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The Battle for the 25th Man: Weekly Stock Report

A new spring series where we look at whose stock is up and whose is down in the final battles for the last few roster spots

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MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at Tampa Bay Rays Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

At this point in the spring season, we pretty much know at least most of the roster manager Gabe Kapler will be bringing north with him. We can guarantee these players have already made the team:

  • Infielders: Jorge Alfaro, Carlos Santana, Cesar Hernandez, J.P. Crawford, Maikel Franco
  • Outfielders: Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams
  • Pitchers: Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Hector Neris, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, Adam Morgan, Luis Garcia, Edubray Ramos

By my count, that is 18 spots that have been accounted for. That leaves seven open positions that need to be filled. The team needs a backup catcher, two starters, two more relievers and two more offensive position players, that position to be determined.

We’ve heard about and seen how the team is looking for flexibility in these position battles. Tommy Joseph has roamed the outfield grass, Roman Quinn has taken groundballs at shortstop and uberprospect Scott Kingery has even headed out to take fly balls in centerfield. We’ve also heard how this type of positional flexibility is due to the fact that they are probably going to carry 13 pitchers - five starters and eight relievers.

While it may not be the most exciting of things to watch, it’s still something we should be paying attention to since...well, why not? So what we’ll do each week around this time is take stock of how some of these players fighting for these positions are doing. We’ll see who has had a week that has made an impression on the on field staff, and who looks more destined to be starting the year somewhere other than Citizens Bank Park.

(all stats through Sunday’s game)

Infield/Outfield

  • Ryan Flaherty - 5 for 14, 4 runs, 2 RBI, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, 1 XBH (2B)
  • Pedro Florimon - 4 for 16, 5 runs, 0 RBI, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts, 2 XBH (2 2B)
  • Scott Kingery - 7 for 18, 4 runs, 4 RBI, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, 4 XBH (2B, 3 HR)
  • Adam Rosales - 4 for 12, 3 runs, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 3 XBH (2 2B, 3B)
  • Roman Quinn - 3 for 8, 5 runs, 4 RBI, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts, 1 XBH (HR)
  • Jesmuel Valentin - 5 for 16, 2 runs, 3 RBI, 0 walks, 3 strikeouts, 3 XBH (2 2B, HR)
  • Tommy Joseph - 7 for 13, 1 run, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts, 3 XBH (3 2B)

Stock Up - Kingery, Joseph, Quinn
Stock Down - no one, really

Kingery has really set himself apart so far this spring. Matt Gelb of The Athletic wrote an article Saturday about Kingery which included a quote from Aaron Nola that I find mighty interesting:

“He is a big leaguer,” Nola said. “The guy’s a baller, man. He does it at the plate. He hits for power. He does it in the field. That ball he saved for me today, that was awesome. He laid out. It saved a run.

“He’s humble, too. An all-around player, if you ask me.”

These are the words of a player that wants Kingery on the roster right now. Also, there’s this:

However, we all know that that is not going to happen. Baseball is a long season and Kingery is going to be in Philadelphia, probably sooner than we think. However, he needs regular at bats in order to keep the momentum of last season going. He probably will not find that in the major leagues just yet. But if he keeps hitting into the first few weeks of the season like he is now and a certain someone at the hot corner isn’t hitting or getting on base with any frequency, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a move made then.

As far as the other players, there really hasn’t been anyone that has been playing bad enough that one could single him out as the player most likely to get cut. While Joseph isn’t exactly graceful with the glove, he has been scorching the ball. He’s playing with the desperation of a man who knows his time with the big club is running out. Seeing Quinn healthy is great. Seeing Quinn healthy and hitting is a blessing. Those four walks are going to go a long way with this coaching staff.

Catcher

  • Andrew Knapp - 1 for 8, 1 run, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, 1 XBH (HR)
  • Cameron Rupp - 2 for 12, 2 runs, 0 RBI, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts, 0 XBH

Stock Up - neither
Stock Down - both

Neither one of these two have really distinguished himself yet as the more viable option to be the backup to Alfaro. While Rupp may have the higher batting average, Knapp’s only hit was a home run. This will probably be the one position battle on the team that comes down to the final few days of the season.

#4/5 starters

  • Zach Eflin - 2 G (1 GS), 4 IP, 5 H, 3 R (2 ER), 0 BB, 5 K
  • Thomas Eshelman - 2 G (1 GS), 3.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 4 K
  • Ben Lively - 2 GS, 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K
  • Nick Pivetta - 2 GS, 3.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R (3 ER), 5 H, 4 BB, 5 K, 2 HR

Stock Up - Lively
Stock Down - Pivetta

You can’t help but notice how good Lively has been so far in his two starts. He’s easily been the best of the one of these four and looks to have the lead in the race for one of the two remaining spots. Pivetta, though, isn’t helping himself at all. The home run problems he had last year seem to have carried over into the spring...but so has the raw stuff. Of the eleven outs he’s recorded, five have been via the strikeout. That type of rate is something that just can’t be coached. Where the coaching will have to be is, again, in the location of his stuff. If he is unable to command his pitches in the zone, he’ll find himself looking at being a relief piece before he becomes a starting option.

Relievers

  • Fernando Abad - 1 G, 0 IP, 2 H, 3 R (3 ER), 1 BB, 0 K, 1 HR
  • Victor Arano - 3 G, 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R (1 ER), 0 BB, 1 K
  • Zac Curtis - 3 G, 3 IP, 4 H, 1 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 5 K
  • Drew Hutchison - 2 G, 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R (1 ER), 3 BB, 2 K
  • Mark Leiter, Jr. - 2 G, 4 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K
  • Hoby Milner - 4 G, 2.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K
  • Ricardo Pinto - 3 G, 2.1 IP,, 4 H, 2 R (2 ER), 0 BB, 1 K

Stock Up - Leiter, Curtis, Milner, Hutchison
Stock Down - Pinto, Abad

Mark Leiter has been amazing this spring. Sure, you discount these numbers often because relievers are still facing guys who are bound for the minor leagues more often than they are the major leaguers, but seven strikeouts in four innings is pretty impressive. He’s got a firm grip on the long reliever’s job, but is facing some competition from Hutchison. While he was signed mostly for minor league depth, if Hutchison can continue this run of good stuff, he’ll could himself with a job as well. Curtis and Milner seem to be neck and neck for the other LOOGY job in the ‘pen, so that could be an interesting race to keep an eye on. As good as Milner was last season in his audition with the team, Curtis wasn’t kept on the 40-man roster after being a September waiver claim for nothing. Finally, even if it was just one game, we can safely say that Fernando has had <sunglasses on> Abad spring.

Each week, we’ll update the progress of these battles as the spring goes on. However, if there was a guess to be made right now as to who will take those final seven jobs, it would probably be:

Catcher - Knapp
Infield/Outfield - Valentin, Quinn
#4/5 starter - Lively, Eflin
Relievers - Leiter, Curtis

Let’s see how it continues to shake out!