2021 MLB Opening Day is nearly here, and we've spent the last few weeks breaking down the top Philadelphia Phillies storylines of the spring.
The biggest move of the offseason was the re-signing of catcher J.T. Realmuto, giving the Phillies a key bat in the middle of the lineup for the next five years, as well as one of the best defensive catchers in the game behind the plate. Bryce Harper returns for his third season as a Phillie since signing his 13-year contract with the club back in the spring of 2019, and pitcher Zack Wheeler returns for his second season in red pinstripes behind Aaron Nola in the rotation. Didi Gregorius is back at shortstop for his second season in Philadelphia.
The downfall of the 2020 Phillies during the COVID-shortened 60-game season, in which the team missed the playoffs by one game, was undoubtedly the bullpen. New front office heads Dave Dombrowski and Sam Fuld added multiple pieces to the pen this offseason, including the entertaining Archie Bradley and the hard-throwing Jose Alvarado. Will those additions be enough?
From the roster overhaul and injuries to team defense and lineup combinations, scroll down for a list of each burning topic we've highlighted this spring.
Phillies Opening Day roster
Catchers: J.T. Realmuto, Andrew Knapp
Utility players: Brad Miller, Ronald Torreyes
2021 Phillies odds and win projections
All odds are via NBC Sports betting partner PointsBet.
Win totals: Over 81.5 (-115), under 81.5 (-105)
NL East odds: Phillies are +1000 to win the division. Braves are favored at +115, the Mets are second at +150, the Nationals are third at +650.
To win the National League: +2000
World Series odds: The Phillies have +4000 odds to win the title this year. The Dodgers are favored to repeat at +350.
National League MVP odds: Bryce Harper +1600, J.T. Realmuto +3000.
National League Cy Young odds: Aaron Nola +1200, Zack Wheeler +4000.
National League Rookie of the Year odds: Spencer Howard +1100
How to watch Phillies games in 2021
158 Phillies games will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC Sports Philadelphia+, NBC10 this season. NBC10 will have the Opening Day telecast on Thursday, April 1. Four games are currently scheduled for national exclusive broadcasts on ESPN or FOX.
There will be 136 games on NBCSP and 17 on NBCSP+, which has the second game of the season on April 3. The first game on NBCSP is the following day, April 4. One game — May 7 in Atlanta — will air on Cozi TV. PHL17 will broadcast two games, on April 6 and May 3. The schedule, of course, is subject to change.
You can see the game-by-game 2021 Phillies schedule here.
NBC Sports Philadelphia’s live Phillies coverage, including pregame and postgame shows, will continue to be available to stream live on the MyTeams app and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com. You can bookmark this link for all your Phillies streaming needs.
How to get Phillies tickets in 2021
To begin the season, the Phillies will be allowed to host 8,800 fans at Citizens Bank Park for home games. As the season progresses, it is possible that more (or fewer) fans will be allowed into the stadium -- but that will be fully dependent on COVID restrictions from the City of Philadelphia.
Single-game tickets for the first 19 home games of the season are available via phillies.com. Tickets for the remaining home games will be made available at a later date.
Once in the stadium, fans will be seated in socially-distanced pods of anywhere between two and six people. All fans two years old and older will be required to wear a face covering unless eating or drinking in their seats.
8 questions facing the 2021 Phillies
Can the Phillies hold up defensively?
The Phillies are a team built around offense and the top of their rotation, but the defense is a question mark. Realmuto might be their only plus defender.
They don’t need to be spectacular in the field, they just need to be average. Larry Bowa thinks they’ll catch the ball.
The back of the starting rotation
The battle for the Nos. 4 and 5 spots in the rotation did not last long, with Matt Moore and Chase Anderson seizing the roles after being guaranteed $3 million and $4 million, respectively.
Who should be the Phillies closer?
We made arguments for and against the Phillies’ top four closer candidates: Archie Bradley, Jose Alvarado, Hector Neris and Connor Brogdon.
With the Opening Day bullpen sorted out and Alvarado the only lefty, it seems unlikely he will begin as the closer.
No one seizes center field
The Phillies’ center field competition was not decided, at least publicly, until the final day of camp. Here, we took a look at its determining factors, from contract status to quality of at-bats.
Impact of the final additions
The Phillies had several non-roster invitees make the team or fall just short. Three of those players — relievers Brandon Kintzler, Tony Watson and Hector Rondon — had to be informed the final week of camp whether they’d make the team. Kintzler made it, Watson opted out and Rondon was granted his release.
Here’s a great story on Kintzler betting on himself and being satisfied by the result.
Realmuto missed most of camp with a fractured thumb but returned last week and caught five games in seven days.
Manager Joe Girardi gave his take on what he needed to see late in camp from Realmuto to convince him he was fully healthy and ready to roll.
The Nola-Wheeler factor
Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler were both excellent in 2020, yet the Phillies went 11-12 in their starts. Crazy.
Nola and Wheeler ended spring training on high notes and enter another season as one of the NL’s best 1-2 punches.
Can Wheeler maintain the highest rate of double-play balls in the majors? Doesn’t seem like the most sustainable of skills, even for a guy getting more groundballs by the year.
Alec Bohm’s sophomore season
The kid was great offensively as a rookie, hitting .338 and leading the majors with a .452 batting average with runners in scoring position.
What could he do over 162? What would the Phillies’ offense look like if he can hit .290 with 20-25 homers and 40 doubles?
Ripple effects with Brad Miller
Miller was slowed in camp by an oblique injury that cost him 18 days. He returned to the lineup Sunday, the same day Scott Kingery was optioned to the minors. Miller’s readiness likely played a role in that decision, even if it was more about Kingery’s own future.
Why Girardi is bullish on Moniak
Did former first overall pick Mickey Moniak play well enough in Phillies big-league camp this spring to change the narrative?
How will the April schedule turn out?
All but three of the Phillies’ 27 games in April will be a challenge, not just the first four series against the Braves and Mets. This stretch could set up the season for success ... or, the opposite.
What about the lineup combos?
We take a look at the most logical lineup combinations for the 2021 Phillies, who bring back the same offense, just with a full season of Bohm.