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June 03, 2024

Phillies' insurance policies paying off, showing team was built to withstand injuries

The Phillies' roster was constructed to overcome injuries to key players this season.

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Phillies-Whit-Merrifield-Edmundo-Sosa_060324_USAT Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports

The Phillies built their roster with depth this season — and have needed contributions from Whit Merrifield and Edmundo Sosa.

What makes these Phillies different than other Phillies teams?

The starting pitching staff, from last season to this season, is virtually the same. The core of the offense is identical too.

The front office decision-makers are the same, the manager is the same and many of the supporting players — in the bullpen or on the bench — are also familiar faces from the last two deep postseason runs.

In 2024, the Phillies are the best team in the National League, have a sizable lead in the NL East and are among the frontrunners to win a World Series. 365 days ago, none of those things were true.

In each of the two prior regular seasons, the Phillies have been weighed down by relatively major injuries to key players like Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, Ranger Suárez and Zack Wheeler. The Phillies made it to the postseason as a Wild Card team and got hot at the right time — but they've learned from their mistakes.

So far to this point the Phillies have been healthy compared to the rest of Major League Baseball. Just 32 different batters have stepped to the plate — the fewest of any team so far. The average is 38, and four different teams have used 44 hitters. Similarly, the Phillies have utilized only 18 total different pitchers, the second fewest in baseball. The league average for that one is 21, and the Dodgers and Marlins have used 27 pitchers.

As June continues, the Phillies are worried about weathering injuries to their NL Cy Young-leading starting pitcher, an MVP-caliber $300 million shortstop, and the youthful heart of their outfield. The fact is, they're probably not going to lose very many games due to any of these setbacks. And that's by design, after painful lessons learn in prior campaigns.

Spencer Turnbull

The one-time no-hit throwing starter has shown some versatility for the Phillies after a fast start as the fifth starter. He put together six very solid outings filling in for Taijuan Walker, who was injured in spring training. With six starting pitchers to juggle, the Phillies are built to withstand a few missed starts from Suárez, who was struck with a baseball in his last start and is reportedly on the mend.

Depth at starting pitching is one of the things that undid the Phillies during their World Series run in 2022, as they ran out of gas against the Astros in six games. It's clear the team is going to be prioritizing having some options, grooving and well-rested when October comes. And having an arm like Turnbull is going to be key for that goal.

Edmundo Sosa

He was a low-key trade acquisition during the summer in 2022, as the Phillies swapped pitching prospect JoJo Romero for Sosa. The utility infielder has gotten better in each of his three seasons with Philadelphia, and he's filled in flawlessly for Trea Turner, who is working his way back from a hamstring injury. 

Sosa is hitting .304, leads the NL in triples with four, and is tied with Harper for a Phillies' best .373 on-base percentage. Few expected this kind of offense from the 28-year-old journeyman, but the team will gladly take it. Conversations about keeping Sosa on the field, perhaps in the outfield when Turner returns have been taking place and with Brandon Marsh potentially missing a bunch of time, it seems like it could become a priority soon.

Whit Merrifield

Merrifield has struggled so far in 2024, and the Phillies need to see more consistent offense from the righty utilityman who has been an All-Star three times — but his presence on this ball club is proof that the Phillies are emphasizing the right things. The team didn't bring in anyone new this offseason of note, besides Merrifield, who has already played at second, third and right field this season.

The ability for Merrifield to play everyday if needed, and play anywhere he's asked gives the Phils some real flexibility. It's possible that with Marsh sidelined for a bit with what could be a nagging hamstring injury, Merrifield will get the first chance to start in left field. The veteran has hit just .176 through 31 games, but could be called upon more if injuries continues to mount. They very much hope this insurance policy pays off.

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