Coming into the 2014 season, the writers at That Ball’s Outta Here have been projecting the Phillies roster by segment (rotation, bullpen, and lineup/bench).
This week, we finish with both the most and least nailed down segment of the roster entering Spring Training: the position players.
|C Carlos Ruiz|
|1B Ryan Howard|
|2B Chase Utley|
|3B Cody Asche|
|SS Jimmy Rollins|
|LF Domonic Brown|
|CF Ben Revere|
|RF Marlon Byrd|
That’s it. Book it. Barring some major injury in camp, this is the line-up. (And let’s be honest, if anything happens to one of the key guys, does any of this matter?)
The only position that could be posited as a question-mark is third base, but it would take a herculean performance from Maikel Franco to put any doubt into the Lehigh Valley rental real estate market. It’s Cody Asche‘s position to lose after his 50-game debut in 2013.
Marlon Byrd was signed on a 2-year deal this past off-season, coming off of a career renaissance (.291/.336/.511 with 24 HR, 4.1 fWAR). Yes, there’s an incredibly high likelihood he declines this season due to age, but pretend with me here that he’s only a 1.5 WAR player this year, instead. That’s a) worth $8 million a season, and b) an improvement over the hodge-podge of characters (mostly Delmon Young, Laynce Nix, Roger Bernadina, Casper Wells, and Ezequiel Carrera) thrown into that position last year who were worth an astounding -2.5 fWAR.
Doing the math would say that’s still a 4.0 fWAR swing – very substantial, although the fact that Byrd definitely won’t play 162 games does affect that reading (AKA what’s the value of the player who replaces him).
Ben Revere looks to continue his stellar play from May until the All-star Break, when he broke his foot in a freak accident. His speed isn’t being brought into question, his on-base ability is slightly. It’ll be interesting to see his patience at the plate this season.
Domonic Brown cemented his status as 2014’s opening day left fielder when he hit 12 home runs last May – he even lead the national league for a couple of weeks. However, he tapered off at the end of last season, and combined with some injury time he looked like a different player after the All-Star Break (.866 OPS, 21 HR vs. .730 OPS, 6 HR).
And the rest of the starters? Hold on, let me go back and grab the preseason predictions from 2007 for a “hot take.”
|C Wil Nieves|
In 2013 with the Diamondbacks, he at least had a .297/.320/.369 slash (not awful for a backup catcher) but other than that he’s a relatively unexciting, but solid veteran option.
I’d love to see Tommy Joseph come back from injury and mash like he did last Spring (.429/.467/.821 with 3 HR in 28 ABs), but I think the team will be content to have him begin again in Lehigh Valley.
It’s possible that Mayberry and Frandsen should be on this list, as well. I just think that the lack of left-handed bench bats means that a lesser lefty candidate has better odds this year, and at least in Mayberry’s case there is some redundancy of talent on the roster.
It’s possible one or more of those redundancies is moved via trade before the end of Spring, and I think Mayberry is the most attractive candidate to outside teams.
|IF Kevin Frandsen|
|ALL Freddy Galvis|
|OF John Mayberry|
|OF Darin Ruf|
|CF/2B Cesar Hernandez|
|IF Reid Brignac|
|"OF" Bobby Abreu|
This is where the options explode. There’s four remaining spots on the bench (two infielders, two outfielders), and seven probable options to fill them. Again, Frandsen and Mayberry have the strongest odds out of the group (especially given their higher, arbitration-substitute salaries).
In fact, chances are neither will be moved, and be on the opening day roster. However, this leaves a problem. The three determined bench players are all right-handed, and although it’s not a deal breaker for remaining candidates, it would be nice to have at least one for late-inning situations.
I’m inclined to give human Swiss-Army Knife Freddy Galvis one of the spots due to his defense, which I’ve personally heard referred to as “wizardry” several times. His bat hasn’t come along quite yet, but he has shown the occasional pop and is a switch-hitter, so versatility is the name of his game. However, he’s still very young (AKA has an option left) and could still use more everyday at-bats.
Reid Brignac was a positively-received depth signing this off-season, as he’s a still-young, left-handed infielder whose strength lies in his defense. That’s a tag normally applied as a euphemism to a player who can’t hit, and it is here, but he is a former 2.5 WAR regular. He’s an interesting name to watch.
There’s logic to the idea that Brignac be given the 2nd infield position, while Freddy Galvis moves to Lehigh Valley to get more consistent playing time. That way, the major league team gets their defensively-versatile infielder, a left-handed bench bat, AND Galvis gets his everyday starts to develop. This is where my head is thinking the team goes this month.
Cesar Hernandez is an interesting case, as this format leaves him without a real position. While he doesn’t do so particularly well, Mayberry has the versatility to technically play all three outfield spots, so another center fielders isn’t really necessary. Additionally, Brignac and Frandsen would cover both infield spots (and both play second).
The smartest plays with Hernandez would either be for the team to exercise their 4th year option and send him to Lehigh Valley, or to trade him while he still has his prospect-adjacent sheen. Regardless, the safe money is on a power-focused corner OF/1B for the 5th spot and not Hernandez.
Speaking of power-hitting corner OF/1B options, the Phillies have two: Darin Ruf, and Mr. Robert Abreu. Scouting reports about the holes in Ruf’s swing will probably catch up with him eventually, but to this point he’s produced at every single professional level. If he continues to do so in Spring Training, he deserves the spot as long as he’s productive.
Bobby Abreu gets extra votes because of his prior connections to the team, he’s a left-handed bat, demolished the Venezuelan Winter League, and is probably good for an above average on-base percentage if nothing else.
Chances are he flames out and retires as a Phillie, but there’s the outside chance he Thome’s it up and sticks around for a bit. I’d place odds on Ruf getting the spot, however.
|3B/1B Maikel Franco|
|C Tommy Joseph|
|C Cameron Rupp|
|OF Tyson Gillies|
|OF Zach Collier|
|OF Kelly Dugan|
|OF Aaron Altherr|
This is the part where we get into the “prospects brought to camp as a learning experience.” Maikel Franco is a slight exception – one could make the argument that an out of this world performance would give him the starting job. However, he needs significant playing time every day to develop, so a bench spot is out of the question.
Tommy Joseph is one of the guys I’m most excited about entering this season. He had severe, persistent concussion-related issues last season and only played 36 games.
Now healthy, I think people forget how GREAT he was last Spring Training and how touted he was coming over from San Francisco. He has a chance to re-emerge as a strong prospect this year, if he does stay behind the bag. However, given Nieves’ presence, I don’t think there’s a chance for him opening day as of yet – he needs time in Lehigh Valley regardless.
The same applies to Cameron Rupp. He had a strong performance at AAA last season, and was even called up for a bit at the end (and performed well). The problem is that there’s actually currently a back-log of backup catcher options, and he’s currently the least exciting option of the bunch. He is, however, polished, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens between he and Joseph – and in fact due to his younger age and coming back from injury, I’ll amend my earlier statement.
Joseph will probably begin the year re-establishing himself in Reading, and Rupp will be in Lehigh (presuming no trade).
The remaining four OFs can be grouped in two categories – Zach Collier & Tyson Gillies, and Aaron Altherr & Kelly Dugan. Collier and Gillies are the former top 10 organizational prospects who to this point haven’t reached their potential. Entering their age 23 & 25 seasons, respectively, they probably could still hypothetically turn things around – but there’s no chance of either being with the major league team this season.
Altherr and Dugan are the more exciting up and coming OF prospects. Both had good, borderline great years last season, but as both spent a large portion of the season at only A+, don’t expect either to be seriously competing for a job out of camp.
|C Lou Marson|
|C Sebastian Valle|
|IF Andres Blanco|
|IF Ronny Cedeno|
|OF Leandro Castro|
|OF Tony Gwynn Jr.|
|OF Clete Thomas|
The most immediately interesting name in this list of Spring Training-invitees is that Lou Marson. He was originally traded to the Cleveland Indians in the first of three Cliff Lee trades from 2009-2010, but his performance fell off after the trade, and he was available to sign back with the Phillies as a result. He’s an interesting piece if he’s able to be kept in the system, but there’s four legitimate catchers ahead of any invitee on the depth chart, with two spots available.
Recently removed from the 40-man roster, Sebastian Valle has the same problem – however he’s young enough that he could right the ship (however unlikely it may be).
Andres Blanco and Ronny Cedeno are two 30+ year old journeyman infielders, each having played for at least four teams. Blanco actually played for the Phillies in 2012, but was out of the game in 2013. They have career OPSs of .634 and .644, respectively, and are basically organizational players (AKA, fill holes in AAA throughout the year).
The three OF invitees – Leandro Castro, Tony Gwynn Jr, and Clete Thomas – are more of these variety, but with some exception. Castro is the closest thing to a prospect, being a 24-year old player already in the system, but his lack of real plus tools keeps him from serious consideration. Gwynn and Thomas are both responses to the fact that there is no left-handed bench depth. I think either Brignac or Abreu will end up filling that void, but individually they have the best chance of making the team out of this category.
|CF Ben Revere (L)||C Wil Nieves (R)|
|SS Jimmy Rollins (S)||IF Kevin Frandsen (R)|
|2B Chase Utley (L)||IF Reid Brignac (L)|
|1B Ryan Howard (L)||OF John Mayberry Jr (R)|
|RF Marlon Byrd (R)||OF Darin Ruf (R)|
|LF Domonic Brown (L)|
|C Carlos Ruiz (R)|
|3B Cody Asche (L)|