February 16, 2023
Pitchers and catchers are in Clearwater and began working out in an official capacity Thursday, as Spring Training has commenced in Major League Baseball.
There won't really be a ton of position battles this spring, as the front office seems to have a pretty good idea of what the roster will look like when the season begins at the end of March. Everyone just needs to stay healthy. But that doesn't mean there aren't players to keep an eye on in Florida over the next few weeks.
Which players have the most to prove? Here are the top five (or so):
The Phillies' lefty specialist had a very solid 2022 regular season (and postseason for the most part) and is not really at risk to miss the roster. But he was one of the reasons the team lost the World Series and they made a clear emphasis on adding more left-handed pitching to the bullpen this offseason. Matt Strahm and Gregory Soto are two high-profile acquisitions the front office added to the big league bullpen to give the team more options against the best lefty hitters in baseball.
The 28-year-old is set to become a free agent next season. He's got a great fastball and track record and will have a job in the majors in 2024 no matter what happens this season, but his future is up in the air. He desperately needs a big year as a late-innings southpaw will go far in setting him up for success. He'll have plenty of competition for key spots late in games.
Walker will make his first impression to Philadelphia fans sometime in February or March, and he'll have to prove he is worth the $75 million the Phillies spent to make him the team's third starter.
Players in this position have not been very successful in recent Phillies history. Kyle Gibson and Noah Syndergaard last year were nothing special. Matt Moore and Chase Anderson were huge letdowns in 2021. And everyone remembers how Jake Arrieta's signing fared prior to that.
Walker went 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA last year in New York which is promising, but he's also had three career seasons (of 10) with an ERA well over 4. Will he settle in as a reliable 30-plus game starter with an ERA in the 3s? If not, the Phillies have some talent waiting in the wings to steal his job.
If you're reading this article, you already know a lot about Rhys Hoskins. The soon-to-be free agent will start at first base this season for the Phillies following a tumultuous 2022 that saw him emerge as a postseason hero as well as a frequent frustration to fans.
Hoskins has elite power, he has great plate discipline and he has shown he can be extremely clutch. He also strikes out a ton, is very streaky and is a below-average defender. The Phillies may challenge him for his spot in the field with Darick Hall or even Alec Bohm, with him at the DH spot while Bryce Harper is out. He'll have to show he has worked on his glove skills in the offseason to keep his spot.
The Phillies added Castellanos to MLB's $100 million club last spring (after the lockout ended) and he was a divisive figure in 2022. He posted his lowest batting average (.267) and on-base percentage (.305) since 2015, his fewest home runs since 2014 (including the 2020 shortened COVID season) and his fewest full-season RBI (52) since 2016.
The year before he joined the Phillies he was an All-Star and MVP candidate in Cincinnati. For the Phillies, he was struggling to adjust to life with his new team and was a liability at times. His bounce-back season is going to need to start in Clearwater.
Typically there would be a bevy of prospects on a list like this — but this year's veterans will dominate the big league roster save for one opening: the fifth starter.
It's been made abundantly clear that the team is hopeful one of its top pitching prospects will break camp as a member of the starting rotation. Painter is the sixth-best prospect in all of baseball according to MLB.com, and Abel is 48th. Each has the talent to make it to the majors this year as well as McGarry, the team's fourth-best unproven player.
The organization looks like it is trying to give Painter every advantage this spring:
First thing I noticed today: Andrew Painter (No. 76) locker is next to Zack Wheeler. Bailey Falter (No. 70) next to Painter. Notable because Phillies have placed lockers almost exclusively in numerical order in CLW for 20 years.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) February 16, 2023
Wheeler asked for them to be next to him or Nola.
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