Peek at Phils' possible 2016 lineup
Opening Day is probably the last thing on your mind if you're still removing snow and dealing with the leftover soreness from shoveling out after the weekend's winter storm.
But the start of baseball season is closer than you think.
The Philadelphia Phillies' pitchers and catchers report for spring training in Clearwater, Florida., in just more than three weeks and their first regular-season game is in less than 10 weeks.
While that's not exactly right around the corner, it's certainly not too early to take a look at which players the Phillies will roll out at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati on April 4.
Obviously, injuries and surprises at spring training can change these projections, as well as any additional acquisitions be it through a trade or free agency. It's not likely the Phillies will make any major moves with some big names still unsigned, although new GM Matt Klentak isn't ruling anything out.
"I think it's possible," Klentak said Thursday night at the Phillies Winter Banquet in Bethlehem, referring to the possibility of making additional moves. "We are continuing to survey the market … We're on the phone, we're talking to the agents and other clubs — sometimes they come in trades. So we continue to be active but it's hard to handicap it at this point who, if anybody, it may be. But if there's any opportunity out there, we're going to try to pursue it."
So with that in mind, let's take a look at what could be the Phillies 2016 Opening Day roster.
Infield: Third baseman Maikel Franco, shortstop Freddy Galvis, second baseman Cesar Hernandez, first basemen Darin Ruf/Ryan Howard.
This might be the easiest area to predict since the moves made over the offseason have affected the infield the least of any part of the team. Once again you'll have Franco at third, who could easily be the team's All-Star in 2016, with Galvis running out to shortstop for at least one more season as J.P. Crawford continues to rise through the minor league ranks.
Hernandez's 2015 ended early after he dislocated his thumb Sept. 13 but he'll be ready to go for his first-ever start on Opening Day.
First base should be the only question as far the infield goes. Will it be between Howard or Ruf? It very likely depends on the pitching matchup. Ruf could get the nod if the Phillies face a left-hander, Howard if there's a righty on the mound. That's how they're expected to handle the platoon unless someone proves they're hitting well enough to play every day.
There's also a chance the Phillies, figuring it'll be Howard's last season with the team, could go with the 36-year-old veteran, giving him one last Opening Day start for Philadelphia.
Outfield: Left fielder Odubel Herrera, center fielder Peter Bourjos, right fielder Aaron Altherr.
Even though there have been some additions, and another minor league signing with an invite to spring training on Monday (outfielder David Lough) this offseason, it looks as though the three starting outfielders are pretty much set.
Which outfield position they are slotted in is a different story.
Herrera and Altherr return from 2015 and should be in the Opening Day lineup. Either of them can, and have, played center but don't be surprised to see Herrera begin the season in left and Altherr in right. That would be a bit of a switch from last year when Herrera spent a majority of his time in center and Altherr often found himself in left after his call-up on Aug. 18.
That would leave center field open for Bourjos, whom the Phillies claimed off waivers Dec. 2 from the Cardinals.
There are still other options, among them Cody Asche and Rule 5 pick Tyler Goeddel, but Herrera, Bourjos and Altherr are pretty safe bets at this point.
Pitcher: Right-hander Aaron Nola, right-handfer Jerad Eickhoff, right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, right-hander Charlie Morton, right-hander Vincent Velasquez.
There's quite a bit of competition for the starting rotation but as far as the Opening Day starter goes, there's much less.
The most popular choice would probably be Nola and that's likely who it will be.
From there, look for Morton and Hellickson, both veterans acquired in trades this offseason, to grab spots, along with Eickhoff, who impressed last year as a rookie.
There will be quite a fight for the fifth spot and it could come down to two pieces of the return from Houston in the Ken Giles deal.
Brett Oberholtzer and Vincent Velasquez are both pitchers the Phillies are excited about and want to see in the rotation. If Velasquez, 23, proves he has the stuff in spring, give the final rotation opening to him.
That would put all righties in the rotation, but the Phillies don't seem to be completely opposed to that. If they are, Oberholtzer, a lefty, is the fifth man.
Catcher: Cameron Rupp.
All signs point to Rupp as the team's starting catcher.
He took the job from Carlos Ruiz last season and showed he could handle things defensively while even going on a power surge in August, hitting seven of his nine home runs in the month. It'll be interesting to see if he turns things around at the plate from the final month of the season where he hit just .186 in 21 games with only two extra base hits.
Bench: Infielder/outfielder Cody Asche, infielder/outfielder Tyler Goeddel, infielder Andres Blanco, catcher Carlos Ruiz
Asche and Goeddel were already mentioned above so throw them in the mix here since they likely won't start.
Plus, as a Rule 5 pick, Goeddel must stay on the 25-man roster all season or the Phillies have to offer him back to Tampa Bay so unless he really disappoints in February and March, expect him to have a spot somewhere. He has played the infield but the Phillies took him as an outfielder and would like him to earn a spot there.
The Phillies also like versatility and Asche is a guy who can play both infield and outfield. Another player who can do that, who was also mentioned previously, is Ruf. Whoever starts at first base, slot the other in a bench spot, but it doesn't mean much since they'll likely platoon.
Blanco and the Phillies avoided arbitration in December when he agreed to a one-year deal so figure the 31-year-old utility infielder good for a spot.
Then you need a backup catcher and that will be Ruiz who is in the final year of his contract (his 2017 club option will likely be bought out).
Bullpen: Right-hander David Hernandez, right-hander Edward Mujica, right-hander Ernesto Frieri, left-hander Elvis Araujo, left-hander Daniel Stumpf, right-hander Dalier Hinojosa, right-hander Jeanmar Gomez.
The bullpen will be pretty much anybody's guess right now as spring will decide a lot of these positions.
Just as with starting pitching, the Phillies have brought in quite a few arms to increase the competition. Stumpf is their other Rule 5 pick, which means he's not guaranteed a spot especially with the number of pitchers they have to choose from, but he'll certainly get a longer look than he normally might.
Look for Hernandez to take the closer's role out of the gate with pretty much all the other spots up for grabs.