While many of the Phillies regulars have been in Clearwater since last week, we are officially on the eve of the first full squad workout of 2023 Spring Training. It will be an interesting Grapefruit League campaign for the defending National League Champions. Here are five (more) things to keep an eye on heading into full squad workouts.
To say Nick Castellanos had a disappointing 2022 would be a massive understatement. The Phillies signed the 30-year-old to a 5-year/$100MM contract in March 2022 with the hope Castellanos would repeat his remarkable 2021 season. The righty slashed .309/.362/.576 with a .939 OPS, 34 HR and 100 RBI for the ‘21 Cincinnati Reds enroute to an All-Star selection and Louisville Silver Slugger Award.
That’s not the guy the Phillies got.
In a fantastic conversation with MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, Castellanos admitted that he wasn’t “comfortable” last year in Philadelphia. Whether it was the late signing in Spring Training, the birth of his second child, or the injury bug, Castellanos wasn’t the guy the organization thought they were getting. To his credit, Castellanos has owned it and has by all accounts entered Spring Training a different guy.
Hopefully his comfort level is back and normal. The Phils need the ‘21 Nick Castellanos, especially early in the season.
The Phillies believe they have upgraded their infield and bench heading into the 2023 season. The club made a splash by signing free agent shortstop Trea Turner to a 11-year/$300MM contract in December. The 29-year old Turner will be reunited with Bryce Harper and hitting coach Kevin Long. He is expected to leadoff, and perhaps more importantly, solidify an infield that was not a bright spot for the Phils in 2022.
In an under the radar move, the Phillies inked UTL Josh Harrison to a 1-year/$2MM deal a few weeks ago. A former two-time All-Star with Pittsburgh, Harrison is the perfect type of player for the Phillies to have come off the bench. He brings a veteran presence and is able to play multiple positions including the outfield. While not the caliber of Turner’s signing, the Harrison deal is the type of deal that can pay off during the dog days of summer and down the stretch.
The Phillies will be without their MVP and bonafide superstar for most of the spring. Bryce Harper, who is recovering from Tommy John Surgery, will join the club in Clearwater at some point in March but won’t see meaningful at-bats or workouts until May or June. It will be interesting to see how the Phillies adjust to an extended period of time without their superstar. It’s an opportunity for someone in the organization to make an impact. Who will step up to fill the void left by Harper?
Here’s an interesting stat that our own Paul Bowman pointed out. The Phillies will be WITHOUT all of their MLB catchers during Spring Training thanks to the 2023 World Baseball Classic. J.T. Realmuto (USA) and Garrett Stubbs (Israel) will leave Phillies Spring Training to play for their respective countries/country of religious belief. It’s admirable playing for one’s nation/religion but it has potential to hurt the ballclub. Young pitchers Andrew Painter, Mick Able, and Griff McGarry are going to miss valuable time throwing to Realmuto and Stubbs.
In addition to Realmuto, the Phillies will also lose Kyle Schwarber and Trea Turner –all three are playing for the U.S. of A– for an extended period of time due to the WBC. Again, this isn’t ideal for a team that is already down Harper and will likely need to gel before the season starts.
Hey! Remember Scott Kingery?!? The Phillies former top prospect, who was once compared to Chase Utley, received an invite to Big League camp. It could very well be Kingery’s last opportunity to make an impact at the Major League level. The 23-year-old, who famously signed a 6-year/$24MM contract before ever taking a professional pitch, is in the final year of his contract barring the Phillies illogical choice to pick up a $13MM club option in 2024.
Kingery last spent significant time in Bigs during the 2019 season where he slashed .258/.315/.474/ with .788 OPS, 19 HR, and 55 RBI. He had cups of coffee with the Phils in ‘20, ‘21, and ‘22 (on at-bat) but has long been relegated to Lehigh Valley. Kingery’s performance for the Iron Pigs has been anything but spectacular.
One thing that always seemed to adversely affect Kingery was the lack of consistency as far as position goes. Kingery was earmarked as a second baseman but famously played nearly every position for the Phillies under Gabe Kapler. Baseball players are creatures of habit and many experts believe this was one of the reasons Kingery never panned out. It’s a longshot but maybe Kingery can find some success and stick with the big club coming out of Spring Training. Probably not, but it would make for a fun story.
The Phillies open Grapefruit League play on Sunday, March 25 in split squad action against the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers, respectively. The Yankees game from BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater will be broadcast on SportsRadio 94WIP and telecast on NBC Sports Philadelphia. Regular season play opens on March 30 from Arlington, Texas against the Texas Rangers.