Latest on Phillies Contested Outfield Battle

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Phillies Johan Rojas
Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryson Stott, left, Johan Rojas and Nick Castellanos celebrate after the Phillies won Game 1 in an NL wild-card baseball playoff series against the Miami Marlins, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Phillies fans came into spring training ready to watch one position battle: centerfield between Johan Rojas and Cristian Pache. The last time we looked at the battle, Pache was making a case to not only stay on the roster but take Rojas’ starting job. The battle is a few weeks in now and we are 11 days out from Opening Day, so the Phillies’ decision has to come soon.

The Case for Rojas

Rojas is not having a good spring training offense-wise. He is only hitting .184 with a .205 on-base percentage. He hit a triple in yesterday’s game against the Marlins that came off the bat at 106.4 MPH. Hard contact from Rojas is excellent, but has he done enough to keep his starting job? Maybe not with that .184 average and .521 OPS.

The Case for Pache

Cristian Pache is hitting .261 with a .292 on-base percentage and .814 OPS in 15 less at-bats. He has been having a good spring training, but is it enough to have a case for being the Opening Day centerfielder? I believe so.

What does Phillies Twitter think?

I went to Twitter and asked what the fans thought the Phillies should do.

Rojas has the better defense, but not enough of a gap to warrant Pache staying on the bench. Pache is out of options, so one move the Phillies can do is send Rojas to Lehigh Valley to get consistent at-bats and get that bat where everyone believes it can be. That was the most common opinion under the post, and it’s the one I agree with.

With Whit Merrifield having such a good spring, some fans were saying he should start in left field and Brandon Marsh should start in center. Admittedly, this was not an option that had crossed my mind. Merrifield is known to do really well in spring training.
His career numbers are .335/.382/.586/.968 during spring training, but that doesn’t fully translate to the regular season. He makes the depth significantly stronger, but I’m not sold on him starting opening day just yet.

The final side of the debate is simply letting Rojas figure it out at the major league level. His defense is other-worldly, showcased during the NLDS when he robbed Ronald Acuña Jr of a probable bases-clearing, lead-changing triple.
While Pache is a great defender, no one has protected the outfield for the Phillies like Rojas in a very long time.

The Phillies have a decision to make and it has to come soon. While I believe Rojas is the future in centerfield, consistent at-bats in triple-a would help him a lot. Pache, before he got injured against Houston, was really coming into his own. Without having any options left, it’s best to see what Pache has while the Phillies wait for Rojas.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)