It seemed uncertain at times over the winter, but spring training will officially begin Wednesday when the Phillies hold their first workout for pitchers and catchers.
A six-week training camp in Florida will present challenges during the pandemic, as baseball is well aware of the difficulties this winter faced by pro hockey and basketball. But the Phillies’ equipment truck arrived last week at Spectrum Field, which is being referred to by the club’s website as Phillies Spring Training Ballpark while the team’s home in Clearwater, Fla., appears ready for a name change.
The ballpark’s name is uncertain, but the start of spring training is now a certainty. The show goes on. Here’s a look at the players who will be gathering this month at beautiful Phillies Spring Training Ballpark.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Phillies ride J.T. Realmuto through his new five-year contract as they have to balance the catcher’s desire to play every day with the realization that he is entering his 30s. Realmuto leads all catchers in both innings and WAR over the last four years, as he is not only the best catcher in baseball but also the most active. Just 11 catchers in the last 40 years have averaged three Wins Above Replacement between the ages of 30 and 34, the age Realmuto’s contract will take him through. The Phillies made a $115.5 million bet he’ll be different.
Andrew Knapp’s .849 OPS last season was the eighth best among all catchers with at least 80 plate appearances. The Red Sox were the only other team to have two catchers record an OPS better than .800. Albeit a small sample size, Knapp proved to be a capable backup.
Rafael Marchan played three games last season in an emergency but will start the season in the minors. The elite defender will be just 26 when Realmuto’s contract expires.
Christian Bethancourt is back on a minor-league deal and will provide depth on the farm.
Jeff Mathis turns 38 next month and has played 16 seasons despite hitting .200 or worse 10 times. He has built a career on game-calling and by being a catcher pitchers love to work with. Mathis could be the team’s taxi squad catcher, which allows him to travel on road trips and be the bullpen catcher at home games.
Rodolfo Duran has not yet graduated A ball but will provide needed catching depth during spring training as the Phillies get their pitchers ready.
Rhys Hoskins plans to take it slow at the start of camp, but he is expected to be ready for opening day after offseason elbow surgery. He had a 1.001 OPS in his final 98 plate appearances last season before being injured, providing the type of production this lineup needs.
Remove Didi Gregorius’ 2019 — a season the shortstop played eight months after undergoing Tommy John surgery — and Gregorius has an .815 OPS in his last three seasons.
Safe to say that Alec Bohm has a spot reserved in the lineup for the near future, but his position is less certain. He’ll start the season at third base but could eventually move to first base or designated hitter.
Jean Segura enters camp as the starting second baseman after moving to third base last spring. He hit .300 or better for three straight years before coming to Philly, where he has hit .276 with a .750 OPS in two seasons.
Scott Kingery is still listed as an infielder, but the super utilityman’s best route to everyday playing time is by winning the camp competition in center field. He hit just .159 last season with a .511 OPS after opening the year as the starting second baseman. He’ll have to earn his playing time this spring.
Dave Dombrowski was with the Red Sox in 2016 when they drafted C.J. Chatham in the second round, and that might have implored him to trade for the utility infielder last month. Chatham has batted .298 over four minor-league seasons, but he has hit just 14 homers. He’ll compete for a bench role.
Nick Maton was added to the 40-man roster after spending last summer in Lehigh Valley. He can handle any infield spot, but the 24-year-old has played just 21 games above single-A ball.
Ronald Torreyes started three games last September when the Phillies were hurting for reinforcements during a playoff chase. The versatile defender is a favorite of Joe Girardi’s from New York and will provide minor-league depth.
Bryce Harper hit last season like the type of player who can carry a team to the playoffs. But even his highest OPS since 2017 could not overcome baseball’s worst bullpen in 90 years. He had the fifth-best on-base percentage in baseball and the eighth-best OPS in the NL. Harper was as good as advertised.
Adam Haseley will compete for the center-field job, but he is not the heavy favorite despite being the eighth overall pick just four years ago. He has hit .269 with a .712 OPS in his first two seasons and started just six of the team’s final 14 games last September as Girardi leaned on Roman Quinn in center. Quinn started half the team’s games last season and is one of baseball’s fastest players, providing the Phillies with needed speed. But he hit just .213 in 2020 with a .576 OPS. This competition remains wide open.
Andrew McCutchen was the designated hitter 16 times last season as the Phils eased him back after ACL surgery. For now, that option is off the table. The Phillies are confident that McCutchen can still play left field every day, as Girardi said the 34-year-old is in much better shape than he was a year ago.
Mickey Moniak is slated to return to the minors after spending some time last year with the Phillies. He’s more than four years removed from being the No. 1 overall draft pick, and an expanded stay in triple A could be a nice litmus test after he posted a .692 OPS in four minor-league seasons.
Simon Muzziotti signed with the Phillies in 2016 out of Venezuela after his contract with the Red Sox was voided. He has done well in the low minors and was added this offseason to the 40-man roster.
Matt Joyce signed a minor-league deal and will compete for a role as a left-handed option off the bench. The 36-year-old has a .790 OPS in the last two seasons.
Lancaster’s Travis Jankowski will be in camp on a minor-league deal and should provide outfield depth at triple A.
The Phillies can feel comfortable matching their top two starters — Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler — against anyone else’s. Wheeler (2.9 Wins Above Replacement) and Nola (2.2) were the team’s most valuable players, and the Phillies joined the Rockies as the only National League teams with two pitchers who finished in the top 10 of WAR.
Zach Eflin’s 11.18 strikeouts per nine innings ranked ninth among NL starters, and Nola’s 12.11 ranked sixth. The Phillies and the Reds were the only NL teams with two pitchers in the top 10. Nola and Wheeler are known commodities, but this year will prove if Eflin can join them.
Vince Velasquez will get a chance to earn a rotation spot but could move to a long-relief role with the additions of Matt Moore and Chase Anderson. Moore, a former top prospect and All-Star, was excellent last season in Japan and is trying to resurrect his career on a $3 million deal. He would be the first left-hander since Cole Hamels in 2015 to start a season in the Phillies rotation. Anderson is earning $1 million more and had a 7.22 ERA last season but saw a spike in his strikeout rate and made 25 or more starts in five straight seasons before 2020.
Spencer Howard pitched just 24 ⅓ innings last season and will likely need his innings managed early in the year for him to get to September. He could start the season in the bullpen or in triple A. Last year’s rookie season (5.92 ERA in six starts) came in non-ideal circumstances. A traditional season should help.
Jose Alvarado throws hard, but injuries have slowed the reliever the last two seasons. The Phillies will see this spring if the 25-year-old left-hander can replicate 2018, when he posted a 2.39 ERA in 70 appearances.
Expect Archie Bradley to leave Clearwater as the team’s closer. He posted a 1.17 ERA last season in 7 ⅔ innings after being traded to Cincinnati, where new Phils pitching coach Caleb Cotham was working as the assistant.
If Hector Neris isn’t the closer, he’ll still be used to get important outs. He had a down year but managed to not allow a single homer. The team’s longest-tenured player had 28 saves in 2019, posting a 2.93 ERA, and won’t fall too far down the pecking order.
Last year’s bullpen was rough, but rookies Connor Brogdon and JoJo Romero brought promise. Brogdon allowed just one hit over six September appearances, and Romero logged scoreless appearances in eight of his 12 outings. They both figure to start the season in the big-league bullpen.
Sam Coonrod’s average fastball velocity, 98.4 mph, ranked fifth last season among all pitchers. He enters camp on the 40-man roster after a down year in San Francisco’s bullpen.
Brandon Kintzler enters camp as a favorite to win a bullpen job after signing a minor-league deal that could earn him more money than the major-league deal he turned down from Miami. The 36-year-old had 12 saves last season for the Marlins and enters camp as a favorite to win a bullpen job.
Hector Rondon is on a minor-league deal after posting a 7.65 ERA last season in 23 appearances with Arizona. Six weeks in Clearwater should be enough to see if the 32-year-old can be the reliever he was in 2018 and 2019 with Houston, where he posted a 3.46 ERA for one of baseball’s best teams.
Kyle Dohy has been a popular prospect the last few seasons and likely would have pitched his way to the big leagues last summer had the minor-league season not been canceled. The left-handed reliever figures to start the year at triple A.
The Phillies intend to keep left-hander Damon Jones stretched out as a starter at triple A, because they’ll need plenty of starting pitching to navigate the season. He had a 2.91 ERA in 23 starts in 2019 between high-A Clearwater and triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Seranthony Dominguez will be placed on the 60-day injured list, which will open a spot on the 40-man roster. He is a long shot to pitch this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
It’s hard to put much stock in the three outings last September by Ranger Suarez, who had spent July quarantining in a Clearwater hotel after testing positive for COVID-19. The left-hander impressed the Phillies last spring and was one of the team’s better relievers in 2019. He’ll get a chance in Clearwater.
Cristopher Sánchez is 6-foot-6 and left-handed, and throws in the high 90s. The 24-year-old will likely start the season in triple A, but he’s worth keeping an eye on. …
Francisco Morales, a hard-throwing, 21-year-old right-hander, figures to start the season in the double-A rotation.
Ramon Rosso started last season in the major-league bullpen, faced his share of struggles, and will compete this spring to return.
Adonis Medina made his major-league debut last September during a playoff race, but his fastball was a few ticks down. He could use time at triple A.
David Hale was tendered a contract this offseason after being sparingly used following an August trade with the Yankees. He posted a 4.09 ERA with the Phillies, but four of his six appearances were scoreless.
Left-hander Bailey Falter was added this offseason to the 40-man roster. The control-oriented pitcher with a low-90s fastball made 14 double-A starts in 2019 and could open the season in the triple-A rotation.
Mauricio Llovera debuted last September but is slated to begin the season in the minors. The 24-year-old right-hander has been a starter in the minors but could transition to a relief role.
Neftali Feliz, Ivan Nova, David Paulino, and Michael Ynoa are on minor-league deals. Feliz, once a premier closer, hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2017 but is only 32. Nova started 25 or more games in four straight seasons before 2020 and should provide rotation depth at triple A. Paulino, a right-handed reliever, has not been in the majors since 2018. Ynoa was once a top prospect with Oakland, but injuries have slowed him. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2017.
Bryan Mitchell pitched in 48 games for Joe Girardi in New York but has not appeared in the big leagues since 2018. He was with the White Sox last spring and projects to be in the triple-A rotation.
Edgar Cabral spent last summer at the alternate site in Allentown and has thrown out 38.2% of attempted base stealers in his minor-league career.
Logan O’Hoppe was also in Allentown last summer. He’s just 21 years old and is well regarded in the team’s system. He was an All Star as a 19-year-old in 2019 with Williamsport and will likely begin this season in Clearwater or Lakewood.
Odubel Herrera’s path back to the Phillies will begin in minicamp with the minor-league players. The Phillies understand how much backlash they’ll endure if Herrera returns to Philly, but they seem willing to give it a try if the player earns it.
The Phillies gave Jhailyn Ortiz $4.2 million in 2015, but he’s yet to leave A ball. He’s only 22, but his minor-league production — .200 average and .653 OPS in Clearwater in 2019 — has not matched his signing bonus.
Johan Rojas has hit .294 in two minor-league seasons and could be in line for a breakout season. He’s fast, can handle center field, and hits for average.
Notre Dame product Matt Vierling had a .626 OPS in 2019 with Clearwater. The fifth-round pick could begin the season in Reading.
Darick Hall hit 20 homers in 2019 with Reading while posting a .454 slugging percentage as he became the latest slugger to enjoy hitting at the friendly ballpark in Berks County. More important, he struck out just 60 times in 535 plate appearances. He seems ticketed for triple A.
Bryson Stott looks to be the heir apparent to Didi Gregorius. He has played just 48 minor-league games, but the 2019 first-round pick was selected out of college and is not too far away.
Luke Williams has played nearly every position in the minor leagues as he’s been used a lot like Scott Kingery. He stole 30 bases in 2019 with Reading and could be a valuable bench player in the majors.
Tyler Carr finished 2019 in Reading’s bullpen and allowed just one home run all season while posting a 1.29 ERA over 69.2 innings.
Enyel De Los Santos was removed last summer from the 40-man roster and went unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. The former prospect has lost his shine.
Julian Garcia had a 3.58 ERA in 2019 as a starter for Clearwater and Reading.
JD Hammer made 20 appearances out of the major-league bullpen in 2019 and spent last summer at the alternate site in Allentown. Like De Los Santos, Hammer can pitch his way back to the majors this season.
Jonathan Hennigan finished 2019 in Reading’s bullpen and pitched well this winter in Australia. The left-hander struck out 10 batters per nine innings in the minors.
Jakob Hernandez, a 6-4 left-hander, posted a 1.68 ERA in 2019 over 47 games out of Reading’s bullpen. He has a low-90s fastball and should start the season at triple A.
Erik Miller, a fourth-round pick in 2019 from Stanford, struck out 52 batters in 2019 in just 36 innings without allowing a home run. He should start the season in double A.
David Parkison had a 4.08 ERA in 2019 in 22 starts with Reading after winning the Paul Owens Award in 2018. The left-hander’s strikeout rate dipped from 10.2 per nine innings in 2019 to 8.9 in 2019.
South Jersey’s Zach Warren has a 2.71 ERA in three minor-league seasons as a reliever after being a 23rd-round pick in 2014. Once a long shot, Warren is now a minor leaguer to watch.