The Return of The King
The Philadelphia Phillies have been one of the best teams in baseball. Since June 1st, the Phightins are 40-20, 5th overall in fielding, 8th overall in pitching, and 10th overall in hitting.
Bryce Harper said a few weeks ago that he is looking at a "September-ish" return to the team. Recently, interim manager Rob Thomson said he has weaned off the throwing regiment and is focusing on hitting. This move indicates Harper will return this season, but, most likely, in the DH capacity only. Humorously, Harper will look like a glorified "September Call-Up" when he returns.
Unfortunately, for those anticipating moving Nick Castellanos out of Right Field, that will not be the case. However, Castellanos made a great catch that led to a double play from the outfield. Things are looking up for the 100-million-dollar man.
A lineup that features the reigning NL MVP with an already red-hot squad of hitters will be scary for opponents come September and hopefully October.
Despite this good news, the Phillies will have to decide who will be relieved of their duties come playoff time.
The Possible Candidates: So It Begins.
When September rolls around, everyone on the current roster will be staying. However, the 28-player roster will shrink back to 26 by playoff baseball.
So, who will be the odd man out?
Below are the four candidates for demotion come playoff roster selection time.
Edmundo Sosa, SS,/2B/3B: He was recently acquired from the Cardinals for LHP JoJo Romero as the Phillies' new backup defensive infielder. Why would the Phillies demote a player they just traded for? Well, the answer is not as simple. The Phils acquired Sosa for the sole purpose of defending their middle infield and making the occasional start. Unfortunately, he is currently hitting under the Mendoza line (Batting .186 BA on the year).
On the other hand, Sosa hit .250 and .271 in 2019 and 2021, respectively. In 2021, he had his longest season, appearing in 113 games. He should be a keeper for the Playoff Roster if the Phils value his glove and MLB experience more than his bat. However, it should not excuse him as a possible demotion candidate.
Matt Vierling, OF/1B/3B: There comes a time and a place where Carshield won't be able to fix Matt Vierling's problem. That problem is a possible demotion for the playoffs. Vierling has had some clutch hits this season to keep the Phils alive. Despite his .231 BA, Vierling has been holding down the fort in CF.
The Phillies acquired Brandon Marsh at the trade deadline as their everyday centerfielder. What does this mean for Vierling? The occasional start and PH opportunity. He is not the future centerfielder for the Phillies, but he has come up in reliable moments, i.e., Homering of Josh Hader.
All in all, Vierling has had more games in the majors than anyone else on this list, so that might be a factor for keeping him at the end of Game 162.
Darick Hall, 1B: Hall has become a pleasant surprise in Harper's absence. Hall is currently hitting .274 BA, .313 OBP, .594 SLG, and .907 OPS with 8 HR and 15 RBIs in 30 Games. Not too shabby for an in-house call-up to replace Harper's power for the time being.
However, the phrase "to replace Harper's power" might ring truer. If Hall's presence is meant to fill the power bat needed at DH, he might be the apparent demotion without all the other candidates listed. The Phillies' choice might be as simple as that. Hall is improving and consistently contributing to this lineup, so he might be more valuable to keep.
Nick Maton, SS/2B: The clutch-hitting infielder that Philadelphia loves is Nick Maton. In 2021, Maton debuted, playing in 52 games for the Phightins. He batted .256 BA, .323 OBP, .385 SLG, and .708 OPS, with 2 HR and 8 RBIs. Pitchers eventually got to him with the curveball and went back to Triple-A. One of his other drawbacks is his arm strength, as he is limited to SS and 2B only.
In 2022, Nick Maton made a confident return to the big leagues playing in two games before hurting his shoulder. He rehabbed most of June and July in the minors before returning around the trade deadline. Since then, he has played in two more games. Currently, Maton is hitting .600 BA, .667OBP, 1.500 SLG, and 2.167 OPS with 2 HR and 8 RBIs.
Maton's 2022 is a small sample size. But if it comes down to Sosa and Maton for the better infielder, then Maton is the better choice. His fielding holds up just as much as Sosa's. Maton can be more versatile in a lineup that will permanently have Bryce Harper as DH for the remainder of 2022.
The Fellowship for The Ring
The Phillies are a different team under the management of Rob Thomson Thomson's performance since taking over might win him the permanent job. Also, he should get some Manager of the Year votes with the turnaround the Phillies have had.
In the end, the Phils will make a hard decision to pursue a deep playoff run. One does not simply walk into the playoffs, especially not without their best players.
Who will it be?
Who will be demoted from the roster for Bryce Harper come playoff time?