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Wrapping up a dismal season for the Iron Pigs

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs ended a dismal 2021 season with a 53-75 record, thanks in part to a nine-game losing streak to finish off the campaign.

The last five losses came at home, where the team finished the year with a 29-36 record, leaving them fourth in the Northeast Division - 19 ½ games behind first place Buffalo (71-46).

The lineup for the final game of the season may have given a glimpse into what the opening day lineup might look like in 2022, with a few question marks and adjustments. Adam Haseley, Luke Williams and Nick Maton all spent time in Philadelphia during the season, but it’s likely they will return to Lehigh Valley next season.

Haseley would most likely have the best opportunity to open the season with the big-league club, depending on how the offseason plays out. Williams and Maton were rushed to the majors, and figure to be opening 2022 as IronPigs.

The big question mark is Bryson Stott, as there are a few concerns surrounding the top prospect.

First, what position will he be playing next season and long-term? There are thoughts that shortstop won’t be where he will make his mark in the majors, and that second or third base are more probable landing spots. He played a few games at both positions this season, and will be playing in the Arizona Fall League, where it’s normal for players to be used in somewhat experimental positions.

Second, does he open the year with Philadelphia? For now, the shortstop and second base jobs are filled by Didi Gregorius and Jean Segura, respectively. Third base is much more of a question mark with Alec Bohm likely to be the slight favorite to win back the job in spring training. It’s anticipated that Stott will be with Lehigh Valley for at least a month or two, if for no other reason than to keep his major league service time from growing too quickly.

Darick Hall is another interesting situation. The first baseman had a strong season with Lehigh Valley, and is too good for Triple-A, but blocked by Rhys Hoskins in Philly. He also is limited in where he can play defensively, so either more time in the minors, or potentially being included in a trade elsewhere is in the cards.

Then, there’s catcher Logan O’Hoppe, who is possibly the most pleasant surprise in the Phillies organization. The 21-year-old catcher was a 23rd round pick in 2018 out of high school, but moved quickly through the organization and played well in a small sample size with the IronPigs. The question is what happens with Rafael Marchan, who is still the top catching prospect in the organization?

If the Phillies cut ties with Andrew Knapp and make Marchan their backup catcher, then O’Hoppe probably starts at Lehigh Valley. If Marchan is again an IronPig to open the season, then O’Hoppe is probably relegated back to Double-A Reading so both he and Marchan can play every day.

Outfielder Simon Muzziotti and starter Francisco Morales both had late-season auditions with Lehigh Valley, and could begin 2022 either at Triple-A or back at Double-A. Muzziotti didn’t play much in 2021 because of visa issues coming from his native Venezuela, and Morales didn’t put up impressive numbers with Reading, so both could open the season at Double-A to get a little more seasoning.

TOP PIGS ... The annual IronPigs Pitcher and Hitter of the Year Awards went to outfielder Mickey Moniak and reliever Jeff Singer. Moniak was back-and-forth between Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia, and is another question mark for next season. He had good numbers with Lehigh Valley, but struggled in his time with Philadelphia. Singer was an undrafted free agent and signed with the Phillies in 2016. While his numbers weren’t eye-catching at Lehigh Valley this season, he was generally pretty good and got better as the season progressed. He will likely be in big league camp with the Phillies, and could even get a look in 2022.

FANNIES IN THE SEATS ... Attendance all around baseball, and most sports, was down for the season, primarily because of the hangover from COVID. Lehigh Valley, however, stayed near the top of Triple-A baseball attendance, finishing the season fifth among the 30 teams. The average attendance for Lehigh Valley was 5,846, with over 350,000 fans coming into the ballpark. Only four teams - Nashville (6,721), Columbus (6,427), Worcester (6,145) and St. Paul (6,052) - averaged over 6,000 fans per game.