After three straight 90-plus loss seasons, the Philadelphia Phillies are starting to look like an up-and-coming young team. Last season top prospects Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, and J.P. Crawford reached the big leagues, and over the winter the club signed the perpetually productive Carlos Santana to a sensible three-year contract. The Phillies are widely expected to make a run at Manny Machado or Bryce Harper (or both!) next offseason when they hit free agency as well. Things are starting to look up for the Phillies, and this offseason, the club tabbed rookie manager Gabe Kapler to run the ship. Kapler is a hardcore analytics type and outside-the-box thinker, and this season, the Phillies are planning to use unique outfield shifts based on the hitter's batted ball tendencies. Simply put, Kapler will put the best outfield defender where the batter is most likely to hit the ball. Matt Gelb of The Athletic has details: The Phillies have used the Grapefruit League games to implement their aggressive outfield shifting for every batter, based on spray charts. But they will go beyond that, flipping players across the field when the numbers tell them it is wisest. That is why Rhys Hoskins, who will move from first base to left field this season, has begun some light work in right field. The Phillies hope Hoskins can be a passable defender in left field. But they know he lacks range and instincts because it is a new position for him. He will be their worst outfield defender. So Hoskins expects some mid-inning position changes when the data is clear. "I think if it goes the way they're hoping, I don't see why not," Hoskins said. "Yeah. If we have a chance to get more outs in a big situation, I don't see why not." Outfield shifts are not new. Teams have been shading their outfielders toward one side of the field based on the hitter's tendencies for decades now.
The Phillies are planning to try some unique outfield shifts in 2018
CBS Sports | Feb 28