This is the beginning of our team preview series. We’re going to look all around the infield, outfield and pitching mound to try and see how this team stacks up heading into 2023. We start on the dirt.
Rhys Hoskins, Bryson Stott, Trea Turner, Alec Bohm
Josh Harrison, Edmundo Sosa, Darick Hall, Dalton Guthrie, Kody Clemens
What to expect
Think back to the days of the “Great Phillies Rebuild”. The team’s depth chart in the infield consisted of giving Maikel Franco as many chances as possible to establish himself as a viable power threat a third base, a slick fielding shortstop in Freddy Galvis who could handle the six, but couldn’t hit anything with any authority, an option in Cesar Hernandez who was actually somewhat underrated, but had almost no power and a revolving door at first base with no answer in sight.
Things were gloomy then.
Fast forward to today and this iteration of the Phillies infield might be the best one since the championship days of 2008 and has the potential to be one of the best groupings in team history.
When 2022 opened, the team had Didi Gregorius as the main option at shortstop even though he had shown little hope of emerging from the funk that had plagued him the year prior. Bryson Stott was the Opening Day option at third base, but then manager Joe Girardi felt it necessary to not let him face southpaws and platooned him with the other young hope the team had in Alec Bohm. Jean Segura was still around to give the team some badly needed contact skills while Rhys Hoskins stood at first base and promised to hit home runs and walk a lot.
Now, there is an MVP candidate at shortstop, a second baseman who might be much better defensively at the keystone as opposed to his other position, a third baseman who made strides with the glove whose power getting unlocked would be a large boost to the team’s offense and a steady as she goes first baseman looking to show in a platform year why teams should offer him big money this offseason.
When the offseason started, shortstop was the biggest hole and matched up nicely with the players available on the free agent market. Having four players worthy of a nine figure contract at the exact position you need the help in most is one of those happy coincidences teams don’t experience too often. It was clear early that Turner was their preference and using their open checkbook policy, they landed the biggest fish available. Getting Turner changes how this team is going to look. Their up the middle defense has gone from maybe just barely average last season to a real strength now. The less said about the corner, the better, but making Turner the shortstop for now puts him in a strong spot, but also allows Stott to play a spot he is probably better suited for. Offensively, Turner gives them a true leadoff man they haven’t in a while (despite Kyle Schwarber’s best efforts) and lengthens the lineup to an almost unreasonable quantity. In the absence of Bryce Harper, now there is less pressure on Schwarber, Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto and Nick Castellanos to perform at a higher level. Turner’s presence should make everyone better.
Not only is the current group better, their depth is solid as well. We can’t expect Edmundo Sosa to hit as well as he did when he came to Philadelphia, but his glove should be able to let Rob Thomson move players in and out of the DH spot to keep their bats in the lineup. Should Sosa hit like he did in Philadelphia (156 wRC+) and in St. Louis in 2021 (104), the team will be able to put him in without missing much of a beat. Josh Harrison does the same kind of thing, allowing the team to move players around the field, keeping fresh as the season moves forward. While Harrison did dip a bit at the plate in 2022 (98 wRC+), he’s still a perfectly adequate bench option capable of playing all around the dirt and the grass.
The biggest thing is that the depth they’ve acquired to go along with the starters should mean the could weather an injury for a while. No one wants to see anyone on the team be out for an extended period, but 15-day injured list stints won’t be the end of times they have been in the past. It’ll be key to them as the try to keep pace with the rest of the National League East. It might also be the difference between them making the playoffs and their having to watch from home this October.