CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies manager Gabe Kapler made a point early in camp to say Grapefruit League roster battles are far from his mind.It's way too early to think about that, he said.But two weeks remain before the Phillies open the 2018 regular season against the Braves in Atlanta. It
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies manager Gabe Kapler made a point early in camp to say Grapefruit League roster battles are far from his mind.
It's way too early to think about that, he said.
But two weeks remain before the Phillies open the 2018 regular season against the Braves in Atlanta. It is a certainty Kapler, his coaches and the Phillies' front office are talking about the Opening Day roster. For example, the Phillies do not need a fifth starter until April 11 against the Reds at Citizens Bank Park, which comes in handy if Jacob Arrieta is not ready to pitch. The Phillies could carry an extra relief pitcher, an extra bench player or even a piggyback starter as a result.
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MLB.com examined the potential 25-man roster before camp opened last month. Here is an updated look:
Catchers (2): Jorge Alfaro, Andrew Knapp
Alfaro will make the team. Defense has been a point of emphasis for Phillies catchers this spring, and they have been encouraged with Alfaro's improvements behind the plate. It leaves Knapp and Cameron Rupp battling for the second job. Knapp still has the edge in part because of his ability to control the strike zone. Knapp, who also benefits because he is a switch-hitter, is 3-for-14 with two doubles, one home run, two walks and an .866 OPS in eight games. Rupp is hitting 4-for-22 with one double, one walk, 10 strikeouts and a .477 OPS in 11 games.
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Infielders (4):Carlos Santana, Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco and J.P. Crawford
The only questions here: How long will Scott Kingery remain in Triple-A? Can Franco get on track offensively? Will Crawford make people forget about Freddy Galvis?
• Kingery happy to move around diamond
Outfielders (4): Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams
The only interesting thing here is how Kapler divvies up their playing time once the season begins. Hoskins and Herrera are expected to see the majority of playing time in left field and center field, respectively. That leaves Altherr and Williams in right. Altherr is a superior defender, which could get him more playing time than expected.
Utility players (2): Jesmuel Valentin and Roman Quinn
Multiple candidates remain, but Valentin and Quinn have an edge to be the final two players on the four-man bench because they are on the 40-man roster. Valentin nearly made the Opening Day roster last season, but Daniel Nava got the job instead. Valentin is 7-for-24 with two doubles, two home runs, seven RBIs and a .971 OPS in 15 Grapefruit League games. He has showed versatility defensively, playing everywhere except catcher and first base. Quinn is 4-for-18 with one home run, four RBIs, six walks and an .806 OPS in 14 games. He covers tons of ground in the outfield and has incredible speed, which can help Kapler late in games. Quinn also has dabbled at shortstop as the team explores his versatility.
Other candidates include non-roster invitees Adam Rosales (7-for-25, .785 OPS), Ryan Flaherty (7-for-24, .667 OPS) and Pedro Florimon (7-for-29, .635 OPS). One of those candidates could benefit if the Phillies carry a five-man bench until April 11.
Rotation (5): Arrieta, Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta
Regardless of when Arrieta is ready to roll, he and Nola form a solid 1-2 punch. Eickhoff, Velasquez and Pivetta are good bets to fall behind them. But because of Arrieta's uncertain status following a late signing, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter, Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson, Tom Eshelman and Andrew Hutchison have an opportunity to make the team. Lively, Leiter and Eflin seem like they're ahead of the rest because of their performances and 40-man roster status.
Bullpen (8):Hector Neris, Luis Garcia, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Adam Morgan, Leiter, Hoby Milner and Edubray Ramos
The first five in that list are locks. Leiter has impressed this spring and the fact he can pitch out of the bullpen helps his chances. That leaves potentially two spots (three, if the Phillies want a ninth reliever until April 11). Milner and Zac Curtis are competing to be a second left-hander. If the Phillies carry two left-handers, Victor Arano and Ramos are looking at the eighth and final spot.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast