Here we are on March 13th, inching closer and closer to Opening Day. Phillies sit at 8-7 as they continue to ramp up and shake off the offseason rust. Looking at this lineup that is filled with all stars, it’s easy to forget how important the bench is. It is utterly impossible to go through a full 162 game season without dealing with some sort of time missed for players ranging from short- and long-term injuries, paternity and bereavement absences, suspensions, Covid etc. Coming into Spring Training, one of the biggest questions for the team was if they could handle missing Bryce Harper until July and who will fill in. Well one question does remain…. Does the bench have enough to keep the Phillies alive should they be called upon.
Entering camp, one of the main concerns from fans was if the bench had enough after the Gregory Soto trade. Back on January 9th, the Phillies traded Nick Maton & Matt Vierling, two pieces of the NL Champion roster that were expected to be contributors off the bench, leaving 2 spots open and up for grabs this spring. Phillies entered camp with Edmundo Sosa, Josh Harrison & Garrett Stubbs 100% locked in with what seemed like 2 to 3 spots up for grabs. Stubbs is locked in as the backup catcher and continues to be a great presence in the locker room. Josh Harrison was brought in as a utility infielder, bringing another veteran presence to the team. Harrison’s contract is fully guaranteed with no minor league options, meaning he is locked into a spot. Lastly, Edmundo Sosa is firmly planted as the Phillies utility gadget, also working on Center Field this offseason to help give some time off to Brendan Marsh.
One of these remaining bench spots seems destined for Darick Hall, expected to fill in at DH until July, while Bryce Harper rehabs from Tommy John surgery. Hall is especially important to the team to help bring a power bat from the left side to the lineup. Phillies currently have 5 of their first 6 hitters (Realmuto, Hoskins, Turner, Bohm, Castellanos) all hitting from the right side, so it is vital that Hall produces from the left. Hall has been great so far this spring, going 9 for19 with 4 homers and 7 RBIs. These stats are showing improvement from Hall after working all offseason on hitting off-speed pitching and being more selective at the plate. Let’s hope his work with Kevin Long this offseason can help fill in for some of the missing production from Bryce, although its impossible for someone to replace our MVP.
That leaves 2 spots left with a few interesting names battling it out; Kody Clemons, Scott Kingery, Jake Cave, and Daulton Guthrie. Kody Clemens, the son of Roger Clemens, was acquired from Detroit in the Gregory Soto trade. He’s had a strong spring so far, hitting just under 300 with 2bombs. Clemens seems to be a good utility infielder, however, with Sosa and Harrison already locked in, he may be sent down, still having minor league options. Daulton Guthrie, who some expected to be a lock to make the team due to his outfield experience has struggled mightily at the plate, currently hitting a measly 1for20 with 6ks. Two names that no one seemed to be counting on though have been scorching hot and have firmly put themselves in the conversation, Scott Kingery and Jake Cave. Cave signed in the offseason with the hopes to find his form after a terrible back injury cost him the 2022 season. Cave, a centerfielder by trade, is also a left handed bat which could hinder his chances as our starting centerfield, Brandon Marsh is also a lefty. You typically would like someone that hits from the opposite side, to give Marsh a night off against certain pitchers. Cave has made the most of the opportunity though, going 11 for 24 with 2 homers, 6 RBIs, flashed speed with a stolen base and has great splits, .458/.519/1.477. He has done everything he can so far to earn a spot.
Lastly, we must talk about the forgotten child, Scott Kingery. Kingery, as many of you know, was project to be a star for the Phillies. He signed a massive deal before ever taking an at bat, but injuries and major offensive struggles have turned him into a complete afterthought. Previous management had focused on launch angle changes, seemingly ruining Kingery’s swing and ultimately his confidence. Once a hitter loses confidence, they are doomed at the plate. Then came the injuries. Finally healthy, Kingery spent the entire off-season working with Kevin Long, revamping his swing to incorporate his lower half. Kingery looks as confident as ever and it’s shown in his spring stats, where he is batting 10 for 21, a hefty .476 average, .542 OBP and 1.161 OPS. Scotty Jetpack talked with reporters recently about the work he did this offseason and was quoted as saying this is the first time he’s been healthy in 4 years. Kingery is not currently on the 40 man roster, meaning someone would have to be released for him to be added to the lineup. I think we can all agree, we’d love to see Kingery make the team eventually this year and revive his career from where it currently stands. Phillies have about 2 weeks left to make these tough decisions, but best believe, Dombrowski and staff have some tough decisions to make.