Approaching Opening Day cautiously, the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans are hoping for televised-only games because something is still better than a lost season. In ‘20, six players will have the chance to earn a 2021 role.
Six New Opportunities:
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak could need one or two DHs (designated hitters), a third catcher, a right-handed bench bat, two bullpen pieces, and/or a pair of rookies. However, this situation isn’t routine because some players may pass on the abbreviated campaign due to health concerns. Or seize the day?
IN OTHER WORDS:
“One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” - Benjamin Disraeli
Because of numerous loose ends, most GMs will not be active regarding acquisitions. So, don’t expect Klentak to do something significant if he does anything. He’ll have three weeks to sort out which players he’ll carry.
With nothing certain, the likely offer from the lords of baseball to the MLB players association could be for 30 active players and a 40-man roster on hand. Or each franchise could have a 20-player taxi squad: another floated possibility. For top MiLB prospects, only Arizona and Florida fall leagues are considerations.
- 48 games: 7 each against 4 NL East teams and 4 apiece vs. 5 AL East clubs.
- 52 games: 8 each against 4 NL East teams and 4 apiece vs. 5 AL East clubs.
- 54 games: 6 each against 4 NL East teams and 6 apiece vs. 5 AL East clubs.
The problem with 54 contests is too many games against AL organizations, while 48 contests equal three at home and four away for five franchises. Moreover, 52 contests have the exact number for all 10 teams. And even though 52 games decreases revenue, the MLB prefers more time for those lucrative playoffs instead.
With a possible active 30, the below list reveals 24 potentially filled slots. And even though one reliever on this list is questionable, he could be ready. Yes, David Robertson.
Phillies Roster Slots: 24
- Rotation (6): Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, and Ranger Suarez or Vince Velasquez.
- Bullpen (7): Hector Neris, Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Tommy Hunter, Victor Arano, Nick Pivetta, and --if healthy-- David Robhertson.
- Lineup (8): JT Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery, Didi Gregorius, Jean Segura, Adnrew McCutchen, Adam Haseley and Bryce Harper.
- Bench (3): Jay Bruce, Andrew Knapp and Roman Quinn.
When Robertson cut loose his fastball in February, manager Joe Girardi wanted to slow down his likely second-half closer. But the hurler’s display matches his expectation of a July return. Now, he won’t be behind the other relievers, and he’ll push Hector Neris into the eighth-inning setup role.
Seranthony Dominguez had a solid first spring outing, but his elbow problem immediately resurfaced. Unfortunately, the recommendation was Tommy John surgery without the preferred second opinion due to the pandemic. Dominguez, now, will have the procedure and may miss 2021 as well.
In this abbreviated campaign, players or those having an immediate family member with underlying conditions could decide not to compete this summer. One could be Sean Doolittle, the Washington Nationals closer, who has repeatedly voiced concerns and wants proactive remedies, not reactive measures.
On the Fightins, Zack Wheeler could miss early August because his wife is due with their first child. And he insists he will be there for the joyous occasion, but must he self-quarantine for 14 days or longer? Moreover, he may not be the only star on the Phils or the other 29 organizations with concerns.
Because the MiLB will be inactive this season, the red pinstripes may carry top prospects they don’t want to miss a developmental year. However, Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard are not on the 40-man roster, could prematurely burn two of 40 slots, and activate their MLB service-time clocks. An exception for only 2020?
Bohm could DH and make an occasional start at the hot corner to give Jean Segura a breather. Basically, his fielding is still a work in progress, but he moved to Clearwater in October to work on his defense for four months with the coaches. And his obvious plan is to star in the Show sooner rather than later.
With Jay Bruce from the left side, Bohm could be the right-handed DH to face southpaws, while the other would be available to pinch-hit. But the Fightins have other alternatives like switch-hitter Roman Quinn, who is out of options. Perhaps, he could stay healthy for 48-54 contests.
As for Howard, the Phillies will need a reliever to replace Dominguez, and employing a rookie in the relief corps is something the Los Angeles Dodgers have done for years. But Bohn’s teammate at Double-A with mid-90’s gas worked only 30 ⅔ innings with a 2.35 ERA. Criterion: Double-A success equals MLB-level talent.
While Howard could earn an opportunity to start or handle a setup function, Klentak may gamble on him as the staff’s 14th arm. He was a college reliever before becoming a starter there. However, management would expose two players with 40-man spots to waivers to promote Howard and Bohm.
If Klentak burns two roster slots, he has only Robert Stock on the 40-man roster for a tenth reliever and 15th pitcher. Otherwise, the higher-up must burn a third slot to add a non-roster veteran reliever, barring an injury. So don’t expect Bud Norris, Drew Storen, Francisco Liriano or Anthony Swarzak.
The 28th player will probably be the third catcher presently on the 40-man roster: Deivy Grullon. Realistically, the Phillies will need a third receiver for emergencies, and J.T. Realmuto won’t leave many at-bats for Andrew Knapp as it is.
With the rotation and pen accounted for, three reserves have a 40-man slot: Nick Williams, an infielder, and an outfielder. Yes, Williams could get enough at-bats as a DH to keep him sharp and ready to pinch-hit as well. But Klentak could also burn a spot for Neil Walker, Josh Harrison or Logan Forsythe.
Even though the eastern division clubs will play each other, one wrinkle was a report the Pirates and Braves would switch divisions: puzzling! Perhaps, the lords of baseball feel the central division needs some additional competition, or they shelved the idea.
To play in October, a team must have a top-16 record. And 2019’s Phillies were 16th at 81-81 despite multiple injuries and were three games behind the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox with their 84-78 marks. Yes, most clubs could win the 2020 World Series, but what wouldn’t be in the record books? An asterisk!