When thinking about teams and their respective rosters, the players that first come to mind are usually the best players on those teams. Very rarely do we think about the backup catcher, role-playing utility defender, or the reliever who comes into the middle of the game.
Instead, we think about the All-Star shortstop or Cy Young Award contending starting pitcher. Those backup catchers, role players, and middle-inning relievers should not be overlooked, and are key to winning baseball games.
Building and developing depth is a vital part of creating a winning major league roster. Teams without depth tend to struggle over the course of a 162-game season. Players get hurt, need days off, or struggle throughout the season. Having players that can step into the batter’s box, or on the pitcher’s mound, and help produce in replacement of injured or resting players, is important to the overall success of a ball club.
Not having the depth necessary to get through a season has hurt the Phillies over the last few years. Since the addition of Bryce Harper in 2019, the team has had a nice core of players towards the top of their roster.
The problem over the last few seasons, however, was not a lack of talent towards the top half of their roster, it was the lack of roster depth. That has changed this season, and with the Phillies currently holding onto a playoff spot, the guys that aren’t named Harper, Realmuto, or Wheeler could be what gets the Phillies over the hump.
Everyone focused on the signings of Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos during spring training. They were not the only two guys the Phillies acquired during the offseason though. In smaller moves that have benefited the team, the front office traded for backup catcher Garrett Stubbs, signed reliever Andrew Bellatti to a minor league contract, and traded for reliever Nick Nelson.
Stubbs has been excellent for the Phillies behind the plate this season. When he plays, he provides good defense and a spark to the lineup. He could be described as a player who plays the game “the right way”. In 105 plate appearances, Stubbs has a slash line of .293/.375/.522 with 5 home runs. Stubbs is a good backup catcher that can produce when J.T. Realmuto gets a day off.
Andrew Bellatti has been used in many roles out of the bullpen for the Phillies this season. When the bullpen is healthy, Bellatti is one of the first guys used in the 5th or 6th inning. He has been great in 47.2 innings this season with a 3.40 ERA and 71 strikeouts. Bellatti primarily throws a slider and a 4-seam fastball and gets a lot of swings and misses. His whiff percentage is in the 98th percentile this year.
Nick Nelson has been a nice arm to have. He has shown the ability to throw more than one inning, which is an important role in a team’s bullpen. While his stats don’t jump out and scream great bullpen arm, 4.55 ERA in 61.1 innings, he is a good option to have as the first guy out of the bullpen. Nelson also picked up his first big league save on Friday night against the Nationals.
Pre-2022 Depth Pieces
Some of the depth the Phillies have this season was already in the system prior to the start of 2022. Bailey Falter, Matt Vierling, Nick Maton, Darick Hall, and Bryson Stott have all contributed.
Bailey Falter has been used as the 6th man in the Phillies’ starting rotation. He showed last season that he could pitch at the big league level, and is proving it even more this season. The 25-year-old has had some rocky outings, but overall he has a 4.02 ERA in 62.2 innings. Those are statistics any organization would take from a fill-in starter.
Matt Vierling has been a good player for the Phillies. He has shown the ability to play most defensive positions, and while his numbers are not the greatest offensively, he has had his moments. Vierling hits the ball hard, as he ranks in the 87th percentile in average exit velocity, and has shown off his speed all year long. Some may say Vierling has been a bit over-exposed so far this year, but he is a good player to have on the roster.
Nick Maton and Darick Hall have also been great depth pieces for the Phillies. Maton has been an infielder throughout his professional career but is starting to also play the outfield at the big league level. In 53 plate appearances, Maton is slashing .302/.415/.674 with 4 home runs.
Hall was brought up for his pop from the left side of the plate after Bryce Harper was injured in late June. He did not disappoint. During his time with the big league club, Hall hit .264/.296/.550 with 9 home runs.
Even though Bryson Stott is more than a role player for the Phillies, he has added nice depth towards the bottom of the lineup. Stott has taken over for Didi Gregorius, who was released last month, as the team’s everyday shortstop. After a rough start to the season, Stott has turned things around since the beginning of June.
Since June 1st, Stott is hitting .264/.325/.421 with 9 home runs and 74 hits overall. When the Phillies’ lineup is fully healthy, having Stott batting in the bottom third of their lineup shows off their offensive depth.
Edmundo Sosa is another player to highlight when discussing the Phillies’ improved depth. Sosa was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the trade deadline. He has shown his defensive versatility and ability with the Phillies while providing good offense. It’s a small sample size (49 at-bats) but Sosa is hitting .347/.377/.653 during his time in Philadelphia.
The way the Phillies have put together their roster this season has given them some flexibility. They have been able to get production from areas of the roster they have not been able to over the last few years. Being able to remain competitive and win games while their best player, Bryce Harper, was out for nearly 2 months shows how well Dave Dombrowski and the Phillies’ front office have done in building the 2022 Phillies.
Depth is important when you want to make the playoffs and the Phillies have just that. It’s not the deepest roster in the big leagues, but it is good enough to be a legitimate playoff contender. Having players like Harper, Realmuto, Nola, and Wheeler is a great start to building a roster, but teams need more than that.
The Phillies do have more than that this season, and it has helped them become a playoff-caliber team with less than 25 games to play.
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