Quick question: before yesterday, show of hands how many of you forgot that Joe Girardi is the Phillies manager.
When the negotiations for how big the roster that would make up the spring training roster would be, my default setting went to how much fun Gabe Kapler was going to have now that he would have a full stable of arms that he could switch in and out of the game, the potential for double switches and the possibility that each game could be 4+ hours long.
Then I remembered that a competent manager is now at the helm, that the DH would probably be in effect for the National League...but games will still probably be slogs to get through.
The announcement of the team’s initial 60-man spring training 2.0 roster meant that we as fans would be allowed to pore over the names and discuss who would likely make the team, who might make an unexpected impact and who would surprise. In case you forgot, here is what the initial 53-man roster looks like:
There are a lot of things to consider here, so let’s look at some of the highlights.
1. We are possibly in for an Odubel-less summer....but don’t count on it
The first thing that a lot of people noticed is that there is a lack of Herrera on this initial list. That is cause for celebration as a majority of the people, possibly including some in the organization, would rather not see Herrera don the red pinstripes ever again.
The team’s lack of quality minor league depth has been exposed here a little bit. While we can look at the outfielders that are on the list (Mikie Mahtook, Kyle Garlick, Nick Martini) and feel comfortable that the depth is just fine, there is also the fact that Herrera is probably better than them from a talent viewpoint. Were an injury happen to Adam Haseley or Roman Quinn, the best option - strictly from a baseball standpoint - is Odubel Herrera. It’s probably one of the reasons why there are still seven spots that are still available for the taking on that list. It’s a lot easier for the team to quietly slip his name in there when people aren’t looking than it is to put it on a list that many people were desperately waiting for. No, they aren’t beholden to giving him anything. He’s not on the 40-man roster, therefore he doesn’t have to be the roster at all. But while the MLBPA has bigger issues than whether or not Odubel Herrera is on a summer camp roster, he is still a part of the union and if he feels the team isn’t acting in good faith, he could stir up some kind of a fuss. The chances are admittedly long and there is no certainty that Herrera would even win such a case, but the possibility is there.
For now, let’s just be thankful that the Phillies are still in the right here and are correctly not putting him anywhere near this team.
2. Yes, Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard are there, but don’t hold your breath that they will start there on “Opening Day”
These were two of the bigger questions that were bandied about as people talked about what the roster would look like. With no minor leagues this year, would the Phillies give their top two prospects at least some instruction this season? Turns out, that was easy to answer.
Both of these players are more than likely going to see the major leagues at some point this year. They’re young, talented and give the Phillies something they actually need - power, both hitting and pitching. The bigger question is: will they be there on July 23. Todd Zolecki, in his piece about the team, mentions how they likely will not start the season on the Opening Day roster due to “service time considerations”. Makes you wonder what exactly those considerations are? The guess here is that time on the roster will be prorated during the season, so if they join the squad somewhere around August 15, it’ll be the same as if the team held them in the minor leagues until the beginning of June (though please correct me if I’m wrong below).
It’s amazing that teams are still able to find a loophole with which to exploit service time, but hey, at least they’ll easily be able to negotiate that during the CBA talks.
The real question is whether or not it’ll be too late to bring them up. If the team is in need of a shot in the arm offensively and they’re still close, you’d have to think that Bohm would be brought back to Philadelphia in a heartbeat. If a starter gets hurt and the replacements aren’t cutting it, Howard will be there shortly. Having two of your more talented players not starting the season on the roster seems a risky proposition, so let’s hope they know what they are doing.
3. A starter disappointed at not making the rotation may have a bigger initial impact on the team
Looking at the initial 53-man roster, 31 of those names are pitchers - 11 starters and 20 relievers. That’s for good reason. Usually, it takes the starting pitchers around a month and a half to get themselves prepared to throw the 6-7 innings that are expected these days. With the summer camp that is now in place only going to last possibly 3 weeks, that cuts the starter’s preparation time in half. At most, when they are able to begin playing baseball, the starters will be able to go 3, maybe 4 innings to start. That means the team will need a lot of relievers in order to make up those 5-6 innings that will be needed to finish games. Outside of making sure its team doesn’t somehow contract COVID-19, the second biggest health issue is going to be pitcher care. That is why you see so many arms being brought into camp.
While many people will be looking at who the starters will likely be, or which players will be the ones to comprise the backend of the bullpen, perhaps the more underrated players will be those that have to pitch multiple innings in the middle of games. There will be a significant gap in games where someone has to give the team multiple innings of relief, possibly in the fifth, sixth and/or seventh innings, where games are sometimes won or lost. They’ll need someone, or multiple people, to bridge that gap until the starters are able to go deeper into the games. So as the battle rages for who will be the fifth or even fourth starter in this rotation, it’s worth noting that whoever loses might play a bigger role for the team’s chances of winning than first believed.
A lot of moving parts are still going to happen between now and July 23. Trades, releases and free agent signings probably are going to happen, which is why there are only 53 names to begin with. It’s an exciting time right now as we wait for baseball to come back.