It’s a little more than a month till pitchers and catchers report in Clearwater. The majority of the roster is set, but there will be a few spots open for competition during spring training. I’m going to assume they will keep 13 position players and 12 pitchers (There is a chance they could go with a 6 man bullpen, but that’s a different debate).
Position Players- Locks (10): Rollins, Polanco, Utley, Howard, Francisco, Victorino, Ibanez, Ruiz, Schneider and Gload
Now you might look at the locks and wonder where Valdez is. I was very close to putting him there but I think there is a small chance he doesn't make it. Brian Bocock and recent Rule 5 addition Michael Martinez are potential players who could compete with Valdez. It would take to an awful spring by Valdez and Bocock or Martinez would have to really impress the coaches. Assuming Valdez is on the roster, it would leave 2 spots available.
There are three strong candidates, they are OF Dom Brown, OF John Mayberry Jr., and OF/IF Delwyn Young. Right now I think Mayberry Jr. and Young will win the last 2 spots. Brown struggled towards the end of the season and was sent home while playing in Winter Ball in the Dominican. He still has a lot of potential; he just needs some more time at Lehigh. Mayberry Jr. would provide some good RH power off the bench. He is 27 and isn’t going to be benefited greatly by getting more minor league at bats.
In a perfect world the Phillies would love to have Young on the opening day roster. Young had some time at 2b and 3b in addition to his time in the outfield last year with the Pirates. Without him, the Phillies would have to heavily rely on Valdez to give any of the infielders a day off. Last year the Phillies showed they are willing to “stash” a Rule 5 player on the roster if they see potential in him. They could do this with Martinez this year, but I would be surprised to see him on the opening day roster. Due to Young's major league experience, I think he will win the spot.
Pitchers-Locks (8): Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt, Lidge, Madson, Contreras, and Romero.
Assuming Blanton is traded between now and opening day, two of the spots will most likely go to the winner and the loser of the 5th starters spot. One of Kyle Kendrick or Vance Worley be the team's fifth starter and the loser would then assume the duty as the long man in the pen (If Blanton isn't traded, he would be the 5th starter with Kendrick and Worley battling for role as the long man).
Left handed Reliever Antonio Bastardo has a very good chance of winning one of the final two spots. J.C Romero is a scary option out of the pen and I think they would like to have another left handed option. Bastardo is clearly the best of their other options. Mike Zagurski has proven he is no more than a minor league pitcher and will always struggle when facing major league hitting.
There will be a lot of competition for the team’s final roster space. Veteran Danys Baez is right in the center of it fighting for a job. I see the final spot coming down to Baez, David Herndon, Justin De Fratus and Scott Mathieson. I believe that Baez will have the upper hand going into the spring, but he is far from a lock. Baez is owed $2.75 million in 2011 and the other 3 pitchers can easily be sent to the minors. If Baez has a bad spring or any of the 3 has a great spring, I don’t think the Phillies would hesitate in letting him go and just eating the remaining portion of his contract. In the end, I think Baez will make the team but will be on a very short leash throughout the entire year.
Here is my prediction for what the Phillies 2011 Opening day Roster will look like:
Starters: Ruiz, Howard, Utley, Polanco, Rollins, Francisco, Victorino, Ibanez
Bench: Schneider, Valdez, Gload, Young, Mayberry Jr.
Starting Rotation: Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels, Worley
Bullpen: Lidge, Madson, Contreras, Romero, Kendrick, Bastardo, Baez