Do not sleep on the Philadelphia Phillies this season

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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Seventy-six. When you hear this number in the city of Philadelphia, you would assume it’s about the current number one seed in the NBA Eastern Conference – the Philadelphia 76ers. However, that is not the case at the moment. Seventy-six. This is the number of baseball games the Philadelphia Phillies were projected to win in the latest ESPN MLB Power Rankings.

Sure, they play in a division with the likely 90+ win Atlanta Braves and a completely rebuilt New York Mets team. Yeah, they have the 2019 World Series Champion Washington Nationals to worry about as well. And of course, there is always those pesky Miami Marlins. But seventy-six? Seriously? Talk about being overlooked.

The 2021 Philadelphia Phillies are being grossly overlooked in the baseball world.

The Phillies enter the 2021 season prepared to contend for not only their first playoff appearance since 2011, but also their first winning season since then. This is probably where much of the doubt and disrespect stems from, as this is a franchise that continuously falls short of expectations and lets its fanbase down. But this year is different. Sure we have all heard this before, but the 2021 Phillies are legit, and they are going to contend for the National League East crown this season.

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The bitter aftertaste of a disgustingly underwhelming 2020 season is sure to be fresh for most fans in the Delaware Valley. The lineup is relatively the same, as the franchise was able to sign J.T Realmuto to an extension against all odds, as well as bringing back fan favorite Didi Gregorius on a two-year deal. A full season of Alec Bohm at the hot corner, Jean Segura at the keystone, Rhys Hoskins manning first base, and Andrew McCutchen in left. Heck, we even have the platoon of Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley in center. And of course, franchise cornerstone Bryce Harper out in right field.

This is a Phillies lineup that scored a ton of runs in 2020. They were able to get the lead in 49 of the 60 ballgames they played in, and consistently found ways to keep the team in the game. They slashed .257/.342/.439/ as a team, generating a .781 OPS while routinely finding themselves on base.

The breakout of Bohm was massive, as he slashed 338/.400/.481 and looks like a guy set to compete for a batting title in the near future. Jean Segura altered his approach at the plate, walking 23 times in 55 games. Keep in mind, this is a player who walked 30 times all of 2019. His batting average dipped a bit, but he consistently found himself working counts and getting on base for the big boppers. These two players producing the way they did in 2020 over a full 162 game season would be huge for the Phillies offense.

Of course, you also have Bryce Harper, who seems poised to make a run at the National League MVP award this season. Smack dab in the middle of his prime at the ripe age of 28, Harper is coming off a strong 2020 season; even amidst a nagging back injury. This continued into the spring, where Bryce homered in his first AND last at bats of the preseason, to a slash line of .343/.477/.771. He is now in year three in Philly, he and his family are comfortable, he has a good relationship with the front office; the stars are aligning for a massive season from number 3.