Philadelphia Phillies: Predicting the Phillies opening day lineup

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Philadelphia Phillies
(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) /

1) LF- Andrew McCutchen

Justin: Put the former MVP and All-Star hitter out there first and let him do his thing.

There are certain players that come to mind when using the term “Professional Hitter”, and the longtime former Buc outfielder is one of those guys. Acquired by the Phillies this off-season on a three-year, $50 million deal, Andrew McCutchen would be a rock-solid option as the Phillies opening day lead-off man. While it’s true that Cesar Hernandez would be the ideal option for speed here, McCutchen brings the hitting power that could make him a very interesting choice.

The five-time all-star, MVP and gold glove sports a career .287 batting average with an OPS of .859. Some might think that age is a concern, but at 31, Cutch can still get the job done. In fact, his OBP of .368 in 2018 was only just off his career average of .378. Sure, his numbers have declined since 2013-2015 when he was a .900+ OPS player, but in 25 games with the Yankees last season he saw his on-base numbers climb to .425 in the lead-off spot.

On the season, he walked 95 times, just three off of his career high of 98. The number one job of the lead-off man is to get on base. McCutchen is still a good enough hitter to reach 140-plus hits and remains a threat to belt 20 homers. You could do much worse than this man as your lead-off guy.

Pete: A seasoned vet and a home run threat at the top of the lineup is a fresh (and intimidating) look.

Is a former NL MVP, four-time silver slugger award winner and five-time All-Star an upgrade as a lead-off man? I’d argue so. While the mileage may have slowly taken a toll on the veteran’s once-lightning quick wheels, you’d be hard-pressed to find an option with the sheer intimidation factor of Cutch as the opening act in the “Philly Phive”.

The obvious appeal of slotting Cutch at the top of the lineup is the home-run threat from the very first pitch. After his stretch of five consecutive all-star appearances, he came back to reality with a down year in 2016 where he hit a measly 24 home runs (more than all but two Phillies put out last season) but returned to near all-star form with 28 dingers, an average of nearly .280, and just under 90 RBI’s the following season. Clearly, San Francisco wasn’t a good fit, and he struggled before joining the juggernaut Yankees midway through last season as a super-utility man. A dinger-friendly park like CPB could help Cutch return to a season total upwards of 30.

The underrated value of Andrew McCutchen is his vision. As a lead-off man, you want to see pitches and give the entire dugout a feel for what kind of “stuff” the starter has on a particular day.  Cutch goes deep in the count, with over 200 plate appearances where he drew a 2-2 or full count in 2018 alone. Whether he draws a full count or gets ahead by sniffing out pitches that miss the strike zone, he averages 85 walks a year and missed his career high by three in 2018 with 95 as Justin mentioned above.

The saying “get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in” may be nullified with the powerhouse in the “Philly Phive” (We need to make that a thing). Where Ceaser Hernandez may present a more traditional option as a contact hitting speedster in the one-hole, this lineup won’t require a high-level base-stealing threat (which McCutchen can still be). He simply needs to get onto a base and let his fellow sluggers work the gaps as he waltzes around the bases with little effort needed.

The experienced vet boasts a career batting average of almost .290, and though he dipped in 2016 and again last season, I believe the move out of the three-hole into the lead-off spot will result in a return to the .300 level and a home run threat to boot. Aside from his first at-bat of the game, Cutch will serve more like a 1-2 hybrid, but I’ll explain more on that later.