Phillies’ manager Joe Girardi told reporters Saturday that Andrew McCutchen will start the season on the IL. This allows a lot of conjecture on who the opening day left fielder will be and who will make the 26-man roster in his place.
This came as no surprise to me. I’ve been telling friends and anyone who would listen that McCutchen did not look comfortable at the plate during BP off coaches. Even though he showed up at the complex in mid-January, he did not take part in any stretching and throwing drills with the players who arrived early.
Even when major league spring training commenced, he was noticeably absent from the day’s opening drills and fielding practice. I did see him running sprints in left field on Ashburn Field one afternoon under the watchful eyes of three trainers (or some such people). I saw him jogging around the outfield on Ashburn then Schmidt with one trainer as recently as a few days ago.
The acquisition of Kyle Garlick at the expense of one of our young left-handed relievers, signaled to me that the Phillies also had doubts that McCutchen would be ready for opening day or that Garlick was insurance in case there was a relapse in McCutchen’s rehabilitation. Still, I couldn’t convince my group of friends that a trip to the IL was a likely outcome. The best any would do was admit grudgingly that it was a remote possibility, that the Phillies were bringing him along slowly with opening day as the target.
Sadly, vindication for my observation came today. So, rather than say, “I told you so”, I’ll give them the roster solution tomorrow when I arrive triumphantly at the Complex. And, if you think I’m not going to say, “I told you so”, you are mistaken.
But, let’s consider the many solutions available to the Phillies.
First, let’s assume what the opening day roster would have looked like this.
- 13 pitchers (no need to go through this for this exercise)
- 2 catchers – Realmuto and, assuming all options are healthy, Knapp; Grullon is first one up, Bethancourt is next (if he accepts a AAA assignment)
- 6 infielders – Hoskins, Kingery, Gregorius, Segura, and 2 of Harrison/Torreyes/Gosselin
- 5 outfielders – Harper, Haseley, McCutchen, Bruce, Quinn
There was a time when I thought an internal guy like Austin Listi could fill the final spot on the 26-man roster. There was discussion that the spot didn’t have to be tied to a fielding position, that it could be filled by a pure hitter in a pinch hitting only role. The signing of FA 2B Logan Forsythe on February 5th dissuaded me from that argument.
Don’t like Knapp? Get over it. I’m so convinced that he’ll open the season in Miami that I bet big money on it. Later, the day of the bet, his rib cage injury was announced. Still, he’s been catching bull pens, so, if healthy, I’m a richer man.
I don’t know who has opt outs if they aren’t on the 40- or 26-man rosters by a certain date. Torreyes has been attached to Gregorius’ hip much of spring training. He’s a Girardi guy. And, the dude can hit. In the three years where he had over 100 major league plate appearances, all with the Yankees, he hit .281/.308/.374/.672. He has played 2B, SS, 3B. The 32-year-old Harrison is 5 years older than Torreyes, is a 2-time All Star, and has more power – he hit 16 HRs in 2017. But, his batting line has slipped the past 2 years and he is predominantly a second baseman now. Phil Gosselin plays predominantly at 2B. But, I believe he led the Phillies with 10 pinch hits going 10-32, .313 with 2 walks in 34 plate appearances. The 34-year-old Neil Walker was predominately a 1B and went .304 as a pinch hitter (7-23). The 33-year-old Logan Forsythe was predominately a corner with some time in the middle.
I like Torreyes and Gosselin to make the roster, but concede that it will likely be Torreyes and Harrison. (I overlooked Gamboa because realistically I don’t see any way that he starts above Lehigh Valley.)
So, barring injury, the outfield would have been set. With McCutchen’s trip to the IL all but assured, the two players most likely to replace McCutchen are LHB Nick Williams or RHB Kyle Garlick. Both have options remaining (Williams – 1, Garlick – 2). Of the NRIs, RHB Mikie Mahtook, LHB Nick Martini, and RHB Matt Szczur (injured). are possibilities.
If lefty v righty matters, maybe Garlick has an edge. If spring training results matter, Mahtook is batting .273. Garlick .250, Williams .222, Martini .143 in small samples. However, the best performing outfielders are – Luke Williams (.455/.571/.727/1.299), Simon Muzziotti (.429/.500/.429/.929), Bryce Harper, Mickey Moniak (.333/.400/.667/1.067), Jhailyn Ortiz (.333/.333/1.333/1.667), and Jay Bruce.
If handedness doesn’t matter, I go with Nick Wiliams. He had decent years in 2017 and 2018. However, my pipe dream is as follows. I have suggested among my friends and have been chastised due to the free agent and arbitration clock arguments.
Alec Bohm is hitting his way onto the opening day roster. What if he keeps it up? Then what? Segura is not going to be relegated to the bench or traded. No, he returns to second base, ceding third base to Bohm. What of Kingery? Does he return to the utility role the Phillies prefer he fill? Not quite in my world. He returns to the outfield. He plays CF when Bruce is in LF and LF when Quinn is in CF. Haseley fills in as needed or when Kingery plays an infield position.
I admit that this is more of a late April decision after Bohm rakes in AAA. But, it would sure be nice to see one of the organization’s best bats in the line up on opening day.