Detailed look at 40-man roster decisions Phillies face this winter

Detailed look at 40-man roster decisions Phillies face this winter

If you follow the Phillies, you've likely heard or read the phrase, "crowded 40-man roster" quite often in recent months. It's come into play in their call-ups, trades and signings.

The construction of the 40-man roster matters because an organization risks losing a player in the Rule 5 draft if he is not one of its 40 protected players. 

The quick refresher there, from the CBA:

Players are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft who are not on their major league organization's 40-man roster and:

– were 18 or younger on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fifth Rule 5 draft upcoming; or

– were 19 or older on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fourth Rule 5 draft upcoming.

The Phils, after their recent flurry of moves, have 39 players on the 40-man roster. The following players could be selected by another team in December's Rule 5 draft if the Phillies don't first add them to the 40 this winter:

• 1B Rhys Hoskins
• SS J.P. Crawford
• RHP Seranthony Dominguez
• LHP Ranger Suarez
• RHP Franklyn Kilome
• OF Carlos Tocci
• OF Andrew Pullin
• LHP Brandon Leibrandt
• RHP Yacksel Rios

Those first six players are no-brainer additions to the 40. The Phils probably would like to figure out a way to protect all of them, but that will depend on how they approach adding veterans this winter via trades and free agency.

Adding eight or so players to the 40 would require trimming six or seven others. So, how do they make the pieces fit? 

3 players have expiring contracts
INF Andres Blanco
OF/1B Daniel Nava
LF Hyun Soo Kim

10 players the Phillies could consider removing from the 40 — sorted by most likely to least likely based on replaceability/value/ceiling
RHP Pedro Beato
OF Cameron Perkins
RHP Alberto Tirado
1B Brock Stassi
LHP Adam Morgan
INF/OF Ty Kelly
LHP Hoby Milner
INF Jesmuel Valentin
RHP Mark Appel
OF Roman Quinn

Let's examine each case in order:

Beato is a 30-year-old reliever who's been with six different organizations and has a career ERA 10 percent below the MLB average.

Perkins is essentially the outfield version of Stassi — he's been a solid minor-leaguer in this organization but hasn't hit enough to cement his role as a major-league bench piece.

Tirado has walked 56 batters in 74⅓ innings this season at Clearwater and Reading. That won't sit well when it comes time to make roster decisions, but since he's already on the 40 he'll probably get an audition in the majors when rosters expand on Sept. 1.

Tirado was one of two pitchers the Phillies acquired from the Blue Jays at the 2015 trade deadline for Ben Revere. The other player was hard-throwing reliever Jimmy Cordero, who was designated for assignment by the Nationals last Monday to make room for Brandon Kintzler.

Stassi plays very good first base defense, which is important moving forward because that's not exactly a strength for Tommy Joseph or Rhys Hoskins. But Stassi just turned 28 and hasn't hit enough for a first baseman/corner outfielder. The Phillies would like to keep him around, but if they have to remove him from the 40, finding an inexpensive defense-first 1B in free agency wouldn't be too difficult.

Morgan has become something of a scapegoat among Phillies fans, kind of like Luis Garcia once was. But Morgan's throwing harder than ever before, flashing a mid-90s fastball this season, and the Phillies don't have a whole lot of close-to-major-league-ready left-handed pitchers. They could find some lefty specialists in free agency this winter, though, and those decisions will determine Morgan's fate.

Kelly has had some clutch hits this season, no doubt about it — three-game winning knocks and six go-ahead RBIs. He could have a career in the National League because he's a switch hitter with the ability to play so many positions — for the Phillies this season, he's played 2B, 3B, LF, CF and RF. Still, he's a .209 career hitter in 156 plate appearances.

• The Phillies will probably try to keep Milner as an inexpensive lefty specialist. The 26-year-old has been just OK in 12 appearances this season with the Phils but has pitched very well at Triple A. You'd rather have a lefty reliever for $600,000 than $3 million so it's worth giving Milner some more time. 

Valentin's season-ending shoulder injury opened up a natural spot at second base at Triple A for Scott Kingery, who has thrived. Valentin himself is a nice little player, though, a potential utility infielder. Valentin had a decent 2016, hitting .269/.341/.395 at Double A and Triple A, then impressed in spring training, going 15 for 41 (.366) with six doubles and four walks. He's not a lock to remain on the 40, but he's a pretty good bet to stick.

• If you looked at Appel's career arc in the minors and did not know he was a former No. 1 overall pick, you might wonder why he's on the 40-man roster. Appel has not had a good year. He has a 5.27 ERA in 17 starts with 60 strikeouts and 53 walks in 82 innings. He has a 4.82 career ERA at Triple A. 

Will the Phillies non-tender him this winter? They could choose instead to try him out as a reliever next season to see if they could salvage some of his strengths. If they give up on Appel, they'd be giving up on a major piece of the Ken Giles trade, which looked like a win at the time.

Quinn's case is the most interesting. He's so talented that if he were Rule 5 eligible this winter, he'd probably get picked pretty high — he's exactly the type of high-reward player another team would seek. But he hasn't been able to stay healthy. Quinn has been in pro ball since 2012 and his career high during that six-year span is 382 plate appearances. He's yet to play 90 games in a season. 

Throughout his career, Quinn has dealt with a broken wrist, a torn Achilles, a torn hip flexor, two oblique strains, a quad strain and now a ligament injury in his non-throwing elbow that has kept him out since Memorial Day and looks like it will end his season.

There are pronounced pros and cons with keeping Quinn on the 40. You'd think the Phillies would try their best to keep him in case he ever does play a full season.

The last group
Lastly, there are two players — 2B Scott Kingery and right-handed starting pitcher Tom Eshelman, another member of the Giles trade — who don't yet need to be added to the 40-man roster for Rule 5 protection reasons, but who could help the Phillies as immediately as opening day 2018 and thus would need to be added to the 40.

If Kingery is up here on opening day 2018, it likely means either Cesar Hernandez or Maikel Franco is no longer in the picture, so you'd think that would be a 1-for-1 roster swap.

Hernandez is a valuable leadoff hitter, and Franco could hit 200-plus home runs in the majors, but Kingery might be a better all-around player who makes one of them expendable. Teams were interested last offseason in Hernandez and will certainly be calling the Phillies about him again this winter.

Eshelman was on the DL for three weeks with an elbow strain, and the Phillies will be cautious with his workload the rest of the summer. The 23-year-old is already at 113 innings, seven shy of his career high.

Eshelman allowed eight runs in four innings in his return Friday night, but he's been so good at Triple A this season that his ERA is still 2.86. Prior to Friday night, he was 7-2 with a 2.14 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 12 starts with the IronPigs, even better numbers than he had at Double A.

Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively and Zach Eflin make for six starting pitchers ahead of Eshelman on the depth chart, but he's probably next on the list at this point. If he gets a spring training invite in 2018 and impresses, he could move up a spot or two. 

Future Phillies Report: J.P. Crawford makes more sense at 3B than Scott Kingery

Future Phillies Report: J.P. Crawford makes more sense at 3B than Scott Kingery

The Future Phillies Report takes on a different look as September approaches. So many of the key players we've focused on this season — Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Pivetta, Jesen Therrien — are now firmly entrenched with the big-league club.

At Triple A, Lehigh Valley's lineup has taken some hits as the aforementioned position players have been promoted, which was a reason Carlos Tocci was promoted to the IronPigs last week.

Sunday saw another interesting development with J.P. Crawford making his first start in the Phillies' organization at a defensive position other than shortstop (see story). We've explored this idea in recent weeks given the steps forward Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis have taken and the continued struggles of Maikel Franco.

So we'll start with the top prospect left at Triple A.

SS J.P. Crawford (AAA)
It's not how you start, it's how you finish, right? Well, Crawford is finishing this season strong.

Since July 1, Crawford has hit .306/.397/.595 with nine doubles, four triples, 11 homers, 25 walks and 37 strikeouts in 199 plate appearances.

It's gotten his season numbers back to a respectable place — Crawford is hitting .246/.352/.408 for an OPS 72 points higher than he had last season. Crawford had another multi-hit game Sunday, his seventh in his last 15 games. He's also been more sound in the field, committing just one error in his last 23 games. 

It makes a lot of sense to try Crawford out at third base at Triple A over the next few weeks and then potentially see what he's got at the hot corner in the majors in September. Franco just continues to show little improvement at the plate — and it's not as if we're looking merely at results, it's Franco's approach too. Franco is down to .224 with a .277 OBP on the season, and in only one month this season has Franco hit higher than .224 or had an OBP higher than .284.

Crawford would make more sense than Scott Kingery as a third baseman (at least while Galvis is still around) since Kingery's defense at second base is above average. Kingery has one error in his last 43 games.

Hernandez remains an offseason trade candidate, one who could probably fetch the Phillies a starting pitcher who can help.

2B Scott Kingery (AAA)
Kingery is 48 games into his stay at Triple A and is hitting .315/.347/.502.

He hit .313/.379/.608 with Double A Reading.

He's done it all — hit for power, hit for average, play great defense and run the bases well. In total, Kingery has 26 doubles, eight triples, 26 homers, 63 RBIs, 98 runs and 27 steals in 117 games this season.

This feels like a repeat of the Rhys Hoskins situation — the minor-leaguer is ready for the majors, just has no everyday spot.

For Kingery, the best avenues to everyday playing time early next season are either a trade of Hernandez, a trade of Franco or an injury to one of them. Hernandez should have trade value this winter as a leadoff hitter with on-base skills, speed and improving defense. With Franco, the Phillies would be selling low unless they deem that this is just who he is.

RHP Tom Eshelman (AAA)
After allowing eight runs in his return from the DL on Aug. 4, Eshelman has twirled two gems, allowing just one run and 11 baserunners in 13 innings.

Overall this season, Eshelman is 11-3 with a 2.70 ERA in 20 starts (five with Reading, 15 with Lehigh Valley). His trademark control has never been better — Eshelman has walked just 17 batters in 130 innings this season.

The Phillies face some tough starting pitching decisions this winter. Do they add a few veterans to improve the team and make Philly a more worthwhile destination for that star-studded 2018 free-agent class? Do they give Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson another half-season to stick in the rotation? None of those three has answered doubts or pushed his way into the Phillies' future plans yet.

Whatever the Phils do, Eshelman isn't far from the majors or far down the organizational depth chart.

Another reason you'll likely see Eshelman early in 2018 is that the Phillies are going to want to see some fruits of the Ken Giles trade. Velasquez hasn't panned out as a starting pitcher so far, nor has Mark Appel, and a trade that looked smart and promising at the time has been a win for the Astros and a loss for the Phillies two seasons later.

OF Dylan Cozens (AAA)
Perhaps if Cozens was hitting, he would have gotten the call to join the Phillies for a few days on the West Coast with Odubel Herrera injured. Instead, the Phillies chose to add Pedro Florimon to the 40-man roster last week rather than call up Cozens or Brock Stassi.

Cozens has not had a good year in his first taste of Triple A. After hitting .276/.350/.591 with 40 homers at Double A last season, he's hit .214/.302/.411 with 23 homers this season. He's on pace to strike out even more than he did last season, when he whiffed 186 times. He's already at 171 this season.

The guy is just in an awful slump. Since July 20, Cozens is 10 for 91 (.110) with 45 strikeouts and two extra-base hits. Add in some shaky defense and you get a player who needs more seasoning, or could maybe be used as a trade chip with the Phillies' outfield well set up for 2018 with Herrera, Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams.

RHP Sixto Sanchez (High A Clearwater)
Sanchez, the Phillies' top pitching prospect, has made three starts with Clearwater since being promoted at the end of July and each has been better than the last.

• 6 innings, 10 hits (career high), 5 runs (career high), 0 walks, 3 strikeouts

• 6 innings, 6 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

• 6 innings, 5 hits, 2 runs, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts (season-high 84 pitches)

It's interesting that with Sanchez's blazing fastball and above-average command, his strikeout total isn't very high. He's whiffed 77 batters in 85⅓ innings, a respectable rate of 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings, but a rate lower than you typically see from a pitcher who throws as hard as he does. Some of that is because he locates well early in counts and gets soft contact. Can't argue with efficiency.

Sanchez has pitched 85⅓ innings this season and is starting once a week at this point. The Phillies will be cautious with him and likely cap him right around 100 to 110 innings.

CF Mickey Moniak (Class A Lakewood)
Moniak's numbers continue to slide as he's enduring a brutal month of August. He's 8 for 59 (.136) this month and hasn't walked nearly enough to offset the offensive difficulties.

Moniak this season has hit .241/.292/.343 with an extra-base hit every 15.5 plate appearances. He has 27 walks and 98 strikeouts. 

Moniak, the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, was recently joined at Lakewood by Adam Haseley, the Phillies' first-round pick in June. Haseley has been playing left field and batting a spot ahead of Moniak in the batting order. 

Keep in mind with both of these guys that this is by far the most baseball they've ever played in a calendar year so it's not surprising they're fading as the summer wears on. Moniak is one year removed from a high school schedule, while Haseley has already played 104 games in 2017 between the University of Virginia and the Phillies' system. With the Cavaliers, the most games he played in a season was 68.

RHP Seranthony Dominguez (High A Clearwater)
Dominguez had a 2.02 ERA in his first seven starts this season before experiencing shoulder soreness that kept him out two months. Since returning to Clearwater, he's allowed 12 runs, 24 hits and 14 walks in 19 innings.

Still, Dominguez has put himself on the map this season as an intriguing, 22-year-old pitching prospect with a high strikeout rate (74 K's in 60 innings).

LHP McKenzie Mills (High A Clearwater)
The Phillies' return in the Howie Kendrick trade, Mills has made three starts for Clearwater. The first two were very good — he followed five innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts and three runs over six innings — but he was shelled his last time out, allowing 11 hits and four runs in 4⅔ innings.

Mills' opponents have hit .356 over his last two starts, but he's been missing bats at a high rate (16 percent). Overall this season, he has a solid whiff rate of 14 percent; the league average is around 10 percent.

Mills' control continues to be outstanding. He hasn't walked a batter in four starts. Overall this season, he has 134 K's and 22 walks in 120⅓ innings.

Mills could potentially factor into the Phillies' pitching plans in a few years the way Nick Pivetta has this season, but the Nationals are much happier so far with how this trade turned out. Jonathan Papelbon was a disaster in Washington, but Kendrick's bat has kept the Nats afloat through a bunch of injuries lately.

LHP Nick Fanti (Class A Lakewood)
Another lefty with a sparkling K/BB ratio, Fanti is 7-2 with a 2.65 ERA, 108 strikeouts and 22 walks in 108⅔ innings this season. That includes his no-hitter on July 17 and his 8⅔ innings of no-hit ball on May 6. 

It's not like Fanti has had only a few great outings, either — he's allowed zero or one earned run(s) in 12 of 19 starts this season. Not bad for a 31st-round pick.

Fanti would probably be at Clearwater already if the Threshers' rotation wasn't so crowded with Sanchez, Dominguez, Mills, JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez.

LHP JoJo Romero (High A Clearwater)
The 20-year-old has already moved pretty fast through the Phillies' system and if he keeps up his current pace, he'll likely be at Reading early in 2018.

Romero, the Phils' fourth-round pick in 2016, has adjusted seamlessly to High A. In seven starts with Clearwater, he's 3-2 with a 2.45 ERA, 38 strikeouts and 12 walks in 40⅓ innings. Those numbers are pretty close to what he was doing at Lakewood.

With a good sinker, Romero has gotten a lot of quick outs this season, which has enabled him to go deeper into games than some of his counterparts. Since arriving at Clearwater, he's held his opponent to 1, 0, 2, 0, 1 and 3 runs. In his lone poor outing, he gave up seven runs (five earned) on 12 hits in four innings.

For Rhys Hoskins, it all started with that 1st home run

For Rhys Hoskins, it all started with that 1st home run

SAN FRANCISCO — All Rhys Hoskins needed was to get the first one.
 
That's the way power hitters are.
 
They will tell you they don't think about hitting home runs.
 
But they do.
 
"As much as I want to say I wasn't trying to get the first one out of the way, I think it's probably pretty obvious that's what it was," Hoskins said after the Phillies beat the San Francisco Giants, 5-2, Sunday (see game story).
 
He was referring to his first 12 big-league at-bats during the Phillies' last homestand. He went hitless in those at-bats before reaching base on a single in his 13th at-bat and heading to his native California for seven games on his first big-league road trip.
 
Hoskins delivered. He went 8 for 25 with eight RBIs on the seven-game trip. He homered twice in the first game of the trip and three more times before it ended, including on Saturday and Sunday in the Phillies' only two wins of the trip.
 
"I feel like I'm getting into better counts and the results showed this week," the 24-year-old said.
 
Manager Pete Mackanin said he was never worried about Hoskins being over his head.
 
"You know how that goes," he said. "You can't jump to conclusions after 20 at-bats. You might say he's hitting .220 (actually .237), but we can tell from his at-bats he's a much better hitter than that."
 
Hoskins hit 38 homers at Double A Reading last season and 29 more at Triple A Lehigh Valley before coming up earlier this month. After 11 games — and five homers — he feels more like himself.
 
"I just wanted to settle in the box and feel more comfortable in the box and realize it really is the same game, 60 feet, six inches, they still have to throw the ball over the plate," he said. "I think that has a lot to do with it."
 
Hoskins had two hits in Sunday's win, including a home run. He played first base, his natural position. Jorge Alfaro played there Saturday night as manager Pete Mackanin held slumping Tommy Joseph out of the lineup two days in a row. Joseph is hitting just .185 against left-handed pitching this season and Mackanin kept him away from lefties Ty Blach and Madison Bumgarner.
 
With a doubleheader Tuesday against Miami, and two righties pitching for the Marlins, Mackanin is sure to use Joseph in at least one of those games.
 
But how about beyond that? Alfaro has produced at the plate over the last two days and the team officials want to continue to see him. He was already slated to get time behind the plate, but first base has also become a place for him to get occasional at-bats, as it is for Hoskins, as well.
 
How is this all going to shake out?
 
Mackanin said Hoskins "most likely" would continue to get most of his reps in left field, where he's been OK, despite a couple of bad reads, for a relative newcomer to the position.
 
Then Mackanin added: "Let me have the day off (Monday) to think about it. We'll see how we can make this all work."