Philadelphia News & Search
“A dream come true,” Stassi said of his promotion, choking back tears. “I made it to the big leagues and can finally say I’m a big leaguer. It’s special.”
Stassi wasn’t the only emotional one.
“I got a little choked up to be honest with you,” manager Pete Mackanin said.
Nava, who has been rooting for Stassi to make the team all spring, beamed looking across the clubhouse at his teammate.
“It was awesome,” Nava said of joining Stassi on the Opening Day roster.
Nava, who went undrafted out of college, had a similar trek to the Majors that Stassi did as a 33rd-round pick.
“I’ve been in his position,” Nava said. “We have unique stories. Neither of us were big prospects or big signs, and so when he started sharing his story, I was happy of him.”
Recalling the lack of interest colleges showed in him during high school, Stassi pegged his unwavering confidence as a primary factor for getting to the big leagues.
“I always believed in myself. … It was always my end goal and I never doubted myself, ever,” he said.
Although unusual for a rebuilding team like the Phillies, only five roster spots were up for grabs entering Spring Training. When the club released veteran non-roster invitees Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday, Andrew Knapp solidified himself as the backup catcher.
With the 27-year-old Stassi and 34-year-old Nava on board, the Opening Day roster is complete.
Stassi’s fantastic spring was a major factor in his making the roster — hitting .333 with six home runs and a 1.099 OPS in 57 at-bats, leading the Phillies in OPS among players with at least 25 at-bats.
More intrigue fell on the final bench role and its broader roster implications.
If Valentin, who is on the 40-man already, had won the final bench role, the Phillies would not have had to remove someone from that roster. With a 40-man roster filled with prospects, this was an advantage for Valentin.
Both Valentin and Nava did not shy away from the spotlight down the homestretch of Spring Training, doing everything they could to make the decision as difficult as possible for the front office.
Each has the ability to play multiple positions. Nava can play the corner-outfield spots, while Valentin is a capable fielder at both middle-infield positions. Both were offensive standouts this spring.
Nava, who hit a three-run homer off Justin Verlander on Wednesday, slashed .367/.457/.567 in his final 30 at-bats of the Grapefruit League season. It was enough to earn the job.
Philadelphia’s bench now consists of players with a variety of Major League experience, ranging from rookies to those with nearly a decade in the game. Knapp and Stassi have no MLB experience, while Aaron Altherr has played in fewer than 100 big league games across parts of three seasons. Nava and Andres Blanco, on the other hand, have 15 seasons of MLB service time between them.
Ben Harris is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Philadelphia News & Search