CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies will begin their season three weeks from today, so now is relatively safe time to begin roster predictions. They have played 12 Grapefruit League games, a small sample size of meaningless baseball. But injury situations, some cuts, and early performances provide a hint to the possible construction.
A few caveats:
1. This is a projection of what I think the Phillies will do, based upon conversations with team officials and rival scouts. This is not what I necessarily think is the best roster. (Maybe it is.)
2. Things change. There are 18 Grapefruit League games remaining. Trades happen. Waiver claims are frequent during the final week of camp.
3. Roster politics matter. The Phillies need depth. That decides some of these spots.
4. Opening day rosters are just that, for opening day. If you'll recall, Ender Inciarte and Raul Valdes broke camp with the Phillies last spring.
Now, onto the projection:
The Phillies have real depth this year. Cameron Rupp will go to triple-A Lehigh Valley, and is a capable replacement should Ruiz or Nieves be hurt. Lou Marson will back up Rupp in the minors.
The top five players are locks. Frandsen is a favorite for one of the bench jobs, but not yet a lock, according to team officials.
John Mayberry Jr.
And here come the pretzels. Yes, the Phillies are trying to trade Mayberry. They have dangled him all winter and spring. This projection assumes the Phillies do not find a trading partner for Mayberry. Why does he make the team over Darin Ruf? Well, right now, the Phillies lack significant outfield depth. They can option Ruf to the minors. Mayberry can refuse a minor-league assignment. This projection is about retaining depth, something stressed by Ruben Amaro Jr.
Abreu has not impressed during early Grapefruit League action. He has time. He must show improvement to make the team. This projection assumes he will demonstrate more competency. If he doesn't, there are other scenarios. The Phillies could go with Ruf and Tony Gwynn Jr. over Mayberry and Abreu.
The Phillies do not need a fifth starter until April 14. They are likely to use a four-man rotation through the season's first 12 games.
Justin De Fratus
A four-man rotation allows the Phillies to carry an extra reliever for the first two weeks. For now, let's make that Kevin Munson. He is a Rule 5 pick who has struggled with control in spring games. But there is no harm in keeping him around for a longer look given the disappointments of other relievers in camp.
Jeremy Horst and Phillippe Aumont have been erratic thus far. Both have minor-league options remaining. Shawn Camp has thrown strikes. He is a veteran arm who can pitch multiple innings. He is the quintessential long man for a bullpen. That earns him a spot on this team.
The fifth starter — whether it be Jeff Manship, Sean O'Sullivan or David Buchanan — can open the season at Lehigh Valley to remain stretched out and pitch on a starter's schedule. Again, the Phillies do not need a fifth starter until April 14.
DISABLED LIST (4)
Adams could return sometime in April if his recovery continues to progress without issue. A return date for Hamels is all conjecture until he actually throws from a mound.
Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.