3 crucial questions the Phillies still need to answer

Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /
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Adam Haseley #40 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

2. Who starts in center field for the Phillies?

Outside of figuring out how the rotation and bullpen will shake out, the biggest question mark the Phillies have going into spring training is who will be the team’s starter in center field. With Andrew McCutchen returning to patrol left field and Bryce Harper manning right field seemingly until the end of time, the rest of the Phillies outfield seems set in stone. Center field though the one big question mark.

Last season Roman Quinn saw the majority of playing time out in center field, appearing in 37 games compared to Adam Haseley‘s 24 and Scott Kingery‘s nine. All three are firmly in the mix to win the starting job again this season.

Of all the names on this list, Haseley might have the inside track to win the starting job. Despite starting just 19 games in center last season, he has proven to be a far better major league hitter than Quinn and while neither will likely compete for a Gold Glove, he’s still capable defensively. While his opportunities may have been limited, his 2020 was far better than Kingerys as well.

What Quinn offers the Phillies is speed. You know what they say, you can’t coach speed, and it’s easily Quinn’s most valuable skill set. He can quickly cover the most ground out in the field, and while he’s not the world’s greatest defender and will never be the biggest threat at the plate, he is a massive threat to run on nearly any catcher.

Kingery theoretically offers the Phillies the most upside out of anyone on the roster. He has the tools to be a better hitter and defender than either Haseley or Quinn, but he’s still a natural middle infielder. He has not yet found a consistent position at the major league level either. With Didi Gregorius and Jean Segura both likely locked into the middle of the Phillies’ infield, center field is Kingery’s best shot to find consistent playing time this season.

Mickey Moniak is a former number one overall pick, but he’s struggled in the minors and didn’t inspire a world of confidence with his first taste of major league action last fall. He will be in the mix for playing time and still has all the tools he needs to be a star, but he needs to put it all together, something he hasn’t done at any professional level since being drafted.

Odúbel Herrera hasn’t played for the Phillies since May of 2019 when he violated MLB’s domestic violence policy. The Phillies haven’t officially decided what they will do with Herrera but inviting him to spring training as a non-roster invitee remains an option. To be honest, though, you can’t imagine that Herrera would seriously compete with anyone already on the roster.

On the field, Herrera was in the midst of the worst season of his professional career in 2019 when he was suspended and had already posted by far the lowest batting average, on-base percentage, and WAR of his career in 2018. He is 29 this season but was already on a downward trend and the chances he’d immediately improve on that after a year and a half away seems unlikely. It feels like a far more likely option could be that the Phillies try and move him.

If this group leaves you feeling pretty underwhelmed, you aren’t alone. Center field is the only position in the Phillies lineup where there is no heavy favorite for the starting job. After the bullpen, this might be the weakest position on the entire roster. If whoever wins the job struggles, expect this to be a position the Phillies could try and upgrade at once the trade deadline comes.

Of course, similar to their pitching situation the Phillies could always go out and sign a free agent. Former Boston Red Sox Jackie Bradley Jr. will surely be at the top of many fans’ wishlists and would be an instant upgrade over anyone on the roster right now. However, with both J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius deferring money upfront to stay in Philadelphia, the team might not be in a position to give Bradley Jr. the kind of salary he might need to come to don red pinstripes.