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An inadvertent Phillies mailbag

With no Spring Training to write about, let’s tackle some other topics instead, from Opening Day lineup predictions to how the lockout will affect Phillies position battles.

Celebrity Sightings In Philadelphia - November 25, 2021 Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

It’s not the easiest time to be a Phillies blogger. As the lockout drags on, we’re slowly running out of things to talk about. This time last year, I was writing player previews for the Phillies bullpen. Today, all I can think about is that clip from The Simpsons Movie where Homer has a cymbal-banging monkey in his brain.

Actually, scratch that. I wish I was thinking about something as whimsical as that monkey. Instead, my brain looks more like this:

A look inside Homer Simpson’s head, but the cymbal-banging monkey has been replaced with a stock image of a lock and chain sitting on top of a baseball and bat.

So, with my fingers itching to write something about the Phillies but my brain as empty as an MLB stadium on March 31, I reached out to the Twitter-verse for help.

I got a lot of fantastic responses, many of which felt better suited to a mailbag than individual articles, so I decided to put together an impromptu mailbag of sorts. Here’s part one.

This is a fun question, even though the chances I’ll get it right are slim to none.

  1. Kyle Schwarber (LF)
  2. Jean Segura (2B)
  3. Bryce Harper (RF)
  4. Rhys Hoskins (1B)
  5. JT Realmuto (C)
  6. Brad Miller (DH)
  7. Alec Bohm (3B)
  8. Didi Gregorius (SS)
  9. Matt Vierling (CF)

Starting pitcher: Zack Wheeler.

  • My gut tells me Kyle Schwarber is the most likely signing for left field. He had an excellent on-base percentage last season, and Dave Dombrowski will be looking for someone who can get on base in front of Bryce Harper. Schwarber also won’t break the bank, so the Phillies should be able to sign him and still remain comfortably under the luxury tax (as they are wont to do).
  • I don’t think Matt Vierling has very good odds to be the Opening Day center fielder. That being said, it’s still more likely to be him than any of the other options. Bryan Reynolds? Could happen, but the Phillies could easily be outbid by another team. Cedric Mullins? Maybe, but it’s unclear if he’s even on the trading block. Kevin Kiermaier? He’s a possibility, but I think his salary is too high for the Phillies’ liking. There’s no other player I feel confident picking, so Matt Vierling has the edge, simply because he’s already on the roster.
  • Brad Miller re-signing with the Phillies just makes too much sense for it not to happen, especially now that NL teams are likely to have the DH.
  • Didi Gregorius is still the starting shortstop until Joe Girardi says otherwise. I don’t think the Phillies will find anyone who wants to take on his salary in a trade, and I’m not convinced that Bryson Stott is quite ready to be a full-time major leaguer.
  • Barring an unexpected disaster, Zack Wheeler will be the Opening Day starter. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. However, it is noteworthy that he’ll be snapping Aaron Nola’s streak of four Opening Day starts in a row. The last time anyone other than Aaron Nola started for the Phillies on Opening Day, it was Jeremy Hellickson in 2017.
  • I’m very confident about the 2 through 5 holes in the batting order, although if I had my druthers, J.T. Realmuto would bat second and Jean Segura would bat fifth. They both get on base at a similar clip, but Segura gets more hits, so I’d rather him have more RBI opportunities. But it’s really not a big deal.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and the truth is, I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as it might seem.

Hopefully, every 40-man roster player is still hard at work, training in the best possible non-MLB facilities in order to get in shape for the season. While they aren’t officially working with their team’s coaches and trainer’s, many people seem to think there’s plenty of illicit communication going on between coaches and players anyway.

Whenever the lockout does end, there will be a Spring Training so that the players can play some actual games before the regular season starts. While someone like Stott might be a little bit more warmed up at first, that advantage won’t last for long.

Yes, Alec Bohm will lose some MLB development time while Bryson Stott plays in Triple-A, but I don’t think we’re at a point yet where that’s a serious concern for Bohm. The Phillies want Bohm to succeed at third, and the Phillies want Bryson Stott to be a shortstop. The two aren’t in direct competition with one another right now, and a month of missed games isn’t going to change that.

There is a chance that Didi Gregorius will be disadvantaged by this whole situation, but I don’t think that’s a huge concern either. Yes, Stott gets the chance to impress the Phillies coaching staff at Spring Training while their last memory of Gregorius is still his awful showing from last year. But Stott still has an uphill battle to join the major league roster. While Phillies executives have said they envision him playing a role on the 2022 team, he hasn’t made the 40-man yet. As long as the Phillies are giving Didi Gregorius a roster spot and paying him $14 MM a year, they’re going to give him every opportunity to succeed.

One more thing — I do feel particularly bad for the guys on the 40-man roster who haven’t even played in the big leagues yet, like catcher Donny Sands. The poor guy won’t get to play in the minors for as long as the lockout lasts, and he won’t even be making an MLB salary or earning service time to make up for it. I don’t think this affects his chances of making the major league squad once the season starts, but it’s still a real shame for him.

Check back tomorrow for part two, where we’ll talk about the Phillies developmental failures, next year’s left field situation, and the 2001 Phillies roster. Part three, a closer look at backup catchers Garrett Stubbs and Donny Sands, is coming later this week.