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Phils have good problem: Too many outfielders

With Hoskins moving to LF after Santana signing, club must find plate time for Herrera, Altherr, Williams
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- Nick Williams got word that the Phillies acquired Carlos Santana while he was on vacation in Aspen, Colo. Aaron Altherr heard the news while Christmas shopping in Arizona.

Both were surprised, but said they are excited to see how Santana impacts the team.

PHILADELPHIA -- Nick Williams got word that the Phillies acquired Carlos Santana while he was on vacation in Aspen, Colo. Aaron Altherr heard the news while Christmas shopping in Arizona.

Both were surprised, but said they are excited to see how Santana impacts the team.

"We have another good bat in the lineup, and a veteran at that," Williams said.

Santana's arrival should improve the Phillies' offense, but it could bring a numbers crunch to the outfield. Rhys Hoskins is moving from first base to left field, leaving Odubel Herrera, Altherr and Williams to find playing time in center and right field, unless one of them is traded. It could become an issue, considering each player can make a case for regular playing time, but Phillies manager Gabe Kapler spoke to his outfielders recently and said he can find plate appearances for everybody.

• How will Phillies' lineup look with Santana?

Video: Zolecki on inserting Santana into the Phillies' order

Williams and Altherr do not sound concerned.

"I was telling Kap that it's always nice to have veterans," Williams said. "We're a young team and we got rid of Freddy [Galvis] and we don't have [Andres] Blanco anymore. Last year, I used Howie [Kendrick] a ton because, as a young player, I wanted to pick his brain. I know they've gone through similar things. It's always nice to pick a good hitter's brain."

"I feel pretty good about it," Altherr said. "I'm sure everybody will get plenty of opportunities to get plenty of at-bats. It just comes down to helping the team win. Whatever role you need to do, that's what you've got to do. It's not really about the individual."

Mathematically, there are enough plate appearances to go around. Outfielders average about 2,100 plate appearances per team per season. If the Phillies play only four outfielders in 2018, it averages to 525 plate appearances per player.

Of course, the Phillies will not play only four outfielders. Nobody does. Only nine teams last season had three players with 400 or more plate appearances as outfielders. No team had four.

Video: Getting to know Nick Williams

The Mariners, Cardinals and Rangers came the closest. Seattle had Ben Gamel (545 plate appearances as an outfielder), Guillermo Heredia (418), Mitch Haniger (409) and Jarrod Dyson (386). The Cardinals had Tommy Pham (520), Dexter Fowler (479), Randal Grichuk (427) and Stephen Piscotty (391). The Rangers had Nomar Mazara (555), Delino DeShields (425), Carlos Gomez (418) and Shin-Soo Choo (334).

The 2014 Tigers are the last team to have four players have 400-plus plate appearances as outfielders: Torii Hunter (549), Rajai Davis (488), J.D. Martinez (452) and Austin Jackson (420).

If everybody is healthy and productive, there are ways for Kapler to get more playing time for Herrera, Altherr and Williams. Hoskins will play first base on those rare occasions Santana needs a break. They have the DH in 10 Interleague games. And of course, there are pinch-hitting opportunities every day.

Video: Kapler on the positional flexibility of Rhys Hoskins

But what are the odds everybody stays healthy and productive the entire season?

"I used to have these worries when I was with the Rangers, because they were always signing somebody," said Williams, who joined the Phillies in the Cole Hamels trade in July 2015. "I'm not a cocky person, but I can be pretty confident. I just told Kap, if I just play my game and stay positive I know no matter where I'm at I'll play, no matter what team. If I don't get down on myself, I know I can do pretty well."

Said Altherr: "It's an exciting time. We've got a lot of pieces in place now. It's just a matter of things going our way and everybody staying healthy and contributing. Who knows what can happen?"

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

 

Philadelphia Phillies, Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera, Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams