Phillies

Zooming in on spring training battles with Phillies' roster mostly in place

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With eight starting position players, four starting pitchers, seven relievers and perhaps all of their bench bats set in their roles, the Phillies have a better idea than most teams about their season-opening roster.

Obviously, injuries in camp could change the situation, but as many as 23 of 26 spots appear to be locked up with a month to go before pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater.

Rhys Hoskins, Bryson Stott, Trea Turner, Alec Bohm and J.T. Realmuto make up the starting infield. 

Kyle Schwarber, Brandon Marsh and Nick Castellanos are the starting outfielders with Bryce Harper expected to be sidelined until around the All-Star break recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez and Taijuan Walker will make up four-fifths of the rotation.

Seranthony Dominguez, Jose Alvarado, Craig Kimbrel, Gregory Soto, Matt Strahm, Connor Brogdon and Andrew Bellatti will occupy seven of the eight or nine bullpen spots.

Utilityman Edmundo Sosa and backup catcher Garrett Stubbs are shoe-ins for the bench.

Kody Clemens, acquired with Soto from the Tigers in the trade that sent Matt Vierling and Nick Maton to Detroit, has a good shot to crack the opening-day bench as well. After that deal, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski cited Clemens' ability to fill the utility role Maton served. The 26-year-old, left-handed-hitting Clemens played first, second, third and left field in the majors last season.

Dalton Guthrie also seems likely to make the team. He appeared in 14 games late last season for the Phils, going 7 for 21 with a homer and five RBI. His right-handed bat will be necessary with most of the Phillies' bench players or candidates (Stubbs, Clemens, Jake Cave, Darick Hall, Simon Muzziotti) hitting from the left side. Scott Kingery is also still in the organization with the 2023 season the final guaranteed year of the six-year, $24 million contract he signed prior to 2018. 

 

"I have a lot of confidence in Dalton Guthrie, I really do," manager Rob Thomson said this week. "I feel really good about our balance in our utility players."

Biggest battle to watch

The battle for fifth starter figures to be the most interesting and entertaining of Phillies camp. Top prospect Andrew Painter, still a teenager until April 10, will vie for the spot with lefties Bailey Falter and Cristopher Sanchez. Another lefty, Michael Plassmeyer, pitched well in 16 starts with Triple A Lehigh Valley last season (2.85 ERA, 1.05 WHIP) and is on the 40-man roster. Painter is not yet on the 40, nor is fellow pitching prospect Griff McGarry, but that would change if one pitches well enough in Florida to win the rotation opening.

Painter isn't just the Phillies' top prospect, he was ranked the fifth-best prospect in the sport Tuesday by Baseball America.

"He overpowered the competition at three stops with a tantalizing blend of stuff, poise and command," Baseball America wrote. "In doing so, he joined Chad Billingsley, Forrest Whitley, Zack Greinke, Dylan Bundy and Clayton Kershaw as the only prep pitchers since 2006 to reach Double-A in their first season after the draft year."

Painter pitched 103⅔ innings last year in his first full pro season, a promising number that could better prepare him for the test of starting every fifth day. 

"If he breaks camp with us, he needs to pitch and he needs to have a pretty good pitch count to do that so we're not putting a toll on the bullpen," Thomson said. "We'll ramp him up pretty normally."

DH duty

While Schwarber, Marsh and Castellanos will be the primary outfielders until Harper returns, both corner guys will spend time as the designated hitter. Against left-handed starting pitchers, the Phillies will use Castellanos, Hoskins, Schwarber, Bohm or Realmuto as the DH on any given night with a reserve like Sosa, Stubbs or Guthrie playing the field. 

Against a right-handed starting pitcher, Hall figures to see plenty of reps as the primary DH. He made an impact offensively as a rookie last summer, hitting .250 with eight doubles, a triple and nine home runs in just 142 plate appearances. He struck out 44 times with only five walks but the power against right-handed pitching can't be ignored.

"He has the potential to break camp with us, depending on how everything else breaks down, Thomson said. "He did such a great job with Harp out last year that you can't just throw him to the side. He's in the mix, for sure."

Relief competition

Pitchers in play for that final spot or two in the bullpen include Nick Nelson, Yunior Marte, Sam Coonrod, Luis Ortiz, Andrew Vasquez, Erich Uelmen and prospects Francisco Morales and Andrew Baker.

 

Marte, Ortiz and Vasquez were all acquired from the Giants this offseason. Uelmen came over from the Cubs. All but Morales and Baker are on the 40-man roster.