Countdown to Opening Day

Who could be the Phillies' breakout player in 2024?

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In the days leading up to Phillies Opening Day on March 28, we're taking a daily look at the biggest questions and storylines surrounding the team in 2024.

The Phillies' roster is loaded with big-name players on expensive contracts, but it will obviously take more than just that group to deliver their ultimate goal, a World Series trophy.

Which Phillies might be poised for a leap in 2024? Who could be a breakout candidate?

Ruben Amaro Jr.'s pick: Bryson Stott

"I don't think he's really going to be a surprise but I think this is going to be a monster, breakout year for Bryson Stott. I'm a huge fan. I think Bryson's going to be a Gold Glove second baseman. In my mind, he was a Gold Glove second baseman and I think he missed it by what, four votes?

"I know one of his goals is to try to hit .300. I love that thought process because nobody talks anymore about how important batting average is, and it's actually pretty important. I think he's growing as a player, he's maturing. I don't know, I don't think it's necessarily a surprise but I think he's going to be one of the best players on the club on both sides of the ball."

Stott hit .280 last season, 46 points higher than his rookie year. He was better able to handle velocity, specifically up in the zone. He hit .282 against left-handed pitching. He led the majors in two-strike hits practically all year, neck-and-neck with Freddie Freeman. He stole 31 bases, hit 32 doubles and 15 home runs. He graded out as one of the top five second basemen defensively. It was a major step forward.

One thing Stott didn't do much in 2023 was walk. He walked in just 6.1% of his plate appearances, ranking 107th of 134 qualifying players. A goal of his this season is to lay off the borderline pitch more frequently.

If Stott can up his game another notch, he'd be approaching All-Star territory. It would be huge for the Phillies for he and Brandon Marsh to build on the foundation they laid a year ago.

Ricky Bottalico's pick: Ranger Suarez

"I'm going with Ranger Suarez. I know Ranger's good but I feel like this is the year he takes that next step. He's going to go out and give you innings this year, we all know he wants to give you more than five. I think he's going to be the guy that Rob Thomson gives a little bit of a leash to this year, I think they'll try to stretch him another inning in games when he's throwing well.

"He's the type of guy that just doesn't give a bleep about what's going on around him and he's going to go out there and stick it to people this year. He's going to be a stud on his team, we're going to talk about him by the end of the season as a 1C on this team."

Suarez is better set up for success than in any prior season. For the first time, he had a full spring training — no visa issues which delayed his arrival two different years, no World Baseball Classic, no injuries. He's ready to go in the first series of the year against the Braves.

The lefty has a 3.43 ERA in 63 starts the last three seasons. He has his sights set on 30-plus starts and 180-plus innings. His career-high is 155.

My pick: Cristopher Sanchez

I'm going with Cristopher Sanchez, who has not performed particularly well in spring training but has shown promising signs. His fastball has been in the 94-95 mph range in camp compared to 92.1 last season. He also has utilized a cutter as a potential new weapon against right-handed hitters.

Sanchez was extremely impressive last summer. After coming back up from Triple A on June 17, he allowed just 100 baserunners in 95 innings with a 3.32 ERA. He walked only 14 batters. The .148 batting average against his changeup was the lowest in all of baseball among pitchers who threw as many.

If he can add greater separation between his fastball and changeup while maintaining that command, he could take things to another level. Then if he can grow comfortable with the cutter, it would give hitters one more thing to think about.

Sanchez showed up to spring training significantly stronger physically and with more confidence than ever before, knowing for the first time he solidly had a spot on the Opening Day roster. Those factors themselves won't lead to success, but when you couple them with the new weapons, it could be a big year for the 27-year-old.

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