CLEARWATER, Fla. — In five months’ time, Matt Vierling went from informing the Phillies’ instructional league coaches that he’s capable of playing multiple positions to attending major-league spring training as a non-roster invitee. Four months after that, he batted seventh and played center field for Joe Girardi.

Life moves pretty fast in baseball, unless the owners are locking out all 40-man roster players and threatening the on-time start of a season. All the same, the nearly 60 Phillies minor-league minicampers who will gather here this week (in lieu of the usual pitchers and catchers reporting date) will want to stop and look around once in a while lest they miss the opportunity before them.

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A year ago, Vierling was in their spikes. The former fifth-round pick from Notre Dame spent 2019 at the highest level of A-ball and hoped only to leave an impression on the coaching staff last spring before getting sent out to minor-league camp. But a solid May in double A led to a spot on the 40-man roster, a June call-up to the majors, a .324 average, an .843 on-base plus slugging in 77 plate appearances, and commendation from Bryce Harper for “an incredible job.”

Vierling’s rise isn’t rare. Although the path to the majors isn’t as clear for players who aren’t on the 40-man roster, a prerequisite for getting called up, non-roster players often wind up taking star turns during the course of a season.

Luke Williams, who hadn’t played above double A before last season, won a game for the Phillies in June with a walk-off home run. Reliever Connor Brogdon emerged from non-roster status to pitch high-leverage innings in 2020. Among the more notable examples from 21st century Phillies history: Kyle Kendrick was added to the 40-man roster in June 2007 and became a 10-game winner for a playoff team.

If it happened to them, as Girardi or another team official will surely note this week, it could happen to someone from this crop of non-roster players, too.

The smart money is on Bryson Stott. In November, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told the 24-year-old top prospect to prepare for a spring training competition with veteran shortstop Didi Gregorius.

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But beyond Stott, who may be this year’s Vierling? Catching prospect Logan O’Hoppe’s time will come, but it likely would take a long-term injury to get the 22-year-old to the majors this season. Ditto for 21-year-old Johan Rojas, who could run the bases and play center field in the big leagues but needs to develop as a hitter.

Mick Abel and Andrew Painter, the Phillies’ top pitching prospects and two most recent first-round picks, are only just beginning the long climb through the minors, along with 20-year-old center fielder Yhoswar Garcia.

But here are a few less ballyhooed players, some with local ties, who are worth watching as the Phillies’ minicamp opens, MLB’s labor war drags on, and everyone waits to see whether opening day — the major-league version, at least — goes off as scheduled on March 31.

Jeff Singer

It was mostly a footnote from a Grapefruit League game two years ago. Singer got called up from minor-league camp, entered in the fourth inning against the Boston Red Sox, and struck out the side on nine pitches. That was March 7, 2020.

Five days later, spring training got called off because of COVID-19.

Singer’s immaculate inning didn’t earn him an invite to the Phillies’ summer training camp a few months later. He wasn’t summoned to the Lehigh Valley alternate site until September, either, and wasn’t asked to attend major-league spring training last year.

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But for as much as Singer has been overlooked, he has also been effective. The 28-year-old has a 3.25 ERA in five minor-league seasons. Although his ERA rose to 4.75 in 44 appearances last season in triple A, he struck out 11.4 batters per nine innings, up from 10.8 in double A in 2019. And he recently posted a 2.51 ERA and allowed 10 hits and five walks in 14⅓ innings in winter ball in Mexico.

Singer is left-handed, which could create an opportunity. José Alvarado is the lone lefty in the bullpen. JoJo Romero is working his way back from Tommy John surgery last May. Kent Emanuel, Ryan Sherriff, Damon Jones, and Scott Moss are the other lefty relievers on the 40-man roster, along with potential swingmen Bailey Falter and Cristopher Sánchez.

If Singer does finally reach the big leagues, it would be quite a story for an undrafted pitcher out of Division III Rutgers-Camden who signed with the Phillies in 2015 by way of the Rancocas Valley men’s league and the now-defunct Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League.

Billy Sullivan and Griff McGarry

Bullpens are fertile ground for non-roster players to emerge, especially if they’re filled with relievers who have big strikeout numbers.

Sullivan, undrafted out of Delaware, signed with the Phillies in 2020 and fanned 35 of the 99 batters he faced last season between high-A Jersey Shore and double-A Reading. The 22-year-old right-hander, who grew up in New Castle, Del., and often attended Phillies spring training as a fan during school vacation, could move quickly through the system.

The same goes for McGarry, another 22-year-old righty who struck out 43 of 100 batters at two A-ball levels last season after getting drafted in the fifth round out of the University of Virginia. McGarry’s fastball-slider combination is electric, but his command is spotty. The Phillies could try to harness it by turning him into a full-time reliever.

“It’s going to be command with him. And poise,” a National League scout said. “He was really impressive for me in instructional league. He’s got a chance to be a pretty good one.”

Ethan Wilson

If any player in the minicamp is positioned to follow Vierling’s path, it would be Wilson.

Like Vierling, Wilson’s polished approach as a college hitter appealed to the Phillies. They drafted Wilson in the second round last year out of South Alabama and challenged him with an assignment to low-A Clearwater. As expected, he had ups (a 13-for-31 roll to end August) and downs (0-for-14 to finish the season) en route to a .215/.282/.374 finish in 117 plate appearances.

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Vierling’s struggles came at the high-A level in 2019, his second pro season. But he never had particularly high strikeout totals in the minors (18.4%) and impressed the Phillies by making consistently hard contact after getting called up last year.

Wilson has some of the same characteristics, only from the left side of the plate. If he adapts to higher-level pitching, he could rise quickly as a corner-outfield option. With the designated hitter all but certain to come to the National League, the Phillies will be seeking another quality hitter to rotate through the lineup.

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