Spring training is almost upon us. Here are some random thoughts about that special time of year as the team gets ready to begin camp.
- As into the pitching prospects as I am, the hesitancy I have to begin the season with Andrew Painter in the starting rotation as fifth option each week is still real. We are a more enlightened generation of baseball fan, knowing what kind of things to watch out for when it comes to young pitchers. Innings limits are important, but so is the data that gets collected each time the baseball leaves a pitcher’s hand. The analysis that will go into that data probably measure in the terrabytes, but there is still a nagging feeling for me. It just feels like putting Painter into the rotation right away is a bit too fast for my tastes. I’ve never been the biggest Bailey Falter fan around, but his performance last season when Zack Wheeler was out should warrant his getting a few starts to begin the year as the fifth starter while Painter (and Abel and McGarry) marinate a bit more in the minor leagues. It truly looks like that if he is one of the best pitchers in camp, Painter is coming north with the team. That’s a good thing. I’ll still just be a little nervous the whole time.
- I love the World Baseball Classic and I love that almost all players wish to participate in some way. However, were I in charge of the Phillies organization, I’d probably have to strongly discourage J.T. Realmuto from participating. When the season starts, Realmuto will be 32 years old. His physical fitness probably outweighs any kind of real concern of regression due to his age, but last season was the longest Realmuto has ever played in one year. Last year, Realmuto caught 1,137 2⁄3 innings in the regular season, a full 130 innings more than the next closest catcher, Sean Murphy. In the postseason, he caught 154 more innings. Using my abacus, I know that that is 1,291 2⁄3 innings in 2023. That’s....a lot of squatting behind the dish. For a team that is a legitimate championship contender this year, you’d like to think the team is concerned with getting Realmuto off of his feet as much as possible before the stretch run hits, so maybe playing in the WBC shouldn’t be much of a priority. I know that the USA squad is going to have Realmuto and Will Smith on it, meaning the difference in who is behind the plate isn’t a steep drop off, but the drop off from Realmuto to Garrett Stubbs/Rafael Marchan is quite significant. I’d just rather the team protect it’s core as much as possible during spring training.
- Are we about to embark on the Rhys Hoskins Farewell Tour this year? I’m not privy to what discussions are happening behind closed doors, but it sure feels like the tracks are starting to load up with grease. In this offseason following 2023 and the one after that, the team is going to have to make decisions on three core components of the pennant winner: Hoskins, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. They’ve already got five players with an AAV of $20 million and above; do they want two or even three more? The Phillies can never again be one of those teams that is leery of the luxury tax penalties now that they’ve shown they are able to support that kind of payroll, but at some point, there will come a limit to the amounts of money this team will spend. The questions becomes: who does the <ahem> buck stop with?
- I know very little about Michael Plassmeyer and Andrew Baker outside of what the prospect people tell me. In one of our other pieces the other day, one commented brought up how important Plassmeyer might be to the team’s success and I find myself nodding in agreement. If you’re really into it, here is what Matt Gelb had to say about the pair:
Plassmeyer: “So, you’re trying to craft the ideal spot starter — someone who is eighth or ninth on your rotation depth chart. He should throw strikes. He should not be afraid. Plassmeyer made a decent impression last season.”
Baker: “No one in the Phillies system had as dramatic a turnaround last season as Baker. He has a fastball that touches triple digits and one of the best sliders in the organization. He’s made himself quite interesting.”
That’s some good news on the depth front for a pitching staff that looks like rest is going to be a big part of their plan to navigate 162 games this year. I’m really interested to see what they can both do during spring games (as much important as we place on those games).