clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2019 Phillies preview: Where are the spring training position battles?

New, 18 comments

It seems as though, at this point, most spots are sewn up, give or take a reliever or two

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies-Workouts Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

This is an entry in our preview of the 2019 Philadelphia Phillies. Look for more throughout the coming weeks of spring training.

When 2018 ended, it was apparent that the Phillies needed some upgrades. The ended the season on such a poor run, no one outside of Aaron Nola could honestly say they deserved to be handed a job once the following spring training started. Of course, we’re smarter than that and know that some players are guaranteed a spot, either by virtue of the investment the team made in them (Jake Arrieta, Odubel Herrera) or the fact that they have a lot of talent the team desperately needed (Rhys Hoskins).

However as the offseason progressed and the team began to add more and more pieces to the puzzle, it started to become increasingly clear that this team had made a lot of necessary upgrades. Players that spent 2018 out of position were put where they belong, upgrades were acquired at key up the middle positions, and free agents were acquired to upgrade an outfield that struggled last season. Now, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of competition for who will make the team. Let’s go around the infield, outfield and pitching staff to see if we can dredge one up, going with the assumption that Gabe Kapler will be going with 12 pitchers to start the season with.

Infield

Projected members: R. Hoskins, C. Hernandez, J. Segura, M. Franco, S. Kingery

We already know who the starters will be. That’s the easy part. We also know that this team has an obsession with keeping Kingery in the majors and moving him around rather than making sure he gets regular plate appearances in the minor leagues. Sure, we’ve already seen that Franco and Kingery will be “battling” for the third base spot, but that just seems like something to give fans to watch rather than an actual competition. Is there anyone else that might make the team? I sure can’t think of anyone.

Catchers

Projected members: J. Realmuto, A. Knapp

This is one spot where we might see a competition beginning to take shape. J.T. Realmuto is the undisputed starter, someone who will be making 130-140 starts this season. The backup? That is a different story. I had advocated a while back for the team to sign Martin Maldonado, but the trade for Realmuto makes that deal pointless. By now, the team is more in need of someone who doesn’t really embarrass themselves whenever Realmuto needs a breather.

So, we’re going to have to sit back and enjoy the travails of Rob Brantly, Drew Butera and Andrew Knapp in a playing time death match to back up Realmuto. None of them can, most can barely defend. It should be a joy to watch. <fart noise>

Outfield

Projected members: A. McCutchen, N. Williams, O. Herrera, A. Altherr, R. Quinn

This is obviously the one to watch, as this dynamic could shift the coming days, but for now, we know that these five will probably be the five that will man the spots. With Herrera going down already to a hamstring issue, making sure Quinn stays healthy is a must since he’s the only one that can play centerfield and look like he knows what he’s doing. They can have all the positioning charts they want - neither Williams or Altherr are centerfielders for more than a game.

Now, should the team sign Bryce Harper, then things get a little trickier. All of a sudden, Kapler has to make the decision whether to keep 13 position players or 12, making one of these guys expendable. Is it Williams, who might fetch you something decent on the trade market? Is it releasing or trading Altherr, who was a massive disappointment last year? Do you start Quinn back in Lehigh Valley, where he still has an option left? Do you keep all three of them and make the pitching staff that much thinner. It’s a complicated question (though one I am truly ready for them to have to make. Please sign here, Bryce).

Starting pitching

Projected rotation: A. Nola. J. Arrieta, N. Pivetta, V. Velasquez, Z. Eflin

Man, an offseason trade for a starter would have looked wonderful wouldn’t it?

You can take your Keuchels and Gonzalezs and whoever else is still available and keep them. This rotation is ready now and anyone else on the outside isn’t much of an upgrade. I’ll say that I am full Velasquez/Pivetta believer, so I don’t see the need for anyone else to join since they aren’t a massive upgrade, but this rotation looks pretty good on paper. You can quibble about how you perceive them in regards to their ability, but this year promises to be a step forward for several rotation pieces.

They’ve even got some good depth in the minor leagues in case of emergency. Jerad Eickhoff, Enyel de los Santos, Cole Irvin - these are guys that can jump into the rotation if the need arises. Eickhoff having that option left really makes things pretty easy when it comes to making a decision about him, but the other two kids need innings as well. They may not be ace-level pitchers, but it’ll be nice to have their talent available instead of the days of Kevin Correia and Chad Billingsley.

Bullpen

Projected members: H. Neris, S. Dominguez, D. Robertson, T. Hunter, P. Neshek, J. Nicasio, J. Alvarez, A. Morgan

If I had my guess where the battles will be, it is here.

You can confidently say that the first six names there will be in Philadelphia on Opening Day, either due to talent or contract. It’s those last two spots seemingly available that will see the most competition in camp. Perhaps the single most important thing that will factor in the decision is who has minor league options left. From Roster Resource:

Phillies’ relievers and their options left

Player Options left
Player Options left
J. Pazos 2
E. Ramos 1
J. Alvarez 0
A. Morgan 0
V. Arano 3
Y. Rios 2
A. Davis 3

It’s probably safe to assume that if they have a crooked number next to their name, they are headed to Lehigh Valley. It’s the smart move; it’s the right move. Were they to expose Alvarez or Morgan to waivers, they will be snatched up immediately. The team probably doesn’t want to take that chance, so you’ll see them starting the year with the big club.

So, there you have it. There isn’t much of a battle anywhere. Sign Harper and things might pick up a bit, but outside of backup catcher, most of the spots are signed and sealed. Injuries will play a part still, but this is probably the roster you’ll see on Opening Day. Let’s hope we’ll see one more big addition to it very soon.