Three important position competitions to keep an eye on during Phillies Spring Training
We are now five days away from the start of Major League Baseball in 2021. Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Florida for the Philadelphia Phillies on February 17th. The Phillies and new VP of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski have been slowly but surely rebuilding a broken Phillies team throughout the offseason.
By re-signing JT Realmuto and Didi Gregorius, the Phillies offense and more specifically, the infield, will resemble last year’s team. When looking at the outfield, right field will never be an issue with Bryce Harper and left field is still Andrew McCutchen’s spot to lose. Outside of pitching, the only position still up for grabs would be centerfield.
Here are three position battles to keep an eye on as we slowly approach the start of Spring Training.
Centerfield will be an all-out bloodbath with at least three Phillies players battling for playing time come Opening Day. Adam Haseley, Scott Kingery, and Roman Quinn will each be fighting for a starting position in centerfield and there’s a good chance that the Phillies will bring in another player to add to the competition.
That player won’t come in free agency, but rather within the Phillies organization. His name is Odubel Herrera. This past Wednesday, Dave Dombrowski was quoted saying the team was still working through some “personal” details not necessarily related to Herrera’s infraction before it made the call to bring him to camp or not. Herrera is under contract through 2021 and is currently assigned to the minor leagues.
Right now, it appears to be Adam Haseley’s job to lose. Scott Kingery is looking to bounce back this year after a rough going in 2020 and Roman Quinn will likely be used as more of a specialized, utility player. I firmly believe that the Phillies are done with Odubel Herrera. There’s also a chance that we could see former first overall pick Mickey Moniak in centerfield. Moniak will likely be slotted in left field to backup an aging Andrew McCutchen.
Haseley was the eighth overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. His rookie season, Haseley slashed .266/.324/.396 with five home runs and 26 RBI in 67 games. Last year, Haseley slashed .278/.348/.342 zero home runs and 13 RBI. Haseley’s usage was definitely down from his rookie season and it’s thought that Phillies Manager Joe Girardi is operating under the assumption that Haseley struggles to hit against left handed pitching. You could easily argue, however, that Haseley was never really given the opportunity to hit against left handed pitching and has earned his opportunity. That’s an argument that you would likely win.
Haseley had 82 plate appearances vs right handed pitching in 2020 and slashed .261/.342/.319 with 11 RBI. Against left handed pitching, Haseley had only 10 plate appearances, slashing .400/.400/.500 with two RBI. The sample size is extremely small against left handed pitchers so it’s hard to come to any conclusions but simply looking at the numbers, there’s reason to be optimistic.
Joe Girardi recently said that second base is Jean Segura’s “spot to lose” heading into the 2021 season, which is why Scott Kingery will most likely serve as a backup infielder and fight for a starting job in centerfield. Kingery is looking to bounce-back after a rough 2020 season in which he hit .159 with 35 strikeouts and nine walks in 124 plate appearances. It’s important to note that Kingery battled with COVID-19 in June and shortness of breath for weeks following his recovery. He also suffered shoulder and back injuries. Looking at his best year in 2019 where Kingery hit .258 with 19 home runs, 55 RBIs, and held a .788 OPS in 500 plate appearances, there’s plenty of reason to believe that there will be a return of Jetpax SZN in 2021.
Prediction: Scott Kingery will win this job out of Spring Training over Adam Haseley but throughout the season, we will see more of a platoon in centerfield.
It’s safe to say that the Phillies top three pitchers are set in stone. Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Zach Eflin could turn out to be the best 1-2-3 punch in Major League Baseball if Eflin pitchers like he did during the second half of last season. From there, the four and five spots in the rotation are essentially up for grabs. Yes, we have top prospect Spencer Howard, who struggled last year in a shortened season with no preparation. He ultimately ended the year on the injury list.
Howard is still ranked atop of every prospect list for the Phillies and it’s easy to understand why. He has four solid pitches highlighted by a mid-to-high 90s fastball, a nasty changeup, and an above-average slide and 12-6 curveball. Howard’s control, command, and ability to pitch deep into games will most likely determine whether or not he makes the starting rotation out of Spring Training.
Vincent Velasquez, much like every other year, is a pitcher that you really can’t trust at the back of the rotation. He struggles to pitch deep into ball games and has been extremely unreliable to date. That’s where you can hopefully slide Matt Moore into the rotation. Moore previously played in the MLB for the Tampa Bay Rays, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, and Detroit Tigers. Most recently, Moore has pitched in Japan for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and performed well. Most notably, On November 24, 2020 in Game 3 of the 2020 Japan Series, Moore pitched seven no-hit innings with five strikeouts. He ended the season with a 2.65 ERA. In his Major League Baseball experience, Moore was an All-Star in 2013, a season in which he went 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA over 27 starts and 150 1/3 innings. Moore last pitched in the MLB in 2019 with the Tigers, but suffered season-ending knee surgery early on in the season.
The Phillies also have Chase Anderson, Ramón Rosso, Adonis Medina, Damon Jones, Bailey Falter, Cristopher Sánchez, and Francisco Morales who will all be competing to break into the starting rotation during Spring Training.
Prediction: Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin, Spencer Howard, and Matt Moore will be the Phillies 2021 starting rotation to begin the season with Chase Anderson and Vincent Velasquez both heading to the bullpen as long-inning relievers if starting pitching underperforms.
The Phillies made a great move by signing Archie Bradley this offseason. They also traded for Jose Alvarado who you hope can bounce back this year after a rough going last year. In 2018, Alvarado finished with a 2.39 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 80 strikeouts in 64 innings pitched. He also had 8 saves. When Jose Alvarado is healthy and focused, he’s dominant and throws hard.
Connor Brogdon pitched well late last season and JoJo Romero showed signs of potential. Ranger Suarez and David Hale would fall in the “promising” category as well and we’ve all taken rides on the Hector Neris rollercoaster and should know that he’s everything but reliable as a closer.
The Phillies continue to add low-risk, high-reward options to their potential bullpen for the 2021 season. Brandon Kintzler is coming off his two best seasons of his career. He converted 13 of his 17 save chances while posting a 2.55 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 81.1 innings across 86 relief appearances for the Cubs and most recently, the Miami Marlins. He was an all-star in 2017 and led Marlins with 12 saves last year.
Prediction: Brogdon, Romero, Hale will all be the go-to late inning relief pitchers. Bradley and Kintzler will be the Phillies’ 8th inning pitchers, and Neris will be slotted in as the Closer to start the season.