As one season concludes, another begins.
The week after the Super Bowl is also the week pitchers and catchers report to spring training camps in Florida and Arizona. For the Phillies, the first workout for pitchers and catchers is Thursday, Feb. 16. The first full-squad workout is next Tuesday, Feb. 21.
There will be a host of new players in Phillies camp once the team is fully gathered, including offseason acquisitions Trea Turner, Taijuan Walker, Craig Kimbrel, Gregory Soto, Matt Strahm, Josh Harrison and Kody Clemens.
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They also invited 21 players to spring training who aren't currently on the 40-man roster.
That list includes pitchers Mick Abel, Mark Appel, Andrew Baker, Ben Bowden, Jon Duplantier, Louis Head, Jake Jewell, Griff McGarry, McKinley Moore, Francisco Morales, Andrew Painter, Billy Sullivan and Jeremy Walker; catchers Vito Friscia, John Hicks and Max McDowell; and infielders Jim Haley, Scott Kingery, Vimael Machin, Will Toffey and Weston Wilson.
The most intriguing name among the 21 non-roster invitees is Painter, the Phils' 19-year-old top prospect. Both Baseball America and MLB.com ranked Painter as one of the six best prospects in the game. The right-handed Painter and left-handed Bailey Falter and Cristopher Sanchez are the primary contenders to be the Phillies' fifth starter. The fanbase will be clamoring for Painter because of the upside and excitement, as well as the rarity of a teenager cracking a big-league rotation, but Falter had some big moments last season that shouldn't be overlooked.
From July 29 through September 18, Falter made seven starts and went 5-0 with a 2.45 ERA and .213 opponents' batting average. He was a crucial piece for the Phillies as Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin missed time in the second half.
Other non-roster invitees of note are starting pitching prospects Abel and McGarry, relief prospects Baker and Morales, and Kingery, who enters the final guaranteed year of the six-year, $24 million contract he signed in 2018 prior to making his big-league debut.
Abel, the 15th overall pick in 2020, heads into the year as the No. 40 prospect in the sport, according to Baseball America. He's not in the mix for a big-league job out of camp and will continue to develop in the upper minors come April. Painter and Abel made five starts apiece last season at Double A, the highest level they've reached to date.
McGarry is another of the Phillies' top prospects, a 23-year-old, 6-foot-2 right-hander drafted in the fifth round in 2021 out of the University of Virginia. He struck out 130 in 87⅓ innings last season when he split time between Single A, Double A and Triple A. His seven appearances with Lehigh Valley were in relief and he may ultimately end up in relief, but the Phillies will continue to develop him as a starter.
Baker and Morales are two relievers who can boost their cases in camp and may end up playing a role for the 2023 Phillies at some point. Baker has an upper-90s fastball and hit 102 mph last year. Morales also has a big fastball with a slider that may be even better, but he needs to throw more strikes. He walked 45 in 51 innings last season at Double A and Triple A, and walked six with a hit batsmen in five innings with the Phillies.
Barring injury, all but one of eight bullpen jobs are spoken for -- there's Seranthony Dominguez, Jose Alvarado, Kimbrel, Soto, Strahm, Andrew Bellatti and Connor Brogdon -- and the Phillies have other options already on the 40-man roster for the final spot.
Those 40-man choices include Nick Nelson, Falter or Sanchez if they don't win the fifth starter's job, Yunior Marte, Luis Ortiz, Erich Uelmen and lefties Michael Plassmeyer and Andrew Vasquez.
Marte, Ortiz and Vasquez all came over from the San Francisco Giants in separate moves. All three have limited big-league experience. Uelmen spent the most time in the majors last season, appearing in 25 games for the Cubs with a 4.67 ERA. Plassmeyer made two appearances for the 2022 Phillies, pitching six innings of relief and allowing three runs in Game 162 in Houston. He had a strong run at Triple A in his first year in the Phillies' system, going 6-3 with a 2.41 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 16 starts.
The Phillies' bench is mostly set with backup catcher Garrett Stubbs and utilitymen Edmundo Sosa and Josh Harrison. The latter was signed to a major-league deal, giving him a leg up on Clemens, acquired from the Tigers with Soto. Clemens can be optioned to the minors while Harrison cannot.
Candidates for the fourth and final bench spot include Dalton Guthrie, Clemens, Jake Cave and Kingery. This assumes Darick Hall, who hasn’t been handed the job, enters the season as the primary designated hitter against right-handed pitching while Bryce Harper misses most or all of the first half recovering from Tommy John surgery. If Hall doesn’t hit in spring training, the door could open for another position player.