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 Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

7)   CF- Odubel Herrera

Justin: Keep the pressure off him and let him focus on playing baseball instead of trying to be the face of the franchise. That’s no longer his concern. With increased focus, he could return to All-Star form.

For a while, this guy was the centerpiece of your lineup, and for a while, it looked like he was going to emerge as a legitimate all-star caliber player. I still think Odubel Herrera can reach those heights, but he finds himself further down this lineup mostly because of the star talent that the Phillies have acquired this offseason. He no longer fits in the top half of the batting order due to high levels of inconsistent play. The fact of the matter is, Herrera needs to prove he belongs in this lineup.

Herrera is the type of player that will make you want to pull your hair out. He’s flashed some real all-star potential at times, and others, he looks like he just doesn’t care about playing baseball. Gabe Kapler is going to need to find a way to squeeze out every ounce of potential that Herrera has, as this might be his last chance in Phillies uniform.

Batting him 7th would take some of the pressure off. Herrera would just need to keep the rally going or do everything he can to get on base and into scoring position, especially with no outs and the pitcher due up. This gives the top of the order a chance to get back to the plate and drive him in.

What you get with Herrera is a player who, at one point last season, was hitting at a .360 clip. He has that potential. He also has the potential to fall all the way to a .255 hitter, which is what we got from the middle of the summer until September, where his OPS would fall to .730. He can be a good contact hitter with home run potential (he dinged 22 in 2018), but also a guy that whiffs 122 times.

His career body of work shows he can hit, and he slapped the ball 140 times last year, which was actually career low for him. The question is he can he hit consistently over the course of an entire season and do so with runners in scoring position, where he has traditionally struggled? The numbers show he can hit close to .300, but his on-base figures and base-running skills are what sinks him as a player. He doesn’t work counts or get walked, he doesn’t get a ton of extra base hits or steals, and he strikes out 100 plus times. He also doesn’t drive in a ton of runs, as he only had 71 RBI’s in 2018.

With the focus off of him, Herrera will be asked to do less than he would if he were batting 4 or 5. Kapler has to hope that Herrera embraces this role and provides the type of consistent hitting that would really solidify the bottom of this order. The talent is there, Herrera just needs to let it rip and eliminate the mistakes that have doomed him in the past.

Pete: Lift the burden off his shoulders and watch the All-Star productivity return.

He’s hot then he’s cold, he’s yes then he’s no, he’s in then he’s out, he’s up then he’s down. Katy Perry hit the nail on the head when writing her hit song about Odubel Herrera’s 2018 campaign. He displayed those All-Star flashes at times, especially early in his season where he carried over an on-base streak from the previous season that ultimately ended at 45 games. It was like the pitcher was tossing him a beach ball in April and May, then all of sudden he folded.

In addition to his streaky tendencies at the plate, his fielding took a dip in 2018. In addition to the addition of issues in the field, Herrera’s efforts on the diamond mimic Manny Machado moreso than Joe Hustle.

The negatives are fresh in the brains of Phillies fans, but we need to remember that Herrera came out firing on all cylinders in his first two seasons. As a 23-year-old rookie, Herrera flirted with a .300 average batting .297. He followed that up with a sensational sophomore season which featured an All-Star appearance, a .287 average, 15 homers, and 63 walks. He’s proven top-of-the-lineup talent who, for some reason, fell off last season.

Sliding down to the seventh spot, Odubel will have all the pressure of being “the man” off of his shoulders and can become a solid bat to kick-start the final third of this lineup. His home run total has increased each season, and while I’d like to see that trend continue, I look for Odubel to get back to the basics and bring that average back towards the .300 level.  His baserunning abilities were relatively non-existent the past two seasons following 16 and 25 stolen bases in each of his first two years in the league respectively.

Batting seventh, Herrera needs to focus on getting on, getting over and getting in. Cutch is a strong veteran presence who can help iron any the kinks out of Odubel’s hustle and intensity in every pitch of every game. If Odubel can become a singles machine and swipe second at the pace of his first two seasons, the pitcher can move him over to third before Cesar knocks him in. The strongest back third of any lineup in the league.