Additions of Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto give Phillies deepest batting order in NL


It might not have been the case without the previous acquisition of J.T. Realmuto, but the addition of Bryce Harper gives the Phillies the deepest 1 through 8, offensively, in the National League.

Half of the 2019 Phillies' lineup is new, and the four additions — Harper, Realmuto, Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen — are four of the best five hitters the Phils have. 

Turning a bottom-of-the-order catcher in Jorge Alfaro into a heart-of-the-order bat in Realmuto has massive ramifications for a team's lineup structure. As does adding one of the best dozen hitters in baseball in Harper.

To Gabe Kapler, the most important two spots in the batting order are 2 and 4. Kapler has also said during spring training that the idea is still to lead off Cesar Hernandez, who hit .294 in the two seasons before 2018, when he played half the season with a broken bone in his foot that affected him every swing.

A realistic opening day lineup, based on Kapler's preferences, could look like this:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B (S)
2. Bryce Harper, RF (L)
3. Jean Segura, SS (R)
4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B (R)
5. J.T. Realmuto, C (R)
6. Andrew McCutchen, LF (R)
7. Odubel Herrera, CF (L)
8. Maikel Franco, 3B (R)
9. Pitcher

You'll notice that lineup includes four consecutive right-handed hitters. In normal circumstances, a manager may want to split up the righties. But Segura and Realmuto are not typical right-handed hitters. 

Realmuto has hit .288 in his career against righties, 40 points higher than his batting average vs. lefties.

Segura has hit .290 in his career against righties, 14 points higher than his batting average vs. lefties.

Much of this has to do with how well both Realmuto and Segura handle breaking balls from same-handed pitchers. As explained here, Realmuto and Segura rank second and third in the majors among righties the last three seasons in batting average vs. right-handed breaking balls. Only Jose Altuve has been better.

Offensively, this is the deepest lineup in the NL. It doesn't mean the Phillies will score the most runs, but there is no easy pocket of the batting order.

The Dodgers, for example, project to bat Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor and Austin Barnes 6-7-8. Pederson and Taylor are whiff-prone and will struggle to post a combined OBP higher than .335.

The Cubs? Their current 6-7-8 is Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward and Ian Happ. That's close. But go look at Heyward's offensive production since becoming a Cub. Slight advantage to McCutchen-Herrera-Franco.

The Rockies? Their top-five is formidable but the 6-7-8 is Ian Desmond, Garrett Hampson, Chris Iannetta. Nah. Same goes for the Reds.

The Braves? The bottom is Ender Inciarte-Brian McCann-Dansby Swanson. Not much pop.

Aside from the Cubs, the Brewers might be the closest, with a projected 1-8 of: Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw, Ryan Braun, Mike Moustakas, Yasmani Grandal and Orlando Arcia.

In any event, it's remarkable the Phillies have reached this place. Many times, the team that "wins the offseason" does not go on to have huge success in the season that follows. But it's just hard to imagine that happening to the 2019 Phils, barring a series of calamitous injuries or a total failure by the starting rotation.

This new-look Phillies lineup has all the skills you want. 

Power from Harper, Hoskins, Realmuto, McCutchen and Franco, plus Herrera, who hit 22 homers last season.

Plate selection from Harper, Hoskins, McCutchen and Hernandez.

Batting average from Segura, Realmuto and the Herrera-Hernandez combo if they revert to their 2015-17 form.

It's gonna be a fun summer.

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