The Philadelphia Phillies have been one of the more disappointing teams in all of Major League Baseball for several seasons now.
This year, the team is once again off to a slow start, but for the time being, they’re getting bailed out by an extremely weak National League East.
There are just two games of separation from top to bottom, and the Phillies find themselves just 1.5 games back of first place to start the day on Tuesday.
One of the biggest reasons for the Phillies’ sluggish start to the season is that the supporting cast to Bryce Harper hasn’t played at a high enough level.
Harper is having himself a very solid season, but he needs some help.
There are two players in particular who could give Philadelphia a huge boost by stepping up alongside Harper.
2. Andrew McCutchen
Andrew McCutchen’s best years are behind him.
It’s easy to forget, but McCutchen had a stretch spanning from 2012-2015 in which he was a top-five MVP finisher each year.
He won the award in 2013.
During those four seasons, McCutchen batted .313 with a .926 OPS while averaging 25 home runs and 35 doubles/triples.
McCutchen’s prime seemingly ended abruptly after that span concluded.
He hasn’t been named an All-Star since that 2015 season.
However, over six seasons since the end of that run, McCutchen still has an above-average OPS+ of 114.
Phillies are showing some life after Andrew McCutchen's solo shot to left field! pic.twitter.com/bArKQlBQgW
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) May 20, 2021
This is a very roundabout way of saying that he still has more in the tank than what’s been displayed so far this season.
McCutchen is in his 13th year, and he’s slashing .210/.333/.389.
His current .722 OPS would be the lowest of his career if it holds.
As recently as 2019, McCutchen posted an .834 OPS.
If the 34-year-old can figure out a way to produce at a 2019-type level for the remainder of the year, the Phillies would have to feel a lot better about their playoff chances.
1. Didi Gregorius
Didi Gregorius joined the Phillies last season and produced at a high level throughout the entirety of the COVID-shortened year.
He finished the season with a .284 batting average and .827 OPS.
His numbers were comparable to his 2017 and 2018 seasons when he finished in the top-20 of the MVP race twice.
This season, Gregorius has not been the same player.
He’s currently on the 10-day IL with an elbow issue, but he appeared in 32 games prior to the injury and the results were not good.
With Gregorius and Kingery going on IL today, the organization's middle-infield depth is a bit compromised. The Phillies added veteran Ruben Tejada to their Triple-A roster today. Also there: Luke Williams, C.J. Chatham.
— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) May 18, 2021
Gregorius batted .229 with a .630 OPS and a -0.7 WAR before hitting the IL.
He’s just 31 years old, so it’s fair to assume that Didi still has something left, and the Phillies are going to need him to channel some of his better years if they want to keep things interesting in the NL East through the summer months and into September.
Overall, the Phillies have five everyday players with an OPS over .800.
That’s a really solid number, and if McCutchen and Gregorius can get it going, the attention would turn to the Philadelphia bullpen which also needs help.