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March 28, 2017

Analyzing the Phillies' decisions with Chris Coghlan eliminated from Opening Day roster race

CLEARWATER, Fla. – A day after unofficially crowning Andrew Knapp as the team’s backup catcher for Opening Day, the Phillies made another move to help finalize their bench.

The team announced that veteran outfielder Chris Coghlan has been released.

The 32-year-old Coghlan had been considered a strong favorite for one of three open bench jobs when camp opened. The eight-year major league veteran and former National League Rookie of the Year was signed two weeks before camp opened to a minor league contract that had him in line to make $3 million if he made the major league roster.

Coghlan, who started Game 1 of the World Series for the Chicago Cubs last fall, was seen as not only a veteran presence on a young roster but also a versatile reserve who could play the corner outfield positions and on the right side of the infield, too. But Coghlan, a career .260 hitter, never got his bat going this spring: he hit .231 with two doubles, four walks, and 10 strikeouts in 39 at-bats.

And, frankly, the other main competitors for the two open bench spots – Brock Stassi, Daniel Nava, and Jesmuel Valentin – outplayed him.

So what’s left for general manager Matt Klentak, manager Pete Mackanin, and the rest of the front office and coaching staff to decide? 

There are currently 21 locks for the Opening Day roster:

The regular lineup

2B Cesar Hernandez

LF Howie Kendrick

CF Odubel Herrera

3B Maikel Franco

RF Michael Saunders

1B Tommy Joseph

C Cameron Rupp

SS Freddy Galvis

The starting rotation

RHP Jeremy Hellickson

RHP Jerad Eickhoff

RHP Clay Buchholz

RHP Vince Velasquez

RHP Aaron Nola

The obvious bullpen arms

RHP Joaquin Benoit

RHP Jeanmar Gomez

RHP Edubray Ramos

RHP Hector Neris

RHP Pat Neshek

The three bench locks

Aaron Altherr (R)

Andres Blanco (S)

Andrew Knapp (S)

Now what?

 • Well, the first thing we’ll point out is, among the 21 players listed above, there isn’t a single left-handed pitcher. Joely Rodriguez is as close to a lock as there is, from this amateur evaluator's opinion. He throws hard and has struck out seven while walking just two in 10 innings/eight appearances. He gets a big edge over Cesar Ramos, Luis Garcia, Alec Asher and Pat Venditte for his big arm alone.

UPDATE: Alec Asher was traded to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday afternoon for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Asher was on the 40-man roster, so this opens up a much-needed spot (for a guy like Stassi?).

That leaves three. The next bullpen spot?

 • Over the weekend I had Garcia pegged for a spot, in part because he’s on the 40-man roster and has added a splitter to his arsenal this spring. But on Monday, Mackanin said he’d like some length in the bullpen so we’ll go back to the guy we had on each of our first three roster projections: lefthander and former starter Adam Morgan. Morgan has struck out 11, walked four, and sported a 0.98 WHIP in 15 1/3 innings (the most work by any reliever this spring).

With Coghlan gone and Knapp all but added to the roster yesterday, that leaves two bench jobs with three candidates: Nava, Stassi, and Valentin.

 • We had Valentin on the roster over the weekend in our latest projection, mainly because of the 40-man roster crunch. If he’s on the Opening Day roster, it’s one less player the front office would have to designate for assignment (and risk losing) to create an open spot. But now we’re not so sure since Coghlan (one of the non-roster guys who would have needed to be added to the 40-man) is no longer in the picture.

 • Here is what Mackanin said of the bench candidates less than 24 hours ago: “Stassi has obviously made a great impression, mainly because, not necessarily because of his results, but the fact that he had a lot of quality at-bats. It looks like he can handle making adjustments to the different pitchers and different situations. He seemed to handle left-handers well. He made a good impression, as has Coghlan. Coghlan got a few big hits and a couple of good sacrifices flies, having tough at-bats against left-handed pitchers. Nava has been consistent throughout the spring. Valentin has really made a good impression. At first, he looked just like another guy but the last part of spring training he’s made a real good impression on me both offensively and defensively. His instincts are really good.”

 • With Coghlan gone and a bit more 40-man flexibility, it makes sense to keep the 22-year-old Valentin at Triple-A to continue to develop as a prospect. If Morgan and Rodriguez are the last two bullpen arms, you could put both Nava and Stassi (both non-roster players) on the roster and only have to create one spot on the 40-man roster, now that Asher is also out of the 40-man mix. 

Barring anymore trades, the Phillies could open one more spot on the 40-man by designating someone like Garcia or former Rule 5 pick Tyler Goeddel for assignment.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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