CLEARWATER, Fla. - The Phillies, Gabe Kapler said this week, have a lot of players to “dream on.” And six full weeks of spring training is more than enough time to dream.
It was during this time last year that Kapler was introduced to Seranthony Dominguez, who dominated last season by turning spring-training dreams into major-league reality. And a name to watch this spring is Edgar Garcia, whose slider is good enough to allow the Phillies to dream about him reaching the big-leagues this year.
“From what I've seen so far, it's nasty,” Kapler said. “Dirty. Like, really, really good.”
Garcia, 22, made 52 relief appearances last season with double-A Reading and triple-A Lehigh Valley. He racked up strikeouts, averaging 10.1 Ks per nine innings while posting a 3.64 ERA in 641/3 innings. Former Phillies reliever Dan Plesac, who spent the week in camp as a guest instructor, tweeted a raving review of Garcia’s work and said “don’t be surprised” if the righthander reaches the majors in 2019.
“The work that needs to be done with Garcia is with the location of his fastball,” Kapler said. “He's the kind of guy that can pitch with his slider first and his fastball second because it's that good. But at the major-league level, fastball location is key.”
It was a challenge to predict last season which cast of players would be in the lineup Gabe Kapler would post each afternoon to the clubhouse wall. The Phillies had just four players - Carlos Santana, Rhys Hoskins, Cesar Hernandez, and Odubel Herrera - start at least 140 games. Kapler regularly mixed-and-matched the other four positions, trying to find the best match-up or ride a player’s hot streak. The lineup, Kapler said, was not “turn-key.”
But this season, the guessing game should be a bit easier. The Phillies traded Santana this winter but added three players - Jean Segura, J.T. Realmuto, and Andrew McCutchen - who project to start regularly. Kapler begins spring training with six of the eight positions taken by a player who will start nearly everyday. A seventh position could be filled during spring training as the Phillies continue to believe that they will sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. The Phillies, if anything, will have a consistent lineup.
“The guys who have a track record of going out and performing - playing every day and performing - should go out there and play every day and perform,” Kapler said. “I never was opposed to that. But we just didn't have as clear pieces. And now we have clear pieces that play every day.”