The Philadelphia Phillies will have a starting lineup on April 3rd against the Reds that will look mostly different than the lineup they trotted out there to open the 2016 season. The likes of Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Peter Bourjos and Cedric Hunter will not be a part of the starting lineup this time around. Returning players Cesar Hernandez, Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, and Freddy Galvis are basically guaranteed to start at their respective positions once again come Opening Day. That leaves a few spots in the Opening Day lineup to be filled by some players that were part of the Phillies in 2016, and others that will be donning a Phillies uniform for the first time this Spring.
Cameron Rupp and Tommy Joseph, who were big parts of the Phillies’ 2016 success, will likely be making their first Opening Day starts this time around. Rupp, although it was already clear from the start that Chooch would be playing less than previous seasons, started the season as the second catcher on the Phillies’ depth chart. By the time Chooch was traded to the Dodgers, Rupp had established himself as a solid major league catcher, and he has earned his spot as the number one guy behind the plate to open the 2017 season for the Phils. As for Tommy Joseph, he started the 2016 season in Triple-A before making his Major League debut in May. Enjoying a rookie season in which he hit 21 home runs in 315 at-bats, Joseph has secured his spot on the right side of the diamond for the Phillies. Apparently he has spent most of this offseason studying the analytics behind his game and trying to figure out where he can approve in certain statistical categories. Hopefully it leads to a breakout sophomore campaign for the 25-year-old. The slugging first baseman hopes to make his mark as the next great Phillies first baseman.
This leads us to the spots not taken up by any of these aforementioned players. Hernandez, Herrera, Franco, Galvis, Rupp and Joseph fill up every defensive spot on the diamond, other than on the mound of course, except for the corner outfield spots. These two positions will most likely be filled by newcomers Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders. Kendrick, who saw time sparingly in Left Field for the Dodgers this past season, will likely transition there full time as a Phillie, while Saunders, who has seen most of his time in the big leagues in Left Field, will most likely shift on over to the right side. The comparison between the starting corner outfielders from 2016 to 2017 almost isn’t even fair. The tandem of Kendrick and Saunders, although it might not be the best in the league, most definitely looks better than the tandem of Cedric Hunter and Peter Bourjos that the Phils opened last season with. An established veteran in Kendrick and a 2016 AL All-Star in Saunders give the Phillies much more stability at the positions heading into 2017.
So now we know the personnel that the Opening Day lineup will likely consist of, but what will the batting order look like? Well, for comparison, let’s look at the 2016 Opening Day Lineup, with returning players in bold:
1.) Hernandez 2B
2.) Herrera CF
3.) Franco 3B
4.) Howard, 1B
5.) Ruiz C
6.) Hunter LF
7.) Bourjos RF
8.) Galvis SS
9.) Hellickson P
One returning player I haven’t spoken about here is Jeremy Hellickson, but we will discuss who the Opening Day starter will likely be another day.
As for the position players who will be part of the 2017 Opening Day lineup, the top part of the order will likely look pretty similar to 2016. Cesar Hernandez established himself as a pretty solid leadoff man, setting the table for the likes of Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco nicely. Freddy Galvis ended up moving up the batting order from the 8 spot thanks to his best hitting season he has had in the majors so far. It seems, though, that due to new pieces being inserted into the lineup for 2017, he might find himself right around that same spot heading into this season.
As for the newcomers to the Opening Day Lineup, Tommy Joseph figures to find himself right in the middle of the order for the Phillies this year, as Pete Mackanin and company hope that he can turn his power into higher numbers in the RBI column than he had this past season. Cameron Rupp should find himself right behind the likes of Joseph and company, as he figures to get an opportunity to keep up what he had going in the latter half of the 2016 season. As for the new guys in town, that being Kendrick and Saunders, they are both pretty versatile when it comes to batting in certain places in the order. During his time with the Angels and early on with the Dodgers before they started to load up on talent, Howie Kendrick saw time in almost every lineup spot, being anywhere from the table setting 1 and 2 spots to the usually power-oriented 3 and 4 spots, and at times also finding himself more towards the bottom of the order. The same goes for Saunders, who saw some time as the leadoff man for the Blue Jays last year until they started to experiment with Jose Bautista up there for whatever reason. He also saw some games right in the middle of the order as well.
With all that said, the Phillies have many options when it comes to exactly what their lineup will look like come first pitch in Cincinatti on April 3rd, but if I had to guess, it will likely look something like this:
1.) Hernandez 2B
2.) Kendrick LF
3.) Herrera CF
4.) Franco 3B
5.) Saunders RF
6.) Joseph 1B
7.) Rupp C
8.) Galvis SS
Clearly, the Phillies have options. Herrera would probably be a pretty solid guy to have leading off. Kendrick could be moved down to establish the bottom part of the lineup. Joseph could be moved up to give him more RBI opportunities with faster players on the base paths. Galvis could easily slide into the 2 hole if need be. Each player in this lineup could make a case for moving up, moving down, or staying put where I have them. My guess, though, is that the lineup that Pete Mackanin will throw out there on Opening Day should resemble something along these lines.
Now, can’t we just fast forward to April 3rd already?!? Who needs the Sixers and Flyers?!? We want baseball!
Alright, fine. I do #TrustTheProcess as much as the next guy, and I always have love for the orange and black, but let’s be serious. Nothing beats Phillies baseball.
Photo: Brian Skversky (Via: Flickr)