With position players in camp today and the full squad available in “Camp Kap,” why not try to figure out who winds up where on the Phillies roster? The biggest question is whether the Phillies will carry seven or eight relievers. Seven is the norm, but with a young starting rotation and a glut of relievers in camp, they could elect to add an eighth reliever. Let’s start with the bullpen.
RELIEVERS: Luis Garcia, Tommy Hunter, Hector Neris and Pat Neshek are stone cold locks. There are four lefties in camp and it’s likely that at least two, and possibly three, will make the roster. Adam Morgan will likely be a long-man, with fellow southpaws Fernando Abad, Hoby Milner and Zac Curtis battling for the other spot. That leaves two spots for Victor Arano, Pedro Beato, Mark Leiter Jr., Ricardo Pinto, Edubray Ramos and Yacksel Rios.
Leiter could wind up being the long-man, with Morgan working in a middle reliever role, but he could also return to Lehigh Valley either to be stretched out as a starter or to work in the bullpen there. Arano pitched well in a 10-game audition last season and could wind up with a spot and Edubray Ramos would seem to be the other leader at this point.
The prognostication… Garcia, Hunter, Neris and Neshek are joined by left-handers Abad, Milner and Morgan and Ramos nails down the final spot.
STARTERS: Jerad Eickhoff, Ben Lively and Aaron Nola are locks. Vince Velasquez is close to being a lock, but it would be interesting to see what the Phillies do if he doesn’t have a good spring. Could he wind up in the bullpen? Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta and Jake Thompson are viable winners of the fifth spot in the rotation, with Leiter and young Tom Eshelman being long shots.
The prognostication… Nola is the opening day starter, with Eickhoff, Lively and Velasquez in the rotation. It says here that Eflin wins the fifth spot, just edging out Thompson and Pivetta. Wouldn’t a veteran left-hander help? Eshelman joins the rotation possibly by midseason or just after.
CATCHERS: Jorge Alfaro had an impressive showing in 2017 and he’s out of options, so use a sharpie to put his name on the 25-man roster. He also figures to get the bulk of the playing time during the season. Andrew Knapp and Cameron Rupp will battle for the backup job and they both have options remaining, so there’s no edge there. The Phillies like Knapp’s defensive abilities and on-base performance, but they’re also enamored with Rupp’s power potential off the bench. Here’s a long shot; Knapp can play some first base. Could they keep three catchers and use Knapp to spell Carlos Santana on occasion at first and give them an opportunity to use Rupp’s power in a late inning, off the bench manner?
The prognostication… They won’t go three catchers. Alfaro is the starter and figure on Knapp being the backup. That’s a young receiving corps to work with a young starting rotation, but so be it.
INFIELD: Carlos Santana (1B), Cesar Hernandez (2B), Maikel Franco (3B) and J.P. Crawford (SS) are the starters. Pedro Florimon was impressive in his audition before a horrific ankle injury, giving him the leg up on winning a spot. The fact that he could also play the outfield in a pinch is nice, especially if the Phillies do go with one less utility player in lieu of carrying eight relievers. Jesmuel Valentin and Adam Rosales are also versatile and could handle a utility role for the club. Then, there’s not-so-versatile Tommy Joseph, who is locked in as strictly a first base backup. Will Middlebrooks is an interesting option, but doesn’t give the versatility that Florimon, Rosales or Valentin do.
The prognostication… First, will they go with five or six infielders? They have to go with six. The four starters, plus Florimon (that outfield work will come in handy with just four outfielders) and then they keep Adam Rosales. Valentin heads to Lehigh Valley, likely only until around midseason for some work after missing much of last season with a shoulder injury. Eventually, he’s a major league utility guy.
OUTFIELD: We all know that Rhys Hoskins is in left field. Odubel Herrera plays in center and Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr likely platoon in right. If they go with eight relievers, that pretty much fills out the roster. If they go with the conventional seven, then there’s a potential spot for Collin Cowgill, Dylan Cozens, Danny Ortiz or Roman Quinn.
The prognosis… It’s Altherr, Herrera, Hoskins and Williams. If they do go with a five-man outfield rotation, it’s a tough decision. The Phillies are intrigued at the potential of moving Quinn back to shortstop at least on an infrequent basis to help preserve his health and make him more versatile. It would be best to have him do that work at Triple-A. Cozens was a near disaster in 2017 and Cowgill and Ortiz don’t excite and aren’t on the 40-man roster. They stick with four outfielders to start the season.