With pitchers and catchers active in Spring Training, we return to the air for our weekly 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag segment. Ask your questions at any time to @FrankKlose on Twitter. Tune in to the Sports Bash with Mike Gill on Tuesdays afternoons to hear your question answered on the air!

The Phillies undoubtedly know that fans will fill the seats at CBP if/when they put a winning product on the field. Until then the stadium will remain half empty which is a shame. My question is why is team content w/ going into season with only one legit starting pitcher.
~Greg

The Phillies indeed have a bunch of question marks in their starting rotation at the moment.  Aaron Nola of course will be back, the one known commodity in an organization that has several promising pitchers who have yet to really put it all together.  The Phillies hope that they will not have a repeat of 2017, when they seemed to shuffle many young pitchers among the majors, Triple-A, and the disabled list.

Behind Nola the Phillies will throw Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez.  Eickhoff seemed destined for success, but never got it together in 2017, perhaps because of a nagging injury.  Velasquez frustrated fans at times with high pitch count, low-inning starts among some decent starts. Since both are talented, expect them to be in the rotation in 2018.

Beyond Nola, Eickhoff and Velasquez there seems to be a collection of arms who could start for the big club or who could end up at Triple-A:

  • Nick Pivetta
  • Ben Lively
  • Zach Eflin
  • Mark Leiter, Jr.
  • Jake Thompson
  • Tom Eshelman

That makes six pitchers competing for two rotation spots.  And the Phillies may not be done.  The Phillies were said to have made an offer for starter Chris Tillman, who ultimately re-signed with the Baltimore Orioles.  The Phillies may still add a starter.

The Phillies have also reportedly checked in on the likes of Danny Duffy, signed through 2021 and other young, controllable starters.  A lefty, Duffy would be a good match for the Phillies since all of the aforementioned names throw right-handed.  If the Royals change course on a rebuild after losing Eric Hosmer to the San Diego Padres, I would imagine the Phillies would dialogue with the Royals once again.

The Phillies could also end up signing someone like Jeremy Hellickson (or Hellickson himself, still a free agent).  The reality is, though, that if some of those names do not have the opportunity to step up and earn a job, the Phillies may never know who they really are.  It would be a shame to lose someone who might have helped them.

If the Phillies hope to make a major splash or two next year, don’t they need to be at least respectable this year? Meaning would a 74-win or so season hurt their quest to make that splash? Or, is giving up the money all that matters?
~Ed

This is an excellent question.  It is no secret that the Phillies will have money to spend next year when the big crop of free agents hits the market.  Much of the discussion has focused around the likes of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper and there are other top talents the Phillies could sign, too.

But worry not: I think the Phillies are in a good position for players next offseason.  In a sense the money matters, but I think players feel comfortable knowing that there is a clear path to contention, even when the current situation is not one.

Take a look at Eric Hosmer's deal with the San Diego Padres.  The Padres may fair worse in 2018 than the Kansas City Royals, his other option.  But with prospects coming such as Fernando Tatis Jr. and the likes of Manuel Margot roaming center field already, Hosmer sees the potential to grow into a contender for the bulk of his deal.

One could argue the Phillies are in a better situation than the Padres: more prospects, more money to spend and a bigger market.  The Phillies could grab a player on a one-year deal that is hanging around longer than they should be for 2018, but there is no real pressure for them to do so.

If the Phillies are 74 wins or 86 wins, I think Philadelphia will be equally attractive, and as long as at the end of the day the check says what it should say, this is a good situation for a player to enter.

Do you think Hoskins puts up 40/110 .285 or better with a pro like Santana hitting behind him?
~Carl

When the Phillies added smooth-hitting Carlos Santana to the lineup this offseason, the club had Rhys Hoskins very much in mind.   A veteran hitter who makes a lot of contact and can hit from the left side is very much a perfect pair for the right-handed Hoskins.  But will Santana hit behind Hoskins?  Maybe not.

So far new Phillies manager Gabe Kapler has been rather unconventional and on the forefront of new research.  That could mean his lineup may not resemble a lineup we may traditionally think about.  Hoskins may bat behind Santana.

The current trend is to put a club's best hitter second in the lineup.  The lineup is no longer for the traditional number two-hitter to bunt the leadoff hitter to second base, or hit a ground ball to the other side to move the runner.  They may opt for the best on-base percentage threat with a speedy player at leadoff.

Last season Giancarlo Stanton batted second behind Marlins leadoff hitter Dee Gordon and produced MVP-quality results.

However, I think the effect would benefit Hoskins greatly.  Should Cesar Hernandez and Santana be on base already when Hoskins steps to the plate, there may not be much wiggle room for the pitcher to pitch around Hoskins.  While I am not certain who would bat behind Hoskins in this scenario, the Phillies will put up some runs this way.

If the Phillies did not sign Santana, I am not sure we could have this discussion.  But yes, expect big things from Rhys Hoskins in 2018.