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April 01, 2022

Phillies 2022 preview: It looks like Didi Gregorius will be the starting shortstop after all

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Phillies-Cardinals-Didi-Gregorius-Kate-Frese_041721-88.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius.

Spring training is finally in full swing as the Phillies are clearly going to be giving it their best shot to end their now 10-season postseason drought after exceeding the league's luxury tax for the first time ever. That kind of "stupid money" brings with it high expectations.

For what it's worth, the Phillies are +100 to make the expanded playoff field this fall (via bet and their over/under win total is 84.5 (via Caesars).  

Before the team hits the field in South Philly to open their 2022 campaign against the Athletics on Friday, April 8, we're going to take a deep dive into each positional group.

Let's round out the infield with a look at the shortstop position...

Scouting report

Didi Gregorius, who was signed as a free agent prior to the COVID-shortened 2020 season, looks in line to start at short in a somewhat surprising development at the position. The 32-year-old was awful last season and the front office insinuated that the shortstop will have to compete for his starting job in 2022. On an expiring $14 million deal, there was even some trade buzz this offseason. But a solid spring that has seen him knock two homers in eight games and sport a .273 batting average — paired with drama elsewhere in the infield — has him in line to get the nod on April 8.

Which Gregorius will the Phillies be getting in his third season with the club? In 2020, the veteran played all 60 games, and led the entire team in base hits, extra base hits and RBI. Then in 2021 he sharply fell off.

Here's a look at his two Phillies seasons:

Slash line.284/.339/.488.209/270/.370
Power10 HR, 40 RBI13 HR, 54 RBI

Across the board, Gregorius was a liability, and many expected top prospect Bryson Stott to compete for his job. With trouble at third, it appears the Phillies are opting to let Stott go for the hot corner, with Gregorius relatively safe at short.

The Phillies are hoping his defense reverts to the mean, and a spring training gem Thursday was a good sign:

NL East ranking

If you are going by name recognition and reputation, the NL East shortstop hierarchy is New York's Francisco Lindor and then everybody else. But after a down year in 2021, Lindor's projected numbers are in line with his positional competition.

Here's a look at the numbers:

Shortstop 2021 stats2022 proj  Career WAR
PHI Didi Gregorius (32).209, 13 HR, 54 RBI.233, 17 HR, 66 RBI18.3
ATLDansby Swanson (28).248, 27 HR, 88 RBI.250, 22 HR, 76 RBI8.8
MIAMiguel Rojas (33).265, 9 HR, 48 RBI.265, 9 HR, 49 RBI10.4
NYMFrancisco Lindor (28).230, 20 HR, 63 RBI.252, 20 HR, 60 RBI31.1
WASAlcides Escobar (35).288, 4 HR, 28 RBI.263, 7 HR, 34 RBI10.5

The division is really just a bunch of grizzled veteran shortstops and Gregorius could hold his own amongst his piers with a season in line with his career averages — though the Phillies would certainly hope for better than a .233 clip with the bat.

Phillies' future

The Phillies No. 1 prospect right now is Bryson Stott, a shortstop by trade. Assuming he plays third this year, next season will be interesting for the Phillies as they'll be faced with replacing Gregorius at short. Will Stott slide over? Is there another prospect to keep an eye one?

There are actually a few...

Luis Garcia, No. 8 prospect
After having an insanely impressive year at the age of 18, Garcia may have been pushed or touted to soon before dropping way off in 2019 and then missing all of 2020 due to the pandemic cancelling the minors. In 2021, the 21-year-old's fourth pro season, he hit .243 with 13 homers in Single-A. The team is hoping he can make a solid leap to Reading this season.
Casey Martin, No. 15 prospect
Martin is a gifted infielder drafted in 2020 who could be a quick study and jump to the majors relatively quickly. He struggled in his first pro season last year hitting just .198 in Single-A. He is expected to also show signs of improvement in his age 23 season.
William Bergolla, No. 24 prospect
Bergolla is just 17, and was the forth best rated international signing this past offseason. He signed for $2.05 million and is a lefty with solid skills on the dirt as well as at the plate. It's very early but he does have promise.
Jamari Baylor, No. 26 prospect
Baylor rounds out this list and he's actually performed well to start his pro career. The 21 year old has hit .269 across three levels of the low minors and is said to have elite speed. It will be useful to see him play for a full season — he had hamstring issues in 2021.

As you can see, there is depth and potential, but few studs. Whether any of the above players wind up making a major league impact is anyone's guess, but at least there are some potential future shortstops in the farm system right now. 

The team will be at a decision point after 2022 at shortstop. We'll see if Alec Bohm improves enough to re-capture his job at third and Stott is able to become the everyday shortstop the team imagined he would be someday.

Phillies season preview
C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | DH | OF | SP | RP

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