Phillies’ Bench is Taking Shape

Posted by Mike Frohwirth


With the Phillies likely to start the season with a seven-man bullpen, they have room for thirteen position players. The probable starting lineup appears to have already been determined:

C Carlos Ruiz

1B Ryan Howard

2B Luis Castillo*

SS Jimmy Rollins

3B Placido Polanco

LF Raul Ibanez

CF Shane Victorino

RF Ben Francisco

(*Remember: Wilson Valdez is bad at baseball. Castillo is not great, either. But at least he projects to a wOBA over .300)

This leaves the five bench spots. Four of these spots have likely been determined, with the fifth spot (possibly) still under consideration.

Brian Schneider appears set as the backup catcher. With strong defensive skills, and a guaranteed contract, the veteran should spell Ruiz for around forty games. Schneider posted a .240/.345/.384 split in 2010, with a .324 wOBA. Even if Schneider declines a bit (Bill James projects a .295 wOBA), he should be a satisfactory backup. Erik Kratz appears poised to be the starting catcher in AAA, backed up by Dane Sardinha.

Wilson Valdez should be the utility infielder. He has a strong arm, and provides satisfactory defense throughout the infield. It might be prudent for the Phillies to use him in the late innings of already-decided games, to give some extra rest to veterans Polanco and Castillo. However, they need to try to keep Valdez away from the plate. The veteran infielder had a career year in 2010, in which he wOBA'd a putrid .294. Hopefully, the Phillies will find a cost-effective way to upgrade at the utility infielder spot.

Ross Gload will be a backup outfielder/pinch-hitter. Gload did a satisfactory job in 2010, posting a .348 wOBA, with a .281/.328/.484 split. A poor fielder with minimal range, he should see most of his 2011 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter.

John Mayberry, Jr. seems likely to make the squad as a reserve outfielder, though he may be headed back to AAA when Domonic Brown returns from injury. Mayberry has only had seventy-three MLB plate appearances, wOBAing .336. He is a satisfactory fielder, and may be a better option than Ross Gload to play when a starting outfielder needs a day off. He would also be a good late inning defensive replacement for Raul Ibanez.

The final roster spot is still a bit up in the air, but the best choice appears to be Michael Martinez. As a Rule 5 Draft acquisition, the Phillies need to keep him on the MLB roster all season, or return him to the Washington Nationals. Martinez is a very capable infielder, and may be the best current option as the backup centerfielder. The twenty-eight year old hit well in AAA last season, posting a .355 wOBA. Given the defensive limitations of Delwyn Young, Josh Barfield, and Pete Orr, and the fact that they can be stashed in AAA for the time being, Martinez should start the season as the 25th man.

While these appear to be the likely choices at the present time, only Schneider and Gload are guaranteed their spots. With other teams choosing their own rosters, some bench upgrades may become available to the Phillies. Though recently-released veterans Pedro Feliz and Gabe Gross aren't as good as the Phillies' current options, some better players may become available over the next few days.