March 17, 2023
The Phillies are in the midst of an important spring training. After finishing the 2022 season just two wins shy of a World Series title, the defending NL champions will have to quiet the doubters again — this time with an even higher payroll and tougher expectations to match.
Philly currently carries +1600 odds to win the World Series in 2023, the eighth best via OddsShark. They are third to win the NL East (+325) behind the Braves and Mets.
Before the team hits the field in Arlington to open their 2023 campaign against the Texas Rangers on March 30, we're going to take a deep dive into each positional group.
Today's look is at the bench...
The Phillies came into spring training with the bulk of their roster pretty much set in stone, their bench included.
• Garrett Stubbs has to be the backup catcher to J.T. Realmuto, so that's one spot down.
• Edmundo Sosa is back as the top utilityman and is expected to move all over the field this season, even trying him out in center, so that's two.
• And veteran Josh Harrison, signed in January, is also expected to be plug-and-play throughout the lineup. That's three.
Basically, there are two spots up for grabs, but at the same time, two very clear ideas of what to do with them based on the way the spring schedule is playing out.
One is going to require power at the plate to account for Bryce Harper's absence at DH, and Darick Hall is the very obvious fit there, especially with four homers and a .759 slugging percentage so far this spring.
The other, taking into account a recent report, would be to provide more outfield depth – again, because of Harper's even longer absence out in right. But that one has an answer that isn't so clear-cut.
Fan favorites Nick Maton and Matt Vierling are gone because of the offseason trade with the Tigers for All-Star reliever Gregory Soto and Dalton Guthrie hasn't impressed much this spring either. That pretty much leaves non-roster invite Jake Cave – who is slashing .458/.519/.958 with 11 hits and two homers down in Clearwater – maybe Kody Clemens, or someone else from outside the club as the biggest remaining options.
It's one of the few decisions the Phillies actually have to make this spring, but at the same time far from a make-or-break one. They'll find a way by.
For now, let's assume the Opening Day bench projects as this, with 2022 stats and (conservative) 2023 projections provided by Baseball Reference:
|Player (Age)||Pos.||B/T||2022 Stats||2023 Projections|
|Edmundo Sosa (27)*||UTIL||R/R||.227/.275/.369|
2 HR, 21 RBI
6 HR, 33 RBI
|Josh Harrison (35)||UTIL||R/R||.256/.317/.370|
7 HR, 27 RBI
8 HR, 43 RBI
|Jake Cave (30)||OF||L/L||.213/.260/.384|
5 HR, 20 RBI
8 HR, 31 RBI
|Darick Hall (27)||1B/DH||L/R||.250/.282/.522|
9 HR, 16 RBI
11 HR, 30 RBI
|Garrett Stubbs (29)||C/P||L/R||.264/.350/.462|
5 HR, 16 RBI
8 HR, 30 RBI
*Stats across the Cardinals and the Phillies
It's also important to note that with MLB's rule changes to the shift for this season – where two infielders must be on either side of second base – athleticism within the diamond stands to make a huge difference, so the Phillies having Sosa and Harrison available as their top two options could very well be to their advantage.
If the Phillies ever are in a real pinch for a backup, there are three outfielders currently on the 40-man they might be able to look to in Simón Muzziotti, Jhailyn Ortiz, and Johan Rojas.
Muzziotti, 24, was actually up with the Phillies early last season when nothing was going right for them out in center. His speed is a plus in fielding and baserunning, but he doesn't particularly wow at the plate.
Ortiz, 24, brings power and some surprising athleticism but has been struggling with making contact down in the minors over the past year.
Rojas, 22 and the Phillies' sixth-ranked prospect, brings a lot of range defensively and has been a menace on the bases, stealing 62 last season across High-A and Double-A. He's been making regular contact at the plate as well, the catch is, it's too often not quality contact, which needs working on.
Still, he'll likely have plenty of time to improve.
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