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March 24, 2021

Phillies positional preview: Things are pretty bad in center field

Phillies MLB
Odubel-Herrera_052819_usat Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera.

Spring training is in full swing, as the Phillies are currently both tuning up to make a run at the playoffs in 2021 while also honing down their roster to the best 26 men they have to field a team when they return from Clearwater.

According to Pa.Unibet.com, the Phils are +285 to make the playoffs, and have an over/under win total of 80.5. With a payroll near the luxury tax limit, fans and team management alike are hoping they can far exceed both of these predictions.

So now is as good a time as any to ramp things up here at PhillyVoice too. As the April 1 season opener against the Braves approaches, we'll break down everything you need to know to get ready for one of the most anticipated Phillies seasons ever.

Let's take a look at center field...

Scouting report

When spring training opened at the end of February, everyone knew it would be an open competition for center field, and hopes were high that someone would rise to the occasion.

With a mix of veterans, homegrown prospects and one former All-Star desperate for redemption, it seemed as though five weeks of exhibition games would be a large enough sample size for Joe Girardi to know who would be roaming center in Citizens Bank Park this season. But with just over a week remaining in Clearwater, Girardi may be wishing he had another five weeks to sort this out.

The competition has been intense, but has had no clear front-runner. That fact that it has even come to this is a shame and a black eye for the Phillies' front office.

From 2015 to 2017, the Phillies used the tenth, first and eighth overall picks in the MLB draft on outfielders. Cornelius Randolph (from 2015) played in Australia in 2020 (where he hit .210 in 20 games). Mickey Moniak (2016) is clawing and scraping his way, he hopes, into a big league job. Adam Haseley (2017) had an unimpressive first two MLB seasons in the outfield. None of them — obviously — has panned out (yet?).

Here's a brief look at how the candidates have been performing:

PlayerABSlashHR, RBI
Adam Haseley*7.286/.444/.7141, 1
Roman Quinn31 .323/.382/.4841, 1
Mickey Moniak22.273/ .385/.7272, 2
Scott Kingery33.121/.171/.2421, 1
Travis Jankowski23.217/.357/.3040, 0
Odubel Herrera36.222/.243/.4723, 3

*sprained left wrist on March 5, making return to line up Wednesday

Every single option is lacking.

• Haseley had an injury that sidelined him for a few weeks, but if his first few games were any indication he is motivated in 2021. We'll see if he can take advantage of the last few spring training games to earn the starting spot..

• Quinn has almost no power, and has struck out 12 times in 13 games.

• Moniak had a solid showing in spring training but was sent, Wednesday, to minor league camp likely due to his having a minor-league option. Don't be surprised to see him back at some point in 2021.

• Kingery, who will surely make the roster as a utilityman, frankly has been god awful with the bat and isn't exciting as a potential everyday center fielder.

• Jankowski has been fine, but has not done enough to make a surprise case for a starting job.

• Herrera is getting the most opportunity (something definitely worth noting) and he's been lights out with the glove in center, but he's been inconsistent with the bat this spring and, of course, brings with him a ton of baggage.

The way the Phillies' roster is currently shaping up, we expect they'll have no more than five outfielders. Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen and Kingery are locks, and corner outfielder Matt Joyce (he's hitting .381 this spring) is having a stellar spring and should make the squad as a backup to the aforementioned duo of Harper and McCutchen. 

It's pretty complicated after that. Does Herrera have an edge, as he's played decently well in the field and is already being paid over $10 million this season anyway? What influence does his domestic abuse suspension and off-the-field issues have over the front office?

The only thing we do know for sure, is that this is a complete unknown and the Phillies will be lucky if they can find something that works early in the season.

NL East ranking

With no idea who the Phillies will start in center, we'll simply take a look at the rest of the division. For some reference, the Phillies entire positional group in center last season hit .246, with just two homers and 16 RBI over 60 games. 

The Braves are expected to give one of their top prospects, Christian Pache a chance to start every day. Washington will go young as well, with Victor Robles hoping to bounce back after a down 2020. New York and Miami will go with veteran options in Brandon Nimmo and Starling Marte.

Here's a closer look around the division: 


Center field 2020 stats2021 proj  Career WAR
ATLChristian Pache (22).250 (four at bats).253, 7 HR, 25 RBI-0.1
MIAStarling Marte (32)..281, 6 HR, 27 RBI.271, 20 HR, 74 RBI30.0
NYMBrandon Nimmo (27).280, 8 HR, 16 RBI.252, 18 HR, 53 RBI8.1
WASVictor Robles (23).220, 3 HR, 15 RBI.249, 15 HR, 57 RBI4.3

*Stats for all PHL CF in 2020

Phillies future

The Phils currently have four relatively good centerfield prospects — in fact, the four players we'll explore here are all ranked by FanGraphs in the top 14 for the entire organization.

Johan Rojas, No. 4 (20-years-old)

Rojas is raw. He's in spring training right now and has been absolutely incredible defensively in center. But he has struck out 10 times in 15 at bats and has a single walk and hit in that span. He projects to a really solid every day outfielder with elite speed and range, and has a career .294 batting average in two seasons in the minors. He'll need to work his way up to handle big league pitching — and he missed a year of development in 2020 with no minor leagues — but if he can improve over the next few seasons in the farm system, he could emerge as a future piece.

Mickey Moniak, No. 8 (22)

We've already touched on Moniak, and he's making his case right now to take the leap to the majors. He did not get the call to "The Show" this spring, but he could wind up on the roster at some point later in the season and will be given every opportunity to earn a starting role — the Phillies surely want to make good on drafting him first overall back in 2016.

Simon Muzziotti, No 10 (22)

If Muzziotti can hit well in Double or Triple-A this summer, there could be some buzz for him to get the call to the majors, particularly with two potential long-term openings in the outfield. But he is really a Roman Quinn-type player right now, only with slightly better hands at the plate (he hit .287 in his last full season in Single-A with 21 stolen bases). In 273 career minor league games and more than 1,100 at bats, he has just four career home runs — which doesn't work in his favor.

Yhoswar Garcia, No. 14 (19)

Garcia was signed by the Phillies this past offseason from Venezuela and there is not a ton of statistical information to work off of, aside from video and second hand accounts. But there is some immense talent in this international prospect — enough that the hype has him inside the Phils top 15. He will get the chance to show what he can do in A-ball this summer.

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Phillies season preview
C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | RF | CF | LF | SP | RP | Bench


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