Club management with the Philadelphia Phillies, itself the object of much change, has spent the past couple of years shaping the organizational talent for the future.
Some of that young talent has already reached the big leagues. This is most especially true on the pitching staff.
In the everyday lineup, the very best prospects in the Phillies system are nearly ready for their first full-time shot. The 25-man roster that opens the 2017 regular season in just over two weeks is going to look very different by the end of the season.
But let’s not get that far ahead of ourselves. This will be a look not at the Phillies of July or September, but the club that will travel to Cincinnati for that 2017 Opening Day.
The players who begin the season in a Phillies uniform include a number who are on borrowed time. That is because the club has intentionally signed a few players specifically with the knowledge that they will likely (hopefully?) step aside later in the year as the prospects become fully ready.
One major caveat here is that the players listed remain healthy. A minor injury at the start could delay a player who would normally make it. This would provide an opportunity, even if temporary, to someone else. But injuries aside, this is how I see things breaking with Pete Mackanin‘s club at this point.
PHILLIES 2017 INFIELD AND CATCHERS
On the right side of the Phillies infield the starters will be Tommy Joseph and Cesar Hernandez. On the left side it will be Freddy Galvis and Maikel Franco.
The infield should again include Andres Blanco as backup. Another spot should go to Brock Stassi, who really is just a first baseman. However, the Phillies will probably try to get Stassi some corner outfield and pinch-hitting work as well, ala Cody Asche in the past.
Cameron Rupp will be the Phillies starting catcher once again. While 25-year old Andrew Knapp has not hit well enough to win the backup job, I have to believe that he is ready for the opportunity. His age, minor league experience, and 40-man roster spot give him the nod over veterans Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday.
PHILLIES 2017 OUTFIELD
Across that outfield the starters are slated to be Howie Kendrick, Odubel Herrera, and Michael Saunders. Expect Aaron Altherr to see plenty of action as the fourth outfielder.
I can also see Tyler Goeddel returning to the big league club this season. He handled himself well last year. The club is going to choose between Goeddel or Jesmuel Valentin playing everyday at AAA Lehigh Valley is my thinking.
If we assume that Stassi makes it and is slated for some corner outfield work, the club really has no need for another outfielder. But it’s the Phillies, and they seem to like the idea of a veteran backup outfielder. So I’m going to call it Chris Coghlan over Daniel Nava here.
Keeping Coghlan and Stassi means that the Phillies are going to need to drop two players from the 40-man roster, but they have a few reasonable options there.
That makes for a dozen position players, leaving room for 13 pitchers to begin the year. Five of those make up the rotation, with an eight-man bullpen.
2017 PHILLIES PITCHING STAFF
The Phillies starting pitching rotation is likely to be made up Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz, Vince Velasquez, and Aaron Nola.
As long as Nola is healthy, and so far it appears that is the case, then he has a spot. But the Phillies may want to ease him along in the fifth starter role. This would enable them to wait until April 9th, a Sunday afternoon at home.
In such a scenario, Nola would start his season with a game against the Washington Nationals. Starting everyone on normal four days rest, he would have to make no more than three April starts.
Right-handers out of the pen should include Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, Pat Neshek, Edubray Ramos, and Colton Murray.
For me, the lefties would be Adam Morgan and Sean Burnett. A long man role could be filled by Alec Asher, who could also serve as an emergency starter along with Morgan. The inclusion of Burnett would mean another drop from the 40-man roster.
CHANGE COMING TO ROSTER AS 2017 MOVES ALONG
So there is my current prediction for the Philadelphia Phillies 2017 Opening Day 25-man roster. I’m sure to be wrong on at least a couple of these picks in the backup and bullpen roles. And injuries can always crop up to put a dent in the best laid plans.
As the season moves along, look for Jake Thompson, Roman Quinn, J.P. Crawford, and Nick Williams to push for the big leagues.
Pitcher Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, Elniery Garcia, and Joely Rodriguez could earn promotions. And catcher Jorge Alfaro could also play his way to Philly.
Hellickson, Buchholz, Saunders, and Kendrick all have to be considered as being on borrowed time. Each can hopefully produce, and make themselves a trade option by July at the latest. The Phillies and their fans have to be hoping that this scenario is exactly what plays out.