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Kincade & Salciunas: Weekdays 6am – 10am

The Philadelphia Phillies enter the 2024 MLB season loaded with offensive talent. Their starting outfielders aren’t as clear-cut as other positions on the roster, however.

Bryce Harper expects the transition to the infield to be permanent. Kyle Schwarber will likely occupy the DH spot for most of the season instead of playing in left field.

Nick Castellanos will play the outfield with less established starters, especially on offense, for the majority of the 2024 season. How will the Phillies balance the offensive and defensive advantages of the outfielders on the roster?

Phillies in 2024

The Phillies have advanced to the NLCS in consecutive seasons. Red October has taken baseball by storm in consecutive postseasons, but the World Series trophy hasn’t returned to Philadelphia. Rob Thomson earned himself the confidence of the fan base after a remarkable turnaround after taking his first job as an MLB manager in 2022.

The romanticization of the miracle ride to the World Series in 2022 is over, however. Thomson now faces the pressure of an intense fan base demanding success after a collapse in the NLCS in 2023. The intensity will heighten at Citizens Bank Park this summer.

Phillies Outfielders

Dave Dombroski spent big money to bring veteran outfielders Schwarber and Castellanos to Philadelphia two years ago. They were set to join Harper in a star-studded outfield. However, the lineup projections have shuffled.

The Phillies needed better defense last season, so they tried Johan Rojas and Cristian Pache in center field. Brandon Marsh slid to left field late in the season. Thomson will have to evaluate the balance of offense and defense to find the best lineup dynamic throughout the season. 

The addition of Whit Merrifield should help with the short-term stability of an accomplished veteran with experience as an everyday player and the skill set to contribute in a platoon.


  • Nick Castellanos

    Aaron Nola has an inexplicably high variance on the starting staff. Nick Castellanos brings it to the everyday lineup. He hit only 13 home runs in his first season with the Phillies in 2022, but he jumped to 29 in 2023. He raised his season OPS nearly 100 points.

    Castellanos ignited the Red October crowd at Citizens Bank Park with six extra base hits and an outstanding 1.440 OPS in the first two playoff rounds. The TV cameras adored the hilarious relationship with his son Liam. He followed up the hot streak with another dinger in Game 1 of the NLCS before a stunning power outage. Castellanos went 1/24 (.042) with 11 strikeouts in the seven-game series. Streaky bats are part of the game, especially during the postseason.

    Jayson Stark spoke about an effort to acknowledge the approach that helped the Arizona Diamondbacks cool off Philadelphia’s hot bats in the NLCS.

    “They completely switched gears, and the Phillies played right into their hands… There’s been a big emphasis on this camp to be more selective, not to stop being aggressive, but to be very focused on what you’re looking for.” –Jayson Stark

    Castellanos could benefit from the adjustments as much as any hitter in the lineup. The Phillies have a valuable slugger. They’ll rely on him to protect top left-handed hitters Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber.

    The slumps might frustrate fans even more than the average major league power hitter, but the Phillies will live with the bad and hope for the power bat that crushed the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs.

    Nick Castellanos, Philadelphia Phillies Outfielder

  • Brandon Marsh

    Brandon Marsh will never be a power bat that a playoff contender relies on. However, his OPS+ has steadily improved in his three major league seasons. He easily passed the MLB average of 100 in 2023.

    • 2021 (70 games): 83 OPS+
    • 2022 (134 games): 91 OPS+
    • 2023 (133 games): 127 OPS+

    Marsh enters 2024 in a better position to succeed in the field. He struggled to develop chemistry in center field with Schwarber to his left last season. He’ll play more games in left field if Johan Rojas or Cristian Pache emerges as a passable offensive player. A slight jump in extra base hits is another reason for optimism.

    Marsh has also become one of the key faces (and haircuts) of a clubhouse dynamic that has come to the center of attention the past two Octobers. The Phillies believe in the 26-year-old as a solid long-term contributor.

    Brandon Marsh, Philadelphia Phillies Outfielder

  • Cristian Pache

    When the Phillies acquired Pache on the eve of Opening Day in March 2023, he had a .156 career batting average in 332 plate appearances (PA). He improved to .238 in 95 PA in red pinstripes.

    Pache will make his biggest contributions in the field, however. He finished with five defensive runs saved (DRS) in only 46 games. Bryson Stott was the only lineup regular who had more for the entire season, and he played over three times the number of games.

    The Phillies, however, have two right-handed hitters with plus ability in center field and less than impressive offensive numbers. Johan Rojas finished with an outstanding 15 DRS in 57 games. Better competence at the plate could determine the winner of a competition between two players of the same mold.

    Cristian Pache, Philadelphia Phillies Outfielder

  • Johan Rojas

    The Phillies need to make a decision. Johan Rojas has never played in AAA. He could develop as a hitter with the opportunity to face pitchers with major league experience without the pressure of at-bats with a World Series contender at a packed Citizens Bank Park.

    Rojas didn’t provide enough offensively during the postseason, but he did hit over .300 in a larger sample size of 59 regular-season games. 

    Most importantly, the Phillies want that glove in the outfield. He helped cover for below average defensive talent around him, and he helped fans recover from a near heart attack in Game 4 of the NLDS when Ronald Acuna Jr. sent a ball toward the gap in left-center field.

    Rob Thomson left the door open on the first day of Spring Training for Rojas to win the job as the starting center fielder.

    “This kid’s done a lot of work in the offseason, a lot of work in the weight room, and he’s done a lot of work with Kevin Long on swing mechanics, staying back and not jumping at the ball… Right now, he looks really good, and we’ll see how it plays out.” –Rob Thomson

    A slow spring might delay his shot. Pache could be a better immediate option as a great outfielder with less impact at the plate. However, Rojas could easily change the narrative at any point in 2024 even if he doesn’t make the roster on Opening Day.

    Johan Rojas, Philadelphia Phillies Outfielder

  • Whit Merrifield

    The acquisition of Whit Merrifield to begin Spring Training made perfect sense. A veteran with three career All-Star appearances and the ability to play multiple positions provides insurance behind some of the question marks on the roster.

    Merrifield is a .284 career hitter with a .750 OPS near the league average. Expect to see him fill in for any injured players or platoon with Johan Rojas or Brandon Marsh if circumstances call for it.

    Whit Merrifield, Philadelphia Phillies

  • Jake Cave

    The most intense sports market in the United States will remember the Diamondbacks retiring Jake Cave for the final out of the only postseason Game 7 in franchise history. One plate appearance doesn’t define a professional hitter, but the Phillies might look for a bigger threat off the bench.

    Cave is a AAAA player who added versatility off the bench at points during the 2023 season. He’s a decent outfielder who slid to first base occasionally. He could stick in the majors for stretches in 2024 depending on how other outfielders like Pache and Rojas prove themselves. However, the Phillies shouldn’t count on him as a significant piece to a World Series effort.

    Darick Hall is another internal option as a power bat off the bench. He doesn’t bring as much on defense as Cave, but the Phillies bench will probably begin the season in flux.

    Jake Cave, Philadelphia Phillies Outfielder

  • Designated Hitter

  • Kyle Schwarber

    The position shuffle will keep Kyle Schwarber off the diamond on defense for most of the 2024 season. The Phillies will benefit from the lineup flexibility and the elimination of a liability in left field.

    Schwarber will now utilize the strengths that pushed the Phillies to sign him to an expensive four-year contract entering the 2022 season. He’s provided excellent power at the top of the lineup with 93 home runs in his two seasons in Philadelphia, more than double any of his teammates.

    Why is he such a hot topic of criticism as Thomson’s apparent preference in the leadoff spot? He is the most extreme statistical microcosm of the modern era of baseball that’s shifted focus away from traditional stat lines and ideas considered conventional wisdom for generations.

    “This is the way it works with Kyle Schwarber. You accept this because this is the way the game is played today, as we know. Walks, homers, strikeouts, and Kyle Schwarber is like the poster boy for all three.” –Tim Kurkjian

    He finished dead last in batting average among 134 qualified hitters in 2023, and he led the majors in strikeouts with 215. 

    He became the first player in major league history to hit below the Mendoza line with over 40 home runs. The former Chicago Cubs fan-favorite didn’t steal a base the entire season.

    Schwarber also finished second in the National League in walks, becoming the first player ever to walk 120 or more times with a batting average under .200. The bases on balls offset the poor .197 average and drove his OBP to a respectable .343.

    Batting order shouldn’t be a chief focus in MLB strategy anymore. Schwarber brings an outstanding bat in the DH spot. Expect another big season if the 31-year-old stays healthy for a full season.

    Kyle Schwarber, Philadelphia Phillies Outfielder

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