Analysis

2017 Phillies depth chart breakdown: The hitters

As we inch closer to the end of spring training, it’s about time to go through the Phillies depth chart – see how things look, what 2017 should bring, and who’s next in line to make an impact.

Obviously the Phillies are waiting on a few names to make those impacts. The team is well set up to contend starting around 2019, while this year’s group is a little more transitional.

Today we’ll look at the hitters on the depth chart, starting with major leaguers, then players trying to make the club in 2017, then top prospects and, finally, what’s waiting further down the line. As part of this exercise, our writers offered major league predictions for players likely to perform in the show this year. 

This is our best guess as to what the depth chart looks like today.

 

CATCHER

(Or, waiting for Jorge.)

Major leagues

Cameron Rupp – Rupp put up fair offensive numbers in 2016 but still has plenty working against him in the year ahead. Catching prospects Andrew Knapp and Jorge Alfaro are both breathing down his neck, threatening the playing time that he would likely have already seen decreased on a better team, and he has the reputation of being a poor pitch caller, a trait ill-suited for a catcher working with promising young hurlers. On the bright side, he exceeded expectations in 2016, going yard 16 times and hitting with a high exit velocity (whatever that’s worth). [Read more about Cameron Rupp.]
Prediction: .240 AVG / .280 OBP / .430 SLG / 13 HR / 40 RBI / 0 SB / 1.0 WAR
– Daniel Walsh

On the fringe

Andrew Knapp – Knapp’s versatility as a switch-hitter and a catcher/first baseman should grab him one of the coveted bench spots. As he gets more reps, his defense is going to have to improve to match his offensive potential. [Read more about Andrew Knapp]
Prediction: .275 AVG / .360 OBP / .400 SLG / 6 HR / 33 RBI / 3 SB / 1.2 WAR
– Kirsten Swanson

Next in line

Jorge Alfaro – The team’s catching situation has become very fluid with how bad Andrew Knapp has been this spring, so instead of possibly coming up if/when the Phillies can find a taker for Cameron Rupp, Alfaro could be coming up a lot sooner. This is a projection for him to come up in mid-August and struggle in what would be his first time as an everyday starter. [Read more about Jorge Alfaro.]
Prediction: .225 AVG / .290 OBP / .380 SLG / 4 HR / 20 RBI / 1 SB / 0.4 WAR
– Michael Sadowski

>>> Depth assessment >>>

Catcher is the most difficult position to develop, but the Phillies have a history of success here. Worst comes to worst they have Rupp to fill in the gaps until a better option emerges. If that option isn’t Alfaro (or Knapp), the Phils will probably search for a veteran with punch by 2019.
– Tim Malcolm

FIRST BASE

(Or, the search to fill No. 6’s shoes)

Major leagues

Tommy Joseph – There will be no controversy at first base this season: Tommy Joseph is the guy. Joseph hit 21 homers in limited playing time last season. With a full season ahead, Joseph should come close to 30 homers, and would not shock anyone if he eclipsed it. [Read more about Tommy Joseph.]
Prediction: .266 AVG / .321 OBP / .526 SLG / 27 HR / 77 RBI / 1 SB / 1.7 WAR
– Corey Sharp

On the fringe

Brock Stassi – Never an elite prospect, Stassi has gone from fighting to maintain relevance in the Phillies system to fighting for the final roster spot in only a few weeks thanks to robust spring numbers. His hot hitting actually began with a strong performance in the Venezuelan Winter League, but the 27-year-old hasn’t locked a spot yet. What he does offer is a left-handed bat on a righty-heavy team, as well as experience at both first base and the outfield, making him a possible platoon partner for Joseph. [Read more about Brock Stassi.]
Prediction: .230 AVG / .290 OBP / .380 SLG / 3 HR / 0 SB / 20 RBI / 0.6 WAR
– Daniel Walsh

Next in line

Rhys Hoskins – Hoskins, one of Reading’s bash brothers last year, will attempt to follow up his historic double-A run in Lehigh Valley. Hoskins showcased himself well this spring, hitting .278 with two home runs. It’s tough to say whether Hoskins will get a September callup, but he’d have to earn it. Hoskins is primed to break for Philadelphia next spring. [Read more about Rhys Hoskins.]
– Corey Sharp

Deeper down

Jhailyn Ortiz – Ortiz has the potential to be an all-star slugger for the Phils … in 2020, that is. At just 18 years old, Ortiz will look to progress and build on his eight homers and .231/.325/.434 line he scored in 47 Gulf Coast League games last season. [Read more about Jhailyn Ortiz here.]
– Kirsten Swanson

>>> Depth assessment >>>

The Phillies have flexibility at first base, both in depth and financial commitments. Expect them to work through the internal options over the next two seasons. If a star doesn’t emerge, first base is an easy position to address through trades and free agency.
– Tim Malcolm

MIDDLE INFIELD

(Or, yesterday, today and tomorrow.)

Major leagues

Cesar Hernandez – Hernandez’s game has improved in each of the last two seasons. In 2016, he was a capable leadoff man. With that kind of approach, Pete Mackanin will have no choice but to keep his second baseman in the lineup. [Read more about Cesar Hernandez here.]
Prediction: .289 AVG / .381 OBP / .402 SLG / 5 HR / 42 RBI / 27 SB / 4.8 WAR
– Corey Sharp

Freddy Galvis – If Galvis can continue to play stellar defense, boost his OBP and deliver timely hits, the skipper will have a tough decision come mid-season, assuming J.P. Crawford makes his case for a promotion. [Read more about Freddy Galvis here.]
Prediction: .252 AVG / .308 OBP / .370 SLG / 14 HR / 59 RBI / 20 SB / 2.9 WAR
– Corey Sharp

Andres Blanco – Here’s one of the few players who you know what you’ll get from him. He’ll get about 200 at bats, he’ll probably be a hero once or twice, and he’ll provide clubhouse leadership. [Read more about Andres Blanco here.]
Prediction: .270 AVG / .325 OBP / .395 SLG / 5 HR / 30 RBI / 4 SB / 0.8 WAR
– Michael Sadowski

On the fringe

Chris Coghlan – Whether it’s for the Phillies, another major league team or the Lancaster Barnstormers in the Atlantic League, this looks about right. [Read more about Chris Coghlan here.]
Prediction: .235 AVG / .290 OBP / .340 SLG / 2 HR / 18 RBI / 3 SB / -1.4 WAR
– Michael Sadowski

Taylor Featherston – It’s going to be tough for Featherston to get at bats in Allentown, let alone in Philadelphia. By the end of the season, his car may be able to drive the Northeast Extension by itself. [Read more about Taylor Featherston here.]
Prediction: .240 AVG / .290 OBP / .350 SLG / 2 HR / 15 RBI / 2 SB / -0.8 WAR
– Michael Sadowski

Jesmuel Valentin – Valentin has utility player written all over him: he’s an unremarkable but not crippling hitter with little power, decent defense and no true position. He played only second base for Lehigh Valley last season, but has reportedly been working at shortstop heading into 2017 to improve his utility and versatility. In foreign leagues, he also saw time at third base and corner outfield positions. He’s a possibility to slot into the big league club in 2017 if early injuries affect the infield and the team isn’t willing or ready to call up J.P. Crawford. [Read more about Jesmuel Valentin here.]
– Daniel Walsh

Next in line

J.P. Crawford – Crawford will struggle in his September audition, but as he has always in his career, he’ll take walks and get on base. Same as Cozens, I’m way more interested in his stat line with the IronPigs, where he hopefully can slash somewhere in the area of .310/.410/.480. [Read more about J.P. Crawford here.]
Prediction: .260 AVG / .370 OBP / .380 SLG / 1 HR / 9 RBI / 3 SB / 0.4 WAR
– Michael Sadowski

Scott Kingery – Kingery has raised eyebrows at spring training this year with a .286 average, two home runs and stellar defense. The second base prospect struggled in double-A after being promoted. He will start this season in double-A and could be in Philly as early as next April. Read more on what Kingery brings to the table. [Read more about Scott Kingery here.]
– Corey Sharp

>>> Depth assessment >>>

Not since 2002 (with Chase Utley near the majors, Placido Polanco holding fort and Jimmy Rollins entrenched at shortstop) have the Phils had this kind of depth up the middle. Hernandez and Galvis are decent placeholders, with the former threatening to be an everyday insertion for even first-division clubs. Since Matt Klentak didn’t pull the trigger on any deals this offseason, there’s no need to do it now. Give Crawford his shot around midseason and turn Galvis into baseball’s best utility man, then see if Kingery can push Hernandez into trade conversations next offseason. If none of that works, you still have decent placeholders and plenty of cash to spend.
– Tim Malcolm

THIRD BASE

(Or, Franco’s big moment.)

Major leagues

Maikel Franco – Franco is aiming to put his sophomore slump behind him. To do that, the third baseman needs to have a consistent approach at the dish for every at bat. [Read more about Maikel Franco here.]
Prediction: .265 AVG / .318 OBP / .488 SLG /  32 HR / 98 RBI / 2 SB / 2.0 WAR
– Corey Sharp

On the fringe

Hector Gomez – Gomez can play most of the infield positions and some corner outfield, so his flexibility helps his case for a 2017 bench spot. But the Phils may prefer Coghlan and the surging Stassi over him at this point. [Read more about Hector Gomez here.]
– Tim Malcolm

Deeper down

Cole Stobbe – Cole Stobbe is blessed with a very good baseball name and could become a very good baseball player. 2016 was his first season of professional ball, and the young third baseman put up a fine .270/.337/.405 slash line. Behind Franco, he’s arguably the organization’s most promising steward of the hot corner, but it’ll be some time before he makes the trip to Philadelphia — he should at least see single-A first. [Read more about Cole Stobbe here.]
– Daniel Walsh

>>> Depth assessment >>>

It’s amazing this organization produced the game’s greatest third baseman, because since 2003 this position has been the Phils’ obvious weakness. Franco will get all of 2017 (and probably some of 2018) to prove he’s part of the club’s long-term plans. If it doesn’t work, in comes another external option a la David Bell, Wes Helms and Polanco.
– Tim Malcolm

CENTERFIELD

(Or, we have an answer!)

Major leagues

Odubel Herrera – Herrera is the Phillies’ best player and was the only representative for the club in the All-Star Game last season. A mid-season slump caused his numbers to dip a bit, but he played well enough to earn a long-term contract in the offseason. Phillies fans could be witnessing the next great Phillie this season. [Read more about Odubel Herrera here.]
Prediction: .311 AVG / .387 OBP / .463 SLG / 19 HR / 61 RBI / 33 SB / 5.0 WAR
– Corey Sharp

On the fringe

Aaron Altherr – Like just about everyone on this team, this is Altherr’s chance to show that he deserves to be part of the team’s future. I don’t think he is. [Read more about Aaron Altherr here.]
Prediction: .245 AVG / .310 OBP / .420 SLG / 16 HR / 48 RBI / 6 SB / 0.9 WAR
– Michael Sadowski

Next in line

Roman Quinn  Roman Quinn, who travels dangerously close to the speed of light, should spend the year on the cusp between triple-A and the majors. He did well enough after his promotion to the bigs last season, but a crowded outfield and his inexperience above double-A will likely have him starting the year with the IronPigs. For Quinn, a good year is a healthy one; the rest will come from there. [Read more about Roman Quinn here.]
Prediction: .260 AVG / .330 OBP / .360 SLG / 2 HR / 8 SB / 14 RBI / 0.6 WAR
– Daniel Walsh

Deeper down

Mickey Moniak – Despite being only 18 years old, the 2016 No. 1 overall pick will have all eyes on him when he starts in centerfield for single-A Lakewood this year. He put on 20 pounds of muscle this offseason, so look for his power to increase. [Read more about Mickey Moniak here.]
– Kirsten Swanson

>>> Depth assessment >>>

The first piece of the long-term puzzle is in place with Herrera. If Quinn falters, Herrera stays in center, but if Quinn flies, anything can happen. Either way the Phils are in good shape here, at least through 2023.
– Tim Malcolm

CORNER OUTFIELD

(Or, plugging the holes.)

Howie Kendrick – Kendrick, a career .290 hitter, had a down year to his standards, hitting just .255 with the Dodgers. Kendrick will provide the Phils what they lacked all of last season: a “professional” hitter. [Read more about Howie Kendrick here.]
Prediction: .272 AVG / .337 OBP / .378 SLG / 12 HR / 46 RBI / 7 SB / 1.1 WAR
– Corey Sharp

Photo by Keith Allison

Michael Saunders – Signing Saunders was the right move for the Phillies, who needed a short-term, left-handed outfielder with some pop who could stop the gap until whippersnappers like Quinn, Williams, et al. show up in the show. Now, it depends on whether they get the right Saunders — while his first half included 16 home runs, a .298 batting average and a trip to the All-Star Game in 2016, his .178 batting average in the second half was second-worst in baseball (min. 200 PA). He should be able to shrug off that poor stretch, but his health has never been a sure thing, either. The Phillies hope he will be a difference maker in a batting order that desperately needs one. [Read more about Michael Saunders here.]
Prediction: .240 AVG / .310 OBP / .430 SLG / 18 HR / 2 SB / 50 RBI / 1.4 WAR
– Daniel Walsh

On the fringe

Daniel Nava – The former Red Sox and non-roster invitee is hitting well enough to push his case for a bench spot in 2016. But with Altherr able to play all outfield positions, and offering a similar skill set, Nava may prove too redundant. [Read more about Daniel Nava here.]
– Tim Malcolm

Tyler Goeddel – Goeddel remained on the 25-man roster the entire season, meaning the Phils get to keep the 23-year-old outfielder. The former Rule 5 pick will be stationed in triple-A to start the year, but a short stint with the Phils, perhaps in September, cannot be ruled out. [Read more about Tyler Goeddel here.]
Prediction: .123 AVG / .198 OBP / .212 SLG / 1 HR / 2 RBI / 1 SB / -0.2 WAR
– Corey Sharp

Next in line

Nick Williams – It’s not unusual for big-deal prospects to hit a bump in the road when they come close to the majors, and it’s possible that Williams’ struggles in 2016 could partly be owed to trying to swing his way to Philadelphia. Also troubling were reports that his attitude had slumped alongside his play, leading some to wonder if he had the “makeup” to be the all-star caliber major leaguer they initially hoped to see. He came into 2017 camp admitting that his swing and his attitude both needed adjusting, which may instill in him the patience to let his tools and athleticism work for instead of against him. He still has the potential to be a very good player with no unbearable weaknesses, with the potential to hit for average and power while playing okay defense somewhere in the outfield. [Read more about Nick Williams here.]
– Daniel Walsh

Dylan Cozens – Hopefully 50 at bats or so as a September call-up. I’m way more interested in his Lehigh Valley stats for 2017. [Read more about Dylan Cozens here.]
Prediction: .216 AVG / .280 OBP / .410 SLG / 2 HR / 11 RBI / 2 SB / -0.3 WAR
– Michael Sadowski

Lost in the shuffle

Cameron Perkins – The bench competition is tight and with Brock Stassi’s versatility at first base and outfield, it looks like Perkins is the odd man out. Perkins will hope to get more playing time in Lehigh Valley when/if Nick Williams is called up. [Read more about Cameron Perkins here.]
– Kirsten Swanson

Andrew Pullin – Pullin has been sidelined with an oblique strain this spring, which puts him out of the running for a bench job. He’ll likely spend the year in Lehigh Valley with the likes of Nick Williams getting the call before him. [Read more about Andrew Pullin here.]
– Kirsten Swanson

Deeper down

Carlos Tocci – It feels like Tocci has been around the Phillies organization forever, but he still isn’t close to joining the big-league club. Still just 21, he did well for the Clearwater Threshers in 2016, slashing .284 /.331/.362. He has Ben Revere-type power, which is to say none whatsoever, but his good defense in center has some hoping he can get on base enough to stay afloat. [Read more about Carlos Tocci here.]
– Daniel Walsh

Cornelius Randolph – Randolph’s ability to hit for average hasn’t been doubted at any point in his professional career, but it’s the only tool that can be said about. A successful year for him would include looking comfortable with a glove on and finding enough power to be suited as a left fielder, the position he’s fallen into. [Read more about Cornelius Randolph here.]
– Daniel Walsh

>>> Depth assessment >>>

Klentak’s strategy of filling the corner holes short-term is wise – there’s no certainty at all with Cozens, Goeddel and Williams (plus Altherr, who also plays the corners). The hope is that one of the prospects is stout enough to fill one of the outfield holes, joining Herrera and potentially Quinn, or Herrera and a 2018 or 2019 acquisition, or Quinn and a 2018 or 2019 acquisition. Bottom line: there’s flexibility here, but questions will be answered this year. Beyond 2019, the corners look a lot more worrisome.
– Tim Malcolm

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