Phillies OF Brandon Marsh will handle most of the playing time in center field to begin the season.
Center field is likely the position with the most question marks for the Philadelphia Phillies entering the 2023 regular season. The situation is much better now than it was in previous years, however. When the Phillies acquired Brandon Marsh at the 2022 trade deadline, it gave them a solid defensive player with some unlocked offensive potential.
Once a top Los Angeles Angels prospect, Marsh proved his worth defensively, but struggled to produce at the plate. In 163 games, Marsh slashed just .239/.299/.354 as an Angel. Things changed when he was traded. In 41 games with the Phillies, Marsh slashed .288/.319/.455 — raising his OPS from .637 at the deadline to .773 by the season's end. The biggest question marks regarding Marsh entering the new season are his ability to hit left-handed pitching and lower his strikeout rate.
Last season, Marsh hit just .188 against left-handers. Marsh also had a strikeout rate of 29.7 percent. That number is high compared to the league average. He will need to improve both statistics to maintain his spot in the lineup.
Marsh, 25, is still young. There is no reason to believe he cannot improve in his weaker areas. The progress he made in just a few short months should give the Phillies confidence. Dave Dombrowski stated back in January that he believes Marsh can be the team's everyday, starting center fielder.
Depth in center field is another question mark for the 2023 Phillies. There are a few options, however, depending on which bench players make the 26-man roster. Edmundo Sosa is sure to make the roster, and he has been taking some reps in center field this spring. He will still be a work in progress, but will have at least seen time at the position before Opening Day.
The Phillies also have Jake Cave, who is making a good case to make the team. Cave has played all three outfield positions in his big-league career. The issue is that he is also a left-handed bat. If Marsh continues to struggle against left-handers, the Phillies will likely want a right-handed bat to be his backup. That maybe opens up a spot for Dalton Guthrie. While his offense is still a work in progress, he hits right-handed and can play center field.
One last possible option to play center field is a familiar face — Scott Kingery, who has hit the ball really well in spring training. Kingery is also a versatile fielder that can play every infield position and center field. He is also a right-handed hitter who is owed $8 million this season. Those are all factors that could convince the Phillies to bring up Kingery at some point.
While there are still some unanswered questions in center field, the Phillies are in much better shape than this time last year. Marsh is an upgrade over Odúbel Herrera and Mickey Moniak. Plus, he became a fan-favorite with his personality and home run against the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. The Phillies hope to see more big hits from their center fielder in 2023, as they look to recreate the magic of the 2022 season.