Well, here we are.
It’s a new year which means a new Phillies’ season is on the horizon. Usually, this would mean a new team. At the moment, it’s pretty much the same.
The re-signing of Aaron Nola has been the only significant move thus far. Wish lists for the Phillies include relief help, a depth starter, and an outfielder. For the latter, it seems many are overlooking candidates the Phillies already have.
The Outfield Options
We know Nick Castellanos and Brandon Marsh will be part of the plans in the future unless the Phillies go in a radically different direction. They have been with the club for multiple seasons and we know what they have in the tank.
So, who else is there?
Johan Rojas is the most obvious player to have a starting role in 2024. Just looking at his 2023 season, Rojas looks like a shoo-in. With the defense of Andruw Jones + the speed of Trea Turner and debuting with a .302 batting average, Rojas (base level) looks like a stud.
Dig slightly deeper and you’ll find why the Phillies might want to add in the outfield. In 2022, Rojas played in High-A and Double-A but only posted a .663 OPS while hitting .244. According to Statcast, Rojas’ .302 batting average came with a .247 expected batting average. He ran into some luck. His .410 BAbip confirms that.
But the defense and speed are real. Plus, Rojas has been hard at work this offseason with Phillies’ hitting coach Kevin Long since late November. He’s looking buff and working on putting his .276 postseason OPS in the rearview.
Cristian Pache had his most successful season at the plate in 2023. That best was a 100 OPS+ or league average. That’s a massive improvement from the 26 OPS+ he posted before in the majors. He won’t start, but he can play a role with his defense and .924 OPS against LHP.
One of the more interesting players in the outfielder pool is Weston Wilson. Wilson made his MLB debut at age 28 in August, hitting his 1st homer, stealing his 1st base, and scoring 3 runs. Most notably, it happened all during Michael Lorenzen’s no-hitter. He hit .313 in a short 8-game stint in the majors.
In Triple-A, Wilson recorded a 30-homer 30-steal season. He did this all while playing 6 different positions. He almost screams Kevin Long’s success story but more likely as a utility player than a pure outfielder.
Phillies Minor Leagues
Simón Muzziotti felt like he was going to be flipped at the 2023 trade deadline. At the time, he was slashing .326/.387/.439 at Lehigh Valley. He only had a .613 OPS over the last 2 months of the season, but he is worth a mention.
Carlos De La Cruz had his best power year with Double-A Reading. He hit 24 homers in 129 games. He posted a .797 OPS with those homers and stands at a massive 6′ 8″. He’s intriguing but also strikes out fairly often, 160 times in 2023.
Matt Kroon might not be found on top prospect lists but he did quietly have an excellent year both in Double-A and Triple-A. In his first 2 Triple-A games, he had back-to-back 3-hit nights. While mainly a 3B with Reading, he was either in RF or CF with Lehigh Valley. He could be a dark horse to contribute to the Phillies in 2024.
Ethan Wilson might be the furthest away from the majors but he took a major step forward in 2023. The Phillies’ 2nd round pick in 2021 finally showed signs of life in Reading. He hit .250 with a .750 OPS. That doesn’t sound crazy but he also hit 17 homers, the most since his bombastic freshman year at South Alabama. If he can take another step forward in 2024, he could be a name to watch for 2025.
Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)