It remains to be seen definitively how the Philadelphia Phillies outfield looks for 2024. Phillies President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski interviewed with a local Philadelphia radio station on February 7. Dombrowski indicated in that interview that the Phillies intend to start Johan Rojas in center field this season. In that scenario, Brandon Marsh would be the starting left fielder. Nick Castellanos will be the Phillies starting right fielder this season, regardless of who starts in center field. This comes amid concerns after Rojas struggled at the plate during the postseason. In 59 regular season games, Rojas had a .302/.342/.430 line and a 111 OPS+ as well. In 13 postseason games, he had a -10.6% cWPA and a .093/.114/.163 line.
This comes after Bob Nightengale reported that the Phillies remain a possible destination for Cody Bellinger, a free agent. Last season with the Chicago Cubs, Bellinger had a .307/.356/.525 line with 26 home runs and 97 RBI. Bellinger also had a 133 OPS+ and 20 stolen bases last season. Todd Zolecki is reporting that it would be a surprise if the Phillies were to sign someone at the Bellinger or Jordan Montgomery level, whom Nightengale also mentioned. This means that Rojas or Cristian Pache will be the Phillies opening day starting center fielder unless something changes. Pache had a .238/.319/.417 line and a 100 OPS+ in 48 games last season. During the postseason, Pache made four appearances.
Phillies Outfield Look For 2024
Signing Bellinger to play center field would be great, but it probably will not happen. Rojas’s great defensive ability has likely led the Phillies to give him the starting center field job. Last season, Rojas had a 1.7 dWAR and 15 defensive runs saved in 392 innings in center field. However, at the plate, Rojas needs to show improvement. Rojas did have an above-average OPS+ and an above-average 109 wRC+ during the regular season. While that is not bad, Rojas also had a 25.6% strikeout rate during the regular season. During the postseason, Rojas struck out 15 times in 45 plate appearances. This is the main area where Rojas needs to show improvement at the plate this season. Reducing the strikeout rate will help Rojas get better overall at the plate.
Having Rojas start the 2024 season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley would not be the worst idea. After Pache got injured last season, Rojas came up to the majors from Double A-Reading, which can help explain the struggles at the plate. Rojas has more long-term potential than most players the Phillies would realistically acquire in free agency or through a trade at that position. That is seemingly a major factor in the Phillies thought process with Rojas. Having hitting coach Kevin Long extensively work with Rojas during spring training may be enough to make the necessary improvements at the plate to become an everyday starter. What happens during spring training will significantly affect how the Phillies decide where Rojas plays to start the season.
There are other players not currently on the Phillies roster besides Bellinger that could be signed or traded for. Given that Marsh has extensive experience in left and center fields, the options are expanded somewhat. One player the Phillies could potentially sign is Adam Duvall. During the trade deadline last year, The Phillies were rumored to be a potential destination for Duvall. With the Boston Red Sox last season in 92 games, Duvall had a .247/.303/.531 line with 21 home runs and 58 RBI. In addition, Duvall also had a 119 OPS+ last season. Duvall has also played at least 100 games at all three outfield positions. However, Duvall is not as good as Rojas defensively, recording a -0.4 dWAR last season. At this point, Bellinger is the best external option.
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