Phillies Season Outlook: The Bench

David lough spring

Could David Lough play a key role for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2016 season? (Frank Klose/Philliedelphia)

One of the marks of a team that is truly in contention for a World Series title is an impactful stable of bench players. For every roster that is highlighted by high-priced superstars and uber-talented young players, there are usually a handful of individuals who spend the better parts of games in the dugout, but are kept along for the ride due to their unique skill-sets and versatility. For Phillies fans, names like Matt Stairs, Greg Dobbs, Geoff Jenkins, and Eric Bruntlett mean something not because these were players who put up gaudy stats over the course of a 162-game season, but because these were bench players who had accepted their roles and delivered in major moments during a World Series run when their respective numbers were called.

By no means is anyone under the impression that the 2016 Phillies opening day roster will look anything like it did in 2008 from a talent perspective. With that being the case, the usually clearly-defined distinction between the 'starters' and the bench' is a bit murkier. That said, Pete Mackanin has spent enough time in MLB dugouts to note the importance of having some line of demarkation between his roster. There will likely be a good bit of platooning with the 2016 Phillies that takes place, and injuries to projected starters during Spring Training will force Mackanin into a situation where he has to tweak his roster on the fly. As it stands, there are only a few position players whose starting roles are etched in stone and will only be affected by injury going forward. Because of this, there is opportunity abound for a roster riddled with young players and cast-offs with a chance to make an impact. Part two of our Phillies Season Outlook takes an in-depth look at the players who could make up the Phillies bench.


Andres Blanco-Utility

To expect the 31-year-old Andres Blanco to rake the way he did in 2015 might be a bit too optimistic considering his slash line (.292/.360/.502) was astronomically beyond what he had done over the course of an eight-year career. Blanco was perhaps the most useful weapon off the bench for the Phillies and his ability to play all over the infield (1B, SS, 3B) will continue to prove valuable for Mackanin. Especially given how much youth there is throughout the Phillies infield, Blanco's veteran presence should continue to prove beneficial, even if he doesn't put up the same types of numbers as he did in 2015. 

Darin Ruf-1B/OF

By season's end, one could argue that Darin Ruf has a better chance to be on the daily starting lineup than he does remaining on the bench. With the organization's efforts to move Ryan Howard at an all-time high, Ruf figures to slide in as an everyday first baseman at some point this season. The right-handed-hitting Ruf is one of few players on the roster with consistent pop at the plate and will likely get the nod against left-handing pitching more often than not. Ruf has three home runs and 11 RBI this spring while batting a respectable .268. 

Carlos Ruiz-C

Because we are, for the sake of this series, projecting Cameron Rupp as the starting catcher, Ruiz naturally is looked upon as the bench option. Ruiz has played just ten games with the Phillies during the exhibition season, due in large part to the fact that he joined his countrymen to play for team Panama as they tried to qualify for the World Baseball Classic. Chooch hit the ball well during that stretch, and even delivered in a few RBI situations when he was playing with the Phillies. If Ruiz is able to deliver some level of offense and maintain his reputation as a pitcher-friendly battery mate, Ruiz should see a good amount of playing time, even in a platoon situation.  


Darnell Sweeney

The Phillies were probably hoping for a little more from one of the pieces in the Chase Utley deal this spring, but are still in a position where they can be patient with some of their younger players to see if they can stick. The versatile, athletic Sweeney has struggled at the plate (.207, 0 HR, 3 RBI, .565 OPS), but offers enough to serve as a viable bench candidate for a lineup with almost no outfield depth. The 25-year-old may end up in the minors at some point this season so he can get more consistent at-bats. Unless the Phillies acquire a player between now and opening day, Sweeney may make the roster out of pure necessity.

Cedric Hunter

As far as 2016's candidate for 'player who earned a roster spot solely based off an exhibition performance' (he has one major league hit), one would have a tough time going with someone other than Cedric Hunter. After spending most of his career in the minor leagues, Hunter has taken advantage of a slew of injuries along the Phillies outfield to showcase his skills and perhaps do enough to find himself in the dugout on opening day. Hunter is batting .292 with three home runs and 11 RBI. Given the lack of power on the Phillies roster and injuries to multiple potential starters, Hunter could be someone the coaching staff deems valuable and necessary. 

David Lough

As a non-roster invite to Spring Training, David Lough is capitalizing on injuries in front of him to go along with a strong offensive performance during the exhibition season and will likely find himself on the Opening Day Roster. Already a strong defensive player, Lough has batted .314 to goo along with a home run and 5 RBI. Lough has played chunks of the last four seasons with the Royals and Orioles. He can provide more professionalism and experience to a roster short on both. As it currently stands, Lough might be the first outfielder off the bench for the Phillies when the season gets underway.

Super Sub (Potential Breakout Player)-David Lough

For what is expected of a player coming off the bench, Lough is an individual capable of emerging as the team's top replacement option. He is a strong defender with a decent bat and a little bit of pop. Lough has delivered in the clutch for an Orioles team that had competed for the postseason during his time in Baltimore and should have plenty of opportunities to do so in Philadelphia. Especially if the injuries to some of the other outfielders linger well into the season, Lough should be able to compile enough opportunities to establish himself as a dependable substitution who is more than just a bat or a glove for Pete Mackanin.  

Super Dud (Potential Letdown)-Andres Blanco 

As mentioned above, it would be unreasonable to expect Blanco to deliver in 2016 at the plate the way he did last season. When ABs are hard to come by, maintaining a rhythm at the level that is necessary for yearly success is a difficult task. While Blanco will likely maintain his status as an important veteran figure in an otherwise young and inexperienced clubhouse, he probably won't be one of the team's most productive offensive players in 2016 like he was in 2015. It's entirely possible that Blanco has found a niche in Philadelphia as the primary offensive option off the bench (he is batting .296 with a .803 OPS this Spring), but another season like 2015 would go against everything Blanco has shown during his career in the majors.

What's Next

The third installment of our Phillies Season Outlook breaks down the Phillies starting rotation. With offense and power at a premium, Pete Mackanin will need to lean heavily on a starting pitching staff highlighted by young, promising arms and veterans looking to re-ignite some early career promise. That piece will be live on Monday, March 28th. You won't want to miss it.

Prior Entries

Phillies Season Outlook Part I: The Starting Lineup

Somers Price (@SomersPrice) is a contributor to 

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