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2023 season preview: The State of the Outfield

Let’s see where the outfield stands heading into 2023.

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at Boston Red Sox Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Starters:

Kyle Schwarber, Brandon Marsh, Nick Castellanos, Bryce Harper*

The Bench:

Jake Cave, Dalton Guthrie

*Injured List

What To Expect

Just two years ago, Phillies fans were excited about the last year of Andrew McCutchen, praying 37 wouldn’t make the team, and curious if young players like Mickey Moniak and Adam Haseley could stick. Now, it’s completely different with bigger stars, better young players, and bigger questions.

The Phillies did almost all of their outfield work last off-season or at the trade deadline, handing out a combined 179 million dollars to Schwarber and Castellanos, along with trading for Brandon Marsh. Those three spots are going to be filled heading into the season but a major question involves Bryce Harper.

As far as we know, Harper likely won’t be back until at least July so the Phillies will have at least one bench player occupying a lineup spot. While there are several combinations that replace Harper’s spot for a specific game, the only outfield-specific one involves Jake Cave.

Cave has begun spring training with some interesting stuff. Against the Yankees on February 25, he smoked a 110.3 mph double, one of the hardest-hit balls of his entire career. On March 1, he smoked a 109.4 mph home run so there’s a chance the Phillies have unlocked something out of Cave.

While he hasn’t hit big-league pitching well since the pandemic, he did begin his career off very well with a .795 OPS in his first 163 games.

Nick Castellanos has begun spring training with some noticeable improvements. He’s driving the baseball more confidently, taking the down and away slider more often, and has cut plenty of that unneeded movement from his swing. These are improvements that should allow us to believe a bounce-back season is coming.

But what would that bounce-back season actually look like? Similar to Schwarber, expecting 2021 to happen again is unrealistic but his 2018 season would be great. Castellanos hit .298 with 23 homers and a 128 OPS+, which would be 33% better than this past season.

Maybe I’m being too hopeful but he’s only 31 (happy belated birthday) and was one of the better hitters in the sport prior to 2022.

The Phillies took a flyer on Brandon Marsh at the trade deadline and it immediately became an upgrade over 37 and Matt Vierling. While he mostly platooned with Vierling, he put up a respectable slash line of .288/.319/.455 as a Phillie. Now with Vierling gone, he’s the lone wolf out in center with serious questions on if he can handle it.

Marsh has a career .519 OPS against lefties but that was mostly before the Phillies acquired him and hitting coach Kevin Long began working with him. Long helped make adjustments to simplify his lower half but the real improvements should come with a full off-season. Will he hit well enough against lefties to justify playing every day? We will find out.

Schwarber has no real concerns. Even with the shift ban, we shouldn’t expect drastic changes in his game. Expect a similar season to 2021, with lots of homers, walks, and strikeouts. He still displays insane power and will likely hit second this season, not leadoff.

There are some major questions but they should all be valuable contributors in one way or another unless Castellanos is cooked.