|Gabe Kapler opens first season as Phillies skipper|
There are a great many changes in the Phillies lineup and dugout from a year ago. In my Phillies preview piece a year ago prior to 2017 Opening Day in Cincinnati, I stated "The lineup taking the field next week at Great American Ballpark should look very different from the one that will come to Florida next winter."
That 2017 Phillies preview piece is well worth re-reading, because I was fairly dead-on in my assessment of where the team was at that point, and where they would be headed for this upcoming campaign.
Gone are the "placeholder" players, as I have been calling them over the last few years. Dom Brown and Cody Asche have been joined by Freddy Galvis, Tommy Joseph, and Cameron Rupp in being shown the door.
While other writers and even some team personnel were lauding some of these players in recent years, I told you consistently that the club would not win until they turned the page from that group. I really do hate to say that I told you so, but...
So here we are, at the dawn of what should be the next era of contending Phillies baseball. The team is not going to win the World Series this season. They are not even likely to make the playoffs.
But for the first time in years we have a group of talented young players who bring hope for a brighter future that is right around the corner.
They are led by a new-era style skipper in Gabe Kapler who is in better shape than any of them, and who has already demanded that they must "Be Bold" when approaching each game, as well as in preparing off the field.
Let's take a look around the diamond at those players. Who is likely to start for the Phillies this season? What can we expect to see as the summer unfolds? How will the club finish? Will there be any big moves?
RELATIVELY SET LINEUP ROLES
There was much talk about lineup versatility and positional flexibility from Kapler this spring down in Clearwater. But as the regular season opens, I'm not really buying that we will see a lot of that from most of the lineup pieces.
Given health, Phillies fans are going to watch a lineup most nights that includes Carlos Santana at 1st base, Cesar Hernandez at 2nd, J.P. Crawford at shortstop, and Maikel Franco at 3rd base. Jorge Alfaro will be behind the plate.
Across the outfield it will be Rhys Hoskins in left, Odubel Herrera in center field, and Nick Williams in right.
Three players who will come off the bench are going to play pivotal roles. Talented rookie Scott Kingery could play almost anywhere. Aaron Altherr should see plenty of time backing up all three of the outfielders. And backup catcher Andrew Knapp will get plenty of work as well.
Kapler decided to keep versatile infielder Pedro Florimon on the opening roster. He can play second base, shortstop, and even some third base in a pinch.
That "versatility" and "flexibility" is likely to come from finding ways to get Kingery into the lineup, and in juggling the four main outfielders. You might also see Hoskins play some first base, giving Santana a break against some tough lefties.
I expect that the lineup might still struggle to consistently score runs in the early going. That is a product of a combination of factors, mostly their overall youth and the typically cold early weather.