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Spring forward: Phillies have lots of questions

Posted by Eric Fisher On February 14

The euphoria from the Eagles’ parade is still going strong, but it’s already time to turn our attention – at least part of it – toward spring training.

Believe it or not, Phillies pitchers and catchers held first workout today (Wednesday, Feb. 14). Let’s try to make the sudden shift from the Eagles to the Phillies by posing 10 questions to consider during spring training.

How will the atmosphere be different under manager Gabe Kapler?

The energetic first-year manager is certain to put his own stamp on training camp. We’ll just have to wait to see how training camp is different.

Who will be the fifth starter in the rotation?

Let’s assume Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff are definitely in the rotation. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta appear to have the inside track to earn two other spots in the rotation. That would leave Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson, Tom Eshelman and Mark Leiter Jr. competing for the fifth and final spot in the rotation. There is also a possibility that the Phillies sign a veteran pitcher to fill that fifth spot.

Should the Phillies count on Vince Velasquez to be in the starting rotation?

Expect a slew of “will this be the year that Velasquez breaks out/reaches his potential/learns to pitch?” stories, just as has been the case the last few spring trainings. With Velasquez’s arm, he never seems to run out of chances. But injuries, failing to pitch smart and a lack of confidence have caused Velasquez to struggle in recent years. At what point will the Phillies move on to someone else?

How much better will the bullpen be than in past years?

The Phillies have loaded up the bullpen with veterans. They might not all pan out, but there are enough of them out there that at least a few should make a positive difference. Francisco Rodriguez, a non-roster invitee to training camp, is the big name. Pat Neshek returned to the Phillies during  the offseason, and the Phillies also acquired Tommy Hunter. Returning candidates for the bullpen including last year’s closer, Hector Neris, along with Luis Garcia, Mark Leiter Jr., Adam Morgan, Edubray Ramos and Hoby Milner.

Can J.P. Crawford hit at the major-league level?

Nobody imagined that when Freddy Galvis was traded, it may be more difficult to replace his bat than his glove. J.P. Crawford can’t possibly be as good in the field as Galvis, who should have won a Gold Glove last season. But the bigger questions surrounding Crawford concern his bat. Spring training isn’t the best test of a player’s production at the plate, but Crawford’s spring training performance could provide an indication of whether he will be adequate offensively during the regular season.

How will Rhys Hoskins adjust to playing left field?

With Carlos Santana starting at first base, rookie sensation Hoskins moves to left field. We should be able to tell during spring training if Hoskins can be an adequate left fielder. Another concern is whether the change in position will affect the power-hitting Hoskins at the plate. The connection might not be logical, but struggles in the field can sometimes affect a player’s performance at the plate.

Who will be the fifth outfielder?

Barring a trade or an injury, Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera and Nick Williams should be the starting outfielders, with Aaron Altherr receiving spots starts at all three outfield positions. Will the fifth outfielder be a speedy player, such as Roman Quinn, or a power hitter, such as Dylan Cozens? The Phillies could select a player with the versatility to play outfield and infield. Having Quinn work out at shortstop could be an indication that Quinn could be the fifth outfielder if he’s able to play adequate defense at shortstop.

Can Maikel Franco develop more consistency?

Franco has been streaky during his Phillies career. When he’s hot, he crushes the ball. But those hot streaks have been interspersed among long droughts, during which Franco is an unproductive player. Spring training isn’t always an accurate barometer, but, if Franco struggles during spring training, he might not receive as much leeway from manager Gabe Kapler during the regular season.

Who will become the backup catcher?

Andrew Knapp and Cameron Rupp will battle to backup Jorge Alfaro. Rupp has more power, but Knapp is considered a better defensive catcher.

Who will be the utility infielder?

The more versatile, the better. ThePhillies might be looking for a backup infielder who can also play outfield. Pedro Florimon and Jesmuel Valentin are two of the top candidates for the utility infield position(s) – at least until second baseman Scott Kingery gets called up to the majors.

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Side angle of Cody Parkey's missed field goal