By Sam Bush

Spring training is humming along and the Phillies regular season opener against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park is only 15 days away.

So, how do we assess the Fightins?

2018 record: 80-82

Overview: The Phillies spent 32 days in first place last season. They rolled into early August a staunch 15 games over .500. They looked up in late September four games under after going 8-20 that month. What happened?

“I think that preparation for a playoff push and preparation for success late in the season comes in the offseason,” Phils manager Gabe Kapler said at the Winter Meetings. “So one of the major adjustments that we’ve made thus far is we’ve asked our players, our staff and everybody that’s part of the organization to start opening up space for that possibility in 2019.

“So I think one of the things we did last year is we said if everybody takes a small step forward, we have a chance to be a postseason team. We have a chance to win a lot of baseball games. And I think one of the things that we didn’t do is say this is actually going to happen and we need to prepare for it to happen. And I think the way you prepare for it to happen is by building emotional armor, physical armor, in the offseason, and kind of the mental preparation that this is going to happen.”

So, Phillies 2019: More armor. And, Bryce Harper. And, J.T. Realmuto. And, Andrew McCutchen. And, Jean Segura. That qualifies as reinforcements.

Note none are starting pitchers, which is why the Phils’ pitching staff remains in question. Aaron Nola was a Cy Young finalist last season. Jake Arrieta (above) was all right. Nick Pivetta wasn’t there yet. Zach Eflin made progress. Vince Velasquez continues to confound.

“So, look, if our rotation, our young rotation, our young starters, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, and Zach Eflin, if these guys get a little bit better, they’re already really good, our rotation looks incredibly strong,” Kapler optimistically said. “Leaving aside Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. And there’s a lot of young players across the diamond if they get a little bit better, we win more baseball games. Instead of an 80-win team, we’re looking at something north of that.”

Kapler was speaking months ahead of Harper’s arrival. However, his general points hold. Pivetta is 26. Eflin is 24. Velazquez is 26. There’s room for growth. There’s also uncertainty. As intriguing as it will be to watch Harper and Co., the Phillies’ final direction after an offseason of “stupid money” could well hinge on its pitching staff.

Projected lineup (2018 WAR):

Andrew McCutchen (LF, 2.7)

Jean Segura (SS, 4.3)

Bryce Harper (RF, 1.3)

Rhys Hoskins (1B, 0.5)

J.T. Realmuto (C, 4.3)

Maikel Franco (3B, 0.2)

Odubel Herrera (CF, 0.2)

Cesar Hernandez (2B, 1.4)

Projected rotation (2018 WAR):

Aaron Nola (10.0 WAR)

Jake Arrieta (3.1)

Nick Pivetta (2.3)

Zach Eflin (2.1)

Vince Velasquez (2.0)

Projected bullpen keys (2018 WAR):

David Robertson (1.0)

Seranthony Dominguez (2.4)

Hector Neris (0.2)

Pat Neshek (0.8)

NL ranks last season:

HR: 6

OPS: 11

Starter ERA: 11

Reliever ERA: 11