CLEARWATER, Fla. — Ready or not, opening day is 10 days away, and the Phillies still have several roster decisions to make.
Alec Bohm or Bryson Stott at third base?
Mickey Moniak as the lefty-hitting half of a center-field platoon?
Zack Wheeler and Ranger Suárez in the season-opening rotation or delayed at the start?
It will all be settled by the time the Phillies break camp here April 6 after playing the spring-training finale against the Rays at Tropicana Field. In the meantime, let’s take a swing at predicting the roster, which likely will be expanded to 28 players through April.
(2) J.T. Realmuto, Garrett Stubbs
If Realmuto had his way, how many games would he start behind the plate?
“He wants to catch 197,” manager Joe Girardi said last week.
OK, so it’s a good thing Realmuto doesn’t write out the lineup.
Girardi, a former catcher, estimated that 120 to 125 starts is a “safe number” for most catchers. Realmuto, who turned 31 this month, averaged 120 starts in the last six full seasons. So, the choice of who should back him up — Stubbs or fellow newcomer Donny Sands — may be the least stressful decision the Phillies make. Stubbs gets the nod here based on experience, albeit only 51 games, in the big leagues.
But the rigors of all that catching have taken a toll on Realmuto. He was banged up in each of the last three years, and in time, he will probably need to scale back his workload to hold up for the entirety of a five-year contract that runs through 2025.
That time is not now, though. And when it does come, catching prospects Rafael Marchan or Logan O’Hoppe may be ready to share the duties.
(6) Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura, Didi Gregorius, Bohm, Johan Camargo, Nick Maton
Maybe there will be an April surprise. Maybe a middle infield-needy team (White Sox? Angels?) will buy Gregorius’ solid spring as a sign that he’s primed for a bounce-back season. Maybe a team believes in Bohm’s upside and will give up value to get him.
Or maybe Girardi will somehow squeeze Gregorius, Bohm, and Stott into two spots and find enough at-bats for each of them.
But in the absence of those scenarios, it’s not clear how Bohm and Stott can both be on the roster and play every day.
Stott, a 24-year-old shortstop prospect, is doing everything possible to make the team. He picked up three more hits Monday and is 8-for-15 with five walks. And it isn’t only a spring-training hot streak. Stott starred in the Arizona Fall League after an excellent 2021 season that ended with him in triple A.
But Gregorius is almost certain to be the opening-day shortstop. Stott has played one game at third base. He’s scheduled to play third again Wednesday and will probably get a look at second base later in the week, according to Girardi.
“I’ll put it this way,” Girardi said. “He’s making a strong case for himself.”
But third base is still Bohm’s job to lose. And maybe he will lose it. After a dismal season last year that included an August demotion to triple A, he’s 2-for-21 this spring. It will take a strong final week of camp to hold off a challenge from either Stott or Camargo, a versatile infielder who hit 19 homers as the Braves’ everyday third baseman in 2018.
The easiest move, barring a trade, would be to stick with Bohm, send Stott to triple A, and reevaluate in a few weeks.
“There’s a lot of times you look at numbers, but we look at different things than just pure numbers and how a guy’s hitting,” Girardi said. “I think Alec’s made a lot of improvement since he’s been here.”
Maton could join Camargo in a utility infield role. But don’t count out veteran Ronald Torreyes, a longtime Girardi favorite who is in camp on a minor-league contract. Odds are he will play for the Phillies again at some point.
(5) Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, Matt Vierling, Moniak
The plan called for Vierling to share center field with lefty-hitting Odúbel Herrera. But Herrera strained a muscle in his side and will begin the season on the injured list, and suddenly Moniak and Adam Haseley reentered the picture to platoon with Vierling or serve as a fifth outfielder.
The picture grew clearer Tuesday, when the Phillies traded Haseley to the White Sox for minor-league reliever McKinley Moore.
Moniak won the job by being open to new hitting coach Kevin Long’s adjustments to his stance and stride. It’s working. Moniak has three homers and two doubles in his last four games. With the Phillies believing he can handle playing center field, he had the edge over Haseley.
Schwarber will be the primary left fielder, with Castellanos also getting time there when Schwarber is the designated hitter and in right field when Harper takes a turn in the DH spot.
(5) Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson, Zach Eflin, Ranger Suárez, Zack Wheeler
Suárez and Wheeler are lined up to make their first spring-training starts Friday and Saturday, respectively, which would give them a chance to pitch once more next week before the season opens.
Neither will be stretched out to more than about three innings, but the likelihood of an expanded April roster would enable the Phillies to put them in the season-opening rotation and back them up with multiple-inning relievers for their first few starts.
Once Suárez and Wheeler are up to speed, the Phillies believe they have a throwback rotation, with five starters who can pitch deep into games.
“I know the game’s kind of going in that way to where a lot of starters are throwing five innings,” said Nola, who will start his fifth consecutive opening day. “But we want our five innings to be seven innings. I feel like every one of us has done that in our career. That’s what we want to do.”
(10) Corey Knebel, Jeurys Familia, Brad Hand, Connor Brogdon, Seranthony Domínguez, José Alvarado, Ryan Sherriff, Bailey Falter, Cristopher Sánchez, Nick Nelson
Alvarado is the name to watch here. He was shut down for three days last week because of neck stiffness and hasn’t appeared in a spring-training game. If he’s able to get into a few games before camp breaks, he could be ready for an on-time start.
“I’m concerned about it a little bit,” Girardi said. “I still think there’s time. But I’m a little concerned about it.”
If Alvarado begins the season on the injured list alongside Sam Coonrod (shoulder strain), the Phillies could turn to left-hander Damon Jones. Girardi is also impressed with Braeden Ogle, a nonroster lefty acquired last summer from the Pirates. Ogle hasn’t allowed a run in 3⅔ innings.
The Phillies expect to fill expanded roster spots with pitchers who can throw multiple innings. That’s where Falter, Sánchez, and Nelson come in. One thing is clear: The short spring training figures to test pitchers’ arms in April.
“It’s a concern for every organization in the game,” Girardi said. “And our situation is tough where it’s 13 [games] in a row. But you’ve got to find a way to get through it and keep everybody healthy. That’s the most important thing.”