Spring training games are officially back, and while the games certainly do not count, it is a crucial point in the year for players on the fringes of the roster to make a good impression.
Good performances in Clearwater don’t always translate to the regular season. But they can impact roster decisions, and each at-bat or inning pitched could be make-or-break for some players.
So, which current and former Phillies have had the best spring training performances?
Chris Coste (2006) — .463/.500/.805
Coste – who was 33 at the time, and had never played in the majors – put on a show in Clearwater entering the 2007 season. He went 19-for-41 over 25 games, including five doubles and three home runs, while driving in 11 runs along the way.
His performance was not enough to put Coste on the major league roster to begin the season. That said, he received a call-up in late May, and played well in his rookie season, slashing .328/.376/.505 across 65 games.
Coste was the Phillies primary backup catcher over the next two seasons, playing 98 games during their World Series season in 2008.
Brock Stassi (2017) — .306/.368/.645
Stassi entered the 2017 season as a longshot to make the Phillies roster. But he quickly became a big story as he tore it up in spring training — he hit six home runs and had 17 RBIs — and made the Opening Day roster.
While Stassi did not stick around long with the Phillies, he hit two home runs over the course of 51 games. He has not appeared in the majors since.
Maikel Franco (2016) — .294/.333/.721
Franco entered 2016 coming off a rookie season that saw him post an .840 OPS in 80 games, and cemented his place as the third baseman of the future with a spectacular spring.
His breakout led many to believe that Franco might be the cornerstone piece the Phillies needed to emerge from their long rebuild. Unfortunately for Franco and the Phillies, he never reached that level and was non-tendered by the team following the 2019 season.
It might feel like forever ago, but it is undeniable that in the spring of 2016 everyone was conviced that Franco was the future.
Franco, currently a free agent, has 24 career spring training home runs.
Scott Kingery (2018) — .411/.441/.786
Would the Phillies have handed Kingery a six-year, $24 million extension had it not been for this performance in spring training?
Kingery, who was, at that point, the top position player prospect in the Phillies farm system, was coming off a season in which he slashed .304/.359/.530 across 132 games split between Reading and Lehigh Valley.
He continued this success into Clearwater, where he hit 10 extra-base hits in 22 games, and the Phillies signed him to the contract extension that covered all of his arbitration years — before he had played a single game at the major league level.
Vince Velasquez (2016-2018) – 2.50 ERA, 10.67 K/9
While he has often disappointed in the regular season, Velasquez has a reputation for looking very good in the spring. His best stretch game during his first three seasons, when he seemed to always flash his best stuff.
It’s unclear if he will even have a spot in the rotation this season, but Velasquez looked great again in his first outing this spring when he struck out three hitters in two perfect innings.
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