A three part series on this year’s Phillies spring training beginning with big league camp followed by minor league camp observances. The Phillies 2023 Grapefruit League record was 16-15-1.
Our camp coverage started in January with the big league camp early arrivals activities concurrent to Minor League Mini Camp. We were afforded multiple opportunities throughout the past couple of months to interact and chat baseball with many Phillies folks, always appreciative of the chances to learn more about the game.
As we now approach the regular season here are some observances.
The Initial 26 :
No major league team uses only 26 players to get thru a season however it’s a huge honor to be part of the opening day roster. The 2023 Phillies will seemingly open the season with eight home grown players, ten who signed as free agents, six acquired via trade and two obtained as waiver claims. Injuries to expected regulars such as Ranger Suarez, Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins certainly altered the initial roster but when opportunities knock others must answer the call. Here’s the initial 26, assuming no acquisitions before Thursday.
Pitchers : 13 - Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Taijuan Walker, Bailey Falter, Matt Strahm, Gregory Soto, Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, Andrew Bellatti, Craig Kimbrel, Connor Brogdon, Andrew Vasquez, Yunior Marte.
Catchers : 2 - JT Realmuto, Garrett Stubbs.
Infielders : 6 - Darick Hall, Bryson Stott, Trea Turner, Alec Bohm, Josh Harrison, Edmundo Sosa.
Outfielders : 5 - Kyle Schwarber, Brandon Marsh, Nick Castellanos, Jake Cave, Dalton Guthrie.
Update : 3/29/23 : the Phillies acquired center fielder Cristian Pache from the Oakland A's - he will be on the opening day roster now replacing TBD
Both Scott Kingery and Kody Clemens had very good camps and put themselves on the radar as players who can help the big club this season when called upon. They will now go play regularly for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs at the AAA level. What a difference a year makes for Scotty, last season he remained in extended spring training continuing to work his way back from shoulder surgery. From our observances he’s always been a great teammate, loves playing the game and is a fella who’s easy to root for. At the end of last season he was showing signs of turning the corner and as previously reported by other outlets worked diligently this off season with Kevin Long to adjust his swing. A few years back when I was watching him play at Reading a scout told me he was the best player on the field, there’s a major league skill set within him, this spring showed it’s near to surfacing once again - good stuff.
Under the Radar :
Each year in spring training there are players that don’t get a lot of notoriety however have really good camps, their efforts don’t go unnoticed by the instructors and administrators or other daily observers. Often times these fellas move up the ranks during the summer and positively impact the season - even at the major league level. Here’s a few that I’ve noticed this spring who might just provide sparks this summer.
UTL Weston Wilson - signed as a minor league free agent on 1/13/23 from the Milwaukee Brewers organization with whom he has previously spent his entire career after being chosen in the 17th round of the 2016 draft from Clemson University. This spring he went 11 for 38 (.289) with 3 doubles, 2 home runs and 9 RBIs. The 28 year old showed great defensive versatility playing all four infield positions plus the two corner outfield spots. I suspect he plays the same type of role with AAA Lehigh Valley and will be at the ready if called upon to make his major league debut.
RHP Trey Cobb - taken in the minor league phase of the rule 5 draft on 12/7/22 from the New York Mets organization where he has previously spent his entire career after being drafted in the 8th round of the 2017 draft from Oklahoma State University. This spring the 28 year old side armer appeared in six Grapefruit League games posting a 0.00 ERA in 6 1/3 IP with twelve K’s and only one walk. I first noticed his delivery and pitch repertoire watching him in a side bullpen session on the seven mounds area at the complex. He throws a heavy sinker and has a very good change up that has minimal spin (looked like a knuckle ball to me) which when coupled with his unique arm slot makes for a difficult AB for opposing hitters. If he continues to perform like he did this spring during the upcoming AAA regular season then a big league debut this year just might become reality.
RHP McKinley Moore - acquired on 3/29/22 from the Chicago White Sox in a trade that sent outfielder Adam Haseley to Chicago. McKinley was the White Sox 14th round draft selection in the 2019 draft from Arkansas Little Rock. He appeared in nine Grapefruit League games this spring accumulating 9 1/3 innings - struck out eleven batters while walking just one and posted a 0.00 ERA along with a 0.64 WHIP. Last season at Reading he showed flashes of dominance striking out 71 batters in 49 2/3 innings pitched but also battled command issues at times. The stuff can shine thru if he can throw strikes consistently and command the zone like he did this spring. The speed gun : fastball (sits in a range of 95 to 99 mph - max 100), slider (86 to 92 mph), change up (87 to 95 mph). Will open the season with AAA Lehigh Valley but the 24 year old is likely to be on speed dial to make his major league debut when the need arises.
C John Hicks - signed on 11/16/22 to a minor league contract, the 33 year old veteran had a solid spring appearing in 17 Grapefruit League games even playing a few innings at first base. He’s a solid defender who’s got some pop (20 home runs for AAA Iowa in 2022) and will provide a viable big league catching option at AAA Lehigh Valley if needed while Rafael Marchan continues to heal from a hand bruise. Hicks has played in 264 major league games in his twelve year pro career. Aramis Garcia (30 years old) is another veteran catcher (signed 2/16/23) who played well this spring and has major league experience - 116 games with the Giants, A’s and Reds. Along with Hicks he will provision experienced catching depth at the AAA level of play.
In our next article in this series we will chat about some standout minor league pitchers we saw this spring in minor league camp. Following that will be part three discussing minor league position players who impressed during minor league spring training camp.
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Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️