January 25, 2020
In just about two weeks, pitchers and catchers will report to spring training for the Phillies. And two weeks after that, they'll begin their Grapefruit League schedule, allowing us to watch the new additions to the team (finally) suit up and play.
There are a lot of questions on the margins about which players will start the year in the majors after the team brought in a handful of non-roster invitees with big league experience this past week. This, in addition to possible looming promotions for top prospect Alec Bohm and others, likely makes for some drama in Clearwater this February and March.
We posted our first roster projection about a month ago. Now, for one last time (at least before actual baseball starts up), we'll try and project which 26 (of the 65 players heading to camp) will open the year in Miami with the Big League club when the season commences in March:
Catcher: J.T. Realmuto
Perhaps the best catcher in all of baseball, Realmuto will be batting in the middle of the lineup and playing most days for the Phillies. Fans hope he'll have a new contract by then, but if he doesn't he'll theoretically have even more to play for as he aspires to set the record for money paid to a backstop.
First Base: Rhys Hoskins
Hoskins may have a shorter leash — especially with Bohm's ability to play first and with Neil Walker on the team — but the big first baseman will get another chance to show he can be a franchise staple after struggling in the latter half of 2019.
Second base: Jean Segura
Segura played second base in 2016 and he will shift there in 2020 with Didi Gregorius slated to start at shortstop. He has three years left on his current deal (plus a club option), so unless he's traded, the Phils will find a place for Segura in the starting lineup.
Shortstop: Didi Gregorius
What can Phillies fans expect from newcomer Gregorius? Baseball Reference sees the big infielder reverting to his former self after a down year in 2019. They see him hitting .261 with 20 homers. The Phillies will likely take that.
Third base: Scott Kingery
Kingery is a jack of all trades on defense who yields a pretty impressive bat wherever he plays. Look for him to start at third and work his way around the infield as needed as he assumes the role of both starter and utility man.
Right field: Bryce Harper
Harper had a monster year last year and with a healthier supporting cast could have an even better 2019. Not much needs to be said about the Phillies' most expensive toy — he'll have a spot in the heart of the order on Opening Day, and hopefully every other day after that.
Center field: Adam Haseley
Odubel Herrera is gone... kind of. It would be wild for him to start the year on the MLB roster, as he's not been invited to major league camp and will start his spring in the minors. Haseley had a solid rookie campaign and showed enough to earn a second chance to play every day. He will get every opportunity in center, with some solid outfield options available to step in should he stumble (more on that when we get to the bench).
Left field: Andrew McCutchen
If McCutchen is nearly as good as he was before getting hurt last season he'll be a key contributor in left. He can hit anywhere in the batting order — he has speed, he has plate discipline and a little power. He's also a clubhouse leader.
Bench (5): Andrew Knapp (C) Jay Bruce (OF), Roman Quinn (OF), Josh Harrison (UTIL), Neil Walker (INF)
It's a little weird that between McCutchen, Harrison, Walker and Francisco Liriano the Phillies could have four starters from the 2013-16 Pirates on their roster — but those players have a lot left to contribute. Walker is a perfect fill-in for the corner infield spots and a designated hitter for interleague games. Harrison can play the middle infield spots and add some pop with his bat. Quinn is a speedy outfield option as a fourth outfielder and Bruce has power from the left side. Knapp will be on the team again as a very cheap and defensive-minded option on the rare days Realmuto needs a rest.
Starting pitchers (5): Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, Spencer Howard/Adonis Medina
I've changed my mind on the fifth starter. Nick Pivetta's future, at least with the Phillies, is as a reliever and a spot starter. Philly will have, in camp, two incredibly talented 23-year-old prospects in Howard and Medina and if one of them has a solid performance in spring training, they should assume that role. An injection of some youth makes sense, especially if the team wants to show it was justified in hanging on to its top youngsters instead of making blockbuster trades this past offseason.
Bullpen (8): Adam Morgan, Hector Neris, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ranger Suarez, Victor Arano, Francisco Liriano, Drew Storen
After bringing in veteran arms like Liriano and Storen to compete for bullpen jobs, the team now seems to have a solid bullpen strategy in place. They will have the liberty of combining the old and the new, with young arms Suarez and Arano coming off of impressive campaigns in 2019. Seranthony Dominguez will join this group when healthy, as a bevy of promising arms, like J.D. Hammer and Edgar Garcia, continue to hone their craft in Triple-A, should an epidemic of pitching injuries strike again.
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