There are definitely about 18-20 locks each year to make the squad. Then injuries and hot springs factor in and you have a few surprises.
The Phillies suffered key injuries to three players who were projected to be on the roster in January: closer Brad Lidge, second baseman Chase Utley and outfielder Domonic Brown.
To guarantee my first five picks, let’s start with the starting rotation aka Phat Joe and the Terror Squad. The Phillies added Cliff Lee in the off season, bringing the left-hander back home to complete a super rotation with the potential to be the history’s best. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels round out the Phour Aces and Joe Blanton, who is a #3 on most rosters, rounds out the five.
The starting line up is still a question mark due to the opening at second base and right field. Wilson Valdez and Ben Francisco are the leading candidates to win those spots but are seeing heavy competition from the bench which I will get into in a bit.
The locks in the infield include Carlos Ruiz behind the plate, Ryan Howard at first, Jimmy Rollins at short stop (thank God) and Placido Polanco at third.
Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez round out the outfield in center and left field respectively. Ibanez started finding his swing towards the end of the Spring, hopefully quieting the talks to get John Mayberry a starting spot.
Mayberry, Ross Gload and Delwyn Young make the roster as outfielders. Young is valuable because he can also play in the infield, adding a depth to second base the Phillies will need even when Utley returns. Gload also adds a competent back-up first baseman.
Brian Schneider will be back behind the plate as Chooch’s back-up. But I’m confident the Phils will look to carry a larger bench to start the season.
I also believe Luis Castillo makes the team. Castillo works the count and gets on base. I know I ripped his signing but I would love for Castillo to shut me up.
The bull pen is the trickiest part of these predictions. Ryan Madson will appear to be setting up Jose Contreras in later innings in place of the injured Lidge. J.C. Romero and Antonio Bastardo will be the lefties in the pen. Bastardo will have a lot of eyes on him as he has the potential to be a great arm in the pen this season.
Kyle Kendrick, our good buddy from last year’s rotation, makes this team. The Phils need a long arm in the pen if Blanton gets blown up in the first or a rain delay wastes a starter’s outing. Kendrick is more than capable of holding his own.
That leaves me with two spots. I know he sucks but who knows, Danys Baez might be competent.
The last spot goes to Michael Stutes. He has impressed in the spring ball and I’d love to see him make this roster, at least until Lidge is back.
There you have it, folks. My 25-man roster for Opening Day is complete. I hope to see you there.
BONUS: Baez, Michael Martinez, Castillo and Young are fighting for the last two spots. If Baez makes it, it gives the Phillies 13 hitters, 12 pitchers. If not, the ratios will be 14-11, a ratio some beat writers think is possible.