It is November, we are still 4.5 months from the start of the season, and yet the Phillies’ opening day roster is pretty well set. Even with a new GM, the events of the 2015 season have set the course of the offseason. In figuring out what is locked in, we can figure out what is actually up for grabs this offseason.
Let’s just get the locks out of the way now:
Hitters: Freddy Galvis, Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Andres Blanco, Carlos Ruiz, Cameron Rupp (7)
Pitchers: Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Dan Otero, Ken Giles, Luis Garcia, Elvis Araujo (6)
To get some of the questions out of the way, Galvis and Blanco are the only two guys around who can play SS and with Crawford on the way they aren’t going to get a SS. The catchers are not good, but with Knapp/Alfaro why would the Phillies spend resources on catcher. As for Otero, I don’t see how he doesn’t break camp without something horrible happening because there is some upside.
Next we have guys who aren’t quite locks, but are pretty close.
Hitters: Ryan Howard, Darin Ruf, Cesar Hernandez, Darnell Sweeney, Cody Asche (5)
No one is going to take Howard in trade, but there is a non-zero chance they cut him. Darin Ruf is here because there is a chance they take a chance on a FA, but he feels pretty safe to me. I really have no clue how Klentak views Cesar or Asche, it feels like Cesar is the starting 2B but maybe Klentak likes Sweeney more or another team believes in Cesar. Sweeney will be in the org, but a trip to AAA would not be out of the blue.
Because this is the Phillies there are some poor performers or low upside players an inside track for a job.
Pitchers: Adam Morgan, Jeanmar Gomez
This gives us 19 spots already filled on the roster, with 12 of those spots being hitters. That number could become 11 if they demote Sweeney or Asche, or trade/release one of the first baseman. But overall it looks like the lineup is fairly set outside of adding another outfielder to the team.
So how does the pitching line up? The answer is poorly. But from what we have above this is the starting point:
Starters: Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Adam Morgan
Relievers: Ken Giles, Luis Garcia, Dan Otero, Elvis Araujo, Jeanmar Gomez
Now you can argue against Adam Morgan, but that spot is almost guaranteed to go to an internal option with a chance that it is Alec Asher or David Buchanan. As for the bullpen, I feel comfortable saying they are going to need at least one more lefty reliever and some sort of long man given the inexperience of the rotation (they didn’t use Jeanmar Gomez in this role but it is one he is likely best fit to). I think it is safe to say that one of the rotation spots is guaranteed to a free agent, someone who has the primary goal of pitching close to 200 innings for this team. It is too early to guarantee the other spot is a FA given the SP market each winter, but it does feel like Klentak would like that spot to at least go to someone who has experience starting a major league game every 5 days (think Jerome Williams, Kyle Kendrick types), this is a place that a healthy Matt Harrison could claim (not that we are sure a healthy Matt Harrison exists).
That moves us to the bullpen. The left handed relief spot will likely get a few more competitors like James Russell, but it seems to be a competition between Russell, Mario Hollands, and Tom Windle. Windle is most certainly the long shot here, but it is probably his job long term as he has taken to pitching as a reliever. The favorite is probably Russell, despite his lack of roster spot, but Mario Hollands should be healthy by Spring Training and could take the spot if his stuff is back. A dark horse in this race could be Joely Rodriguez who continues to work as a starting pitcher, but could see a move to the bullpen happen this spring if the team needs it.
As for right handed relief pitchers to round out the bullpen, there are a lot of options in the form of Dalier Hinojosa, Colton Murray, Hector Neris, Nefi Ogando, Edubray Ramos, and Jimmy Cordero, and that is just the players on the 40 man roster. Given that they will want a long man and possibly someone with upside, the bet would seem to be Hector Neris and Dalier Hinojosa with the rest going to Lehigh Valley. It will be tough to send out Ramos and Cordero, but with the current state of the team it likely makes more sense to get them more reps before letting them loose in the majors.
Before making a full roster prediction, there is one last wild card, the Rule 5 pick. The Phillies have the #1 pick and regardless of that player’s success in camp it is extremely hard to see them not at least giving that player some run into the season. Based on what we have seen in this exercise so far the best fit is a pitcher. However, if there is a player available who is a can’t miss they are likely to take that person regardless of position.
This brings us to a roster that looks something like this:
C – Ruiz, Rupp
1B – Howard
2B – Hernandez
SS – Galvis
3B – Franco
LF – Asche
CF – Herrera
RF – Altherr
Bench – Blanco, Sweeney, FA/Trade OF, Ruf
SP – Nola, Eickhoff, Morgan, FA, Open Competition
RP – Giles, Garcia, Gomez, Araujo, Russell, Hinojosa, Neris
That is not a good roster, but as we have come to expect it is a lot of placeholders. The FA/Trade OF will probably have a chance to knock Asche off the roster and a Rule 5 pick will move some things around, so there is some fluidity present.
Now the question that inspired all of this, which prospects break camp with the Phillies. The answer is none (well Sweeney still has prospect eligibility so him). None of the hitters have proven that they are major league ready right now, and so there is certainly AAA time in line for Crawford, Williams, Knapp, Alfaro, Quinn, and others because they need to get this right, they don’t need to get it quick. On the starting pitching side, it is not impossible that Jake Thompson breaks camp with the Phillies, but he would need to prove he is better than Adam Morgan, Alec Asher, Severino Gonzalez, Matt Harrison, Joely Rodriguez, and David Buchanan AND he will need to prove that there is nothing that there is for him to learn in AAA. That is a really tall order. Same thing for Zach Eflin and Ben Lively, there is a lot they would need to prove to get there, and it would take some other guys faltering along the way.
The best chance for any prospects to break camp is in the bullpen. The big names are Jimmy Cordero, Edubray Ramos, Nefi Ogando, and Tom Windle as was alluded to earlier (Windle is the only one that won’t be on the 40 man roster). All four throw hard, all ended in AA or AAA, and all have bright futures in the bullpen. They are almost certainly going to be the fun toys in Spring Training and I am sure that Mackanin is going to put up a fight to keep one of them (much like the situation with Ken Giles in 2014). But all of them could use some more polish before arriving at some point in 2016.
So the roster is kind of locked in already. There is room for Klentak to make some tweaks here and there (like he did with Otero), but much like the transformations that happened during the 2015 season, the 2016 Phillies will be a team that will be defined by what their roster becomes, not how it starts.