Opinion

Phillies latest loss underscores a not-so-secret problem



Dylan Cozens / Photo by: Lauren McLaughlin

The Phillies lost 8-2 to the Dodgers on Wednesday night, a game that never really seemed winnable for the boys. Zach Eflin (4 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 5 K, 1 BB) just couldn’t keep the ball in the yard while the Phils didn’t get much going against Ross Stripling.

Now they’ll try to split the series against Los Angeles, which would be great. Honestly, a split against the Dodgers – no matter how poorly they’re playing – is what you want.

But the loss underscored a key issue the Phils have been facing recently: lack of depth. They don’t have to remedy it as soon as possible, but we should keep it in mind when expecting playoffs from this group, because maybe it’ll help us come back to earth a little.

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On Tuesday night the Phillies lost Pedro Florimon to a foot injury, so they did what I figured they’d do: call up Mitch Walding and put Jerad Eickhoff on the 60-day disabled list.

Walding’s major league career started as badly as any hitter’s: 0-for-4, four strikeouts. Frankly I’m surprised Gabe Kapler penciled him in. On Tuesday night he was in Allentown. He flew across the country, had to acclimate himself quickly to the clubhouse (it wasn’t like he was in big league camp for very long this spring), then had to get right into the mix at Dodger Stadium, a pretty cool place to start a career. I know Kapler wanted Maikel Franco to get a day off, but why not start Jesmuel Valentin at third? Or Kingery, then move Valentin to shortstop? Anyway, felt rushed.

Now, Walding won’t be getting many more plate appearances, I gather, since J.P. Crawford is coming back shortly. But we just found out Wednesday that Rhys Hoskins has a fractured jaw, so now he’s on the disabled list. Getting the call is slugger Dylan Cozens, the 24-year-old who can hit the long ball but can also strike out a lot (hitting .226/.325/.440 with 10 HR, 75 K, 25 BB in 168 AB).

Maybe it’ll work out really well, and Cozens turns into some version of Aaron Judge and we’ll curse the front office for not bringing him up earlier or something. But more likely Cozens will be further exposed in the majors. He seems like a quad-A type, like a Darin Ruf type (though Cozens does have actual defensive skill in the outfield and is faster than most sluggers), and to me, that just shows how little depth the Phils have right now.

And that’s a big reason why I’m not sold on this team being a playoff contender.

What if Cesar Hernandez goes down? Well, imagine Crawford is back, which means Scott Kingery slides to second base. But what’s beyond that? Valentin for now, but the Phils currently have Alexi Amarista and Dean Anna in triple-A. Not exactly intimidating.

The outfield situation is troubling, too. Cozens was on the 40-man roster, so he got the call once there was a pseudo-starting spot open. But what if, say, Aaron Altherr gets hurt (which happens sometimes)?  Then we’re talking about Danny Ortiz, a 28-year-old with 12 major league at-bats to his name.

Catching is even worse. Say Jorge Alfaro is hurt; Andrew Knapp would obviously start, which isn’t a great option but has to happen. Who’s next? Nick Rickles? Matt McBride? Hard workers, good guys, but never proven at the major league level.

The pitching staff is in better shape, since there’s still a decent crop of prospects and semi-prospects bubbling underneath the majors, from Enyel de Los Santos to Cole Irvin to Tom Eshelman, to the ever-present Drew Anderson, Ben Lively and Jake Thompson. I’d imagine one or two more poor starts from Eflin means one of those above guys gets a chance to prove himself in the fifth-starter spot.

The Phils didn’t run out there and nab offensive role-player types over the offseason, only focusing on a big-ticket name like Carlos Santana. That’s fine for now, because the goal should be figuring out who among this group can compete on a major league roster. Is Walding good enough? What about Cozens? Valentin, Nick Williams, Scott Kingery – even some of the bigger prospects are still trying out for a future spot.

This is the time to test roster depth. The roster is designed to fall apart a little bit. Maybe something great comes of it, but more than likely we’re about to watch a couple young players flail and fail at the highest level. Again, that’s fine. Because this team was always shooting more for 2019 and 2020 than it was right now.

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