In 10 weeks, the Phillies will board a plane home from Clearwater, Fla., before flying to Cincinnati to start the 2017 season. That means there is plenty of time for things to change, but here is an early guess at the 25 players who will be leaving Clearwater with the Phillies.
Catcher: Cameron Rupp will enter the season as the starter with Andrew Knapp as his backup. Rupp started 104 games last season, but that number could be slightly less in 2017 as the Phillies need to get a look at Knapp, who was their minor-league player of the year in 2015.
First base: Tommy Joseph will be the team’s everyday first baseman with no true backup. Utility player Andres Blanco will give him the occasional spell, and Knapp also has the ability to play first. Joseph hit 21 homers last season in a timeshare with Ryan Howard. It will be interesting to see his production in a full-time role.
Second base: Cesar Hernandez batted a career-high .294 last season with a .371 on-base percentage, both of which were the fourth-best marks among National League second basemen. He will have to maintain that production to keep the second-base job past 2017. Scott Kingery will start the season at double A, and Jesmuel Valentin will start the season at triple A.
Shortstop: Freddy Galvis almost won a Gold Glove last season after leading National League shortstops in fielding percentage with a .987 mark. Galvis matched his glove with a surprising surge of power, as he hit 20 homers. But it was his on-base percentage that is most concerning. His .274 mark was the lowest in all of baseball. This will likely be his final Opening Day as the starting shortstop, with J.P. Crawford expected to arrive in Philadelphia sometime this season.
Third base: Maikel Franco will bat in the middle of the lineup as he enters 2017 with a bit more protection than he had at the start of last season. He managed to hit 25 homers and drive in 88 runs last year in an up-and-down year. Franco will turn 25 in August, and this season could be his chance to emerge as a real threat.
Left field: Michael Saunders will give the Phillies a lefthanded option to balance their lineup. He had a down year defensively last season, as he moved primarily to left field and was still recovering from missing most of the 2015 season with a knee injury. The Phillies will be willing to sacrifice some defense if Saunders can duplicate his first half of 2016, when he batted .298 with 16 homers and a .923 OPS.
Center field: Odubel Herrera will start on Opening Day as he enters the first year of the contract he signed in December. He seemed to get better defensively throughout the season, and the Phillies believe he will stay in center field. Herrera, who turned 25 in December, registered a 4.2 WAR last season. Not bad for a former Rule 5 draft pick.
Right field: The Phillies took a low-risk chance on Howie Kendrick, a natural infielder who the Phillies believe is athletic enough to be a solid defender in right field. He batted .291 with a .337 on-base percentage over five seasons before his production dipped in 2016. It was worth a shot to see if Kendrick, 33, can refind his form.
Bench: Aaron Altherr gives the Phillies a solid defensive replacement, and his bench role allows Altherr to work back slowly from last spring’s wrist surgery. Daniel Nava enters spring training as a non-roster invitee and has a real chance to win a job as a lefthanded hitter of the bench. Hector Gomez, who hit 21 homers last season in South Korea, could join Blanco as a reserve infielder.
Starting rotation: Veterans Jeremy Hellickson and Clay Buchholz will join the team’s young trio of Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, and Jerad Eickhoff. Nola says his arm is healthy after he was shut down in August. Velasquez’s season ended in early September after reaching an innings limit. Eickhoff was the only young pitcher to log a complete season. The Phillies used 10 starters last season, and they will have the arms at triple A to fill in if needed.
Bullpen: Jeanmar Gomez will have a place in the bullpen, but his role will likely change after he closed 37 games last season. The righthander pitches to contact and seemed to fade later in the season. Hector Neris struck out 102 batters last season in 80 1/3 innings, relying on a nasty splitter. It was the most strikeouts by a Phillies reliever since 1970. The righthander should continue to see work in high-leverage situations. Edubray Ramos made a good impression after reaching the majors in June, striking out 40 in 40 innings. He should work in the back of the bullpen and has a 95-mph fastball that could eventually be fit for a closer.
Righthander Pat Neshek, who was traded for in November, has a funky delivery and should be a reliable veteran arm. He has made 60 or more appearances in each of the last three seasons. Sean Burnett, whom the Phillies signed to a minor-league deal, and Joely Rodriguez, who pitched well after reaching the majors in September, give the Phillies a pair of lefthanded options.
Closer: The Phillies plan to have a competition in spring training to win the closer’s role, and a favorite is Joaquin Benoit, whom the team signed in December. Benoit, who will turn 40 in July, was last a closer in 2014 with Detroit. He was traded to Toronto last July and allowed just one run in 23 2/3 innings with 24 strikeouts and nine walks. He wasn’t the Blue Jays' closer, but he did have success in late innings of key games for a playoff team.