Let’s make some assumptions about the postseason roster.
Assumption 1 - the team will carry 13 relievers.
In the age of the universal designated hitter, there is no real reason to have a bench of more than four players if the maximum number of pitchers allowed is still thirteen. All managers will do this henceforth, so we know what Rob Thomson is going to do. There is no need to concern ourselves with who those thirteen are right now since for this purpose, it really doesn’t matter.
Assumption 2 - we know who the starting nine will be in some form.
The catcher, infield and designated hitter are set in stone. No need to list them. The outfield is more or less set with Nick Castellanos, Johan Rojas and Brandon Marsh occupying the spots. Rob Thomson has made that rather clear of late with the lineups he’s trotted out, so there shouldn’t be much surprise there.
That leaves us with the bench. Garrett Stubbs is there, his being a backup catcher and Prime Minister of Vibes. Edmundo Sosa has been the primary backup infielder and will continue the same job, possibly getting some time as a defensive replacement in games. That leaves two more spots on the bench. Who’s it going to be?
The dogfight for these spots is seemingly down to Jake Cave, Cristian Pache and.....Weston Wilson? The callup of Wilson from Clearwater to replace Rodolfo Castro was interesting yesterday, but when you take a closer look at his season and what the Phillies could use in October, it makes a little more sense. Castro’s spot on the team is rather redundant with Sosa available and now that his player option is secured for 2024, he serves no real purpose for the playoffs. Summoning Wilson for these final three games gives Thomson a chance evaluate his and the other two outfielders’ possible fit on the 26-man roster. What case does each player have to be included once Tuesday begins?
The case for Jake Cave
Jake Cave has felt like the hitter’s version of Dylan Covey this year: the fans do not like him no matter what he does. He serves a purpose on the team as a left handed hitter who can play the outfield positions and first base and has done so about as average-ish as one can do it, but a few bad plate appearances taints what’s been a relatively unimportant roster spot. He’s the 13th hitter on this team and has hit like one. However, he has played well at time this year and is left-handed. It’s that precise reason why he should be making it on the postseason roster.
Think about how much Rob Thomson likes using platoon advantages. It’s only recently where we’ve seen Johan Rojas getting more looks at right handed pitching, a likely precursor to his seeing more of it in the playoffs. Prior to that, Brandon Marsh has played center field while Cave has seen left field time once Kyle Schwarber was moved into the DH spot. Late in a playoff game, if a difficult right-handed reliever is on the mound, Thomson might elect to pinch hit Cave for Rojas, sliding Marsh into center field in such a situation. It’s not much of an upgrade offensively, but we’ve seen Thomson default to a veteran in many such situations before, particularly if he feels the matchup is better. It wouldn’t be surprising if he were to do it in the playoffs with Cave, a move that would make sense on paper, but wouldn’t go over well with the fans.
The case for Cristian Pache
It’s hard to remember with all the love Rojas has gotten lately that prior to his injuries, Pache was playing extremely well. His glove has always been excellent, bordering on elite, and once he was able to work with Kevin Long for an extended period, he was hitting quite well. Promoting Rojas was nothing more than a longshot at the time since Pache and Marsh were both playing so well.
He has not played well since coming back from the latest injury, but what he was doing earlier in the year shows that he has the ability to do it again. He would likely need more reps than he has been getting in order to get on track with the bat, something that isn’t available anymore, but any hitter can get hot at any time.
Oh yeah. The glove.
Let’s say you have a late game situation with the Phillies in the lead. Bringing in Pache in place of Nick Castellanos in left field, sliding Marsh into right field, gives the Phillies probably the best defensive outfield alignment in the game. A Marsh-Rojas-Pache outfield would give new meaning to the phrase “death to flying things” as it would be very difficult to find expanses to hit the ball in the air to.
The case for Weston Wilson
Did you know Wilson had a 30-30 season in the minors? I certainly did not. When he stole two bases in game one on Saturday, it sent many of those who do follow the minor leagues to their keyboards to remind us of that fact.
However, his speed is more of a great benefit than a main reason why he should be on the team. It’s his power that should be the main reason the Phillies bring him along. While it’s the same argument that could be made for Pache, Wilson would be able to be brought off the bench in place of Marsh should Thomson elect to do so against a difficult left-handed reliever late in the game. Only with Wilson, the threat of the ball leaving the park is much higher than it is with Pache.
Let’s not also forget that Wilson has just as much versatility defensively as Pache. He can capably play the corners in the outfield and can also move to the corners in the infield as well. Would it be pretty? That’s a different story, but at that point, the Phillies wouldn’t be looking for Wilson to lock down the game with his glove. He’d be there for what he could do with the bat.
Were it me running the team, this isn’t really a difficult decision. It’s got to be Cave and Wilson.
Pache’s role on the team this year was a right-handed platoon bat with Brandon Marsh in centerfield while Kyle Schwarber had to occupy left field as Bryce Harper worked his way back into the ability to use a glove. Now that that is no longer necessary, Pache’s role has basically been usurped by Johan Rojas. Wilson’s power and ability to play the corners if need be basically render Pache as unnecessary in terms of roster construction. Is it what Thomson will do? We’ll have to wait and see when the rosters are announced, but it doesn’t strike me as coincidental that Wilson was recalled Saturday. Wilson and Cave give Thomson the best combination of two outfielders to deploy in certain situations this coming week. They are who should be on the roster come Tuesday afternoon.