TBOH Preview: Phillies Positional Battles
When spring training began late last month, there were two main areas on the roster that had positions up for grabs… corner outfield and the bullpen. Now, with just a few days left before Opening Day on April 1 in Atlanta, most of those battles have been sewn up.
Coming into Clearwater, the outfield was a jumbled mess. Battling for four likely outfield spots (two corner spots and two on the bench) were Darin Ruf, Domonic Brown, Delmon Young, Laynce Nix, John Mayberry Jr. and Ender Inciarte.
The bullpen featured four spots that were locked down, with Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo and Chad Durbin all guaranteed spots in the ‘pen. That left three opportunities for a huge collection of young, homegrown arms and veterans looking to hang onto a Major League roster spot.
Dom Brown made one positional battle pretty easy to decide. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
In the outfield, Domonic Brown thankfully, and helpfully, provided a lot of clarity by beating the ever-living crap out of the baseball this spring, hitting .373/.429/.675 with an OPS of 1.103, 7 HRs, 17 RBI, and 24 runs scored. And while spring stats are generally unreliable, his comfort-level at the plate and the smoothness of his swing have never been better. Brown will be an everyday starter in right field to start the season, with Ben Revere in center.
That leaves left field. The Phils had hoped Ruf would play well enough to either hand him the everyday job or at least allow him to platoon with Nix. But Ruf’s slow start at the plate, coupled with some misadventures defensively, showed everyone that AAA Lehigh Valley was the right place for him to start the season. The encouraging news was that Ruf’s bat started to heat up as the spring went along, belting two home runs and six doubles in 57 spring at bats. If he plays well in Lehigh, he’ll be back.
With Ruf out of the picture, left field will now fall to the not-so-capable Mayberry and Nix. Both players have shown during their Major League careers that they are league-average players at best. They offer nothing with the bat and, on defense, at least they won’t kill you. But neither player has looked good at all this spring (Mayberry .200/.263/.286 and Nix .196/.250/.286), which is why Freddy Galvis has been seeing some playing time in the outfield the last couple days.
Amazingly, Galvis appears to be very competent in the outfield, and just might be a better hitter than either player right now. Galvis has had a terrific spring, showing surprising power (3 HRs, 7 doubles, 2 triples) with a .284/.303/.554 slash line. Galvis’ K/BB splits have been pretty bad this spring (21K/2BB) but he may be a better alternative than either Mayberry or Nix in left field right now.
The guy no one thought had a chance to make the team out of spring was Rule V pick Inciarte, who has impressed defensively. He’s also managed to get on base in 28 spring at bats, posting a .375 on-base percentage in very limited action. Unless the Phils swing a trade for an outfielder, it’s likely the speedster will make the team, at least until Delmon Young is ready to return from the disabled list in May.
Aumont may have the inside track on the Phils’ final bullpen spot. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
As for the bullpen, it appears lefties Jeremy Horst and Raul Valdes are in the ‘pen. Horst’s terrific 2012 regular season (31.1 IP, 40 Ks, 14 BB, 1.15 ERA) made him a lock for the bullpen no matter what happened in Clearwater. Valdes’ incredible spring numbers (17.1 IP, 22K/1BB, 4.15 ERA) and ability to pitch multiple innings, guaranteed him a spot as well.
The final spot is still up for grabs, with youngsters Phillippe Aumont and veteran Mike Stutes trying to use these final days to secure a Major League roster spot. Aumont’s control continues to be an issue, but his stuff is otherworldly. Stutes was a big bullpen contributor in 2011, but missed almost all of last year due to injury and struggled a bit this spring (11 IP, 8K/9BB, 7.36 ERA). Aumont appears to have the inside track.
The rest of the roster appears set in stone. And with a single spot on the 25-man roster left to be decided, the Phillies appear ready to break camp and try to return to the postseason for the sixth time in seven years.