I’ve been reading between the lines. I’ve been noting all the injuries. I’ve even been drinking a lot of tea. You know, to get to the leaves. Here’s my latest ‘go’ at an opening day roster for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in 2015:
Background and Methodology: In the past, our AAA rosters here in the Lehigh Valley have been made up of players mostly as an “extended bench” for the MLB club. Many teams do this–some better than others–but our rosters haven’t had much of a “developmental” feel to them, with the possible exception of 2013. While making up the list below, I’m trying to consider which players have value for the Phillies–mostly future value, but for this season as well. Keep that in mind if you see one of your favorite players on the “extras” list. Also, having too many players for our IronPigs in March is a good thing. Guys get injured. Guys move up, and, unfortunately, some guys just don’t have it anymore. Last year at this time I thought we had too many players. However, it didn’t take long and we were calling up guys from the Sugar Land Skeeters. I know guys need to play, but I’d rather have too many of my own guys rather than have to raid the Camden Riversharks roster in May or June.
So yeah, “Extras” could be cut, could be injured, could be “injured,” or could be on the Phillies or the Reading club. We’ll see.
1. Koyie Hill
2. Tommy Joseph
Extras: Rene Garcia, John Hester, Mystery Guy
Discussion: I read a blurb online today that the Phillies might be in the market for an additional catcher. That might be unnecessary, but depth is important–especially at that position–as I indicated above. If they don’t think Cam Rupp–who should easily get the backup job based on his Spring performance and his 40-man spot–and Koyie Hill–who has plenty of MLB experience–can be enough for the big club until Hester gets back from his knee surgery, then yes. Tommy Joseph was good enough to start 2013 in Allentown, he should be good enough now. Rene Garcia’s experience at AAA is limited, but if they want to take it slow with ToJo, then he could start with us. He’s known as a very good defensive catcher.
3. Chris McGuiness
4. Russ Canzler
5. Chase d’Arnaud
6. Maikel Franco
7. Chris Nelson
8. Cesar Hernandez
9. Tyler Henson
Extras: Andres Blanco, Tyler Greene
Discussion: Blanco could make the Phillies as Galvis’ backup–especially if Cesar can’t handle it. Cesar has not had a good Spring at all, and while he doesn’t have any options remaining, I’m predicting he might get outrighted to the IronPigs and make it through the process all the way to the IronPigs. Cord Phelps makes the Phillies in this iteration. But, based on roster choices, he could flop with Cesar if only to delay the decision (based on 40-man status and Phelps’ current minor league deal). One last thing, and keep in mind that Tyler Henson is one of my favorite players and that I want him on the team: What can Tyler do that Russ Canzler can’t? Second base? But Cesar and Phelps can do that–as well as Blanco and d’Arnaud and even Nelson was there yesterday. Like I said: Anything can happen. I just hope the Phillies don’t make that unpopular decision–but I’ll understand it. And Tyler Greene? He could be around in the Velandia role for a bit.
10. Cameron Perkins
11. Darin Mastroianni
12. Aaron Altherr
13. Brian Bogusevic
Extras: Jordan Danks, Darin Ruf, Kelly Dugan, Jeff Francoeur, Grady Sizemore
Discussion: I think Darin Ruf and Jordan Danks both make the Phillies–especially with Dom Brown’s injury. Francoeur could as well, I guess–or else he opts out and goes elsewhere. Danks is on the 40-man and can fill in CF if necessary. Kelly Dugan is battling a foot injury and won’t be ready to start the season, most likely. Sizemore likely has his spot on the Phillies locked up supposedly, but might be on the bubble later on if he’s not producing. Depending on how Brown is doing, Bogusevic has played well and has a shot, too.
14. Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez (MAG)
15. Adam Morgan (LHP)
16. Severino Gonzalez
17. Joely Rodriguez (LHP)
18. Sean O’Sullivan
Extras: Jesse Biddle, Aaron Nola, Jason Berken, Adam Loewen, Anthony Vasquez, PJ Walters, Kevin Slowey, Paul Clemens, Jon Pettibone
Discussion: This is probably the hardest group to set. The thing is, it will be changing constantly anyway. The Phillies April rotation is held together with string and toothpicks. Hamels, Harang, Buchanan, Williams, Slowey probably start out, with Billingsly moving into the Slowey spot, and Slowey going to the Phillies’ pen as the “swing man” (Sandberg’s words). A myriad other things could impact that MLB rotation, so the AAA opening rotation will be prepared with the idea that guys will be ready to move up at a moment’s notice.
Biddle and Nola could easily start with the ‘Pigs, but I think they’ll be with Reading mostly so that there are guys with LHV who are ready to step up for the Phillies during the first third of the season or so. I do, however, think they’ll want to get those two guys ready to make their Major League debuts by the end of the season–so look for them in Allentown sooner rather than later.
I haven’t been impressed with MAG of late, and I think he gets some time to work things out in the IronPigs rotation. How long? Until Jon Pettibone’s shoulder is better–that’s how long. If he’s not looking like a candidate to help the Phillies’ starters by then, I think back to the bull pen he goes to simplify and throw harder.
I’m not sure what Paul Clemens is, but for now I’ve got him as a reliever somewhere. Phillies? IronPigs? Astros? Someplace. I think Sean O’Sullivan remains in our rotation as long as he’s still a candidate for Phillies’ spot starts.
19. Elvis Araujo (LHP)
20. Nefi Ogando
21. Hector Neris
22. Ethan Martin
23. Seth Rosin
24. Cesar Jimenez (LHP)
25. Paul Clemens
Extras: Jeanmar Gomez, Phillippe Aumont, Luis Garcia, Tyler Knigge, Hoby Milner, Michael Nesseth,
Discussion: With the injury to Mario Hollands in Philadelphia, there could be some extra room in that bullpen at Citizens Bank Park. I had Garcia already making the Phillies, and Gomez and Phillippe are making strong cases currently. With Diekman and Oliver, the Phillies already have two lefty relievers, so they’ll stash Jimenez with us until Araujo is ready. Then, they’ve got the experienced Clemens and the up-and-comers Ogando and Neris, and the still-recovering Martin.
The Aumont case is befuddling–much like watching him pitch with your team clinging to a lead. Here’s my take: Last season, it seemed to me (observation, not told to me by players or coaches) that Aumont’s delivery was being stabilized in order to make his mechanics more consistent. In the process, his 96-97 fastball was suddenly 90-92 on the Coca Cola Park gun. Plus, it didn’t seem like he was any more in command of his pitches–plenty of WP, PB, HBP. I’m not sure what’s changed, but now his FB is back up to 95-96, his secondaries are playing up, and he’s been around the plate. Perhaps too much so, at some times, but I like that he’s throwing strikes. Is he just stronger with the mechanics? Has he abandoned what they were doing because he knows he’s out of options and his back is against the wall? Is this all coincidence and I’m way off base? I don’t know. He has the 40-man spot, and I think he keeps it to start the season. The Phillies won’t make a decision on it until they have to–and maybe the Aumont reclamation project will either succeed or move elsewhere as a trade package piece. For more on Aumont, read Matt Winkleman’s much better piece here.
So that’s what I’ve got for now. I’ll probably do one more before the final roster is out.
See you at the park! Soon!