Tag Archives: Joe Girardi

Philadelphia Phillies 2020 Opening Day 26-man roster prediction

Over the last couple of days a handful of Philadelphia Phillies sources took their stabs at predicting which players would come north with the club at the end of March, making up the club’s official 26-man 2020 Opening Day roster.

So, why not me?

For a team that has not finished with a winning record or finished above third place in any of the last eight seasons, there are actually not too many spots up for grabs – at the moment.

One thing we all know about spring training is that things change from late-February through late-March. Injuries occur, trades happen, and pop-up players surprise with unexpectedly outstanding performances that are impossible to ignore.

For now, these are the 26 players who I would open the first season with under new skipper Joe Girardi if today were the regular season opener, rather than simply the Grapefruit League opener.

I will re-visit this again as we come down to the wire a month from now, taking a look at how this list held up and examining who may have emerged with a better opportunity.

STARTING PITCHERS (5)

Aaron Nola: RHP turns 27 in June, sixth season in MLB, all with Phillies

Zack Wheeler: RHP turns 30 in May, sixth season in MLB, first with Phillies

Jake Arrieta: RHP turns 34 in early March, 11th season in MLB, third with Phillies

Zach Eflin: RHP turns 26 in April, fifth season in MLB, all with Phillies

Vince Velasquez: RHP turns 28 in June, sixth season in MLB, fifth with Phillies

RELIEF PITCHERS (6)

Hector Neris: RHP turns 31 in June, seventh season in MLB, all with Phillies

Seranthony Dominguez: RHP is 25 all season, his third in MLB, all with Phillies

Bud Norris, RHP turns 35 in March, 11th season in MLB, first with Phillies

Jose Alvarez: LHP turns 31 in May, eighth season in MLB, second with Phillies

Francisco Liriano, LHP is 36 all season, 15th season in MLB, first with Phillies

Adam Morgan, LHP turns 30 next week, sixth season in MLB, all with Phillies

CATCHERS (3)

J.T. Realmuto, RH turns 29 in March, seventh season in MLB, second with Phillies

Andrew Knapp, SH is 28 all season, fourth in MLB, all with Phillies

Deivy Grullon, RH is 24 all season, second in MLB, both with Phillies

INFIELDERS (6)

Rhys Hoskins, 1B: RH turns 27 in March, fourth season in MLB, all with Phillies

Scott Kingery, 2B: RH turns 26 in April, third season in MLB, all with Phillies

Didi Gregorius, SS: RH is 30 all season, ninth season in MLB, first with Phillies

Jean Segura, 3B: RH turns 30 in March, ninth season in MLB, second with Phillies

Josh Harrison: RH turns 33 in July, 10th season in MLB, first with Phillies

Neil Walker: SH turns 35 in September, 12 season in MLB, first with Phillies

OUTFIELDERS (6)

Bryce Harper, RF: LH is 27 all season, ninth season in MLB, second with Phillies

Adam Haseley, CF: LH turns 24 in April, second season in MLB, both with Phillies

Andrew McCutchen, LF: RH is 33 all season, 12th season in MLB, second with Phillies

Jay Bruce: LH turns 33 in April, 13th season in MLB, second with Phillies

Nick Williams: LH turns 27 in September, fourth season in MLB, all with Phillies

Roman Quinn: SH turns 27 in May, fourth season in MLB, all with Phillies

 

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Phillies suffering through a southpaw starting pitching drought

There was a time not all that long ago when the Philadelphia Phillies starting pitching rotation included outstanding southpaws among the group. And looking back through history, the team has nearly always presented a lefty option.

As recently as 2014, the season began with both Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee still in that starting rotation. The two left-handers had been teammates at that point for the better part of four of the previous five seasons.

When Lee first joined the Phillies in a 2009 trade from Cleveland he stepped into a starting pitching rotation that already included both Hamels and veteran Jamie Moyer.

Hamels was first called up to the big-leagues by the Phillies as a 22-year-old rookie in May 2006. The Phillies had no lefty options in their rotation as that season opened. Before it was over they would have three.

In the middle of the 2005 season, Randy Wolf, who had been a member of the team’s starting pitching group for the prior six years, suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He would miss the entire second half of that 2005 season and the first four months in 2006.

Wolf returned to join Hamels in the Phillies rotation on July 30, 2006. Less than three weeks later, Moyer arrived in a trade from Seattle. The three would finish out that year together before Wolf moved on to the Dodgers via free agency.

Wolf had been promoted to the big-leagues back in 1999, joining the rotation for good in June. In the prior two seasons, Matt Beech had been the lone left-handed Phillies starting pitcher.

Back further into the 90’s, the club had seen Sid Fernandez, Mike Mimbs, David West, and a late-career Fernando Valenzuela take regular turns at one point or another. And in the early part of the decade, the duo of Terry Mulholland and Danny Jackson helped the 1993 team win a National League pennent.

Mulholland had joined the team in a 1989 trade from San Francisco which also brought southpaw Dennis Cook. Those two joined Bruce Ruffin and Don Carman, giving the Phillies four left-handed starting options.

Carman could trace his own career beginnings back to the final effective years in the career of not only the greatest left-handed starter, but also the greatest Phillies pitcher of all-time, Steve Carlton.

During the early 2000’s, Wolf would be joined in the Phillies pitching rotation at various times by other left-handed starters, including Omar Daal, Bruce Chen, and Eric Milton. After Wolf was lost to the elbow surgery, Eude Brito was called up and made five starts as a left-hander.

Some of these southpaws were among the greatest pitchers to ever pull on a Phillies uniform. Some were effective starters for short periods. Others were journeymen filling a rotation spot for just a short period.

But one thing that Phillies teams had in their pitching arsenal for decades was a legitimate left-handed starter. Even before Carlton’s arrival, the last place 1971 Phillies had veterans Woodie Fryman and Chris Short and young Ken Reynolds, all lefties, pitching out of the rotation.

The pipeline, if you will, of left-handed starters has dried up down at Citizens Bank Park since the departure of Hamels. The next-man-up was supposed to be Adam Morgan, but he was never able to secure a long-term role and has now settled in as a reliever.

After Morgan finished up the 2016 season still as a member of the rotation, the Phillies had no left-handers take a regular turn for most of the next two-and-a-half years.

Trying to keep his team in the playoff hunt last season, general manager Matt Klentak signed 30-year-old Drew Smyly in late July and a week later swung a trade for 36-year-old veteran Jason Vargas. That gave the Phillies a pair of southpaws in their rotation down the stretch. But both were short-term additions, and neither will be back for the 2020 season.

As the Phillies get set to open the Grapefruit League season down in Florida this coming weekend there are once again few legitimate left-handed starting pitching options for the rotation.

In a Wednesday piece on the rotation, Scott Lauber for The Inquirer wrote: “Lefty prospect Damon Jones is a dark-horse candidate.” I like Jones, a 25-year-old who went 5-4 with a 2.91 ERA. He allowed just 74 hits over 114.1 innings across 23 starts with a 152/59 K:BB ratio in a 2019 season split between three levels of the minor league system. However, I see Jones more as a power reliever.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t lefty arms around camp, even a couple who could fill a rotation slot briefly at some point. The bullpen has a variety of left-handed options for new manager Joe Girardi, including Morgan, Jose Alvarez, and Francisco Liriano.

Liriano has made 300 starts in MLB over 14 seasons and could potentially be used as a spot or emergency starter. The only other two left-handers currently in camp who appear to have any chance to take the mound as a starting pitcher in the big-leagues at some point would appear to be Cole Irvin and Ranger Suarez.

Irvin is now 26-years-old. He went 2-1 with a 5.83 ERA over 16 games, just three of those as a starter during his first taste of MLB play a year ago. However, Irvin has made 41 starts at Triple-A Lehigh Valley over the past two seasons. The Phillies are likely to keep him stretched out there again to begin 2020.

Suarez made three starts when first called up in 2018. He was used exclusively out of the bullpen in 37 games with the Phillies last season. Suarez made 28 starts over the last two seasons between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Down in the minor leagues the Phillies currently have only two left-handers who appear to have even a possibility of one day taking the mound as a starting pitcher. Those would be Erik Miller, chosen in the fourth round of the MLB Draft last June, and Ethan Lindow, who was the organization’s Pitcher of the Year last season. Both are a couple of years away, and neither can be considered a true top prospect at this point.

Is it important to have a left-hander in the starting rotation? Does it matter? That is a legitimate question. If the Phillies had five legitimate, effective, right-handers in their rotation at any point over the last half-dozen years it might not be an issue.

Showing opposing hitters the change of pace that a left-hander offers, neutralizing top left-handed hitters for the first two or three turns through the batting order. These are just a couple of ways a southpaw would help.

For my money, I would prefer to always have a right-left starting pitching mix that included two of one and three of the other. My preferred rotation would alternate lefties and righties against each opponent.

It would be nice if the Phillies could at least develop one truly legitimate starting left-hander. That, or trade for one who could be an effective member of their rotation for a few years. Right now, that arm does not appear to be on the 2020 roster.

 

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Sorting the pitching should be the story of 2020 spring training

There are a number of story lines set to play out as the Philadelphia Phillies open their formal spring training with workouts this week down in Clearwater, Florida. None is more important than the battles for a number of spots on the club’s Opening Day pitching staff.

New manager Joe Girardi will be paying special attention to the large group of arms in camp. It will be the successful or failure of the pitchers that will largely determine how the club fares over the coming 2020 season.

Also vital will be the ability of Girardi and new pitching coach Bryan Price to sort them all out. The two baseball veterans need to make the right decisions regarding who to keep on the big-league roster, who to stash away in the minor leagues for help later in the season, who to let go, and what roles on the Phillies staff each pitcher is best prepared to fill.

In the rotation, three arms are absolutely set in stone, assuming health. Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Jake Arrieta have roles locked up from the outset. Zach Eflin is less experienced and may not be an absolute lock, but he enters camp as a presumptive member of the rotation as well.

Assuming all four come through camp healthy it would leave any others to battle it out for the fifth starter role. Vince Velasquez enters camp as the most likely to fill that slot. His challengers will be right-handers Nick Pivetta and Enyel De Los Santos as well as the lone left-handed starter at the moment, Cole Irvin.

It’s great talent,” Price said of Velasquez and Pivetta per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “But we do have to refine that talent and the productivity.

I think there’s a lot of pitching here that has room to get much better and I’m looking forward to being a part of that any way I can.”

Velasquez will be a special challenge. This is likely his last chance to prove that he can be a reliable starting pitcher for a big-league rotation. If he doesn’t step up in 2020 in that role the likelihood is that he will either be permanently moved to the bullpen or traded away.

The coaches will take a long look at Spencer Howard, but the organization’s top pitching prospect is expected to open the year with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. If the team needs an emergency starter early in the season the opportunity will likely go to someone else. But by no later than June, Howard should be ready to fill any such rotation opening.

Southpaws JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez and righty prospect Adonis Medina are in camp and still viewed as potential big-league starting pitchers. All are lower on the organizational depth chart and would only see an increased role if a series of disastrous injuries should strike.

The bullpen is the place where there will be plenty of competition involving experienced veterans and talented youngsters. Some of the more interesting battles of the spring and some of the biggest roster surprises emerge from the relief pitching corps.

Right-handed relievers in camp from the Phillies current 40-man roster include Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Tommy Hunter, Edgar Garcia, Deolis Guerra, Reggie McClain, and Robert Stock. Neris, who has a contract arbitration hearing this month, is the presumptive closer.

Dominguez could be a particularly impactful addition after missing most of 2019 with an arm injury that both he and the club feared might require Tommy John surgery. Fact is, the talented 25-year-old may not be completely out of the woods yet. But he is ready to go at this point.

You get a Seranthony Dominguez that can stay healthy for the whole year, that’s a huge addition,” Girardi said per Matt Breen at The Inquirer. “You’re talking about a guy that was a closer and an eighth-inning guy that wasn’t there a good portion of the season.

Bud Norris, Blake Parker, Trevor Kelley, Anthony Swarzak, and Drew Storen are the more experienced members of a large group of non-roster invitee right-handed relievers. Each of them has the ability to make the club with a big spring.

From the left side, the 40-man roster group includes Jose Alvarez, Adam Morgan, Austin Davis, and newcomer Cristopher Sanchez. Non-roster southpaws in camp will include Francisco Liriano, Zach Warren, Tyler Gilbert, and prospects Kyle Dohy and Damon Jones.

Any of the arms who lose out in the fifth starter contest could also find a bullpen role. However, it is more likely that Pivetta, Irvin, or De Los Santos would instead be assigned to Lehigh Valley in order to remain stretched out as a starting pitcher.

In my pre-spring training evaluation and rankings of the starting pitching rotations for the teams in the National League East Division the Phillies came out fourth. The club came out third in my bullpen rankings thanks largely to those increased depth options.

If you look at this club last year, there were a lot of injuries, especially in the bullpen,” said Girardi per Evan Macy at The Philly Voice. “I did about five Phillies games at MLB Network and every time there was a different bullpen.

Girardi almost certainly remembered that situation when he took charge of the Phillies and pushed GM Matt Klentak to provide him with more potential veteran options. The bullpen now appears to have far more depth of legitimate talent this time around to weather any repeat of such an injury storm.

NOTE: As this piece was being published, De Los Santos became the first official casualty of spring. Matt Gelb reported that the pitcher injured his hamstring and will be out for a few weeks. Considering all of the competition this almost assures that he starts the regular season at Triple-A.

 

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NL East Division comparison: Managers

Over a two-week period at the end of January, I presented a series of pieces evaluating and ranking each of the team’s in the National League East Division on a position-by-position basis.

Those rankings can be found here:

First base, second base, shortstop, third base, catcher, left field, center field, right field, bench/reserves, starting pitching, bullpen.

Those players will have the most to say about how each team fares on the field, and thus in the standings, during the coming season. But the men who write out the lineup cards and make the decisions about who is playing and pitching at any given time will have a big say as well.

If you go back and take a look at my evaluations on each of the positions and incorporate these managerial rankings, you will get a good idea of where each of the teams in the division stand as we prepare for the start of spring training.

Phillies pitchers and catchers are due to report on Tuesday of next week with their first formal workouts coming on Wednesday. The full squad will be in camp by the following week.

The first Grapefruit League game will take place on February 22 when the Phillies visit the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida. The first home game in Clearwater on the 2020 schedule will come the following afternoon when the Phillies host the Pittsburgh Pirates.

NL EAST – 2020 MANAGER RANKINGS

1) Philadelphia Phillies: Joe Girardi

Girardi will be in his first season with the Phillies in the 2020 season. However, he has more actual managerial experience, more of a winning record, and arguably has been under more of a big-league microscope than any skipper in the division. Girardi got his first managerial experience in the NL East when he guided the then-Florida Marlins to a 78-84 mark back in 2006. Though the Fish had a losing record, they also had the lowest payroll in all of baseball. Girardi kept a Marlins team with largely inferior talent in the playoff race until the final weeks. For that performance he was named as the NL Manager of the Year but a dispute with ownership got Girardi fired after that one season. Less than two years later he was hired to take over the highest-profile team in Major League Baseball when he was named as the manager of the New York Yankees to replace Joe Torre. Under Girardi the Yankees would win the 2009 World Series, defeating the Phillies in six games. Over ten seasons in the Bronx, Girardi would guide the Yankees to a 910-710 record and three AL East Division crowns. However, they were never able to again reach the World Series after that 2009 season and did not capture a division title after 2012. When the Yankees were edged out in seven games by what we now know were a cheating Astros team in the 2017 ALCS, Girardi’s contract was not renewed by New York. Girardi will be 55 years of age for the entirety of the 2020 season.

2) Atlanta Braves: Brian Snitker

At age 64, Snitker is the oldest manager in the division. He took over a young Atlanta club going through a rebuilding program similar to the Phillies during the 2016 season. He guided the club to a somewhat surprising first-place finish by 2018, and they repeated as division champions a year ago. However, the Braves have failed to advance in the postseason, losing to Los Angeles in an NLDS in 2018 and Saint Louis a year ago. In last year’s NLDS they led the Cardinals two games to one and held a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the 8th inning in Game Four only to see Saint Louis rally to tie. The Cards then walked it off in the bottom of the 10th, and put the Braves out with a 13-1 romp in the decisive Game Five.

3) Washington Nationals: Dave Martinez

The 55-year-old Martinez is 175-149 over two seasons with the Nationals, his first two seasons as a big-league manager. Of course, his team won the World Series a year ago, and he deserves a ton of credit for keeping them together after a horrendous start. We need to remember that his first team in 2018 went just 82-80 and the club was sitting at 19-31 on May 23 of last season. That gave Martinez an overall 101-111 mark over his first season-plus. From that point onward, the Nationals took off and went an unreal 74-38 (.661) and then moved dramatically through the postseason. The Nats rallied in the bottom of the 8th inning for a 4-3 victory over Milwaukee in the NL Wildcard Game. Then they rallied from down 2-1 in the NLDS to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers, coming from a 3-0 deficit with another 8th inning rally in the decisive Game Five, which they finally won in 10 innings. And with what we now know regarding the Houston Astros cheating scandal, you have to give Martinez and the Nationals a lot of credit in edging out Houston by 4-3 in the World Series. Again they came from behind, winning the final two games after being down 3-2.

4) Miami Marlins: Don Mattingly

Mattingly was a six-time AL All-Star, nine-time Gold Glove Award winner, three-time Silver Slugger, and the 1985 AL MVP over a 14-year big-league career with the New York Yankees, one that could one day see him enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He is 276-370 over four full seasons from 2016-19 as the skipper in Miami. Prior to that he fashioned a 446-363 mark over five seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That gives him an overall 722-733 record in nine seasons, making him the manager with the longest continuous streak of managerial experience. Of course, he had a far better cast of players to work with in LA, finishing in first place each of his final three seasons on the west coast. But each of those clubs failed to advance to the World Series, and Mattingly finally paid with his job for that failure to get to the Fall Classic. He landed on his feet almost immediately in South Florida but has been forced to deal with a change in ownership accompanied by a complete rebuilding program. It would appear that it is going to take at least another couple of years for the Fish to raise their on-field talent level to compete in the division. Whether Mattingly can survive through that period and still be around once they are good enough to win remains to be seen. He turns 59 in late April.

5) New York Mets: Luis Rojas

This will be the first season for Rojas as a big-league manager. He brings the experience of having guided a number of the younger Mets players while a minor league skipper. Rojas has been a coach and manager in the Mets minor league system since 2007, rising through each level of the club’s system. He was the 2013 South Atlantic League Manager of the Year after guiding Savannah to a championship, and later led the High-A St. Lucie club to a first place finish. Rojas gained further managerial experience in the Dominican pro leagues, leading Leones del Escogido to a championship. He managed Double-A Binghamton in 2017-18, then served as the Mets minor league quality control coach in 2019. Just over two weeks ago, Rojas got the Mets job when Carlos Beltran was caught up in the Astros’s sign-stealing scandal. At 38 he will be the youngest manager in the division by far as well as the least experienced.

 

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NL East Division position comparison: bench reserves

My look around the National League East Division with a position-by-position evaluation and ranking for each club comes to an end today where position players are concerned.

The Philadephia Phillies fared well at catcher, where they had the top player, and in both center field and in right field, where the projected starter finished second. The Phillies came out at third in the division at each of first basesecond baseshortstopthird base, and in left field.

The defending World Series champion Washington Nationals had the top-ranked player at shortstop as well as in left field and center field. The two-time defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves came out on top at first base, second base, and in right field. And the top player at third base came from the New York Mets.

Today it’s time to take a look at each team’s projected reserve players. The backups and pinch-hitters are going to play a pivotal role in each club’s ultimate success or failure. That is especially so with those who are actually more like platoon starters, or who end up seeing significant playing time due to injuries during the season.

Not only as spring training unfolds, but also during the course of the season, these groups of reserve players will surely change. Unexpected players will win jobs in in the Grapefruit League. Teams may still sign a veteran free agent or two in order to bolster their bench. Top prospects will be called up by their respective clubs, relegating a few players who open the season in a starting lineup to the bench.

Over this weekend the process of evaluating each team will wrap with a look at the starting pitching options on Saturday and then the bullpen arms on Sunday. Finally, I’ll examine and rank the managers as we open a new week.

Once the process is complete,  fans should have a better idea as we begin the month of February as to exactly where their favorite team in the division stands as spring training opens. Pitchers and catchers report on February 11 to Clearwater, Florida for the highly anticipated opening of Phillies spring training.

NL EAST – 2020 BENCH / RESERVE RANKINGS

1) Washington Nationals: The final makeup of the starting infield for the defending world champions is very much in flux as they enter spring training. Howie Kendrick, Starlin Castro, and Asdrubal Cabrera are each in the mix at both second and third base. That trio of veterans will be trying to hold off top prospect Carter Kieboom. A pair of veterans in franchise icon Ryan Zimmerman and newcomer Eric Thames should man first base. Backing up their talented starting outfielders are Michael A. Taylor and Andrew Stevenson, while Wilmer Difo offers another infield option. And the Nats also have an enviable catching tandem in Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes. Whomever skipper Dave Martinez decides to use in his starting lineup on a given day, he will likely have the best bench group in the division as substitute and pinch-hitting options.

2) Philadelphia Phillies: About the only thing we can say for sure about the Phillies bench group is that, given health, Jay Bruce and Roman Quinn will make the squad in the outfield, with Nick Williams as another possibility. On the infield, super-utility player Scott Kingery will likely open the season as the starter at third base. However, once top prospect Alec Bohm is ready, Kingery could bolster the bench by returning to that super-sub role. Behind the plate, Andrew Knapp will be trying to hold off Deivy Grullon for the backup job. The Phillies have a number of solid non-roster invitees coming to spring training, any of whom could make the team. That group includes infielders Josh Harrison, Neil Walker, and Phil Gosselin among others. Veterans Matt Szczur, Mikie Mahtook, and Nick Martini will be among the newcomers trying to force their way into the outfield mix. New skipper Joe Girardi has one of the most wide-open bench battles entering the spring, but it’s a talented, veteran group. He will sort it all out during March and as the season moves along, but it’s almost certain to end up as a much more talented group of subs and pinch-hitters than Phillies squads of the last few years.

3) Atlanta Braves: The two-time defending division champion Braves may have the most talented starting lineup in the NL East entering spring training. If they can improve themselves at third base, that will be a certainty. In the outfield, much will depend on whether Ender Inciarte is healthy and starts in center field. Assuming that is the case, it relegates Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall to bench roles. Tyler Flowers and Travis d’Arnaud give the Braves a strong catching tandem. Young Austin Riley could win the starting job at third base, but Johan Camargo enters spring with the job. One of them will be a reserve, as will Adeiny Hechavarria and Yangervis Solarte on the infield. Outfielders Shane Robinson and Charlie Culberson will be among the veteran non-roster invitees trying to make the team. During the season, either of top prospect outfielders Drew Waters or Cristian Pache could push to the big-leagues. That would make Inciarte a member of the bench as well.

4) New York Mets: If the long-shot possibility of Yoenis Cespedes returning to the starting left field job pans out in spring, that likely pushes J.D. Davis to the bench. That is, unless new manager Luis Rojas decides to give him the starting job at third base, moving Jeff McNeil to second. Should that happen it would make high-priced veteran Robinson Cano a member of the bench brigade. Dominic Smith should provide depth in left field and at first base, with veteran Jed Lowrie as an infield reserve and Jake Marisnick the same in the outfield. Tomas Nido is likely to serve as the backup catcher.

5) Miami Marlins: A big question with Miami will be where does Brian Anderson play most of his innings? He could be the right fielder or third baseman…or split time at both. Jonathan Villar probably starts at either second or third, leaving Isan Diaz and Jon Berti as infield reserves. Garrett Cooper will likely serve as a backup at first base and on the corner outfield spots. Harold Ramirez should see plenty of time as a backup across all three outfield spots. Veteran Francisco Cervelli was signed to serve as the backup catcher. With a team as young as the Fish, a number of prospects could push their way to the big-leagues at any point, further muddying the bench mix for skipper Don Mattingly to sort out.

 

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