Updated: Wednesday, January 31, 2018, 11:04 AM
Roman Quinn reported to spring training last year knowing that his season would likely begin in triple A. The Phillies signed Michael Saunders a month before camp, and then-manager Pete Mackanin said he didn’t see a spot for Quinn.
This season is shaping up to be different. The speedy outfielder will start camp with the Phillies knowing there is a path for him to make the roster as a fifth outfielder.
The Phillies plan to enter the season with a shortened four-man bench as they lean toward building an eight-man bullpen. The bench will include a backup catcher, a fourth outfielder, and a utility infielder. The final spot could belong to Quinn.
“All of the positive attributes that he brings to the table — the speed, the athleticism, and the explosiveness — fits a profile that we don’t really have,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “At the same time, probably priority number one for Q is keeping him healthy and strong.”
The Phillies stole just 59 bases last season, the fifth-worst mark in baseball and their lowest total in 44 years. They have succeeded on just 69 percent of their steal attempts over the last two seasons, and only one player over that time — Odubel Herrera in 2016 — has stolen more than 17 bases in a season. The Phillies are desperate for speed, and a player such as Quinn, perhaps the organization’s best base-stealer, seems to be what the Phillies are missing.
Quinn, who will turn 25 in May, batted .274 last season with a .344 on-base percentage and 10 steals in 45 triple-A games. He was likely headed for a promotion before suffering an elbow injury at the end of May. Staying on the field has proven to be Quinn’s steepest challenge.
He has played just 180 games over the last three years. He has been dogged by a variety of injuries and has yet to play a full professional season. A bench role could be an ideal way to manage Quinn’s health and also utilize his potential game-changing speed. Quinn is an aggressive base runner and has averaged a steal in almost 40 percent of his minor-league games over the last two seasons. He reaches base at a high rate, and his 5-foot-10 frame has more power than expected.
Quinn has played all three outfield positions and has a strong arm. He broke into the minors as a shortstop and could play there in a pinch, fitting the versatility description that Kapler wants. There is certainly a place for Quinn. But first, he will have to prove he’s healthy.
“Everybody agrees that if this guy can stay on the field — and we can help him and support him staying on the field by being creative about the reps and perhaps dialing the reps back; I know he works his butt off — then we can capture some of that upside,” Kapler said. “There’s no question that he’s a very athletic individual that, if he’s healthy, can be a strong contributor.”
Read full story: Roman Quinn has a real chance to make the Phillies