We are back once again with the 97.3 ESPN Phillies Mailbag.   Each week we take your Phillies questions and answer them The Sports Bash with Mike Gill.  Tune in Tuesday afternoons to hear your questions answered on the air.

What do the Phillies do with Tai Walker when he's healthy?

The Phillies have made a decision on starting pitcher Taijuan Walker already.  Walker will make a start this upcoming weekend in San Diego, and will be slotted between left-handed pitchers Ranger Suárez and Cristopher Sanchez. The move means that Spencer Turnbull and his 1.23 ERA will end up in the bullpen.  Here's why.

The Phillies signed walker to a four-year contract prior to 2023 that averages $19 million per year.  He indeed is part of a longer-range plan for the Phillies to be part of the starting rotation.  It's very true that he seemed to lose something down the stretch and true that others played ahead of him in the playoffs.

But it's a long-term commitment and they will need to see what he can do for them on the mound.

Turnbull has been off to a tremendous start.  The Phillies have won all four of Turnbull's starts.  He is 2-0 and has impressed thus far.  The former Detroit Tigers prospect once threw a no-hitter, so there have been signs of potential, which is why the Phillies signed him in the offseason.

But what is also true of Turnbull is that he's pitched more than 56 2/3 innings just once in his entire career.  The Phillies want to keep an eye on those innings so they have him for the long-term.

Putting Turnbull in the bullpen helps reduce his innings for now.  It also allows the Phillies to upgrade the spot in the bullpen currently held by Ricardo Pinto.  Pinto piggybacked Turnbull with an impressive four-inning save, but has struggled since.

Seeing what Walker can do will not mean the minor leagues for Turnbull and will not mean that Turnbull won't get to start later this season.  But the Phillies are hoping to have that depth later in the year, and Turnbull is not a piece the Phillies had in past seasons.

Alec Bohm, meanwhile, has two years after this one remaining.  So there is not a sense of urgency to address that spot yet.  I would like to comment that his defense continues to show improvement and be much better than the scouts predicted of him.

His bat is reliable contact when it is needed.

When is Ranger Suárez eligible for free agency? How long is he under team control? Same question for Alec Bohm.
~Zippy tha Pizza Dog

We are seeing what has been perhaps the most brilliant stretch of Ranger Suárez's career.   On the heels of a complete game shutout, Suárez gave the Phillies seven more shutout innings.   Adding innings from his previous two starts, he has now hit an amazing 25 innings without allowing a run.

The record, by the way, is 59 scoreless innings from Orel Hershiser in 1988.  I know that from his 1989 Donruss baseball card I had growing up.

Suárez faced arbitration this year, and will do so again next year.   After 2025, Suárez will be a free agent.

Visa issues, COVID, and injuries really got the way of Suárez's potential the last few seasons.  This year we are seeing Suárez with a full Spring Training, and coming into the season ready to go.  (Remember last year's slow start without Suárez and Bryce Harper?)

The Phillies were happy to extend their own in Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, who combined for $298 million worth of extensions this past offseason.   I think the Phillies would love to keep another one of their homegrown in Suárez.  I would not be surprised if the Phillies came to an agreement with Suárez this coming offseason.  They would probably prefer not to go into the last year of his deal with him unsigned.


What is Aidan Miller's timeline to big leagues?

Phillies third base prospect Aidan Miller has been opening some eyes at Low Class-A Clearwater.  The 2023 draft pick out of Mitchell High School in New Port Richey, Florida, is off to a hot start.  In 44 at bats, Miller is batting .318 with two home home runs and an OPS of .912.

MLB Pipeline currently targets 2027 as Miller's rise to the major leagues.  Miller, ranked the number three prospect in the Phillies organization behind Mick Abel and Andrew Painter, is the top offensive prospect the Phillies have.

The 2027 estimate could be a little conservative.  But it is worth reminding folks that Clearwater is an additional step behind in the Phillies system compared to the past.  Prospects will generally move from Clearwater to High-A Jersey Shore, then Double-A Reading, Triple-A Lehigh Valley before the major leagues.

At just 19 years old and turning 20 years old in June, I think that it's very possible that he won't go further than Jersey Shore in 2024.

I would imagine he would get a Spring Training invite next year if all goes well this year, and it's not out of the realm of possibilities that he starts 2025 at Double-A Reading.  But all would have to go well there for a late-season promotion to Triple-A in 2025.

I'm going to take a personal guess and say that some point in 2026 might be a possibility for Miller.  But having not played college baseball, I would imagine that some upcoming competition throughout the system will require some adjustments.  It's possible that he is very advanced for Low-A but there is much work to do before he's in the major leagues.

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