After the Philadelphia Phillies much-anticipated Spring Training debut, here are some takeaways from the split-squad games.
The Phillies started their National League title defense on Saturday, defeating the New York Yankees 7-4 and losing to the Detroit Tigers 4-2 in split-squad games. It really feels like just yesterday the Phillies were playing in the World Series, so it feels weird to see them in action already. A decade of long off-seasons have me completely off-balance when it comes to the short turnaround.
The expectation on this team is to compete for a title and although October is a long way away fan interest is high enough that every move and play this team makes from its first spring training game on will be scrutinized. Here's what we can take away from the first baseball action of the season.
Phillies attendance is going to soar this season
The first thing that stands out to you watching the spring training broadcast is just how many fans are in attendance. Citizens Bank Park has often been a ghost town over the last few seasons - that will not be the case this season. This spring training is one of the most highly anticipated in years and fits perfectly into the sports calendar with the Eagles wrapping up their Super Bowl run just a few days ago.
Let’s be honest; we’ll watch the 76ers. We’ll root for Joel Embiid and James Harden to push the Sixers further than they have been in years. But in the back of our minds, we don’t trust them. They’ll have to earn our attention because until they do something, I’ll never believe in that team. The Flyers are a complete dumpster fire. That’s really all to say about that, we all know it. The level of apathy surrounding that team has reached all-time highs. The Phillies are THE team in the city until September. Phillies games will be well-attended this season. My prediction is that most nights will be closer to full than empty and we should see multiple sell-outs at CBP again. This first spring training game was a good indication of what we can expect all season.
The Phillies finally have impressive depth
The Phillies have several top players in the game on their roster. The list of heavy-hitters include Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, newly-acquired Trea Turner, Zach Wheeler, Aaron Nola and JT Realmuto. It's on the backs of these players that the team is pinning their hopes for a title run. But this team boasts something that not even last year’s team had: depth.
The lineup has a fearsome top half, but Brandon Marsh, Alec Bohm, and Bryson Stott all have the capabilities to make major leaps this season and make a major contribution to the team. After stating he'd gained weight in the off-season, Bohm indeed looked bulkier and went 1-3 today. Marsh was aggressive at the plate, attacking first pitch fastballs and lacing two singles. The Phillies believe he can be the centerfielder of the future and he looked every bit the part today. Stott didn't play in either game, but he had the makings of a solid MLB contributor during the postseason run and offers another strong young player in the lineup.
Even the bench boasts impressive depth. Edmundo Sosa went 1-2 today, ripping a single into left center in his first at-bat. He’s a player with a chance to get heavy playing time this season. Darick Hall has the chance to provide power off the bench, although his three strikeout debut was one to forget. Josh Harrison, Jake Cave, Garrett Stubbs, Dalton Guthrie….each of these players are legit major leaguers and represent a major upgrade for the Phillies.
Even during the World Series run, the team relied on a select few players and got very little from its bench pieces. This season could see several contributors emerge, something that would be a welcome departure from seasons' past.
Other Notes and Thoughts
- Andrew Baker has a chance to carve out a role in the Phillies bullpen this season. Baker, a right-handed reliever who had an 0.84 ERA in Double-A last season, was electric in his Spring Training debut. Baker flashed a powerful fastball and a devastating breaking ball, finishing with two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 scoreless inning. He is a name to watch and someone that could be a dynamic bullpen piece for the team in the near-future.
- Have yourself a day Weston Wilson. The journeyman infielder was the team's best hitter, going 2-2 with a two-run home run, a walk, a double and four total RBI. The competition for the final roster spots will be fierce, but performances like this will be necessary for fringe guys like Wilson to earn a spot.
- In the other split-squad game, the Phillies lost 4-2 to the Tigers. Nick Castellanos went 0-3 with two strikeouts. Scott Kingery, trying to make the roster, went 0-1 with a walk. Michael Plassmeyer, a pitcher who could be used in spot starts this season, pitched two innings and allowed one hit and no earned runs. He's a development success story and someone to keep an eye on this spring.
- Another prospect that made a strong impression was first baseman Carlos De La Cruz. A hulking giant at 6'8" 210, De La Cruz destroyed a home run to dead center-field. Not ranked in the Phillies top-30 prospects, he's a player that is athletic and powerful and hit .271 with 17 homers in the minors last season.