As Spring Training Nears, a Look at the Phillies' Depth Beyond the Probable Roster
With the Eagles train wreck behind us, the Flyers coming back to earth and Joel Embiid hurt again, all but putting a damper, albeit temporarily, on what was an exciting 76ers season, it’s time to point out that we are now less than two weeks away from Phillies pitchers and catchers reporting to Clearwater.
That’s right, now that the calendar has flipped to February, all eyes will be turning to Florida’s gulf coast as the city gears up for what promises to be another exciting baseball season in Philadelphia.
After the unexpectedly dramatic run of 2022 and the bitterly disappointing ending to another long run in 2023, will 2024 finally be the year the Phillies claim their third World Championship?
We’ll dive into a lot of that as the month progresses and we look at the major league roster, which as of right now looks incredibly similar to the last time you saw the Phillies playing games – although there are still so many unsigned players, that you shouldn’t be surprised if President of Baseball operations Dave Dombrowski continues to add to the team before and during Spring Training.
⚾ Mark your calendars, the @Phillies 2024 spring training TV schedule is here. The games start later this month!@NBCSPhilly has all the info baseball fans need to know: https://t.co/bAVUtptZNw pic.twitter.com/Msnb3QDzMD
— NBC10 Philadelphia (@NBCPhiladelphia) February 1, 2024
There’ll be plenty of time to dive into that roster construction and look at where the Phillies strengths and weaknesses are, and once again Crossing Broad will make a sojourn down to Clearwater in early March to get some insights and intel into what the 2024 season could look like.
But for today, it’s worth identifying some players you might not know about, or only know a little bit about who could be names of interest once you start paying attention again in a couple weeks.
So, here’s a quick breakdown of some names you’ll hear about and who they are:
The Top Prospects
MLB Pipeline released their list of the Top 100 prospects in baseball this week and the Phillies had four players on it:
- Andrew Painter (No. 27)
- Mick Abel (No. 49)
- Aidan Miller (No. 61)
- Justin Crawford (No. 77)
It’s the third-most prospects to make the top 100 for the Phillies in the past decade. They had seven in 2016 – J.P. Crawford (5), Jake Thompson (55), Nick Williams (64), Mark Appel (70), Cornelius Randolph (84), Jorge Alfaro (96), and Roman Quinn (99). They also had six in 2018 – Sixto Sanchez (26), Scott Kingery (35), Crawford (37), Adonis Medina (86), Mickey Moniak (88), Adam Haseley (95).
Of those 12 players, only Kingery is still in the organization, though not on the 40-man roster.
So there’s no guarantee that anyone from this list is a long-term Phillie, or even a good major leaguer.
You should be well-versed in Painter’s story by now. He was the top pitching prospect in baseball at this time last year, and No. 6 overall on the MLB Pipeline list, and then he suffered an elbow injury in Spring Training that ultimately required Tommy John surgery. It cost him all of 2023, and will cost him most, if not all, of 2024 as well.
And yet, he’s still the Phillies top prospect entering into the season, which tells you what scouts think he can be.
You’ve probably heard a lot about Abel too, who has made this list for the third straight year, with 2024 being his highest ranking yet.
Here’s part of Pipeline’s scouting report:
The 6-foot-5 right-hander still offers plenty of projection to go along with his current stuff. He has the chance to have a very good four-pitch mix, starting with a fastball that averaged around 96 mph in 2023 and flirted with triple digits, missing a good number of bats. He can throw two distinct breaking pitches — an upper-70s curve and a harder slider that can flash plus. He can sell his upper-80s changeup well with good sink, giving him the chance to eventually have four at least above-average offerings.
While the stuff to be a frontline starter (11.1 K/9 in his career entering 2024) is not in question, his ability to land that stuff in the strike zone consistently is the one thing that could hold him back. That regressed in 2023, when he walked 5.2 per nine innings, limiting his chances to pitch deep into games. He’ll still be just 22 years old for the bulk of the 2024 season, so there’s time for him to refine that part of his game in order to knock on the Big League door.
As for Miller, he’s probably gotten less publicity as far as those fans who follow the major league team, but don’t track the prospects as closely.
Still just 19 years old, Miller was the Phillies’ first round pick last summer and they were thrilled to draft him after he slid down the board following a broken bone in his wrist that caused him to miss time. He’s a right-handed power bat with a keen eye, making him selective and allowing him to find his pitches and do damage.
He only played 20 games for the Phillies after getting drafted and signing his contract. But he was impressive. He tore up Rookie League pitching with the Gulf Coast League Phillies, slashing a ridiculous .414/.528/.483 for a 1.011 OPS in 10 games.
He then played 10 games with the Low-A Clearwater Threshers, and while he didn’t hit as well (.214), he did show strong plate discipline, walking six times. He also stole four bases in those 10 games.
The Phillies are going to make him split time between shortstop, the position he played in high school, and third base, which is the position he probably projects to if he’s going to play in the majors.
As for Crawford, he was the Phillies’ first round pick in 2022 and projects to be an everyday centerfielder. In fact, he’s been described as the fastest prospect in all of baseball. He stole 47 bases in just 87 games between stints in Clearwater and High-A Jersey Shore. And scouts think his speed will only improve as he matures into his adult body – as he’s still just 20 years old. He’s a bit of a ways off for the Phillies – as he likely doesn’t reach the majors until 2026, but he could be one of the most exciting homegrown players in quite some time.
Guys you’ll probably see at some point
There’s a slew of players you know. We mentioned Kingery already, and yes, it’s crazy that he’s still with the organization. But he doesn’t profile as a guy who is going to help the Big League club at this point. The Phillies had needs at positions he plays last season and chose not to call him up, so it’s unlikely that he makes enough of an impact to break through this season.
You also know guys like Darick Hall and Kody Clemens, but unless Bryce Harper is hurt and going to be out for an extended period of time, it’s unlikely that either are in the Phillies’ plans. Both seem blocked at first base (Clemens can play elsewhere, but not particularly well) and the Phillies can always shift Alec Bohm to first base if necessary. They even played Jake Cave there last year. They have options that are going to be on the roster and they won’t be Hall or Clemens.
That leaves a smaller, more interesting group of names that will be in the mix.
(Note: This list will probably grow as the Phillies bring more non-roster players to Spring Training, who could be valuable veterans with something to prove)
- Position Players: Weston Wilson, Simon Muzziotti, Rodolfo Castro, Rafael Marchan
- Pitchers: Kolby Allard, Yunior Marte, Nick Nelson, Luis Ortiz
Wilson has the bat and the versatility to play both in the infield and the outfield that he has a realistic chance to win a job this Spring. Muzziotti had a strong year in Triple A but was never called up. The interesting thing is, he’s the only true outfielder on the 40-man roster that’s not penciled in to be on the Opening Day roster. Castro looked terrible in his brief opportunities with the Phillies last season, but they like him enough to trade for him at the deadline because he had an option remaining and they could work with him away from the big leagues where he can’t play regularly. Marchan dealt with injuries last year, but he’s still the guy who will only get called up if either J.T. Realmuto or Garrett Stubbs gets hurt. They really like Marte, and he has good stuff, but the problem was he didn’t miss enough bats last season. They’ll keep working with him and try to get him to be more consistent. Allard was brought in to provide starting pitching depth and is probably the best option outside of the starting five (which isn’t saying much for the depth). Nelson has been converted to a starter again, and currently is probably the No. 7 starter at the beginning of the year. Ortiz is just a guy who they can call up and send down as needed.
What a debut for Weston Wilson! pic.twitter.com/eUexL3OYzs
— Crossing Broad (@CrossingBroad) August 9, 2023
Guys who either make the team or probably end up elsewhere
- Connor Brogdon, Andrew Bellatti, Dylan Covey
Bellatti and Covey are out of minor league options, so it’s either make the team or hit the waiver wire. Brogdon has the best stuff of the three but has been perplexing the last couple seasons. There’s been times he’s been lights out, and there’s times when he’s been lit up. He’s a couple years younger than the other guys and he has one option remaining (per Fangraphs), so he technically could stick. But I can also see the Phillies shipping him out if they need his 40-man roster spot and they think there are other arms ahead of him. All three guys are likely pitching for one spot in the bullpen. Currently, I see two spots (Jose Alvarado, Gregory Soto, Matt Strahm, Jeff Hoffman, Orion Kerkering and Seranthony Dominguez are pretty secure in the top six), but I don’t think the Phillies are done adding, meaning that it could be these three (and any other non-roster pitchers) fighting for one spot.
Guys who are wild cards
- Griff McGarry, McKinley Moore, Michael Mercado
McGarry was always being mentioned last year with Painter and Abel as part of the Phillies’ top crop of pitching prospects. It was because of his excellent 2022 season. But then 2023 happened. He was still effective at limiting hits at Double A, where in 13 starts, he gave up just 31 knocks in 54 2/3 innings. That’s darn good. The bad was walking 36 guys. But he kept his ERA down (3.13) and earned a promotion to Triple A which turned out to be a horror show. He made three starts and lasted a total of 4 1/3 innings combined. He yielded 20 earned runs. He gave up eight hits, walked 14 and hit a guy. Reports are that he’s had to completely change his mechanics as a result. The Phillies still view him as a starter, but maybe his stuff would play better out of the bullpen. Moore was a Spring Training darling last season but had three disappointing outings for the Phillies in April before being sent down, where he tossed just 13 innings as he dealt with injuries all season. He’s got a big arm but needs better command of his pitches. Mercado was a low-key trade acquisition from Tampa this offseason. He strikes out a lot of guys in the minors, whiffing 95 in 62 innings in 2023 between Double A and Triple A, but he too walks guys (32) and when guys make contact, the ball goes far (he gave up 12 dingers). He turns 25 in April, so he’s still young, but the clock is ticking.
Take a look at this filthy curveball from Michael Mercado (Acquired from the Rays on November 6th). If he can get his command somewhat on track, this will be a very underrated pickup. pic.twitter.com/nINTEBlEPe
— Phillies Tailgate (@PhilsTailgate) November 28, 2023
The Party Crashers
- Catcher – Aramis Garcia, Cody Roberts, William Simoneit (1B)
- First Base – Carlos De La Cruz (OF), Nick Podkul (3B)
- Third Base – Matt Kroon (OF)
- Outfield – Cal Stevenson
- Pitchers – Tyler Phillips, Jose Ruiz, Nick Snyder, Ryan Burr, Tyler McKay
All of these guys are long shots to really make an impact in any meaningful way in 2024, but non-roster invites are always intriguing in Spring Training. There’s usually a guy or two who hangs around to the bitter end that the team really thinks hard about adding to the 40-man roster. And more players will be added to this list in the next two weeks. Garcia was with the Phillies last year and has some major league experience. Simoneit was a minor league Rule 5 selection from Oakland, so he’ll probably be in the organization somewhere.
Speaking of Rule 5, De La Cruz went unclaimed, which may have been a little bit of a surprise because of his size and power potential. But being 6’8″ and with a long swing, there are holes that he struggles to cover. Kroon is a guy to keep an eye on. He just turned 27 and was an 18th round draft pick by the Phillies in 2018. He showed some intriguing offense in 2021 in Double A but missed all of the 2022 season with an ACL tear. He returned last season, picked up where he left off in Reading hitting .319 with eight homers and 44 RBI in 79 games, earning him a promotion to Lehigh Valley where he hit .381 in 15 games. Phillips has been an innings eater in the minors, so he’s on the starting pitching depth chart somewhere. Ruiz (Arizona), Snyder (Texas) and Burr (Tampa Bay) all have big league experience but McKay is the most interesting pitcher on this list. He was a 16th round pick by the Phillies in 2018 and has methodically worked his way up the ladder in the organization. He had a very good 2023, throwing a combined 55 1.3 innings with Reading and Lehigh Valley with a 1.25 WHIP and a 2.60 ERA while striking out 56.