The 2019 Phillies were, in a word, unlucky, when it came to numerous aspects of their game — but none were more prevalent than the team’s apparent knack for injury, coupled with a lack of Major League depth.
When their bullpen crumbled to dust, the Phillies struggled to find Major-League-ready replacements for guys like David Robertson, Seranthony Dominguez, and the like. Thus, the Front Office was forced to rush young arms like JD Hammer, Edgar Garcia, and more to the Big Leagues well before they were ready (though, who can blame them — it’s not every day you lose your entire bullpen… literally.)
The Phillies also found that, once the three young arms that made up the back end of the club’s rotation spontaneously combusted, they had nobody anywhere near ready to take up the mantle of ‘back-end starter,’ and, instead, chose to flounder week-in and week-out, starting guys like Cole Irvin, Enyel De Los Santos, and other unprepared arms.
Nick Pivetta self-destructed, Vince Velasquez is arguably the worse of the two evils, and the Phillies’ positional “depth” failed to contribute in any way, shape, or form. It got to the point where the Phillies turned to their non-roster signees, like Sean Rodriguez, who was horrific for the big club, and asked them to start games at the Major League level — which should NEVER happen.
But then, the Phillies traded for Jay Bruce in June, and acquired Brad Miller as well — and, all of a sudden, the team had put together something of a passable bench. The club still has control over Bruce thru 2020, and they’re likely to bring Brad Miller back, seeing as he was a fan and clubhouse favorite, who served as a very Greg Dobbs-y type bat off of the bench — especially with his torrid September.
Thus, the bench next year is shaping up to look something like this:
Jay Bruce (OF/1B - LHH)
Brad Miller (INF - LHH)
Andrew Knapp OR Deivy Grullon (C - Switch/RHH)
Roman Quinn (CF - Switch)
Who can fill that ‘???’ spot? It seems likely to be a right-handed bat, which would balance out the overall makeup of the arm variance in this iteration of the bench. Said righty should also be an infielder, as Brad Miller can’t be the only guy they proceed with covering a multitude of positions. Someone like Howie Kendrick fits this mold perfectly — and he’s coming off of a brilliant season with the Nationals. Starlin Castro, Josh Harrison, and others also come to mind.
This particular bench seems like a pretty safe route to take. You have a solid insurance plan for the outfield in Jay Bruce, should another McCutchen-esque catastrophe befall the roster. There’s also good coverage up the middle in Brad Miller and his compatriot infielder. And, if JT Realmuto, god forbid, gets hurt, Deivy Grullon has put up some pretty impressive offensive numbers over his last couple of seasons in the Minors.
Yet, that bench is nothing compared to what the Phillies have brewing in Triple-A:
The Iron Pigs’ lineup is one to be feared. In 2020, top prospects like Alec Bohm and Mickey Moniak, who both had career years in 2019, will look to dominate as the year transpires.
There are many other appealing bats in the mix, as well.
At first base, both Austin Listi and Darick Hall will look to platoon together. Listi put up some excellent numbers in his stint with Lehigh Valley in 2019, while Darick Hall won the Eastern League Home Run Derby for Reading last year, too. Both batters have some impressive pop, and hit from opposite sides of the plate, aiding their ability to coexist.
Second base will likely be filled via a Minor League signing (Scooter Gennett? Josh Harrison?) while shortstop will be manned by Malquin Canelo, as well as other utility specialists, like Jose Gomez and Nick Maton, who are due to graduate from Reading, as well.
At the hot corner, should he not get the call to the bigs right away, Alec Bohm will look to vie for his shot at a call up to the big club — and will do so as soon as possible.
In the outfield, guys like Mickey Moniak, Nick Williams (barring trade), Jan Hernandez, Josh Stephen, and a Minor League signing or two, will platoon across the board.
The catching spot will also likely be filled by a Minor League signing, with names like Russell Martin, Matt Wieters, and Jonathan Lucroy leading the charge of a weak Free Agent catching class.
Overall, there are a whole mess of impact bats scattered among this Triple-A roster. Each and every one of these guys are leaps and bounds ahead of what the Phillies had stashed away in Triple-A in 2019 — and the bats aren’t even the most exciting part.
This Iron Pigs rotation is shaping up to be absolutely bonkers — and they have a whole mess of arms to choose from.
RHP Spencer Howard is currently the Phillies’ top pitching prospect, and will surely look to make an impact for the big club in 2020.
RHP Connor Seabold, who impressed all throughout 2019 and continues to do so in the Arizona Fall League, will also look to pitch his way into the bigs — though there’s certainly no rush.
LHP Jojo Romero will look to bounce back from a pretty bad 2019 campaign — but his arsenal speaks for itself. There’s a lot of potential there.
LHP David Parkinson appears to be quite a consistent back-end rotation option, should the Phillies really need some help down the line.
LHP Damon Jones and RHP Ramon Rosso were mid-season additions to the Iron Pigs’ rotation, and are also viable options, but could eventually see the bullpen given their individual makeups.
RHP Enyel De Los Santos, LHP Cole Irvin, (and perhaps even Vince Velasquez/Nick Pivetta hinging upon offseason acquisitions) all seem like likely options to be tested from the ‘pen, as they’ve shown promise in that particular role, and couldn’t quite cut it as rotation pieces in the Majors.
And speaking of the bullpen…
The Iron PIgs’ ‘pen is perhaps the most impressive feature of them all.
Young studs like Connor Brogdon, Jonathan Hennigan, and Addison Russ will look to join the already impressive Edgar Garcia, JD Hammer, and Kyle Dohy — COMBINED with the possibility of the aforementioned De Los Santos, Irvin, Pivetta, and Velasquez. That’s one heck of a pitching pool.
So, you may be asking yourself, “what makes this different from the “depth” they packed into Triple-A last year?” Well, the fact of the matter is, they would no longer be relying on players’ “potential” to succeed.
Last year, the Phillies’ Opening Day Roster was peppered with unproven, lack-luster talent (which we, at the time, were blind to.) We’re talking about names like Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez... all of whom were looking to contribute in KEY ROLES!
This year, the Phillies will ***HOPEFULLY*** look to address their rotation with proven, Free Agent acquisitions, fill that ‘???’ hole in their bench (and third base) with a proven, veteran infielder, and comb the slim reliever market for a couple of proven, dependable arms.
If all of these VERY apparent holes are filled accordingly, the Phillies won’t need to worry about some 25 year-old kid with good peripherals panning out. They can let those talents force their way out of Triple-A — and maybe look to make an impact, but there’s no longer a need to put all of their eggs in the basket labeled ‘potential.’