After the shortest offseason in franchise history, the Phillies are officially back.
Spring training has arrived and the reigning National League champions are sitting pretty. The Phillies are coming off their first postseason appearance in 11 years and first trip to the World Series in 13 years.
The front office made a $300M splash in free agency to sign Trea Turner, swiped Taijuan Walker from the Mets and added several big arms to the bullpen. On paper, the 2023 Phillies are an improvement from last year's 87-win team that stormed through the NL playoffs before running out of gas against the Astros in the World Series.
We’re six weeks away from opening day and the roster is pretty much set with the exception of a few bench jobs and a very intriguing competition for the fifth spot in the starting rotation.
Despite a lack of high profile position battles this spring, the Phillies have plenty to prove. As a group, they set out to prove that last October wasn't a fluke and they are in fact one of the elite teams in the NL. There are also a handful of players with much to prove in 2023.
Here are five such players:
We begin with the most obvious name on this list. Nick Castellanos arrived in Philadelphia last spring with a well-deserved reputation of being one of the best right-handed hitters in the National League. In a five-year span from 2017 to 2021, Castellanos hit .286 with an .857 OPS and averaged 30 HR and 97 RBI per 162 games. The Phillies gave him a 5-year, $100M contract in hopes that he would continue that type of production in the middle of their batting order.
One year into that nine-figure deal, no such luck.
Castellanos struggled throughout his first season in a Phillies uniform, hitting .263 with 13 HR, 62 RBI and a career-low .694 OPS in 136 games. His lack of power was glaring for prolonged stretches. Castellanos hit one home run in 52 games in June and July. He rarely hit the ball hard and often flailed at pitches out of the strike zone. His struggles were even more pronounced in October - a .186 average and no home runs in 17 postseason games.
He admitted last season that he had difficulty adjusting to a new city. That adjustment was made more complicated by a mid-March signing date following last year's lockout and the fact that he and his wife welcomed a new baby in May.
Will he be more comfortable in 2023? The Phillies sure hope so. With Bryce Harper expected to be sidelined for the first two months of the season, they need Castellanos to be a run producer in the middle of the lineup.
The Phillies' longest-tenured position player is eligible for free agency following the 2023 season. Hoskins is the team's only position player who is not under club control through 2025. Hard to believe that this will be his seventh season with the Phillies. It seems like yesterday he set a MLB record by hitting 18 HR in his first 34 career games in 2017.
Hoskins is a streaky hitter but overall has been a very solid offensive player. He has an .846 OPS in six seasons and averages 36 HR and 98 RBI per 162 games. He's proven capable of hitting effectively in several spots in the lineup.
But Hoskins' defense at first base is subpar. He can be a liability in the field and is better suited for a designated hitter role. He'll likely DH more often early in the 2023 season with Harper sidelined. But Harper's eventual return coupled with the presence of Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber on the roster, as well as the need to get J.T. Realmuto off his feet on occasion prevents Hoskins from being the Phillies' permanent DH.
How will Hoskins handle the pressure that accompanies a contract year? Time will tell. If he puts up big numbers and is a key part of another postseason run, the front office will be compelled to re-sign him. But if he's inconsistent at the plate and continues to struggle defensively, he'll likely be playing elsewhere in 2024.
Marsh enters his first full season in Philadelphia with a firm grip on the center field job. The former second-round pick scuffled at the plate with the Angels but the Phillies acquired him last summer thinking they could unlock his offensive potential. The early returns were promising. Marsh hit .288 in 41 regular-season games with the Phillies.
Marsh is under team control through the 2027 season. The Phillies would love to see him blossom into an effective everyday player for years to come. Can he make all of the plays in center field while also being a reliable bat in the bottom of the lineup? That's what Marsh is trying to prove this season.
Painter is the most intriguing player in Phillies camp. All eyes will be on the 19-year old phenom as he tries to win the fifth starter's spot less than two years after the Phillies selected him out of high school with the 13th pick in the 2021 draft.
Painter dominated at every stop during his rapid ascent up the Phillies minor league ladder. The hard-throwing right hander has compiled a 1.48 ERA at four different levels, including a 2.54 ERA in five starts at AA Reading last season.
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has a track record of bringing young pitchers up to the majors and says he'll do the same with Painter if he's ready. The Phillies kept the final spot in the rotation open in hopes of Painter claiming it during spring training.
Regardless of whether Painter breaks camp with the Phillies, the team will monitor his innings and workload in 2023. It will take some creativity but it's a challenge the Phillies would welcome if it means having the uber-talented Painter in their starting rotation.
The Phillies' 2019 first-round pick enters spring training as the starting second baseman, his third position in the last 12 months. Stott competed for the third base job last spring then became the starting shortstop after the Phillies released Didi Gregorius in August. Now he moves to second base following the acquisition of Turner and Jean Segura's departure via free agency.
Stott started slow at the plate as a rookie before heating up in the summer months, hitting .188 before the All-Star break and .276 in 64 games after the break. He's a plus defender who is familiar with his new position. He played 45 games at second base last year while Segura was on the injured list with a broken finger.
The Phillies are counting on Stott to continue his offensive development and steady defensive play. He'll get the opportunity to prove he can be Turner's double play partner for years to come.