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February 02, 2021

Projecting the Phillies' 2021 Opening Day roster, version 2.0

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Carroll - Phillies Home Opener Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Jean Segura, Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins line up prior to the Phillies 2019 home opener.

The Phillies made projecting their 2021 Opening Day roster a whole lot easier last week, signing contracts to bring J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius back in the same roles they held last season. Those two moves pretty much complete the position player piece of the puzzle — though president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski did say they may add on the margins to help improve the bench.

The questions really only remain on the pitching staff. Who will be the team's fifth starter? How will they fill out their all-important bullpen?

We are going to do our best to answer these with our second iteration of our Phillies 2021 26-man roster projection.

Catcher: J.T. Realmuto

The Phillies spent $115.5 million to keep (arguably) baseball's best all-around catcher in Philadelphia, where he'll stay for five seasons.  

“J.T. is a little bit of a freak of nature because he’s such a great athlete and you don’t necessarily see such great athletes [at catcher],” Phils' manager Joe Girardi said Monday. “And that’s a special commodity. He’s a special commodity that we have and I just look forward to watching him work the next five years because it’s fun to watch."

First base: Rhys Hoskins

Hoskins has shown to be an extremely streaky player over the last few years, ebbing and flowing from being a mashing home run hitter who walks more than anyone else in baseball, to a strikeout machine that presses and goes through god-awful slumps. 

The top priority for Hoskins will be to find some kind of consistency, and locate what it is that makes him such a valuable bat in the line up when he is in one of those good stretches. If he doesn't, this could be the final Opening Day lineup he finds himself in in Philly.

The one hurdle Hoskins will have to overcome will be completing his return from season-ending Tommy John surgery. He's expected to be ready for the start of the season, but there's at least a chance he begins the year on the injured list and not as the starting first baseman. However, he'll have a place on the 26-man roster waiting for him either way.

Second base: Jean Segura

The Phillies decision to bring back Didi Gregorius locks Segura into second base, a spot where he did not make an error in 32 games last season and has a career .988 fielding percentage. If his defense is elite it will help, but the recent power outage is a concern and a reason why he likely won't sniff the heart of the batting order.

In two seasons in Philly he's hit just 19 total homers and knocked in 75 runs. But he has a career .285 batting average and should be a reliable everyday hitter in the bottom half of the lineup.

Shortstop: Didi Gregorius

Last season Gregorius was quite possibly the Phillies' best hitter, hitting .284 with 10 homers and 40 RBI (the most runs batted in of any Phillie in 2020). His return will give the offense a huge boost as it tries to replicate or build off some very encouraging numbers during the truncated 60-game season last summer.

CategoryStat2020 rank
Runs per game5.105th
Home runs8211th
Stolen bases358th
Batting average.2578th
On base %.3423rd

Third Base: Alec Bohm

Bohm was the runner up for NL Rookie of the Year last season and probably could have won the award had he been called up sooner. But in 44 games, the now 24-year-old hit .338 and recorded 23 RBI — an 85 RBI pace over a 162-game season.

Bohm can play first, which will put a little pressure on Hoskins (which is a good thing). It'll be interesting to see if he improves defensively at the hot corner, by far his biggest weakness. There's a chance he hits well and finds himself as the first baseman going forward depending on how things go down with Hoskins, the DH and obviously Bohm in his sophomore season.

Right field: Bryce Harper

Harper was an All-Star in six of seven seasons spent in Washington. He has yet to make it to the mid-summer classic as a Phillie — and that has to change sometime soon. In two seasons with the Phils, Harper has produced to the tune of a 48-HR, 145-RBI pace (if you extrapolate it into two full seasons). He's been on base 38.5% of the time and has great range and a great arm in right field. 

With a lineup around him that'll force pitchers to pick their poison, Harper could have an even more productive year in 2021.

Centerfield: Scott Kingery

The centerfield situation isn't great and it's one the Phillies have been forced to financially retreat on. They'll likely be using either Roman Quinn or Adam Haseley in center, keeping Kingery as an available fill-in throughout the infield whenever someone needs a day off, or in case of injury.

However, we have him starting on Opening Day in center because he is their best remaining position player. He gives Girardi some real flexibility, and it will be routine to see him start the game somewhere and finish it somewhere else. If his bat returns to pre-COVID form, he'll show what a luxury he really is.

Left field: Andrew McCutchen

Cutch will probably have one last season in Philly before their ballooning payroll will force them to part ways. McCutchen can hit leadoff and still has some wheels. He also will join Harper and Hoskins as a trio of Phillies hitters that can all lead the entire league in walks. It's not flashy but it's a winning formula.

McCutchen has a career .376 on-base percentage and is a shoe-in to hit double digit home runs every season. At 34, he may not be on the field every single day, but he will provide some pop and leadership in the locker room.

Bench: Adam Haseley, Roman Quinn, Andrew Knapp, Phil Gosselin*, Asdrubal Cabrera*

*Not currently on the 40-man roster.

Haseley was a former first-round pick who has shown he can hit at the big league level. He'll certainly get chances to play in center. 

Quinn is a speedy backup outfielder who is out of minor league options and will at least start with the MLB club. 

Knapp is Realmuto's backup and had a breakout year in 2020.

We have two spots left and they will surely go to infielders. We are predicting they'll go to free agents, as their 40-man roster options right now are slim. Gosselin had a great 2020 and is a familiar name to the Phillies. He's also cheap. Cabrera is a well-traveled infielder who can play everywhere on the field and is a career .268 hitter. At age 35, he'll be eager to sign a reasonable prove it deal.  

Starting rotation: Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin, Spencer Howard, Matt Moore

The top trio are locks, with Nola and Wheeler Cy Young candidates from day one. Moore, acquired after spending a year pitching overseas, is a much-needed left-handed option for the rotation. His $3 million contract number implies the team intends to give him every opportunity to make the MLB club. Some may expect it to come at the expense of top prospect Spencer Howard, but that's not the prediction here. 

With the fate of the minor leagues still in doubt, the Phillies need to give Howard a chance to pitch every fifth day. He's got the potential to be that good and no team is in more desperate need of homegrown contributors than Philadelphia is. They also badly need depth in their rotation, which is why Velasquez should be their long man in the 'pen and sixth starter.

Bullpen: Archie Bradley, Hector Neris, David Hale, JoJo Romero, Jose Alvarado, Connor Brogden, Vince Velasquez

Bradley was the prized bullpen upgrade this offseason, with a mix of veterans (Neris, Hale, Alvarado) and youth (Romero, Brogden) making up our initial projected bullpen. Spring training will see a lot of competition for the roles and spots in the pen and there should be considerable change in this section as April 1 approaches. 

Don't be surprised, additionally, to see the front office bring in some more veterans to pitch in camp and provide more depth.

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