This offseason has been a whirlwind of activity for the Phillies. They had some major holes to fill and did so with startling speed, signing all of their targeted players within three weeks. Compare that to the trials of signing Bryce Harper, an exercise that lasted into spring training, and you’ll see what I mean. That process dragged out for what felt like an eternity while this one was almost totally different.
So, now that the dust has mostly settled, we can start to take a look at the team and make guesses about what the initial roster is going to look like. One thing that looks like has been the plan is to lock down the offensive side of the team for the next few years while their minor league system undergoes an overhaul in how they can better prepare hitters when they reach the major leagues. It’s a smart strategy if they hit on the right free agents and trade acquisitions, but that’s another story for another day. Here, I’ll take the first stab at what the roster could look like when the season opens in Arlington in late March. I’m not going to speculate on any other potential additions to the team. Instead, it’ll be simply what’s been assembled already by Dombrowski and Fuld.
Catcher: J.T. Realmuto
Until Realmuto stumbles during the length of a season, this will always be the easiest part of this exercise. Load management will be something to watch, especially with a certain someone on the injured list to begin the season, thus leaving the DH spot open on some days.
Infield: Rhys Hoskins, Bryson Stott, Trea Turner, Alec Bohm
The glory days of the late 2000’s Phillies team included the holy trinity of infields of Howard, Utley and Rollins. They were the engine that drove those teams and this group here has the potential to do the same. They won’t hit the lofty heights that trio produced at, but there is some dynamic offense in this infield. There’s speed, power, ability to hit for average, ability to get on base, it’s all there. If they can do it consistently? Whoa baby.
Just don’t look at the corner defense...
Outfield: Kyle Schwarber, Brandon Marsh, Matt Vierling
There is a Harper-sized hole in the outfield now, but there won’t be for long. So, they’ll have to make due with what they’ve got. Online, I’ve pushed for them to upgrade the bench, which in turn would upgrade the outfield spot for the time being. They could theoretically just put Castellanos in right field if you wanted to make the names on the lineup card a little shinier, but it’s shuffling chairs at that point.
One of the bigger things to watch as the season gets underway is what they do against left handers. Are they going to let Marsh be the everyday center fielder, no matter the matchup on the hill, or will they keep the platoon rolling? With no Harper to start, there isn’t the depth in the lineup there was at the end of last season, so it may have to be Marsh every day as Vierling might have to be used elsewhere.
Designated hitter: Nick Castellanos
For now, let’s put Castellanos here. He’s a fulcrum of the season, improvement from him being somewhat bet on by the team. Sure he made some outstanding plays in the outfield during the playoffs, saving a game or two, but if they can hide his glove here, they’d be wise to do so.
Bench: Garrett Stubbs, Edmundo Sosa, Nick Maton, Darick Hall
Stubbs has an argument as the best backup catcher in the game right now. Sosa is going to see regular work at third base, either as a starter when Bohm DH’s or as a late game defensive replacement. Maton’s ability to play the outfield helps him a lot right now, but his is the spot where the Phillies could look at making an upgrade somehow. It may not be a huge one, but in this division, each win is going to be big. Hall might have the inside track as the DH/1B option should they rest some people, but again, as a player who can do only those two spots, he’s vulnerable to another upgrade.
Starting rotation: Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez, Taijuan Walker, Bailey Falter
Maybe slightly controversial to not have Andrew Painter or Mick Abel here, but I’m not so sure the team is as gung ho as they claim to be about their breaking camp with the team. Will they see significant time during the season? I don’t think there is any question about it, but it’s not as if either of them are exactly needed to begin the year. Were one of the big two injured or having innings limited to open the year, I could even see them going with a six-man rotation to start.
Plus, I just see no reason to rush them. The pitching staff, as currently constructed, is pretty good. Both Painter and Abel are going to have to have superb springs in order to make the roster and even that should be taken with a grain of salt if they are facing the oppsotion’s back half of the roster. That is what I would be paying attention to in spring. What kinds of lineups are they letting Painter and Abel face - the starters of each team or their backups?
Relief pitching: Craig Kimbrel (CL), Seranthony Dominguez, Jose Alvarado, Connor Brogdon, Sam Coonrod, Nick Nelson, Matt Strahm, Andrew Bellatti
For now, I’m going with Kimbrel as the primary closer, but that might be subject to change. The relief corps underwent a ton of stressful innings as the postseason wore on, Thomson mixing and matching as best he could to make sure the team was winning. What that will do to how they perform in 2023 is one of the top storylines heading in. There will be save opportunities to go around, but Kimbrel probably gets first crack at the job. The question will be how many times the team lets him falter, should he even do so. There are plenty of options available.
Injured list: Bryce Harper
Having Harper on the injured list has its sting lessened a bit by the Turner signing. If all systems are go by early June and Harper is able to come back healthy, this is going to be a very dangerous lineup.
So there you have it. Here is how the lineup might shake out when spring training ends. There aren’t many spots to fight for in the camp. Maybe Hall gets beaten out by someone like Dalton Guthrie for the final bench spot. Maybe Coonrod gets beaten out for the last spot in the bullpen. We’ll just have to wait and see.