Last season, the Phillies ended their extensive playoff drought. They competed in postseason play for the first time since 2011, and ended up two wins shy of winning the World Series.
The top of their roster was important in the team’s push to win it all. Players like Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Kyle Schwarber, Zack Wheeler, and Aaron Nola were big contributors during the regular season and the playoffs.
While those players were integral to the club’s success in 2022, there were others who helped out along the way. Edmundo Sosa, Matt Vierling, Garrett Stubbs, and other part-time players were key pieces to the puzzle that was the Phillies’ 2022 season.
This year will have to be the same, especially to start the year. Bryce Harper is expected to miss most of, if not the entire, first half of the season. Part-time bench players are going to see more playing time during the two-time N.L. MVP’s absence. Manager Rob Thomson will have to identify who those players will be, not only during spring training but also throughout the season.
Below are nine candidates who could become essential bench players for the 2023 Phillies.
Last season, Darick Hall made his big league debut on June 29th. He was promoted to the big league club with the hope that he could provide some left-handed pop to the lineup after Bryce Harper went on the injured list with a broken thumb. He is a backup first baseman and designated hitter candidate heading into spring training next month.
At the big league level, Hall hit .250/.282/.522 in 142 plate appearances with 9 home runs. His walk rate was a dismal 3.5% and he struck out 31% of the time. Those numbers were much better during his time at Triple-A, though. As a member of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Hall slashed .254/.330/.528 with 28 home runs in 443 plate appearances. He walked 9.5% of the time and struck out in 22.6% of his plate appearances.
Outside of his unimpressive walk and strikeout totals in the big leagues, the largest knock on Hall at the plate was his inability to hit left-handed pitching. The club’s unwillingness to send him to the plate against lefties was obvious. Out of 142 trips to the plate in the majors, 130 were against righties, and 12 were against southpaws. Between both the minor and major leagues, the 27-year-old had 585 plate appearances－436 against right-handed pitchers and 149 against left-handed pitchers.
Combining all of his plate appearances, Hall slashed an impressive .280/.344/.601 with 33 home runs against righties. Against lefties, he slashed a measly .175/.242/.314 with 4 home runs.
Once Harper returned to the lineup in late August, Hall wasn’t used as much. He was not on any of Philadelphia’s playoff rosters.
How the Phillies navigate the first half of the season without Bryce Harper in the lineup will be interesting. Darick Hall will be someone the club looks to if they need more left-handed pop in their lineup.
He will surely be in a position to be the team’s backup first baseman heading into the season. Hall could also take part in their likely rotation of designated hitters.
If Hall is not on the Phillies’ initial roster after spring training, it will likely be due to his inability to hit lefties coupled with his lack of defensive versatility.
The Phillies acquired Kody Clemens alongside Gregory Soto in a trade with the Tigers in early January. He debuted with Detroit last season and is going to compete for a utility role this spring.
Clemens split time between Triple-A and the big leagues. From an offensive point of view, his time with the big league club was not impressive. In 127 plate appearances for Detroit, Clemens hit .145/.197/.308 with 5 home runs. He also had a 6.3% walk rate and a 26% strikeout rate.
The 26-year-old enjoyed much more success while playing in the minors for the Toledo Mud Hens. In his 264 Triple-A plate appearances, Clemens slashed .274/.327/.535 with 13 home runs. His walk and strikeout rates were 7.6% and 26.9%.
Most of Clemens’ appearances at the dish came against right-handed pitching. Between Triple-A and the majors, he had 296 plate appearances against righties and just 95 against lefties. He hit .234/.292/.468 against righties, and slashed .225/.263/.438 against left-handed pitching.
Clemens played all over the diamond at both levels. In the big leagues, he played 73.0 innings at first base (2 DRS, 1 OAA), 69.0 innings at second base (0 DRS, 1 OAA), 96.0 innings at third base (2 DRS, 1 OAA), and 44.1 innings in left field (0 DRS, 0 OAA).
Matt Vierling, who was a platoon center fielder for most of 2022, and Nick Maton, who played a utility role for the Phillies, were both sent to Detroit in the trade that brought Clemens to Philadelphia. It is likely he helps fill the void of utility players that was created by trading away those two. He should see plenty of time in both the corner infield and outfield.
In the minors, Clemens has shown signs that he can hit and has some power in his bat. The Phillies’ offensive coaching staff is going to attempt to unlock those capabilities against big-league pitching. If Clemens performs better at the plate and continues to play league-average defense at multiple positions, he could be a valuable bench player.
Without fully understanding how the Phillies view their current bench heading into spring training, it is possible Clemens will be competing with Darick Hall for the backup first base job. If Clemens has a good spring training, it could mean Hall starts his season at Triple-A.
With Bryce Harper starting the year on the injured list, there is an extra spot on the Phillies’ roster. It wouldn’t be a surprise if both Clemens and Hall break camp with the big league club.
In 2017, the Phillies selected Dalton Guthrie in the 6th round of the draft out of the University of Florida. The 27-year-old was an infielder in the lower levels of the minor leagues, but as he progressed through the Phillies’ system, he took on more of a utility role, playing both the infield and outfield. After a slow start to his professional career, Guthrie has had back-to-back solid years in Triple-A.
Guthrie played most of his season in Lehigh Valley and was called up to the majors in September. He only had 28 trips to the plate as a member of the Phillies, where he hit .333/.500/.476 with 1 home run, 6 walks, and 7 strikeouts.
His numbers with the IronPigs were very good. He slashed .302/.363/.476 with 10 home runs in 374 plate appearances. He also posted a 6.4% walk rate and a 19.5% strikeout rate.
In all of his 402 plate appearances last season, Guthrie showed his ability to hit both right-handed and left-handed pitchers. His power numbers against righties were much higher, though. He hit righties at a .318/.391/.517 clip, while hitting .274/.333/.393 against lefties.
Most of his defensive innings in Triple-A were in the outfield. He played 480.0 innings in center, 213.0 innings in right, and 5.0 innings in left. Guthrie also played some second base (14.0 innings), third base (4.0 innings), and shortstop (15.0 innings) for Lehigh Valley. For the Phillies, he mostly appeared in right field.
Since Matt Vierling is no longer with the Phillies, it seems like Dalton Guthrie is a lock to at least be the Phillies’ bench outfielder come Opening Day. Depending on how Rob Thomson utilizes the designated hitter spot in the batting order, and how Brandon Marsh fairs against left-handed pitching, Guthrie could become more than just a bench outfielder, though.
Over the course of the winter, the team has said they won’t use one specific player as their designated hitter. Even though that is the current plan, Nick Castellanos could get a bulk of those opportunities. If that is the case, it could leave the door open for Guthrie to be somewhat of an everyday right fielder. If that doesn’t happen and Brandon Marsh struggles against left-handed pitching, Thomson could use both Marsh and Guthrie in center.
Dalton Guthrie is an intriguing player heading into 2023. He has had back-to-back good years at Triple-A, and even though it was a very small sample size, he showed he could hit big-league pitching in 2022. With more plate appearances this year, Guthrie is likely going to have his offensive struggles, but don’t be surprised if he is able to post slightly above league-average numbers at the dish in whatever role he takes on.
The Phillies claimed Jake Cave off of waivers in December from the Orioles. He had success at the plate early in his career, but has not been impressive since. He has played all three outfield spots in his big league career.
Splitting time between Triple-A St. Paul and the major leagues with the Twins resulted in different outcomes for Cave offensively. In 177 plate appearances with Minnesota, he hit .213/.249/.293, but in 373 plate appearances with the St. Paul Saints, Cave slashed .273/.370/.509. His walk and strikeout rates were better in Triple-A, 11.5% and 24.9%, than in the majors, 6.2% and 27.7%.
Cave didn’t have enough appearances at the plate to qualify to be placed into Statcast’s percentiles. However, he did have impressive numbers when compared to those who did qualify. In the big leagues, his average exit velocity was 90.7 MPH. That was the exact same average exit velocity as four hitters who did qualify. Carlos Santana, Josh Donaldson, Patrick Wisdom, and MJ Melendez all had average exit velocities of 90.7 MPH, which fell into the 81st percentile.
Cave’s Barrel%, 10.3%, which was the same as Will Smith, would have fell into the 72nd percentile. His HardHit% was 42.7%, which was similar to his current teammate Alec Bohm‘s 43%. Bohm’s HardHit% was in the 67th percentile. Cave’s sample size in the majors wasn’t large, but in the chances he did get, he produced some intriguing data.
Defensively, Cave played all three outfield spots in both the minors and majors. In Triple-A, he played 162.0 innings in left field, 396.0 innings in center field, and 143.0 innings in right field. Playing for the Twins, Cave saw most of his defensive innings in left field. Overall, he played 395.0 innings in the outfield (3 DRS, -1 OAA). His average arm strength from the outfield was 89.1 MPH, which landed in the 78th percentile. Cave’s maximum arm strength was 93.2 MPH.
Cave is entering his age 30 season, and is in an interesting spot when it comes to the Phillies’ roster. Right now, it seems as though he is a leading candidate, alongside Dalton Guthrie, to be one of the outfielders on the Phillies’ bench come Opening Day.
Offensively, he is a career .243/.314/.430 hitter against righties, and a .210/.240/.352 hitter against lefties. Also for his career, Cave has a 6.4% walk rate, and a 32.3% strikeout rate. At a glance, those numbers don’t indicate he is likely to provide great offensive output, but in his limited appearances at the dish last year, he showed the ability to square up the baseball and hit it hard. That could lead to more positive outcomes at the plate this season.
Defensively, he will provide the Phillies with league average defense in whichever outfield spot they put him in.
The Phillies see something they like in Jake Cave, or they wouldn’t have claimed him off waivers earlier this winter. Where he fits in with the 2023 Phillies is unknown. He might fall right behind Dalton Guthrie on the depth chart right now. With a strong showing during spring training, that could change.
The Phillies recently inked Josh Harrison to a one-year, $2 million contract. Giving him that type of deal likely means he will be on the roster on Opening Day.
Harrison spent the year with the White Sox and saw plenty of playing time. His glove was more valuable than his bat, though. In 425 plate appearances for Chicago, the 35-year-old hit .256/.317/.370 with a 4.9% walk rate and a 16.7% strikeout rate. That was only good enough for a 94 OPS+. He also hit 7 home runs.
Defensively, he mostly played second and third base on the South Side. He played 187.2 innings on the hot corner (3 DRS, 1 OAA), and 749.1 innings at second (3 DRS, 3 OAA). Overall, Harrison’s outs above average fell into the 84th percentile, while his average arm strength, 78.3 MPH, was in the 12th percentile.
Adding Harrison to the roster provides the club with more big league-level defensive help in the infield and will create more competition when spring training begins in a few weeks. As mentioned above, the contract Harrison signed likely guarantees a spot with the team when they open the year against the Rangers.
Harrison will fall behind Edmundo Sosa on the infield depth chart, but will surely see some playing time. He does have previous experience in the outfield, primarily in the corners, but with the depth the Phillies currently have in the outfield, he will probably be more of an emergency outfielder.
The two-time All-Star won’t provide much offense for the Phillies, but he won’t be an offensive liability, either.
Bringing Harrison in means a few things. One is that Dalton Guthrie will likely only be used in the outfield moving forward. Another is that both Kody Clemens and Darick Hall will each need to have strong springs to make the big league club, and lastly, the Phillies are making sure they secure as much depth as possible heading into 2023.
Last summer, the Phillies acquired Edmundo Sosa from the Cardinals. Sosa is one of the better infield defenders in the game.
Sosa’s overall offensive production was not great. In 190 plate appearances, the soon-to-be 27-year-old hit .227/.275/.369. However, his numbers during his time with the Cardinals were much different than his numbers with the Phillies. In 131 plate appearances for St. Louis, he hit just .189/.244/.270, but with Philadelphia he slashed .315/.345/.593 in 59 plate appearances.
Defense is where Sosa provided his value. He played all of his defensive innings on the left side of the infield. He played 282.2 innings at shortstop (5 DRS, 6 OAA) and 137.0 innings at third base (1 DRS, 4 OAA). Overall, his 10 OAA was in the 97th percentile in the majors. His average arm strength fell into the 45th percentile though, as it was just 84.5 MPH.
Sosa was consistently a late-inning defensive replacement for the Phillies and received the occasional spot start.
Sosa is set to be the Phillies’ most reliable infield defender on the bench at the start of the season. Any offensive production they get from him will be a plus. How they use him will likely differ a bit from last year. They will likely continue to use him at third base late in games to replace Alec Bohm, but with Trea Turner and Bryson Stott at shortstop and second base, the amount of work Sosa gets at those positions is likely going to be minimal.
As touched on earlier, the Phillies will be using multiple players as their designated hitter to start the year. This won’t lead to Sosa getting at-bats as a designated hitter, but it could increase his playing time. If the Phillies want to use Rhys Hoskins, Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott, or Trea Turner as the designated hitter on any given day, Sosa will be put into the lineup to replace one of them in the field.
Sosa’s sample size as a hitter was very small with the Phillies in 2022 and could have just been a hot streak. However, it is possible the coaching staff fixed something in Sosa’s swing, or approach, that led to more production. That could continue, but it shouldn’t be counted on. Sosa’s defensive prowess should continue to shine for the Phillies.
The Phillies acquired Garrett Stubbs from the Astros before the lockout last offseason. He is a solid backup catcher and provides good depth behind arguably the best catcher in baseball, J.T. Realmuto.
Garrett Stubbs was a welcome surprise for the Phillies. He didn’t receive much playing time though, simply due to the fact that J.T. Realmuto was one of Philadelphia’s best players.
Realmuto ended up catching 1,131.2 innings, which was the most in baseball. That led to Stubbs being behind the plate for just 294.2 innings. He was solid when he was given opportunities, though. Stubbs ranked in the 93rd percentile in pop time to second base, 1.91 seconds, and averaged 83.5 MPH on his throws. However, he wasn’t all that great at framing. According to Statcast, he was worth -4 catcher framing runs.
Offensively, Stubbs was really good in the chances he received. He hit .264/.350/.462 in 121 plate appearances. He also hit his first career home run, along with four others, to bring his season, and career, home run total to 5.
With Realmuto being so important to the Phillies during the playoffs, Stubbs didn’t play during the club’s postseason run.
Stubbs is slated to be the backup catcher once again for the Phillies, and how much playing time he receives is still likely to be minimal. However, with J.T. Realmuto coming off a season in which he caught a lot of innings, alongside his current commitment to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic this March, and the Phillies’ openness to the idea of using Realmuto as their designated hitter at times early in the season, it could lessen their star catcher’s time behind the plate, and open up an opportunity for Stubbs to play more.
Stubbs’ defensive ability is going to continue to be a plus. His hustle when he does play is undeniable, and he brings good characteristics to the clubhouse. Offensively, don’t count on him being as good as he was last season. His numbers were a bit inflated in 2022, as his xBA was just .207, and his xSLG was only .299.
Garrett Stubbs is going to continue to be the team’s best option at backup catcher and is a great all-around baseball player.
Two prospects worth mentioning as possible players who could see some time on the bench are Símon Muzziotti and Johan Rojas.
Muzziotti ended up on the Phillies’ Opening Day roster last season due to injuries to other players. He did not see much playing time, as he only played 30.0 innings in center field for the big league club. Muzziotti only had 9 plate appearances but did pick up his first big league knock.
He dealt with injuries over the course of the 2022 campaign, but in his limited playing time in the minors, he was productive at the plate. The 24-year-old had 165 Double-A plate appearances and hit .259/.339/.455. In a smaller sample size for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, he slashed .313/.389/.313 in 18 trips to the plate.
Defense is Muzziotti’s best tool. He has experience in all three outfield spots in the minor leagues.
The current view on Rojas is that he is not big-league-ready offensively, but could easily play defense every day in the majors. He split time between High-A and Double-A last year. In 292 plate appearances in High-A, he hit .230/.287/.325, and in Double-A, he slashed .260/.333/.387 in 264 plate appearances.
Between both levels last season, Rojas played a total of 960.1 innings in center field. Outside of his strong defensive ability, his speed is also a strength. In 130 minor league games last year, he stole 62 bases.
If Símon Muzziotti can stay healthy this year and continue to produce at the plate like last season, and Johan Rojas can show signs of offensive growth, both could see playing time in the big leagues if the Phillies really need them to fill a roster spot for a brief period of time.
The Phillies added more talent to their already above-average roster this off-season. Trea Turner, Taijuan Walker, Matt Strahm, Craig Kimbrel, and Gregory Soto were all acquired this winter to improve upon the club’s 2022 success.
Part of their success last year was a result of having improved depth when compared to previous seasons while utilizing their bench players properly.
Bryce Harper is going to be on the injured list for at least a good chunk of the first half of the season, so they’ll need their depth to shine again. That means players like Darick Hall, Kody Clemens, Dalton Guthrie, Jake Cave, Josh Harrison, Edmundo Sosa, Garrett Stubbs, and others will have to step up and help the team win games over the course of the upcoming season.
Featured Photo: Twitter / @Phillies