Spring Competition Will Determine LH Phillies Bench Bat
When the Phillies added Michael Saunders to be a left-handed lineup bat and not the likes of former Phillies player Brandon Moss, one clear need on the Phillies roster remained: a left-handed bat who can back up first baseman Tommy Joseph.
With Cody Asche granted his release, there is not currently a player on the Phillies 40-man roster who hits from the left-side could get some work at first base while playing other positions other than Andres Blanco. But, Blanco needs to serve as the primary middle infield reserve on the roster, so there is room for one more.
The Phillies have three bats in camp as non-roster invitees who could compete for that spot: Former Florida Marlins Rookie of the Year utility player Chris Coghlan, former Boston Red Sox utility player Daniel Nava, and Phillies farmhand Brock Stassi. Coghlan and Nava have plenty of big league experience. But Stassi is one whose greatest season came in Double-A. How much of a chance will he have?
Stassi hit .300 with an OPS of .863 for the 2015 Reading Fightin' Phils. With 15 home runs and 90 runs batted in, Stassi was named the Eastern League Most Valuable Player. Stassi moved up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and hit .267 with an OPS of 806. While the number is not poor, it is not enough typically for a 27 year-old to move up in the system. It appears, though, to be enough for the Phillies to give Stassi a strong look in Spring Training.
One tidbit that came out of camp today is that the Phillies will begin using Stassi in the outfield in workouts and Grapefruit League play. If Stassi can play a corner outfield spot and continue to play some first base, he might be a valuable asset to the Phillies. While Nava (49 appearances) and Coghlan (11 appearances) have some experience at first base, neither has done it enough to be considered fully competent.
With a strong Spring, Stassi could set himself apart from the other two. The Phillies will need to create a 40-man roster spot for any of these three players, but unlike Nava, who is out of options, and Coghlan, who has enough service time to avoid a demotion without his consent, Stassi could be moved back and forth between Triple-A and the Major Leagues in 2017.
It is too early to declare a favorite, but all three will get plenty of time during Grapefruit League action, most likely all over the diamond. With nine players headed to the World Baseball Classic and Freddy Galvis out with a tight hamstring, there will be plenty of room on the diamond for all three to play. But at 27 years old, this is Stassi's big chance to prove he belongs.