Building around two of the top 25 players in baseball is a sound strategy, and according to 40 of ESPN's baseball people, two Phillies belong in that group.
In its ranking this week of the Top 100 MLB players for the 2020 season, J.T. Realmuto ranked 23rd and Bryce Harper 25th. Keep in mind this is not a "Who would you start a franchise with tomorrow" kind of list. It is strictly based on 2020 expectations.
Realmuto was 22 spots ahead of the next catcher, Yasmani Grandal. And he rose five spots from his own ranking last year. It is a testament to Realmuto's all-around game that he's two spots ahead of Harper and one spot ahead of Kris Bryant.
Both Harper and Realmuto had strong first seasons in Philadelphia but both left the impression they can do more offensively.
Harper hit .253/.370/.470 in the first half compared to .270/.376/.564 in the second half. He didn't take things up a notch until right around the All-Star break.
Realmuto hit just .261 with a .752 OPS through his first 300 plate appearances then hit .294 with a .904 OPS the rest of the way.
The Phillies had two other players in ESPN's Top 100: Aaron Nola was 52 and Zack Wheeler was 83.
Nola dropped 28 spots from last year's ranking, which makes sense as his ERA rose by a run-and-a-half from 2.37 to 3.87. It was unrealistic for Nola to replicate his amazing 2018 season given how rare it is for a starting pitcher to post an ERA that low with such a heavy workload (212 innings). The only pitcher in baseball over the last four seasons who could match Nola's ERA and innings total from 2018 was Jacob deGrom the same year.
Wheeler remained 83rd for the second straight season, which is pretty random. He was better in 2018 than 2019, though it's hard to judge because pitchers were operating under a different set of circumstances in 2019 with the juiced ball. Wheeler, who still had one of the lowest home run rates in baseball, allowed 8 more longballs in just 13 more innings than the previous season. Same for Nola, who allowed 10 more homers in 10 fewer innings than in 2018.
If the ball is back to normal — and at least one Phillies pitcher thinks it is — both Nola and Wheeler should be closer to the low-3.00s this season.
In the Top 25, nine players reside in the NL East:
3: Jacob deGrom
7: Max Scherzer
8: Ronald Acuña Jr.
11: Juan Soto
16: Stephen Strasburg
17: Freddie Freeman
20: Pete Alonso
23: J.T. Realmuto
25: Bryce Harper
Probably the best division in baseball.