clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Leadoff, Vol. 8: Scott-ched Earth Policy

New, comments
MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at Philadelphia Phillies Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

The first couple weeks of spring games are booked, and the Phillies are back at it Wednesday following an off day Tuesday, taking on a split Red Sox squad. How’s the race for the final roster spot going? How is Jake Arrieta still unsigned? How strong is Rhys Hoskins? All these and more are among the questions I don’t have the answers to. I just might have an answer for some of your questions, though! Let’s get down to them.

(Remember! Hit us up @TheGoodPhight or TheGoodPhightTV at gmail dot com with your questions)

Barring injury? No. The only regularity he’s set to have with the Phillies in 2018 is being a spell guy and right-handed power bat off the bench late in games. I’m not even sure he’d get regular playing time on another team at the moment; if some other team thought he was a good fit for that, they’d already have traded for him.

It’s kind of a sad situation seeing Tommy emerge from near-retirement to an inspiring comeback story, but the Phillies identified a couple better near- and long-term fits, and that’s just how baseball goes. Unless Tommy displays a previously hidden ability to play a corner outfield spot - and even then, ermmmm - then there’s just absolutely nowhere for him to play on a consistent basis on this team.

Boy he’s done the exact opposite. He’s scorching the earth.

It’s going to make a lot of people mad when Scott Kingery doesn’t make the Opening Day roster. And he won’t, again, barring injury. BUT IT’S FINE, I PROMISE. He’ll either be up at some point relatively early in 2018 or traded as part of a package for an established, controllable star. That’s really where we stand right now, but it’s a fork in the road where the Phils stand to benefit immensely no matter the path chosen.

Just be patient! Baseball is a game that absolutely demands we be patient, from the development of draftees and signees through the minors all the way on up into a sometimes-interminable 162-game season, patience is required of us. Kingery is on the doorstep and will make his Major League debut in 2018. Don’t be so anxious to dump someone else hastily so Kingery can take his place; this is roster chess that needs to be well-executed to keep the team and org in balance.

In keeping with this camp’s early theme of positional flexibility, he’ll be all over the dang place. He kind of already has been; his start distribution in the outfield goes 24-75-83 from LF to CF to RF, with 19 substitute appearances. He can (and will) do a bit of everything, and that’s a super helpful thing to have on the roster right now. We all know Rhys Hoskins is likely due for a lot of seven-inning patrols in left before moving to first or getting subbed out entirely (Carlos Santana is the better defender, after all), and Altherr stands to be the replacement if he’s not in the game already. He’s also the best option for when Odubel Herrera needs a game off out of center. The is-it-or-isn’t-it platoon situation with right field may still be something of an open question, but Altherr’s flexibility will allow him to play multiple positions in pursuit of semi-regular PAs.

If you wanted to #BeBold, you could say Altherr is the most important outfielder on the roster at the moment, given the defensive questions about to abound in left, Nick Williams’s own offensive uncertainty, and the fact that Altherr’s the most viable backup CF. Big season for the Rhineland Rocket. Similarly...

Very big season upcoming for Roman Quinn. The trials and tribulations that befell him the past few years on an apparently futile quest to stay healthy haven’t reprised their roles yet in 2018, and as long as they don’t, Quinn is about as strong a contender for a spot on the 25-man roster as anyone else not already considered a shoo-in. He’s the 1b to Altherr’s 1a in the backup center fielder conversation, which is a huge help for him, but his own positional versatility (emergency shortstop, anyone?) and railgun speed have opened eyes in the past and certainly leave him suited for this manager’s style of roster construction.

The only thing that may restrict Quinn is that exact roster construction scheme, though. With designs on regularly carrying eight or more relievers, the bench is short. Four outfielders are already in the plans, and Quinn’s viability as a middle infielder is nothing more than true emergency status right now. Even if one of the current outfielders go down, the club is carrying three other guys who would start ahead of Quinn, no matter which of the four got hurt. Something would have to go pretty badly wrong for Quinn to be regularly starting by June.

I continue to be mad about this nonsense. The Phillies wasted relatively little time snatching up three Major League free agents in the span of a week in December, including a $60 million outlay for Carlos Santana, but all this hesitation and posturing around Jake Arrieta? Or, really, any of the big three remaining free agent starting pitchers? It’s weird, and it sends conflicting messages: The Phillies want us to think they’re trying to be capital-C Competitive by signing guys like Santana, but their continued reluctance to significantly upgrade the weakest part of their team last season in spite of the readily available goods still to be had even in March says they’re content to just be Kinda Competitive. They’re playing the lottery and hoping they win a modest sum by getting a breakout from one of the younger, more fringy guys still in camp.

Hey, fine, if everyone in management is cool with winning 70-75 games and getting one more high draft pick before really going hard after being capital-C Competitive, then so be it. Their plan is their plan. I just don’t want to hear that they’re putting a serious effort toward being better in 2018 if they’re stopping short of patching some of the larger holes in the hull of their boat.

I feel like Joseph is definitely starting the year with the team (am I delusional on this? I really feel like it’s already fait accompli), so I’ll skip over him and say Pedro Florimon will probably win the day. He’s getting some run from Adam Rosales, but I think Florimon ultimately claims the utility infielder-also-outfielder spot to provide the flexibility the club will need from its smaller bench.

In the bullpen, give me Victor Arano. I am very, very bullish on this dude and think he’s a legit piece. Yacksel Rios and Ricardo Pinto could still use some work, so extra Triple-A time won’t ding them much. Mark Leiter, if he’s left as a full-time reliever, could be a sleeper as something of a long man; the Phils don’t have as big a need for one of those if they’re carrying 13 pitchers, but it still doesn’t hurt to have length. I also wouldn’t be completely bowled over if Abad (maybe!) or Curtis (probably not though!) ends up beating Hoby Milner for that second LHRP spot and the team options Hoby, at least for starters.

But yeah, give me Arano. That dude’s a bowler.

I am very, very convinced that Tom Eshelman will be one of the first reserves brought up this summer. He doesn’t have the overpowering stuff you really kinda need to have any sort of sustained success (feel free to prove me wrong here, Tom!), but his ability to slide the ball on a string from his hand to the catcher’s mitt, plus a deceptive delivery, should allow him a handful of starts this year where opposing hitters flail and find themselves off balance. He’s a curious case, for sure, and I’m excited to see him come up and show how his top-notch command plays against Major League hitters.

Franklyn Kilome has an outside shot to be an impact reliever late this season, I think. I don’t see starting being in the cards for him for the big club just yet, but it’s hard to deny his arm and, if he’s set loose late in the summer, I could see a gaudy strikeout rate on his line. Starting, though? Not just yet.