The Phillies will have more options when it comes to the catcher position
If Major League Baseball returns the Phillies are likely going to have an expanded roster, which means they have an opportunity to play around with some things they normally wouldn’t get to.
Reports are that the major league roster will be expanded from 26 to 30 players with a 20 player “taxi squad” mostly made up of minor league prospects.
The Phillies may have an opportunity to add a prospect such as Alec Bohm to their expanded big league roster with the designated hitter likely to be included. They could also carry more relievers since starters are likely to be on a lower pitch count early in the year.
With an increased number of pitchers on the roster and the addition of a taxi squad. the Phillies will have to carry more than their two catchers J.T. Realmuto and Andrew Knapp.
It’s quite possible the Phillies carry three catchers on their expanded big league roster not only to support an expanded pitching staff get their reps but also get Realmuto off his knees. Realmuto could certainly be a DH, but Knapp isn’t the best bat to mix into a lineup during the shortened season.
Bullpen Catcher Bob Stumpo and Catching Coach Greg Brodzinski can certainly fill in on the training side, but adding catching prospect Deivy Grullon or non-roster invitee Christian Bethancourt, a veteran catcher, to the roster helps expand Joe Girardi’s options during the game and in practices.
Bethancourt certainly isn’t a lock or an overly established big league player. After five years between the Padres and Braves, Bethancourt hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2017 and is a career .222 hitter, though that’s still better than Knapp.
If the Phillies were to give Bethancourt one of those expanded roster spots, Grullon would be an excellent candidate for the taxi squad to work with pitchers he’s familiar with from the minor leagues and continue to get work in with the coaches.
It’s yet to be seen how the big league roster and taxi squad players would interact, but having another veteran like Bethancourt to work with the minor league players would make sense as well.
Keeping Bethancourt would also be a insurance should something happen to Realmuto and/or Knapp.
The Phillies have a ton of young catchers who could step up in 2020
The Phillies have a ton of catching prospects, most of whom are in the lower levels of the minor league system. MLB Pipeline ranks Rafael Marchan, Rodolfo Duran, and Grullon among the Phillies top-30 prospects.
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Andrick Nava, Abrahan Gutierrez, and Logan O’Hoppe have also been added to top prospect lists in the past as well, and Henri Lartigue was a non-roster invitee for spring training.
Both Duran and Marchan haven’t played above High-A Clearwater so they’re certainly not major league ready players, but Girardi (a former catcher) loved Marchan in spring training.
“He’s the block master,” Girardi said after the Phillies second win of the spring. “The master. That might have been the best exhibition of blocking I’ve ever seen in one game.”
As with the big league situation, it’s not known how many pitchers or coaches the taxi squad will carry, so having more catchers to help with bullpens would be useful.
Don’t be surprised if the Phillies stock up on catchers
If the Phillies can keep 50 players between the big league team and taxi squad, it’s not inconceivable that they could carry four or five catchers between the two groups. They have Realmuto and Knapp locked into the big league roster and then have a competition between Grullon and Bethancourt for the final big league roster spot.
If Grullon beats out Bethancourt and another team picks up the five-year big league vet, the Phillies might have to promote more prospects up to the taxi squad.