Phillies Set to Make Big Bench Decisions as Opening Day Approaches
The Philadelphia Phillies are less than a week away from facing Jacob DeGrom and the Texas Rangers to open up the 2023 campaign. While most of the starting lineup, rotation, and bullpen are set in stone at this point, the bench must be decided in the final week of Spring Training.
Let’s take a look at how the roster looks as of right now and what decisions must be made before Opening day.
For starters, all Major League active rosters must include 26 players. The roster is expanded to 28 on September 1st.
Some obvious names will make the roster, taking up a certain amount of spots. For example, the Phillies’ two catchers are guaranteed to be J.T. Realmuto and Garrett Stubbs.
Infielders will be at the least Rhys Hoskins, Bryson Stott, Trea Turner, Alec Bohm, and Edmundo Sosa. Rhys Hoskins was injured in a Spring Training game on Thursday and his status is doubtful for Opening Day.
Players guaranteed an outfield position on the roster include Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, and Brandon Marsh. Bryce Harper does not count in this total as he will be on the 60-day IL to start the season.
Before counting any pitchers, based on our projections, the roster sits at 10 players.
Now, let’s count starting pitchers. Starting pitchers that will be on the roster include Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Ranger Suarez(barring injury), Taijuan Walker, and Bailey Falter. This puts the roster at 15.
The Phillies will likely carry eight more pitchers in the bullpen. Those pitchers include Seranthony Dominguez, Jose Alverado, Gregory Soto, Craig Kimbrel, Matt Strahm, Connor Brogdon, Andrew Bellati, and one of Nick Nelson, Christopher Sanchez, Yunior Marte, and Michael Plassmeyer.
Regardless of who the team picks for the final bullpen spot, the pitching staff combined will hold 13 players and put the roster at 23 when counting the guaranteed position players as well.
This gives the Phillies three spots to use for bench pieces. Garrett Stubbs and Edmundo Sosa will be on the bench but are guaranteed spots because of their prowess.
The organization will have to decide between a plethora of players for these final three spots.
To replace the lefty power of Bryce Harper throughout the first two months of the season, the Phillies could look to plug Darick Hall in. In 2022, Hall hit 9 home runs in 136 at-bats. In spring training this season, he has improved his average while still showing his power. Hall is batting .319 with five home runs with a week to go. Hall is one of the most likely options to make the roster, however, his lack of defensive versatility could hurt his chances.
Josh Harrison is another bench option. The veteran has played outfield and infield throughout his career. He will likely be used in an infield position if he were to make the roster. Harrison has had an okay spring, batting .250 and holding a .744 OPS. He also has a good chance to make the team because of his veteran presence, defensive versatility, and guaranteed 1 year $2 million contract.
Kody Clemens has had an amazing spring that can help him make the roster. Clemens was a part of the Gregory Soto deal that sent Matt Vierling and Nick Maton to Detroit. Clemens can play all over the diamond. This spring he has hit .333 and has an OPS north of 1.000. Clemens will be strongly considered for a position on the 26-man roster.
Scott Kingery could be in play for a spot on the team as well. Kingery has had an impressive spring but is still a long shot to make the roster. He has hit .357 with a .889 OPS. The utility man has shown the ability to play outfield and infield positions at the Major League level. Kingery is on the final year of his 4 years $24 million contract, which could help him make the roster at some point this season so the team gets their money’s worth.
Outfield bench options will be important because of Harper’s absence in the first half of the season. The team will use multiple infielders in the outfield. Edmundo Sosa could be used as a platoon for Brandon Marsh at times. Dalton Guthrie and Jake Cave will be in the running for outfield bench positions. Guthrie was on the team at times last year but doesn’t seem to have a great chance at making it to open this season.
Guthrie has had a bad spring, to say the least. He has hit .200 with a .520 OPS. It’s more than likely he will start the season in Lehigh Valley.
Jake Cave has been on a tear this spring and has played himself onto the roster. Cave spent the first five seasons of his career with the Minnesota Twins before signing a 1 year $950k contract with the Phillies this offseason. In Spring Training with the Phillies, Cave has hit .442 with an OPS of 1.349.
Cave’s spring has been so impressive that he could be used as an Opening Day option at designated hitter (depending on the status of Rhys Hoskins). Cave is a power bat who has played all three outfield positions in his Major League career. He could play a large role for the 2023 Phillies.
While Rob Thomson and Dave Dombrowski have many options to fill the final spots on the roster, they will likely utilize all of them at some point throughout the season. The season is a marathon and injuries will force other players to step up multiple times in the year.