Phillies' 25-man roster full of young talent
Hoskins, Altherr, Nola lead versatile group that gives Kapler options
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies manager Gabe Kapler pretty much knows his Opening Day lineup. The players are nearly set, even if the exact order is undecided. The same could be said for the rotation and bullpen, even though Phillies pitchers and catchers do not hold their first workout until Wednesday in Clearwater, Fla.
Of course, there is gray area with every roster. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has indicated in recent months that the team could employ an eight-man bullpen to make up for shortcomings in the rotation. Perhaps that thinking changes if Philadelphia signs a reliable veteran starter and the young starters perform better than expected in camp.
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If the Phillies feel better about the rotation, they could use a traditional seven-man bullpen, giving Kapler an extra player on the bench. Klentak and Kapler talk a lot about versatility and flexibility. Having an extra player on the bench would give Kapler an extra weapon late in the game.
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Here is a very early look at the Phillies' Opening Day roster:
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Catchers (2): Rookie Jorge Alfaro is a lock because of his talent and because he is out of options. That leaves Andrew Knapp and Cameron Rupp battling for the second job. Knapp might have a slight edge, based solely on the fact Klentak has made a point this offseason to mention Knapp's ability to "control the strike zone" -- the switch-hitter posted a .368 on-base percentage last season. Meanwhile, Rupp has a career .298 on-base percentage. But Rupp has power. He posted a .510 slugging percentage after the All-Star break.
Infielders (5): Carlos Santana, Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco, J.P. Crawford and Pedro Florimon. The only question here is the utility position and how many they carry. If the Phillies carry an extra reliever they will need a utility player that can play infield and outfield. Florimon is the early leader for that spot, but Jesmuel Valentin and non-roster invitee Adam Rosales could fit the bill.
Outfielders (5): Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams are locks. Roman Quinn or Dylan Cozens could be the fifth outfielder, if the Phillies want one. Quinn might have the edge there because of his speed and ability to play left, center and right. The Phillies also could skip the fifth outfielder and pick an extra utility player like Valentin or Rosales.
Rotation (5):Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Nola, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and TBD. The Phillies still expect to sign a starter before camp opens -- or at least before Opening Day -- so that is why TBD is listed here. If the Phillies do not sign somebody before Opening Day, Ben Lively is the favorite to be the No. 5 starter, although Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson, Mark Leiter Jr. and Tom Eshelman are candidates.
Bullpen (8):Luis Garcia, Tommy Hunter, Leiter Jr., Hoby Milner, Adam Morgan, Hector Neris, Pat Neshek and Edubray Ramos. The eight here make the most sense based on status and production last season. But the Phillies have other options. The most notable is Francisco Rodriguez, who is a non-roster invitee trying to resurrect his career after a nightmarish 2017.