CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Back in October, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski fired a warning shot over Didi Gregorius' bow:
The veteran shortstop would need to play better on both sides of the ball to retain his starting job in 2022.
A month after that, Dombrowski visited with shortstop prospect Bryson Stott and told him to come into spring training with the mindset of winning a job on the big club.
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Sounds like the makings of a camp battle -- whenever baseball stops battling with itself and gets back to work.
Stott is not yet a member of the 40-man roster so, while owners and big-leaguers try to sort out their labor differences at a molasses-flowing-uphill-on-a-cold-day pace, he's eligible to participate in the minor-league minicamp that the Phillies opened under sunny skies at Carpenter Complex on Wednesday.
After his workout, Stott faced a natural question:
Do you think you can win the job?
"I mean, yeah, absolutely," he said. "You always love competition, and you always think you're going to win, and you never want to be scared of anybody or do anything different because somebody is watching or somebody isn't watching. So I'm just going to go out and see what happens."
Stott, 24, was the Phillies' top pick in the 2019 draft. The UNLV product played 112 games at three levels of the minors in 2021, hit .299 with 26 doubles, 16 homers and a .390 on-base percentage and was honored with the Paul Owens Award as the Phillies' top minor-league performer.
After finishing the minor-league season with 10 games in Triple A, Stott went to the Arizona Fall League and hit .318 with a .445 on-base percentage and a .489 slugging percentage in 26 games for Peoria. He had two homers, 31 RBIs and was named to the league's All-Star team.
Dombrowski made a trip to the AFL, watched Stott play, and delivered him a message.
"I told him, 'You should come to spring training with the mindset of trying to win a spot with the big-league club,' '' Dombrowski said in November.
"I've never been averse to jumping a guy from Double A to the big leagues. I've done it many times and had good success. He's had some time (at Triple A) and played well in the Arizona Fall League, so I am not averse."
Needless to say, Stott is thrilled about the opportunity that will be presented to him when the labor battle ends.
In fact, he said he's never been more excited coming into a new season.
"Absolutely," he said. "I was sitting at home for a couple of weeks and I was like, 'I don't want to do this anymore. I want to go.'
"(Dombrowski) was pretty straightforward telling me what he told me. I just want to come here and play my game and do what I need to do. Obviously, I'm the player and they make those decisions. I just need to have fun, do what I do and play the game right and we'll see what happens."
Gregorius is a proud man. Whenever the gates open, he will come into camp ready to go, ready to win back his job, and with a return to good health -- he battled an elbow injury last year -- he should be in position to do that. It doesn't hurt that he's guaranteed over $15 million in 2022, while the button on Stott's service-time clock wouldn't have to be pushed while he benefited from a little more development time in Triple A.
Either way, Stott is clearly the organization's shortstop of the future.
Unless he's the second baseman or third baseman of the future.
He has played all three positions and none are set long-term, though the Phils would love it If Alec Bohm seized the third base position for good in 2022, instead of having to move across the diamond to first base someday. Returning second baseman Jean Segura's contract runs out after 2022.
"If I have to move over, it is what it is," Stott said. "I just want to do anything I can do to get to Philadelphia and help that city and that team win. So whatever it may be, if it's short or anywhere else, it's obviously not up to me."
At 6-3, 200 pounds, Stott is a strong-bodied young player and he showed some endurance in 2021. The baseball season is a physical grind but he never seemed to miss a beat playing for three Phillies farm clubs and in Arizona.
He reached base in all 26 games that he played in Arizona. He walked 26 times, 12 more than he struck out.
"I really honed in on that strike zone and tried to not miss the pitches I knew I could hit," he said. "I mean, sometimes it was straight-up pitching around, but obviously you need to get on base and you need your on-base percentage to be just as good or even better than what you're hitting. It was really just focusing on the pitches I could hit and not chasing the ones I couldn't. If I was going up there looking for a certain pitch and they didn't throw it, I didn't swing. I tried to do that a little more. In the past, I've never really sat on pitches, I kind of just let my athleticism take over and go from there. In the Fall League, I said, 'I'm going to sit on a slider,' and if I didn't get it, I didn't swing. I've never been afraid to hit with two strikes. I don't mind working the count, getting deep into counts."
Stott, of course, hails from Las Vegas and is a close friend of Phillies MVP Bryce Harper. The two work out in the offseason. They even vacationed together in Hawaii this winter.
While Harper waits out the game's labor disagreement at home in Vegas, Stott is playing ball. It's the fortunate side of not being on the 40-man roster -- for now. Stott seems likely to get there at some point in 2022. It's just a matter of when. And what Didi Gregorius has to say about it.