The winter offseason is just about over and the equipment guys have started packing for spring training destinations. Maybe you mark the calendar by when pitchers and catchers report, maybe you mark it by when the team truck leaves the stadium chock full of bats and balls and protective cups. However you determine your internal timing device, we can all come to the same conclusion: baseball is nigh! Run for the hills!
Dave Dombrowski and company have spent many weeks surveying the player landscape, carefully choosing which player will fit into the puzzle that is the 26-man roster. While in the past, the previous brain trust approached roster building much like a toddler seated trying to hammer a star shaped block into a circular hole, these grownups have used a more sensible approach to crafting a winner. Need someone to hit near the top of the lineup? Why not just go out and grab the best available player to do so? Crazy idea, right?
So now, we wonder who will be making the team? What is the best group of twenty-six that Rob Thomson can put together? Let’s make yet another guess at what the group is that will head to Arlington to open the season.
Phillies roster prediction 1.0
Catcher: J.T. Realmuto
Again, the biggest question surrounding Realmuto is not will he play 140 games. It’s how will he play those games?
The man loves to be behind the plate, that much is clear. It has to be extremely difficult to not write his name in lineup at catcher every day, but we all know that is near impossible. Catchers need rest. But the Phillies have been afforded a rare opportunity here with Bryce Harper out and the DH spot open where they can use it to give Realmuto a little more time off of his feet while still keeping him in the lineup. If they had a backup that put up meager production in his stead, that would make them hesitate a little more, but with Garrett Stubbs in tow, that can help them avoid a huge dropoff. Will they? That, again, is the question.
Infield: Rhys Hoskins, Bryson Stott, Trea Turner, Alec Bohm
No changes here. There is still some discussion about how much to use either Hoskins or Bohm at DH, similar to the one facing Realmuto, but for the most part, this will be the quartet trotting out to their positions most every night.
Outfield: Kyle Schwarber, Brandon Marsh, Nick Castellanos
Last time I did this, I had Matt Vierling as the right fielder with Castellanos as the DH.
The best laid plans and all that...
The team wasn’t worried about outfield defense last year and it doesn’t look like they are worried about this year either. Castellanos did show some ability to come in on the ball during the playoffs, but that can’t be all he is good at. Look for him to get some extra reps in the outfield this year knowing he’ll have to be the full-time right fielder pretty much all season.
I know we are all expecting Marsh to be a top notch center fielder on defense, but there are still a few concerns about him out there. His -1 OAA as a center fielder in Philadelphia is not something many people likely would have expected. There are also some issues he’s got with his reaction time on fly balls, but his foot speed helps him compensate for that. I’d still like to see a full season’s worth of work from him before I declare him one of the elite center fielders in the game.
Designated hitter: Darick Hall
With the acquisition of Josh Harrison, I’m more convinced than before that Hall will be in the lineup to face Jacob deGrom when the season starts. He can clearly do damage against right handed pitching, but the second a left hander walks to the mound, look for someone else to come in in his stead.
Bench: Garrett Stubbs, Edmundo Sosa, Josh Harrison, Daulton Guthrie
As solid a bench as this team has had in a while. There is flexibility, production, and late game defense if needed. It would have been a great bench in the pre-NL DH days, but even now, as the game has shifted away from that sort of strategizing, these players still give Thomson plenty to do in game if he so desires.
Starting rotation: Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez, Taijuan Walker, Andrew Painter
In the last iteration of this, I had Bailey Falter as the fifth starter. That is still a possibility, maybe even a likelihood, but there seem to be just too many smoke signals that Painter is going to make the team unless he has a terrible spring. It’s not as though the team won’t use Falter during the year. There will be injuries, time for rest, starts pushed back, etc.
With Painter, I wouldn’t be so concerned with his innings as much as I would be concerned with his velocity bands during a game. Spencer Howard was infamous for starting out a game in the upper nineties with his fastball only to see it drop near 90 by the third or fourth inning. There was never an explanation for it, only that he couldn’t sustain his velocity during a game. That’s what the team will be watching with Painter this season. Should he start making starts with the Phillies right away, it’s likely the team will begin yanking him from starts the minute they see something change in regards to velocity, arm angle, and the like. Preston Mattingly alluded to as much on his talk with our own John Stolnis, that they won’t be focused on the innings total as much as they will on the pitch data. It’ll be interesting to track once the season starts.
Relief pitching: Craig Kimbrel, Seranthony Dominguez, Jose Alvarado, Connor Brogdon, Gregory Soto, Nick Nelson, Matt Strahm, Andrew Bellatti
The trade for Soto pretty much put the final piece of this puzzle into place. Might Falter stay and Nelson go to Lehigh Valley? Maybe. Other than that, these eight spots look pretty firmly set unless an injury happens during March.
Injured list: Bryce Harper
Hurry back, Bryce.
Health will be the keyword of spring training. Making it through and avoiding catastrophic injuries will be the thing focused on for most of the camp. Realmuto and Schwarber will be trying to help Team USA win the World Baseball Classic, but for the most part, everyone else will be under the watchful eye of the training staff. Let’s just hope that everything goes well and we aren’t making any more major moves out of necessity.