A Too Early Look at the 25-Man Roster: Outfield Locks
With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Clearwater on February 13th–three short weeks from now–it is certainly early to look forward to which 25 players will emerge from Spring Training as members of the Phillies Opening Day roster. This week, we’ll look at the locks to break camp with the Major League club before turning to potential roster battles in the final two weeks before pitchers and catchers report.
Odubel Herrera (CF): After signing his extension and averaging 4.0 rWAR over his first two seasons in the major leagues, Herrera is undoubtedly the Phillies starting center fielder not only in 2017, but for years to come. Herrera showed a number of promising improvements in 2016 over his rookie season:
Despite the slight backtrack toward the end of the season in his plate discipline numbers, Herrera’s 2016 season, overall, established him as much more than a Rule 5 pick with a fluky debut. This is a potentially multi-time All-Star.
Howie Kendrick (LF): Kendrick will be the team’s Opening Day left fielder. He was the first subject of our weekly “Who Are You” series. Kendrick was available for the low price Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney because he is a flawed player. He doesn’t hit for power of any sort and plays below-average defense in the outfield. Flawed or not, what is important for the Phillies is that Kendrick is decidedly less flawed than players like Tyler Goeddel and Cody Asche who roamed the left corner of the outfield in 2016.
Michael Saunders (RF): Like Kendrick, Saunders is new to the organization after signing a one-year, $9 million deal with a team option for 2018. We’ll go into more depth on him in a Who Are You post, but the short version is that Saunders is a marked improvement over Jimmy Paredes, Peter Bourjos, and 2016 Aaron Altherr in right field. He hit .298/.372/.551 in the first half, which earned him his first career All-Star selection. His performance cratered in the second half with a .178/.282/.357 batting line. All told, his overall performance was worth 1.3 rWAR and represented something of an offensive breakout with career bests in just about every power metric from home runs to slugging average to isolated power to hard hit rate.
Aaron Altherr (Bench): While it strikes me as somewhat odd to label a 4th outfielder as a lock to make the team, it’s hard to find a scenario where Altherr doesn’t. With Dylan Cozens, Nick Williams, and Roman Quinn slated to start in the Lehigh Valley outfield, there’s no room to sen Altherr down. After a promising 2015 debut in which he posted 1.7 rWAR in 161 plate appearances, a Spring Training injury kept him out through the All-Star break and may have contributed to diminished power upon his return. Even at possibly less than 100% strength, Altherr showed that he can be a valuable defender and baserunner. If his bat comes back, he’s a fixture in the Phillies outfield for years to come. If it doesn’t, he’ll be in this bench role for a while.
This series will return next week with examinations of some potential Spring Training roster battles.