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March 08, 2019

Who will play centerfield on opening day for banged-up Phillies?

And who will be left off the 25-man roster?

Phillies MLB
0308_Phillies_outfield_USAT Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports

Which Phillies outfielder will be the odd man out?

The Phillies have an embarrassment of riches in the outfield behind their former MVPs Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen.

There are five players fighting for three roster spots beyond their solidified corner outfielders.

Complicating things further, is the injury bug — which struck centerfield this winter and has the potential to shake things up. Odubel Herrera has been out all spring training with a hamstring injury (a grade 1 strain), and has yet to rehab his way back from it due to a pretty bad case of the flu.

Roman Quinn, the clear-cut backup at CF for Herrera, has an oblique strain and is working his way back.

Both players are expected to be healthy sometime this spring, but there's a realistic chance neither will have had enough time to ramp up to regular season strength before the Phillies open their 2019 schedule against the Braves on March 28.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler has a thing for players with versatility. Which makes it less than surprising that eight outfielders have centerfield experience. Here's a breakdown:

 CF experienceSpring stats2018 runs saved
Odubel Herrera*557 games —-11
Roman Quinn33 games.400 (2 gms)0
Aaron Altherr48 games.146 (7 gms) +1
Dylan Cozens37 games (minors).350, 2 HR (9 gms)-1
Nick Williams16 games.227, 9 K (7 gms)-17
Andrew McCutchen1,314 games.263 (7 gms)+2
Bryce Harper 184 games— -26
Scott Kingery 1 game .250 (8 gms)-8


Realistically, anyone in their outfield can make a few "spot" starts in center if the Phillies need it based on prior experience there. However, if you take a look at the final column, defensive runs saved above average, just two players made positive contributions in the field last season: Altherr and McCutchen (who played for the Giants and Yankees).

The Phillies were absolutely awful defensively last season, but the hope is that an infusion of defensive skills from players like McCutchen and shortstop Jean Segura, paired with the moving of Rhys Hoskins (-27 runs last year) back to first base will help settle things a bit.

Making the right decision in the outfield, one of the few big spring training decisions the Phillies are faced with, will be critical in the team's attempt to be more solid with the glove.

Kingery is the team's utility infielder, (though he started in centerfield Thursday), and is a shoo-in to make the 25-man roster. Herrera is a sure bet too. Which two will fill the other spots?

“Assuming everybody was healthy, the expectation would be that Quinn and Altherr and Nick Williams would start on our roster," Kapler said, via MLB.com, "but that may not be possible given the current construction and the addition of Harper. It’s kind of a wait-and-see thing at this point.”

Cozens has a minor league option so he is the likely first man out. Quinn and Altherr do not have options, which means they would need to pass through waivers if the Phils wanted to demote them. Williams has two minor league options remaining.

The Phillies may be in a situation by month's end where, with a healthy roster, they would need to try and trade one one of their outfielders. It's worth monitoring, though according to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki there are "no indications" the team is in trade talks right now for anyone.

It's worth mentioning, that two of the Phillies highest touted prospects (and two who have been in training camp) Mickey Moniak and Adam Haseley are both center fielders. 

Having too much talent at a position is a problem MLB teams don't mind having. But a tough decision or two may be on the horizon for Philadelphia before opening day.


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