Philadelphia Phillies: Talking about the Boys of February

Bohm's accelerated progress in the minors has him producing for Double-A Reading. Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.
Bohm's accelerated progress in the minors has him producing for Double-A Reading. Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. /
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The Philadelphia Phillies have to cut down their roster in bunches before Opening Day. Who, then, are the players being carefully watched?

As is widely known, this Spring Training season the Philadelphia Phillies invited 71 players to their major league camp in Clearwater, FL. In other words, the beginning of baseball in red pinstripes this year looked a bit like the Broad Street Run a few seconds after the starter’s gun is fired.

There is a stampede of players vying for what amount to six to 12 potential open spots on the 26-man roster. On any team, certain slots are firmly filled even before the players leave for camp, assuming those slot-fillers stay healthy or finish healing.

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Already, of course, Phillies fans know that Andrew McCutchen won’t be ready for the Mar. 26 opener in Miami, so there’s one more spot to fill for some days of major league service.

Fourteen games into the early spring, then, let’s take stock of the position players manager Joe Girardi is looking at most closely. While 40 players in camp to begin this spring were pitchers, fans tend to focus on the guys on the field who swing bats. You can’t win without putting the ball in play and scoring runs.

Which players is Girardi looking at the most before the veterans begin to get more innings to prepare for real competition?

Going into play Mar. 6 (against Detroit), five “offensive” players have appeared in ten games, leading the team on that stat line: the highly touted Alec Bohm, Luke Williams, Austin Listi, Nick Maton, and Darick Hall.

Barring a couple of injuries to infielders, none of these players is likely to make the Opening Day roster. In the eventuality of a second injury to an infield starter, however, Bohm, the team’s first (and third overall) pick in 2018, could be in the dugout on Mar. 26. He has hit well in the early going (.444), striking out only once in 18 AB.

While his fielding at third base remains “a work in progress,” it’s clear that Girardi is assessing him: “He has the ability to do it,” the manager said. “It’s consistency, right? It’s probably getting more plays like [the one good play and two he botched Mar. 5 against Toronto]. It’s getting the reps [in games] that is important for him.”

This evaluation is likely for correct placing of Bohm in the minors, but still, the 23-year-old could see action in Philly sometime this season.

The others getting into ten games thus far for the Philadelphia Phillies represent a wide variety of potential MLB ability as initially assessed by the team. On one hand, there is the round three draft choice out the California high school ranks, Williams (no. 83 overall in ’15), and on the other hand, stretched way out there, is a seventeenth-round choice (no. 503 overall in ’17), Listi.

The higher pick of the two high school draftees in the 10 Game Club, Williams, is also a third baseman and has hit .412 so far with a home run.

Listi has posted the best minor league stats offensively, hitting .277 overall and, perhaps most importantly, posting a .278 average in his 71 games at the triple-A level in ’19. He also hit 12 home runs at that level last season, the most in any of his six stays for partial seasons (22 to 71 games) at five different levels in three years.

Listi is a first baseman, like Hall, and that two first basemen are among those seeing the most action this spring is interesting. Girardi may well be looking at potential replacements for Rhys Hoskins, even if for only a few games to give one of his important pieces a breather.

Hall has hit 84 home runs and driven in 284 in four minor-league seasons.

The youngest of these five and the no. 12 Phillies prospect, Maton is a defensively versatile “shortstop” who’s drawn praise from Bryce Harper: “He had a pretty good at-bat [Mar. 4 against Pittsburgh]. He’s had pretty good at-bats all spring.

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Maton has hit for a .267 average in his 10 games but driven in seven runs, the second-most so far to Harper’s 10.

Add to these five Kyle Garlick, acquired in a trade with Los Angeles. He’s seen action in seven Phillies games. Matt Breen of Inquirer.com has observed about him in a podcast: “[Since] McCutchen [has been] ruled out [for early games], now you really see that path to the major-league roster. Right-handed bench bat, corner outfielder, hits for power. And I think he’s gonna make the team unless he really bottoms out in camp.”.

Garlick hit three home runs and drove in six for the Dodgers in only 53 plate appearance last season.

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These six players are being inspected this spring. Half of them could see MLB action this season. Don’t be surprised to see the rest in 2021, if not with the Philadelphia Phillies, very likely elsewhere.