mix again with a chance to deliver a whole new wave of October (and maybe November) memories.
Yeah, it's going to be fun.