It’s Opening Day, and the expectations have spiked for the Philadelphia Phillies with a few exciting offseason acquisitions.

For the past few seasons, there has been very little optimism for the Phils following a string of NL East crowns and a World Series championship back in 2008.  10 years later, manager Gabe Kapler and GM Matt Klentak have fans thinking playoffs again.

With that, we asked our staff at 97.3 ESPN and 973espn.com  to give their predictions for the 2018 Phillies season.

How many games will the Phillies win this season?

Mike Gill: I feel good about saying 85 wins.  They have a good, deep line-up, in a very weak division.  The key to getting there is finding that No. 3 pitcher to step up. Ben Lively, and Nick Pivetta get the first crack at proving they belong, I think its Lively who ends up being the guy who surprises.

Pete Thompson:The last time the Phillies won more than 73 games in a season was 2012 when they went 81 and 81. I’m not willing to go that high, but I do think they will be improved from 4-5 years. I have them at 75-87. Not .500 ball, but a better record than the last five seasons…!!!

Frank Klose: 82 wins,  but if they add a piece at the deadline they can get to around 87 wins.

Josh Hennig:  I think 80 wins is not just an achievable number but its also reasonable considering the Phillies will have all those interdivision games against the Braves and Marlins but also interleague play against the AL East which mean matchups with Rays, Blue Jays and Orioles while they don't play the Yankees until late June

Kevin Durso: 82 - The Phillies made improvements to the lineup, but the pitching still is worrisome. Improvements to the bullpen may help close out games, but their starting pitching will dictate how much they end up winning. They will win more than they did in 2017 by a mile, but don't expect a crazy win total yet.

What place will the Phillies finish in the NL East? Is that in the playoffs?

Mike Gill: 2nd - I think the Phillies have a better line-up than the Mets, the key will be the health of the starting pitching and the bullpen.  Gabe Kapler has said he thinks the strength of the team is the bullpen, while the Mets bullpen could be a bit of a wild card this season.  But I think the Phillies line-up might be the difference-maker.

Pete Thompson: I think they finish in 3rd place, and make a run at a wildcard spot, but ultimately come up short. I have the Nationals winning the division and the Mets in second place. The Marlins are so bad, they immediately go to the bottom and Atlanta is earlier in their “rebuild” than the Phillies.

Frank Klose: 2nd Place, the Marlins have just about given up, the Braves aren't ready yet and I think the Mets will fall apart. they should beat up on the NL East, but no playoffs.

Josh Hennig: Phillies finish in 2nd place beyond the regular season juggernaut that is the Nationals.  Marlins and Braves are rebuilding while the Mets are hyper-dependent on health and luck.  Phillies are going to go through stretches of scoring runs and if bullpen can be stable and reliable for 162 games, this team will be surprising some teams

Kevin Durso: 2nd - Honestly, the NL just isn't that good, so the Phillies should get a chunk of their success within the division. The Nationals are far and away the favorites to win the division title and should. The Braves, Mets and Marlins are all in a similar place as the Phillies or even deeper in rebuild. The Phillies will be in the running for a wildcard, but I think they come up short this season.

Who is an under-the-radar player you have high hopes for in 2018?

Mike Gill: Maikel Franco - Franco was the Phillies top prospect a few years ago, but has been pretty much a disappointment since taking of the full-time third base position. But he slugged six spring homers, and maybe, just maybe the presence of having Scott Kingery looking over his shoulder might be enough to light a bit of a fire under him and have him surprise this season.

Pete ThompsonI’m really looking forward to seeing what Jorge Alfaro can do this season at catcher. His bat has been okay, but his defensive and ability to call a game is something I want to keep an eye on.

 

Frank Klose: Aaron Altherr- He is a smooth defender, he is the best center fielder on the team and his power is coming around, he looked real good this spring.

Josh Hennig: Jorge Alfaro has the chance to put up big numbers at CBP, if you watch him in batting practice he has elite power and in a lineup where he will not have alot of pressure on him, he could have a very good season

Kevin Durso: Jorge Alfaro - The Phillies have a wealth of prospects turned pros on the roster this season, but it seems all you hear about are Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford, even Scott Kingery has gotten more attention now. Alfaro will get a bulk of the time behind the plate this season and his power hitting is tremendous. He should have a big season calling Citizens Bank Park home for 81 games.

Who are the Phillies relying upon the most that you have concern over?

Mike Gill: Odubel Herrera - Just haven't been a fan of Herrera, and hitting him in the middle of the line-up, I've just never really viewed him as a middle-of-the-order hitter.

Pete Thompson: Vince Velasquez as the 4th starter concerns me. His stuff has always been electric and when he’s on, he’s darn near un-hittable…! But, he’s had health issues in the past, and I worry the most about him staying healthy one, and if his head is on straight two.

Frank Klose: Nobody - They have so many options and have the ability to send guys who are struggling back to the minors, and with Scott Kingery they have a super-sub who can play pretty much any position where a guy is struggling they can sit them down with Kingery taking their spot.

Josh Hennig: Vince Velasquez is again in the starting rotation and I am not sold on him staying healthy or being reliable.  He still needs show he can start 25-28 games and 65 percent of those starts be "Quality starts"; until then VV is a liability for this team

Kevin Durso: Jake Arrieta - So much of the Phillies success this season rides on Arrieta being the pitcher the Phillies paid him to be. It's one of the first big splash moves the Phillies have made under Matt Klentak. If it backfires, this season is going where the last two did.

What grade would you give the Phillies for their offseason?

Mike Gill: A - Really wasn't any guy that was signed elsewhere that you can say, "man, why didn't they sign that guy", pretty much every addition was one that should help the team.  Plus the decision to sign Scott Kingery showed me they wanted to put the best 25 guys on the team and try to win today - can't ask for much more than that.

Pete Thompson: This grade would’ve been a B-plus BEFORE the Jake Arietta signing, as they add Carlos Santana and arms in the bullpen like bringing back Pat Neshek, etc. The signing of Arietta and the unique path they took to get Scott Kingery on the roster to start the season puts it up to an A-minus for me. So, I’d give them an “A” minus.

Frank Klose: A-minus - They didn't overreact, they took advantage of some opportunities like Jake Arrieta and Carlos Santana.

Josh Hennig: I give them a "B" with the additions of Carlos Santana, Tommy Hunter, and resigning Pat Neshek are all moves to alleviate pressure on the young up and coming stars of this team along with the "big name" addition of Jake Arrieta.  They have been patient with their players coming up thru the farm system and I think that will pay dividends in the long term, not just in 2018

Kevin Durso: B+ - The signing of Carlos Santana signaled a turn in the Phillies approach to building in the offseason, and they also added Pat Neshak to sure up the bullpen and obviously signing Arrieta was big for the rotation. The Phillies essentially made a splash in all aspects of the game to try to add to what they have coming in young players. It also set the tone for next offseason and the willingness they will have to continue to build through free agency down the road. The only thing keeping this from an A is that they didn't add another starting pitcher when they certainly had the money to get another veteran arm for the rotation.