On March 12th, Major League Baseball suspended all operations due to the growing COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the United States and the rest of the globe. On June 24th, Rob Manfred announced that the league would resume with a 60 game regular season starting on July 23rd. After a little over four months, the Phillies, and every other major league club, will be playing regular season baseball in empty stadiums. With this odd season, came new rules. One of which, is the expansion of rosters from the original 26, to 30. Teams will be able to begin the 2020 season with 30 players on their roster. After two weeks, teams must trim the roster to 28. Two weeks after that, teams must trim the roster to 26, where they will play the remainder of the season with 26 players on the roster, and a 27th available for doubleheaders. The Phillies, as well as many other teams, are faced with many tough roster decisions that they will be forced to make over the next coming days. Let’s take a look at some of the spots that are up for grabs, and see how the Phillies could look on July 24th vs the Miami Marlins.
Catchers: (2) J.T. Realmuto, Andrew Knapp
This one seems like a lock. The only other catchers on the 60-man taxi squad are Deivy Grullon, and 20 year old’s Rafael Marchan and Logan O’Hoppe, who are far from a position to be considered for the Opening Day roster. Things could pretty interesting if the Phillies decide to carry three catchers to open the season, but with the universal DH in play for the 2020 season, that scenario doesn’t seem too likely. If the club does carry three catchers, Deivy Grullon would be the guy. Grullon slashed .283/.354/.496 over 108 games with AAA Lehigh Valley in 2019, but still isn’t projected to get a roster spot over Andrew Knapp, who has now been with the team for three seasons now.
Infielders: (7) Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery, Didi Gregorius, Jean Segura, Neil Walker, Josh Harrison, Phil Gosselin
This is where things get very interesting. On Saturday, the Phillies announced the release of INF Logan Forsythe, who was having a pretty impressive spring training before the shutdown. It’s quite possible that the Phillies released Forsythe due to 40-man roster space, which would hurt the case for Phil Gosselin to make the roster over guys like Kyle Garlick and Nick Williams, who are already on the 40 man roster. But with a few players possibly being placed on the COVID-19 list to start the season, the Phillies could find a spot for a few non roster invitees on the 40 man roster. Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery, Didi Gregorius, and Jean Segura are all definite locks. As is Neil Walker, who was informed that he has indeed made the team after the Phillies selected his contract Saturday afternoon. Josh Harrison seems like a safe bet to make the roster at this point after a very impressive showing during summer camp thus far. Phil Gosselin has also impressed during camp. He collected five hits in a single intrasquad game last week, and doubled in a pinch hit opportunity in the Phillies first exhibition game vs the Nationals on Saturday. Another possible option is Ronald Torreyes, who also picked up a hit in the exhibition game on Saturday, and has ties to Joe Girardi from their time in New York. If the Phillies decide to carry a sixth outfielder, it’s possible that neither Gosselin or Torreyes make the roster, but with Harrison’s ability to play left field as we have seen a number of times this spring and summer, it seems as if the Phillies will have enough outfield options as is. It’s also worth mentioning that Phil Gosselin was statistically, the Phillies best pinch hitter in 2019, and batted .262 over 44 games with the club. Arquemedes Gamboa is also on the 40-man roster, but is not on the 60-man player pool, therefore he is not eligible for the 2020 season. He could be a possible DFA candidate if the Phillies need to make room for non roster invitees like Harrison, Gosselin, or Torreyes. Alec Bohm will also probably be up with the team sooner rather than later, but due to service time rules, he won’t break camp with the club.
Outfielders: (5) Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Adam Haseley, Roman Quinn
Likewise in the infield, the outfield could play out a number of ways as well. Harper, McCutchen, Bruce, Haseley, and Quinn are all definite locks. But the intrigue is whether or not the Phillies think they need to carry another true outfielder like Kyle Garlick or Nick Williams, who are both on the 40 man roster. It is worth noting that Andrew McCutchen is the only true right handed outfield bat on the roster, as Harper, Bruce, and Haseley are all left handed, and Roman Quinn is switch. So if the Phillies wanted another right handed bat, the obvious choice would be Kyle Garlick, who slashed .250/.321/.521 over 30 games and 48 at bats with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. Nick Williams is also very much in the mix for the last bench spot as well. Nick struggled mightily at the major league level in 2019, as he was called up and down a number of times throughout the season. In AAA Lehigh Valley, Williams slashed .316/.381/.574 over 48 games. The only other outfield option would be Nick Martini, who isn’t on the 40 man, which will leave him at a massive disadvantage. But for what it’s worth, Martini has impressed this spring and into summer camp.
Starting Pitchers: (5) Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, Vince Velazquez
The starting rotation can get pretty interesting the more you break down the multiple possibilities. Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Eflin are all locks to make the Opening Day roster. Zack Wheeler, who is awaiting the status of his pregnant wife, will also be a lock. He has mentioned that he will step away from the team when his child is born, and he has mentioned the fact that there is a possibility he does not return. He wants to assess the situation at the time being. Most signs point to Wheeler making his first start or two, stepping away for a week or so, then returning to the team after that. Wheeler did bring up not to long ago that he feels incredibly safe at Phillies camp. The only real competition in the rotation is for the fifth and final spot. Vince Velazquez seems to be the favorite after the first few weeks of summer camp. Vince really impressed during his two intrasquad start, getting praise from Joe Girardi and Bryan Price. Nick Pivetta also remains in the mix. Pivetta has looked pretty good as well thus far in summer camp. Although he has struggled with command a bit. In his intrasquad game a couple days ago, Pivetta threw four hitless innings, but scattered four walks across those four innings as well. Ranger Suarez, who is yet to join the team in camp, was in the battle for the fifth spot this spring, but it seems like he will miss Opening Day and join the bullpen after his return. The only other name worth mentioning is Spencer Howard, who won’t make the Opening Day roster due to service time rules, as the Phillies gain an extra year of control if he comes up after five games. It is quite possible that Spencer Howard is up directly after game five, and in the rotation for game six in New York. There are many different Spencer Howard scenarios that the Phillies could chose, but the one thing that is for certain is that he will start games at some point for the Phillies in 2020.
Relief Pitchers: (11) Hector Neris, Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Tommy Hunter, Nick Pivetta, Deolis Guerra, Cole Irvin, Reggie McClain, Robert Stock, Blake Parker, Anthony Swarzak
On Saturday, the Phillies surprisingly made the decision to release LHP Francisco Liriano. When asked about this decision, Joe Girardi said the Phillies wanted “to go a little bit younger.” Obviously, Hector Neris, Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, and Nick Pivetta are all locks. Tommy Hunter is also a lock if he is ready by July 24th, he joined the team late due to COVID-19. He pitched in an intrasquad game the other day and Girardi said he wants him to pitch in a few more games before Opening Day, so he seems like he could be ready in time. Deolis Guerra seems like a smart bet to make the roster. He is out of options so he could have the inside edge to make the team. Guys like Cole Irvin and Reggie McClain also could have an advantage due to the fact that teams are going to need guys that can go multiple innings after the starting pitcher is taken out of the game because in the beginning of the season, guys won’t be able to work super deep into games. Irvin and McClain are both on the 40 man, and both can work multiple innings out of the pen, and can even spot start if need be. Robert Stock is also a strong possibility due to the fact that he is on the 40 man. The Phillies have spoken highly of Blake Parker so far this summer camp, they could make some room on the 40 man by placing Ranger Suarez on the COVID-19 list, or designating someone for assignment. Anthony Swarzak had a rough spring, but has looked better this summer. He is not on the 40 man, so like Parker, the Phillies would have to clear a spot for him. If they decided to stay on the 40 man, they could go with Edgar Garcia, who allowed two runs in an intrasquad game last week, and allowed a run in the exhibition game vs the Nationals on Saturday. Other possible options on the 40 man are Enyel De Los Santos, Cristopher Sanchez, and Maurico Llovera. Austin Davis will remain in the mix, as will Trevor Kelley. Guys like Connor Brogdon, Ramon Rosso, Damon Jones, Addison Russ, and Connor Seabold could all see time in the majors this season but likely wont break camp with the club due to service time rules.