Here are 10 Philadelphia Phillies players you'll be talking about all season in 2021

Tom Moore
Bucks County Courier Times

Philadelphia Phillies pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training in Clearwater on Wednesday in preparation for their first Grapefruit League game Feb. 28 against the Detroit Tigers.

With that in mind, here are 10 Phillies players to watch for 2021:

Alec Bohm: Bohm was the Phils’ most pleasant surprise during the disappointing ’20 season. He hit .338 during a terrific first MLB campaign in which he batted .400 over the final 22 games and was very good at third base.

Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm makes the throw to first.

Bohm, the third overall pick in the 2018 draft, could increase the Phillies’ playoff chances if he’s able to duplicate the impact he had while finishing second in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting.

Scott Kingery: Kingery injured his shoulder and back after testing positive for COVID-19 and struggled mightily during the 60-game season. His average dropped from .258 in 2019 to .159, and his slugging percentage went from .474 to .283.

With shortstop Didi Gregorius re-signing, the emergence of Bohm at third and Jean Segura expected to start at second base, Kingery should play a utility role in the infield and outfield. But even if that is the case, the Phillies are relying on him to be considerably more productive than he was a year ago.

Related:The Phillies continue to add starting pitchers in preparation for 2021 season

More:Now that the Phillies have signed J.T. Realmuto, it's time to address other needs

“We’re looking for a healthy Scotty Kingery to make a huge impact all around the diamond because I really believe he’s capable of doing that,” said manager Joe Girardi on Wednesday. 

Archie Bradley: The Phillies are counting on Bradley to solidify the back end of the bullpen, as he’s expected to handle the closer role after signing a one-year, $6 million contract. Over the past four seasons, Bradley accumulated a 2.95 ERA and averaged more than a strikeout per inning.

The bullpen was historically bad in 2020, compiling the second-worst ERA (7.06) in MLB history. Bradley would help a great deal if he can consistently get outs, in addition to allowing Hector Neris to switch to a seventh- or eighth-inning role for a ’pen with plenty of lingering questions.

Bryce Harper: The Phils’ franchise player enjoyed a terrific start in 2020, hitting .348 with six home runs and had more RBIs (16) than strikeouts (13) during the first 20 games. In his final 38, he batted .226 with seven homers and had nearly half as many RBIs (17) as strikeouts (30).

All the while, Harper continued to be a vocal leader, lead by example and play solid defense in right field, which are givens for the $330 million free agent.  

J.T. Realmuto: The Phillies, especially their pitchers, can breathe a big sigh of relief that Realmuto is back after agreeing to a five-year, $115.5 million contract. Any other catching alternative would’ve been a huge step backward if the goal is to qualify for the postseason.

Having said that, Realmuto, like Harper, was much more effective on offense during the first half of the season (.300 average, 8 homers, 22 RBIs in his first 22 games) than in the second half (.237, 3 HRs, 10 RBIs over the final 25). The Phillies weren’t and probably still aren't good enough to win without Realmuto or Harper driving in runs.

Aaron Nola: At 27, the Phillies’ opening-day starter during the past three seasons should be in the prime of his career. Nola gave the Phillies an average of 5.92 innings in 2020, which was second to Zack Wheeler.

On the other hand, his numbers (5-5, 3.28 ERA, 96 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings) would’ve been even better if he hadn’t closed out the year with a 6.60 ERA in his final three starts. The Phillies lost each of those outings, when one win would’ve resulted in a playoff berth.

Zack Wheeler: Wheeler was the co-ace a year ago, when you can make the case that he had a slightly better season than Nola. The Phillies wouldn’t have been in the playoff hunt if not for Wheeler’s reliable starts after agreeing to a five-year, $118 million deal.

Another year like 2020 (2.92 ERA, 6.45 innings per start) would be fine with Phils’ fans and Girardi.

Rhys Hoskins: Hoskins won’t be ready at the start of spring training after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow Oct. 2, though the Phillies are counting on Hoskins by the April 1 season opener against the Atlanta Braves. While he’s provided some pop with 91 home runs in 1,449 at bats and walked 269 times in 3 1/2 seasons, Hoskins has struck out 412 times and only batted .239.

The Phils would benefit from more consistency at the plate by Hoskins, who tends to be streaky, and for him to upgrade his fielding at first base.

Zach Eflin: Eflin is regarded as the No. 3 starter in a top 3 featuring Nola and Wheeler. While Eflin’s ERA was under 4 (3.97) for the first time in his fifth MLB season, he gave up three or more earned runs in seven of his 10 starts last season and went beyond six innings just three times.

Eflin can help minimize how much the Phillies must call upon the bullpen by being an innings-eater, which would also prove he deserves to be called a core starting pitcher.

The Phillies' Andrew McCutchen, left, and Bryce Harper celebrate a win over the Mets as Scott Kingery, right, approaches.

Spencer Howard: Howard went into 2020 rated as the No. 28-ranked prospect, according to mlb.com, and was the lone Phillie among the top 80. Harper raved about Howard and said he wanted Howard in the rotation right away, which didn’t occur, but Howard ended up with a 5.92 ERA in six starts covering 24 1/3 innings.

Perhaps having a better sense of MLB hitters from last year's experience will result in Howard rewarding Harper’s faith in him this season.

Tom Moore: tmoore@couriertimes.com; @TomMoorePhilly