PHILADELPHIA -- Dave Dombrowski said he planned to retool the Phillies, not rebuild them. Sure enough, after they re-signed catcher J.T. Realmuto and shortstop Didi Gregorius to multiyear contacts, the Phillies are projected to have one of the highest payrolls in baseball.
“We’re in this to win it,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said on the first day of camp in Clearwater, Fla.
But have the Phillies done enough to compete in the National League East, much less the league? Can they finally have their first winning season and postseason appearance since 2011? The players on the 26-man roster will decide that.
Here is MLB.com’s first look in 2021 at the Phillies’ projected Opening Day roster:
Catcher (2): J.T. Realmuto and Andrew Knapp
The Phillies signed Realmuto to a five-year, $115.5 million contract last month, which gives them arguably the best catcher in baseball through 2025. Realmuto’s combined 16.8 WAR from 2017-20 is tied for 11th among all players, according to FanGraphs. Last season, he slashed .266/.349/.491 with a 123 OPS+. Knapp will be Realmuto’s backup. He slashed .278/.404/.444 with a 129 OPS+ in 89 plate appearances last year.
If either one of them cannot go, Rafael Marchan is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster, although veteran Jeff Mathis is in camp as a non-roster invitee.
First base (1): Rhys Hoskins
Hoskins had surgery Oct. 2 to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow. The Phillies believe he will be ready by Opening Day. If he is, he should slide into the No. 2 spot in Girardi’s lineup, where he spent most of last season. Hoskins slashed .245/.384/.503 with 10 home runs in 185 plate appearances before he got hurt.
Second base (1): Jean Segura
Girardi said that Segura will be his primary second baseman, which is understandable. Segura slashed .266/.347/.422 with a 106 OPS+ last season. He played above-average defense at second base, too, according to Statcast metrics. Conversely, Scott Kingery, who opened last spring in line to be the everyday second baseman, struggled following a bout last summer with COVID-19. He will be fighting for playing time elsewhere.
Third base (1): Alec Bohm
Bohm looks like a future star. The rookie batted .338 with four home runs, 23 RBIs, an .881 OPS and a 136 OPS+ in 180 plate appearances. He had a walk-off sacrifice fly to beat the Nationals on Sept. 3 and a walk-off single to beat the Red Sox on Sept. 8. He hit .452 (19-for-42) with runners in scoring position. Bohm ranked fourth among all players in the Majors in win probability added, which measures the change in win probability caused by a batter during a game. Only the Giants’ Mike Yastrzemski (2.9), the Braves’ Freddie Freeman (2.7) and the Rays’ Brandon Lowe (2.4) ranked ahead of Bohm (2.3).
Shortstop (1): Didi Gregorius
Gregorius’ return gives the Phillies length to their lineup. He might have been their most consistent hitter last season, and he spent most of the time hitting fifth (22 starts) and sixth (16 starts). If Gregorius matches his 2020 production (.284/.339/.488) and he remains the team’s No. 5 or 6 hitter, it means the Phillies are scoring a ton of runs.
Outfield (5): Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, Odúbel Herrera, Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn
The name that jumps out is Herrera, who has not played for the Phillies since his May 2019 arrest for simple assault of his girlfriend. Herrera is in the team’s minicamp, which is this spring’s version of Minor League camp. It affords him an opportunity to open eyes. If he gets a chance to play in Grapefruit League games and if he plays well, he could work his way onto the roster. If not, some combination of Haseley, Kingery and Quinn, who is out of options, will see playing time in center field. Non-roster invitee Matt Joyce is a veteran in camp. Mickey Moniak got his first taste of the big leagues last fall, but he slides behind the others on the depth chart.
Utility (2): Scott Kingery and Brad Miller
Kingery will make the team. At the very least, he will be the team’s super-utility player. Miller gives the Phillies a solid bench bat. He can play pretty much anywhere in the infield, and he could play left field, filling the role vacated by Jay Bruce, who spelled McCutchen at times.
Rotation (5): Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin, Matt Moore and Chase Anderson
Nola, Wheeler and Eflin are locks, while Moore and Anderson are probably favorites after each signed one-year contracts. But Moore and Anderson will have competition, most notably from Vince Velasquez and Spencer Howard. Both Velasquez and Howard have options remaining. If Velasquez does not make the rotation, he could start in the bullpen. If Howard does not, he could start in Triple-A.
Relievers (8): Archie Bradley, Héctor Neris, José Alvarado, Connor Brogdon, JoJo Romero, Brandon Kintzler, Tony Watson and Vince Velasquez
There are very few locks here. Bradley, Neris and Alvarado might be the only ones. Brogdon and Romero each dazzled at different times last season, but any young pitcher with options could start in Triple-A, depending on their spring performances. (That includes Sam Coonrod, whom they acquired in a trade with the Giants.) Kintzler and Watson are smart bets because each pitched well last season and the Phillies need the experience. Héctor Rondón struggled last year with the D-backs, but if he pitches well, he could work into the mix, too. He had a 3.06 ERA and 136 ERA+ from 2014-19 with the Cubs and Astros.
David Hale, Ranger Suárez and others on the 40-man roster will compete in camp. Hale is out of options.