After a relatively disappointing offseason, the Phillies come into Spring Training with some promise, but several questions remain on their roster. About a week before games start, let’s project who likely will – and won’t – make this roster at the start of the regular season.
With rosters expanding to 26, many teams around the MLB may decide to carry three catchers this season. However, JT Realmuto is not like most other catchers and projects to play close to 140 games behind the dish barring injury.
That leaves Andrew Knapp and Deivy Grullon to fight for a roster spot in the most sleep-inducing battle on the team. Knapp has spent each of the last three seasons backing up three different catchers: Cameron Rupp in 2017, Jorge Alfaro in 2018, and JT Realmuto in 2019. He provides next to nothing at the plate, but I’m giving him the edge over Grullon, who has just nine career plate appearances coming into the season.
Barring a trade, Hoskins, Segura, Gregorius, and Kingery are all locks and project to start across the infield. The biggest question is when Alec Bohm will get the call-up. Bohm comes in as the Phillies’ top prospect after he tore up Single-A and Double-A last season. However, he’ll likely start the season in the minors with Kingery playing third. Segura could get traded at some point, while Kingery could move to the outfield once Bohm breaks into the bigs. Either way, Kingery deserves to be an every-day starter, and Phillies fans should be excited for Bohm.
In many ways, the Phillies’ “X-Factor” for this season is Rhys Hoskins. After a strong rookie and sophomore season, Hoskins went invisible after the All-Star Break last season as his average dropped to .226. Hoskins led the NL in walks, but in doing so, he became distinctly unaggressive at the plate, hurting his power numbers (oh, Gabe Kapler). If Hoskins can replicate the 34 home run, .850 OPS season he had in 2018, that will be a massive bonus for Philadelphia this season. If not, the organization may start thinking about trading him.
Long-time infielder Neil Walker makes this roster as the fifth infielder. Walker has played around the diamond throughout his career, primarily at first base in recent years. Having played three seasons with the Yankees, he’s familiar with Manager Joe Girardi as well. While Walker likely won’t have a significant impact, it’s nice to have a veteran like him who can play around the diamond. He hit eight home runs with .731 OPS in 381 plate appearances last season with the Miami Marlins.
Barring injury, these five are all locks to make the Opening Day roster. Several questions surround this outfield coming into the season. For one, it will be interesting to see how Andrew McCutchen performs coming off a torn ACL. Following that injury, the Phillies season went downhill as they struggled to get production from their leadoff spot. It would go a long way if he could produce at the same level he had been at the start of last season.
Secondly, is Adam Haseley ready to be an every-day starter? In 67 games as a rookie, Haseley showed what he could do with the glove while posting pedestrian hitting numbers at a .324 OBP, and .720 OPS. Haseley won’t have to become an elite hitter, but if he can be a reliable center fielder it would help. Should he struggle or get hurt, Roman Quinn or Scott Kingery will have to take over in center field.
Lastly, can Roman Quinn go one spring training game without an injury? Quinn is one of the most athletic guys on the team, but he hasn’t been able to stay even remotely healthy. Injuries have limited him to just 109 games over the last four seasons. If he can remain on the field, he’s a nice backup outfielder to have on the roster. Former starting right fielder Nick Williams could get called up if someone gets injured.
With rosters expanding to 26, one big question most teams have around the NL is whether to keep an extra reliever or an extra bench player. At least for the start of the season, I see the Phillies opting to keep two utility men off the bench.
Josh Harrison has been in the MLB for a while now and is only three seasons removed from being an All-Star with the Pirates. However, he fell off the map last season with Detroit – hitting for a .480 OPS with one home run – before suffering a season-ending hamstring injury. Harrison is coming into this season hoping to revive his career, despite being on the wrong side of 30. However, he can play up to six different positions so his versatility will play a factor now that he’s back in the NL.
Ronald Torreyes is likely the most unpopular pick on this list, but as a utilityman, he has a shot at making this roster. Torreyes is very familiar with Joe Girardi since he played with the Yankees for three seasons from 2016-2018. Like Harrison, he’s played six different positions around the diamond throughout his career, and his versatility will help. Last season, he had just 17 plate appearances with the Minnesota Twins. If he fails to make an impact or the team needs an extra reliever, he’ll likely be the first guy to get sent down to the minors.
Oh, this starting rotation frustrates me so much! Don’t get me wrong, Zack Wheeler was a nice pickup. However, this team needed two reliable starters. As a result of not solving this issue, Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta will fight for the fifth spot in the rotation in what will be the most attractive spring training battle.
Pivetta has all the stuff to be a great pitcher, but he needs to learn to get out of his own head. Every time something small goes wrong, he throws a fit on the mound. Pivetta said it himself: if he can’t put it together this season, then he simply doesn’t have what it takes to be a great pitcher in the MLB. It’s a make or break season for him, and for that reason, I see the Phillies giving him the fifth spot in the rotation over Velasquez to start the year. If things go downhill again, I could see Pivetta getting designated for assignment or sent to the minors.
Another big question for this season is what the Phillies will realistically get out of Jake Arrieta. After having a 4.64 ERA through July, Arrieta opted to have season-ending surgery to fix a bone spur in his elbow. Arrieta has talked in spring training about finally having a healthy offseason and feeling better than he has in past seasons. Will that translate to the field? If so, it will go a long way for this team.
Another big question for this rotation is when Spencer Howard will get called up. Howard looked great in Double-A last season and is likely to join the big league club later in the season.
It will be interesting to see how the new three-batter rule affects how teams construct their bullpen around the MLB. The lefty specialist is virtually gone: that’s part of the reason why having an extra reliever may not be as valuable since there will be fewer pitching changes across the MLB.
Dominguez, Neris, Arano, Morgan, Alvarez, and Suarez are all locks to make this roster. Tommy Hunter, who recently signed a one-year deal, is very likely to make this team as well despite missing much of last season.
The bigger question here is whether or not the Phillies will choose to keep an eighth reliever over Ronald Torreyes or Josh Harrison. Velasquez could get moved to the bullpen, where he showed some promise last season. Veteran Francisco Liriano also may have some good baseball left in him, and be the fourth lefty for this team, but I doubt the Phillies choose to roster him. Robert Stock, Austin Davis, and Edgar Garcia are all other candidates to make the team.
Opening Day Lineup:
1. Andrew McCutchen, LF
2. JT Realmuto, C
3. Bryce Harper, RF
4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
5. Didi Gregorius, SS
6. Jean Segura, 2B
7. Scott Kingery, 3B
8. Adam Haseley, CF
9. Aaron Nola, P
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