Phillies’ call-up makes an impressive yet futile case to stick in majors

Even with his impressive play, Kody Clemens will likely be the odd man out when Trea Turner returns.
Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies
Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

After sweeping away the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers, the Philadelphia Phillies opened a three-game series in Colorado with a 3-2 loss to the Rockies on Friday. They begin play on Saturday in first place in the NL East with a 6.0-game lead over the Atlanta Braves.

This is a Phillies offense that has continued to fire on all cylinders and score runs even without one of its key ingredients. Trea Turner, on the IL since early May, was off to a strong start at the plate, and many feared his absence would negatively impact the Phillies' offensive attack.

Luckily that hasn't been the case. J.T. Realmuto has done a stellar job filling in for Turner in the second spot in the lineup. The defensive play of Bryson Stott and Edmundo Sosa at shortstop has helped the Phillies not miss a beat in the field. This is a club that came into the season with positional depth as one of its strengths, and so far that versatility has been on full display as manager Rob Thomson shuffles his lineup card each night.

Phillies’ hot-hitting call-up makes an impressive yet futile case to stick in majors

One of the biggest surprises over the last three weeks has been Kody Clemens' solid play. Recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley after Turner's injury, the 28-year-old is making a strong case to make his stay in the big leagues permanent.

Clemens has provided the Phillies with some punch through his first 13 games in the big leagues this year. In 31 at-bats, he's hitting a solid .313, with 10 hits, three doubles, one triple, three home runs and 10 RBI. Seven of those nine hits have been for extra bases, and a few of these hits have come in some very clutch moments.

The highlight of Clemens' season so far came last Saturday with two outs and the Phillies trailing the Washington Nationals 3-2 in the ninth inning. Facing National's closer Kyle Finnegan, Clemens blasted a solo home run that tied the ball game, setting the stage for the Phillies to win it in extra innings.

It was a moment that made many ask the question: Should Clemens remain with the Phillies when Turner returns?

Clemens is likely to be the odd man out when Turner returns

It has become pretty clear over the last two seasons that Clemens is an above-average player who deserves a spot on a major league roster. However, opportunities have been limited by how the Phillies roster is constructed.

The wider view of Clemens is that he has the ceiling of a super utility player capable of carving out a nice career. After his most recent torrid stretch, a growing number of fans would like to see Clemens stick with the big league club for the remainder of this season.

Unfortunately for Clemens, that's unlikely to happen unless the Phillies are compelled to make a drastic move to create roster space for him when Turner returns in June. Barring injuries, the Phillies will be forced to choose between Clemens and Cristian Pache.

As Clemens still has one minor league option remaining, the most likely scenario is that he's sent back to Lehigh Valley, and Pache remains on the roster. Pache is out of minor league options, so designating him for assignment would be the only move the Phillies could make. That would represent a sudden shift in philosophy towards prioritizing offensive production at the expense of reliable outfield defense.

Unless the Phillies are comfortable with Clemens and Whit Merrifield as defensively limited corner outfield depth, subtracting a right-handed bat to platoon with the left-handed hitting Brandon Marsh doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Marsh has only hit .143 with five hits and 18 strikeouts in 41 plate appearances against left-handed pitching this season. Those numbers indicate that Marsh requires a right-handed hitting complement on the bench. Cutting Pache would further expose Marsh to lefties, and the Phillies offense at the bottom of the lineup would be much weaker as a result.

With Turner starting to ramp up baseball activities ahead of a rehab assignment, the Phillies will have a little more time to decide the futures of Clemens and Pache on the 26-man roster. While anything could happen, there's little to indicate the Phillies are willing to make a drastic move to keep Clemens around despite his recent stellar play.

It's hard not to feel bad for Clemens in this situation, but it's another indication of how strong the Phillies' depth is this season.