Merry Christmas! For the previous two years, I’ve taken a few minutes on Christmas Day to make a stab at a potential IronPigs roster for the coming season. Usually, I can find a few quiet minutes in the afternoon while everyone else is either napping or playing with toys. This year, no such moment occurred and I’m a day late. So be it, but I still think it’s a good idea to look forward to potential IronPigs roster candidates, all the same.
As in previous years, I’ll mention that this is indeed folly. There’s no way I–or anyone else–can anticipate what might happen as we approach and proceed through Spring Training. There could be injuries, additional signings, trades, and the like. This season it may be even more dynamic as roster positions are up for grabs in Philadelphia, and an established guy–or guys–could get traded.
So here it goes, guys to watch for the 2015 IronPigs:
Tyler Henson: Word came through Christmas Eve that he’d return. One of our favorites–we hope he gets an MLB shot at some point this season. Solid 3B/2B, I’m sure he could fill 1B too if needed, and won’t embarrass himself at SS in AAA. Will play some corner OF as well. .272/.331/.415/.747 over 123 games for the IronPigs last season.
Andres Blanco: Let’s Go Banc-O! He’ll compete with Freddy Galvis for the MLB SS job–but Freddy has the 40-man spot already so Andres is likely insurance. A veteran could be added on the MLB side, as well. .241/.314/.285/.598 in 45 games for the IronPigs last season–he did better in his 25 games with the Phillies.
Russ Canzler: Russ Returns! The 1B/DH can also play some LF. He benefited from regular playing time after coming over from Moosic last season, hitting .286/.360/.545/.904 over 61 games in Allentown. Can we pencil him in as the next Andy Tracy? Maybe not yet, but we’re glad he’s back, just the same.
Chris McGuiness: The 1B is a lefty who spent all of last season in Indianapolis, but had a cup of coffee in the MLB with Texas in 2013. He hit .264/.358/.412/.770 over 126 games in AAA last season, and only 9 HRs. The lefty should benefit from Coca Cola Park, and has been mentioned as a LH platoon possibility in Philadelphia should Howard get traded and Ruf and/or Franco take over 1B.
Chase d’Arnaud: Older brother of former Phillies catching prospect and current NY Met Travis d’Arnaud, he is a SS/3B primarily, and has an invitation to Spring Training. He played 48 games for the Pirates in 2011, but only 16 since. He hit .250/.313/.356/.670 over 118 games in Indy last season. He’ll compete with Blanco for SS looks, and with Henson and Nelson for 3B time.
Cord Phelps: You may recognize the name of the switch-hitting second baseman from his time with Columbus and Norfolk, where he spent last season. Over 99 games with the Tides he hit .259/.361/.388/.748 with 7 HR.
Chris Nelson: Primarily a 3B but with the ability to play elsewhere on the INF, Nelson has 282 games of MLB experience. He spent last season in Louisville and El Paso hitting .279/.355/.389/.744 in AAA over 87 games. He spent 27 games with the Padres where he fared worse. He hit 6 HR in AAA and bats RH.
Other Possibilities: I believe both Asche and Franco still have options–one could be stashed at LHV to start the season if the Phils need space with the big club. If top-prospect JP Crawford masters Reading as quickly as he did the other levels, we could see him mid-season–sooner if SS becomes a bigger problem than anticipated in Philadelphia. Edgar Duran may still be in the mix in Reading as well. Others who may matriculate from Reading sooner or later are Carlos Alonso, Albert Cartright, and Brock Stassi. Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis are out of options, and won’t likely appear with the ‘Pigs this season–they are both on the 40-man right now. Jim Murphy is a free agent.
Cameron Perkins: Almost a lock to return to the IronPigs, Cam started really hot in Reading last season, earned the promotion, continued good play, but then fell into a deep slump before recovering near the end of the season. Despite his struggles, he was fun to watch. He’s 24.
Aaron Altherr: Aaron had a couple short stints in Philly last season as the only healthy OF on the 40-man. Even so, he missed a bunch of time due to injury. He’s had a good winter playing in Venezuela and could start the season in Allentown. He’s a RH CF, and also 24.
Kelly Dugan: Like Altherr, Dugan missed time last season with injury. He may start in Reading to make up for missed time, but should appear in Allentown sooner rather than later. The 24yo corner outfielder bats LH and could do well at Coca Cola Park.
Brian Bogusevic: Brian arrives as a FA having spent last season with Miami’s AAA team in New Orleans playing only 82 games–reportedly somewhat unhappily. He has 299 games of MLB experience and may have an opt-out if he can’t crack the roster in Philadelphia. The 30yo lefty hit .263/.352/.420/.772 in the PCL last season with 7 HR. He came up through the Astros’ system and spent time with the Cubs.
Darin Mastroianni: You may recognize his name from his time in Rochester. He has 129 games of MLB experience and can play CF. He bats RH and hit .277/.354/.379/.733 with 5HR over 92 games with Buffalo and Rochester last season.
Xavier Paul: Another LH batter, the diminutive Paul can also play CF. He has 349 games of MLB experience with the Dodgers, Pirates, Reds, and Diamondbacks. Last season he hit .251/.311/.425/.736 with 12 HR between Norfolk and Reno in AAA.
Jeff Francoeur: Frenchy, the veteran of 1237 games over 10 seasons in the Bigs, spent last season almost entirely with the Padres’ AAA team in El Paso (yes, DiPro, the Chihuahuas.) Over 115 games he hit 15 HR and .289/.320/.450/.770. He almost certainly has an opt-out–most likely the March 30 variety. However, if he was willing to wear a tiny dog on his jersey last season, perhaps he’ll be in Allentown for part of this year! We’ll see.
Discussion: The veterans are likely placeholders and supplements to the young guys Perkins, Altherr, and Dugan. Grady Sizemore is back with the Phils, but is on the 40-man and certainly wouldn’t pass waivers to Lehigh Valley. Because Altherr and Dugan missed time last season, they could start in Reading–or Perkins too, I suppose, if he starts really slowly in Spring Training. However, with Roman Quinn set to start in CF in Reading, I have Altherr with us. As mentioned above, and with the possible exception of Mastroianni, I imagine the veterans have opt-outs at whatever interval. Remember that a couple of the infielders also have the utility of covering the corner outfield spots. I don’t have anything solid about Leandro Castro, although one source says he’s re-signed–he’s listed as a FA on the MiLB site. From Reading, Peter Lavin left via the Rule 5 draft, and I believe Zach Collier is currently a free agent.
Cameron Rupp: Cam currently has a 40-man spot and perhaps the inside track on a chance to back up Chooch in Philadelphia. However, he still has an option and could begin with us again.
Tommy Joseph: ToJo was hitting really, really well in Reading to start last season. Unfortunately, the injury bug bit him once again. Fortunately, not the concussion variety, though. He’s still reasonably young, and catchers do sometimes take longer to develop. He could start in Reading again.
Koyie Hill: Welcome back Koyie! The veteran re-signed on a minor league deal with a Spring invite. Remember, he’s got 341 games of MLB playing experience over 11 seasons. He could be in the mix for the Philly job, but would need a 40-man spot. The switch-hitter is an interesting one to watch at The Coke.
John Hester: The 31-year old Hester has MLB experience with the Angels and Diamondbacks. He hit .261/.338/.411/.749 with 6 HR for Salt Lake last season playing exactly half: 71 games. I’ve got him in Allentown to start the season.
Rene Garcia: 28yo, he played AA last year in the Texas League. He could start in Reading, stay behind for EST, or get promoted to Lehigh Valley. We’ll see.
Discussion: Logan Moore is in the mix in Reading, as well. Lars Davis is a free agent. Carlos Ruiz could be a trade candidate if the right offer presents. Sebastian Valle signed with the Pittsburgh organization.
Adam Morgan: The lefty is one of my favorites. However, after recovering from shoulder surgery and missing all of last season, he was assigned to the Arizona Fall Leauge and didn’t do great. Perhaps the strength is still coming back, and he’ll be ready for AAA again. If not, I could see him staying in Florida as the season begins, to try to build things up again.
Jon Pettibone: Jon had some injury issues last season as well. He could be in the mix to win that fifth starter spot in Philly if he’s fully healthy. However, he does have an option and could begin in Allentown. He’s on the 40-man.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez: Multiple sources have him as a starter for 2015. He’s already on the 40-man and could challenge for the #5 spot as well (figure: Hamels, Lee, Williams, Buchanan…). But, he could also start at AAA to hone his craft for starting.
Sean O’Sullivan: SOS is back! He started 25 games for us last season and went 6-10 with a 4.30 ERA. However, the Phillies liked him enough to give him some time with the big club last season, and have asked him back. He could transition to the ‘pen if needed, I imagine.
Severino Gonzalez: The youngster has many fans among the Phillies MiLB cognoscenti. He’s only 22, but was durable enough to start 27 games in Reading last season going 9-13, 4.59 ERA. He issued only 34 walks against 115 K’s over 158.2 innings. Time to see what he can do on the next level.
Hoby Milner: The lefty contact pitcher went 10-6 over his 25 starts in Reading last season with a 4.21 ERA. Like Gonzalez, it’s time to see what he’s got.
Perci Garner: The big righty second-round pick started 16 games in Reading last season, but averaged only 4.26 innings per appearance. He’s just as likely to issue a walk as get a K. He just turned 26; we’ll see.
Adam Loewen: The pitcher-turned hitter-turned pitcher again is a great story. He had a 3.31ERA in 17 starts in Reading last season and could make it (back) to the Bigs as a pitcher. The 31-yo lefty should be fun to watch; he can swing the bat a bit too!
Jesse Biddle: The injury bug got him again, too. This time it was a concussion from a hail-strike, and he just wasn’t right after that in 2014. After two plagued seasons with the Fightins, I think it should be time for the Lefty prospect to get a new challenge under the tutelage of pitching coach Ray Burris.
Kevin Slowey: The veteran RHP has been with Miami the last couple seasons, working out of the ‘pen for some time. He started 2 games in 2014 and 14 in 2013. He last appeared in AAA in 2012 with Columbus, starting 8 games. He could be in the mix for a ‘pen job in Philly, or the #5 spot, or a LHV job.
Joely Rodriguez: The lefty comes over from the Pirates organization in the Bastardo deal. He pitched last season in AA Altoona in 30 games/21 starts. His line was 6-11, 4.84. I’ve heard good things about his “stuff,” but he’ll need to be evaluated a little further by the Phillies’ coaching staff to see if they want to bump him to AAA or if he needs a little more time in the Eastern League. I’ve also heard mention that he could be moved to the bullpen.
PJ Walters: The big veteran righty whom you may recognize from his days with Buffalo and Rochester was the only real AAA-FA-type the Phillies signed up for IronPigs duty this season. Even so, he’s started 24 games in the Majors and appeared in 40.
Discussion: Depending on what happens with the Phillies starters–trades and injuries in particular–top prospect Aaron Nola could be pushed to Lehigh Valley sooner rather than later. I highly doubt he starts in Philly–with only 5 starts in Reading last season I really see him starting there, however briefly, and they probably don’t want to start his service clock. He’s one to watch, though, and when he arrives in Allentown don’t expect him to stay long. You can think of that #5 guy in Philly as a place-holder if you want–waiting on Nola to arrive.
Non-roster invitee Paul Clemens could be thrust into a starting role once again. Ethan Martin could re-enter the starting ranks. At “WordPress” time, veteran Wandy Rodriguez was signed by Philadelphia and should be in the mix for that #5 spot.
Discussion: There are too many moving parts to even formulate. However, the IronPigs should have a strong–and interesting–‘pen once again. With the 40-man guys first, here are the players to watch:
Elvis Araujo, Luis Garcia, Ethan Martin, Hector Neris, Nefi Ogando, Paul Clemens, Colton Murray, Mike Nesseth, Kyle Simon (?), Austin Wright, Tyler Knigge, Seth Rosin, Stephen Shackelford.
OK, have at it. Make corrections, additions, and comments below. As things change in Philadelphia, so will they for us here in the Lehigh Valley. We might not always field a good team this season, but it should always be competitive–and interesting. There will be talent on the field and prospects moving through. As always, I’m looking forward to it.
See you at the park,
“Featured Image” seen on Facebook with this story, credit Cheryl Pursell.