At 44-39, the Philadelphia Phillies have managed to keep their heads above water and above .500 on the season, but that does not mean that they're right where they want to be. As we near the All-Star Break, the club sits in third place behind the Marlins and Braves, 12 games out.
It's worth noting that the Marlins are currently riding a three-game losing streak and that the Phillies are only three games behind them. Should the Marlins continue to slide, second place in the NL East division is wide open for the taking.
In The Athletic's latest power rankings piece (subscription required), the staff included one bold prediction for all 30 teams around Major League Baseball. Checking in at No. 13 after being in the 10-spot last week, the Phillies' prediction sure is a bold one: The Athletic believes that the club is going to make their second consecutive NLCS.
While Baseball Reference has the Phillies' playoff chances at 39 percent and FanGraphs at 55 percent, it's not exactly an insane thought to believe that the club could make a run for it. Let's break it down.
Looking at this 26-man active roster, it's actually quite hard to believe that the Phillies have not been a whole lot more successful this year. Sure, the injury that wiped out Rhys Hoskins early on was quite the setback, but it should not have been a big enough injury that it'd singlehandedly throw off the rest of the year for the club.
An offense led by a combination of Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner, Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos and J.T. Realmuto gives the Phillies an automatic embarrassment of riches in their everyday starting nine. While the bench has been a question mark, newcomer Bryson Stott and a resurgent Alec Bohm and Brandon Marsh have given the club nearly a complete lineup of lethal hitters.
While the lineup hasn't exactly been lighting the world on fire as of late, we all know that the potential to do so is there. Perhaps it's just a matter of finding some momentum or somebody stepping up and taking charge in the locker room. If there isn't anybody currently on hand to take on such a role, Dave Dombrowski would be wise to target such a player at the trade deadline.
On the pitching side of things, Aaron Nola has regressed something fierce, posting a 4.51 ERA and 95 ERA+ through 17 outings this year. Fortunately, a combination of Taijuan Walker, Cristopher Sánchez, Ranger Suárez and Zack Wheeler have been able to round out the rotation in a big way. Walker and Suárez in particular have done a nice job of stringing together a few strong starts in a row, so perhaps momentum is starting to go their way.
With the tough lineup and powerful starting rotation, the Phillies' bullpen is one of the easier to spot weaknesses on the club. While Craig Kimbrel has done a great job of returning to form this year, Seranthony Domínguez has spent time on the shelf while players like Yunior Marte and Dylan Covey have been given way too long of leashes. The depth is not exactly plentiful in the minor leagues, so again, the trade deadline gives the Phillies' front office the perfect chance to strike and add to this team.
Just from looking at the team on paper, it's not that crazy to see why The Athletic thinks this Phillies squad has a chance to make another run at greatness this season. It's just a matter of everyone playing in sync and stepping up, so don't be shocked if this "bold prediction" becomes a reality by the end of the year.