Ten members of the Phillies will step away from spring training this year to compete in the World Baseball Classic. That leaves more opportunities for young players of the future to get some increased playing time in Grapefruit League action.
The World Baseball Classic returns this spring and will run from March 6 through March 22, taking players from around the world away from their normal spring training routine in order to practice and play with their respective national teams in the international baseball tournament. Ten members of the Phillies will be included in this year’s WBC;
- Venezuela: Odubel Herrera, Freddy Galvis, Jeanmar Gomez, Edubray Ramos
- Dominican Republic: Hector Nerris
- United States: Pat Neshek
- Colombia: Jorge Alfaro
- Italy: Nick Fanti
- Canada: Nick Pivetta
- Israel: Kenny Koplove
You will notice some of those names are minor league prospects, like Alfaro. I tend to believe being a part of this kind of tournament can be good for a young prospect, as it throws him on a team full of some of the best players from his nation. You can learn from the experience of being in a pressure situation a tournament brings and taking some advice from top players from your team is never a bad thing, right? The only drawback that may be seen is the possible drop in potential playing time that may be lost by being on a national team. A prospect may actually get more playing time in spring training with his major league club than on a national team competing for a world championship, but that varies by nation.
In Clearwater, the temporary departure of Galvis to play with Venezuela offers a terrific opportunity for J.P. Crawford to get in some more reps and playing time at shortstop for the Phillies. Crawford is expected to be the shortstop of the future of the franchise and will be one of the key names in the farm system to pay close attention to this summer, but he will get his chance to step in and be the team’s top shortstop this spring once Galvis leaves for the WBC. We should not overstate what does or does not happen in spring training for a prospect, but it would be a terrific confidence boost to see Crawford shine in this opportunity.
Gomez also leaving to play with Venezuela throws the closing role in the spotlight this spring. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin seems to be set on keeping Gomez in the closer role this summer based off what he did last season, although it may be wise to refrain from setting that in concrete. With Gomez (and Nerris and Neshek) in the WBC, a handful of other pitchers will be tested in the late-inning role this spring. That’s a good thing. It’s not like this team is a Brad Lidge away from getting to the playoffs, so keeping your options on the table is the way to go, and this spring should allow for plenty of observations to take place thanks to the World Baseball Classic. Seeing what those options do in the WBC in addition to what other pitchers do in spring training gives the Phillies plenty of material to review moving forward.
Are you looking forward to the World Baseball Classic?