It is time once again for a 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag.  Each week we take your questions and then discuss them on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill on Tuesday afternoons.  Submit your questions and then listen to the response on the air!

What are the odds Scott Kingery makes the Opening Day roster?
~Eric

There is no doubt about it: second baseman Scott Kingery has impressed during 2018 Spring Training.  As of Tuesday, Kingery is batting .389 with two home runs.  He's stolen a base and has an OPS of 1.365.

Kingery has also spent time at second base, shortstop, and center field.  New first base and running coach Jose Flores sees great potential in Kingery's speed, as Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.  Kingery seems to be the real deal and could give the Phillies five tools

At this point, Kingery has probably moved the needle from a definite "no" to a "maybe" for the Phillies.  The service time clock argument is the one often made; by keeping Kingery in Triple-A until about May they will maintain control of Kingery's contract for six years after this one, instead of five.  But there is more for Kingery to develop.

Among things to develop is the aforementioned speed.  There is plenty of untapped potential there.  While Flores says Kingery could steal 45 bases, it is easy to imagine Kingery as a perennial 25-25 man.

Kingery's defensive ability also must be worked out at Triple-A.  Will Kingery be a second baseman?  If the Phillies want to consider other positions, Triple-A is a good place to do it.  Much could change with this Phillies roster.  A trade for a starting pitcher out of their major league depth could mean a spot opens somewhere else.  If Kingery is competent at other positions, maybe the Phillies will consider the trade.

Finally, Kingery's quick rise through Double-A and Triple-A might warrant some more at bats at the Triple-A level before a promotion.

I think at this point Phillies manager Gabe Kapler cannot wait to get Kingery to the Phillies roster.  But it is still likely they are going to wait it out.  Much can happen between now and March 30, though, so stay tuned.

Since Cole Hamels is unhappy in Texas, is there any chance the Phillies could trade for him, either now or at the trade deadline?
~Matt R.

What Matt is referring to is the recent news from the Texas Rangers that they are planning to go to a six-man starting rotation.  Former Phillies ace Cole Hamels is indeed part of that starting rotation and he is not too thrilled about it.

Hamels said via Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News:

“It’s not part of baseball. I know that’s the new, analytical side, trying to re-invent the wheel. ... that’s just not what MLB is to me. That’s not how I learned from my mentors. That’s not the way I’m geared to pitch.”

Would that disagreement be enough for Hamels to be traded?

Hamels has not, however, asked for a trade.

The Rangers still view Hamels as their number one starter heading into the season.  Behind him are Doug Fister, Mike Minor, Martin Perez, Matt Moore and Bartolo Colon.   They are the first to go to a permanent six-man rotation, so it is kind of early to say that analytics concluded this.

Hamels has a guaranteed $22.5 million contract in 2018 and a club option for 2018.  Hamels' contract could have become guaranteed if he pitched 400 innings between 2017 and 2018, almost certainly not going to happen, particularly with as many as five fewer starts in a six-man rotation.  But the Rangers hope to win in 2018 and trading Hamels would not be on their list of things to do right now.

Come July if the Phillies are in the hunt and interested in adding a starter, they'll look at all options, including Hamels, if he is even available.  However, if the Rangers are in the mix for a playoff spot, they will not be looking to sell.  They will have to collapse in an unpredictable way for that to happen.

Who are your dark horse candidates to make the Phillies either in the bullpen or on the bench?
~Matt N.

Every season there seems to be a player who makes the Phillies rather unexpectedly after a nice Spring.  Last year it was Brock Stassi who played his way onto the Phillies.  The year prior it was Cedric Hunter.  A couple seasons before that Mario Hollands madet he Phillies roster.  There very well could be another in 2018.

My pick for this "dark horse" candidate is someone who might seem a little bit unconventional  He was the starting first baseman in 2017.  In 2016 he played into a platoon with Ryan Howard.  Yes, I am talking about Tommy Joseph.

Joseph's first base position is jammed. The Phillies signed first baseman Carlos Santana in the offseason, which moved Rhys Hoskins to left field most of the time.  But Joseph has already made an appearance in the outfield and is doing all he can to show his versatility to the Phillies.  He has more work to do, but the returns are decent.

Joseph is batting .467 in the early going.  His power has not totally come around yet; there is still time for that.  Joseph figures to get a good amount of playing time this Spring Training, especially as players are sent to minor league camp and the ones remaining need to pick up the slack for resting regulars.  If Joseph can keep up his bat, the Phillies might consider keeping him around as a right-handed pinch hitter and sub.

This is far from a guarantee, of course.  But the player who entered camp with no real place on the roster is making things interesting.  We will know a lot about how much the Phillies might consider this as we get later in Spring Training and see where and how the Phillies play Joseph.

Again, it's a real shame Joseph could not continue at catcher due to the concussion concerns (something not to mess with).  As for Santana, his bat was too good to catch, so Santana became a first baseman and played every day.  If Joseph's bat was at the catching position, he would fit in as a starter in this league very nicely.