Rob Thomson discusses plans for Edmundo Sosa once Trea Turner returns

Phillies City Connect Sosa
Philadelphia Phillies’ Nick Castellanos celebrates with Edmundo Sosa (33) after Sosa hit a two-run home run off St. Louis Cardinals’ Miles Mikolas during the second inning of a baseball game Friday, May 31, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

PHILADELPHIA — Edmundo Sosa had never hit a home run that far at the MLB level.

In the second inning of the Philadelphia Phillies’ series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sosa smashed a first-pitch slider from Miles Mikolas deep into the stands. His 439-foot, two-run homer was the longest of his MLB career, his third in nine games, and the first from a Phillie that reached Ashburn Alley, the concourse in center field of Citizens Bank Park, since 2022.

Sosa’s blast was the biggest highlight of the Phillies’ 4-2 victory over his former team. It raised Sosa’s OPS, already the highest on the Phils so far this season among all hitters, to .969. Philadelphia became the first team to reach 40 wins in the 2024 season and extended its home winning streak to seven games.

Rob Thomson said that he couldn’t see where outfield hits were going early in the game because of the sun shining on the Phillies’ dugout. After noticing Sosa drop his bat to indicate a no-doubter, he looked to left field to see where the ball would land. Instead, it went a long, long way to an even deeper part of the yard — a part that even Sosa’s many power-hitting teammates haven’t reached.

Love Sosa

Sosa has been “playing outstanding” since taking over for the injured Trea Turner, Thomson said. Turner’s left hamstring strain has sidelined him since May 4 and Sosa has started the overwhelming majority of the following games at shortstop. He hasn’t just taken advantage of his golden opportunity to show the team what he can do with regular playing time, he’s made the absolute most of it. He’s demanding more playing time through his performances.

For as good as Sosa has been playing, though, his stint as a starter will eventually run out of time. Turner is still working to make it back and could have beaten his initial timeline of six weeks if not for a recent setback. Even then, he has made excellent progress and is on track to return sometime in June.

Thomson said before the Phillies’ win over the Cardinals that Turner is doing “better” but that he hasn’t yet done any base running, a key step in his recovery. He’ll have to check that off his list and will also go on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues before making his return to the Phils. What will the Phillies do with Sosa when that happens?

“Well, it’s a good problem to have ’cause he’s a really good player,” Thomson said. “But we’ll try and figure it out ’cause he’s a good player. He comes to play every day, brings energy every day whether he’s playing or he’s not playing. We see the type of player he is now that he’s had a chance to play, get consistent bats. Hopefully, he keeps it going because I really like the kid.”

If the Phillies are super eager to keep Sosa in the lineup — and they should given how great he is playing — the answer could be to move him to the outfield.

The Phils’ 2024 offense is great despite, not because of, their outfielders. Right fielder Nick Castellanos is starting to heat up but has otherwise been ghastly at the plate in 2024. Johan Rojas’ speed and defense in center field are struggling to cover up for his poor bat. Left fielder Brandon Marsh still isn’t trusted to be an everyday option because of his struggles against left-handed pitching — and the numbers justify it. Whit Merrifield and Cristian Pache haven’t exactly set the world on fire off the bench.

Heating Up

This torrid pace of Sosa’s will cool down at one point or another. His batting average on balls in play is .404, an insanely high number that, while supported by his well-above-average rate of hard contact, is bound to regress eventually. But even when it does, he could still be their best outfield hitter, or at least second behind Marsh. Sosa has historically hit lefties noticeably better than righties but his fall-off isn’t ridiculously steep. His numbers against his less-dominant split are better than some of his teammate’ numbers on their more-dominant splits this season.

Since Sosa has been the better defender at shortstop than Turner, the idea of making Turner an outfielder comes into question. Last season, Turner’s -5 outs above average ranked 30th out of 35 qualified shortstops. Sosa, at 3 outs above average, is tied for ninth. Retaining that high level of defense could really pay off for Philly, especially in the playoffs.

However, the chances that the Phillies make Turner return from injury in an entirely different position are slim to none. Although they would also be asking Sosa to make a big positional change on the fly, he’s the one they should task with it.

Phillies Sosa
Philadelphia Phillies’ Edmundo Sosa celebrates after hitting a two-run home run off St. Louis Cardinals’ Miles Mikolas during the second inning of a baseball game Friday, May 31, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Turner does have experience playing outfield in the majors but all of it came back in 2016 with the Washington Nationals. Turner’s speed would do him well in a corner outfield spot but having him pick up a brand new position at this point in both the season and his career would be a lot to handle. As much as he struggles on defense at shortstop, that’s the position where he feels at home. The results at the plate since his standing ovation last season — plus, you know, his previous All-Star appearances there — are proof of concept.

Sosa, meanwhile, has been a utility player for years. His versatility has been among the non-first-base positions in the infield but a fast, defensive-minded player like him could make the adjustment to a corner outfield spot. Sosa played left field twice for the Phils in 2022, though neither appearance came in a start. He also made an appearance in center field last season and prepared to be a backup CF in Spring Training of 2023.

With Sosa in left, Marsh would likely take over as the main center fielder, where he has actually hit better than in left field over the past few seasons. Rojas would then come off the bench and possibly serve as a platoon mate with Marsh in center. At the very least, he would be an excellent defensive substitution and pinch runner.

The Phillies should still be a great team with Sosa primarily coming off the bench again when Turner returns. But they also may have caught lightning in a bottle and shouldn’t give it up without brainstorming ways to keep it. Especially after seeing how badly the offense flopped in last season’s NLCS, there’s no such thing as too much hitting.

With Turner still a ways away from making it back to the lineup, the Phillies still have time to ponder options. They can feel comfortable that they’re still getting star-level production at shortstop while their $300 million man works his way back to full health. Sosa is giving the Phils a problem that every team would love to have: too many players playing well.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)