“I wonder what tomorrow has in mind for me
Or am I even in it’s mind at all
Perhaps I’ll get a chance to look ahead and see
Soon as I find myself a crystal ball”
–Tommy Shaw / STYX
It’s not that I’m giving up on the 2015 IronPigs. Really, it’s not. Oh, I know, they’re too far behind in the standings, and even behind in the IronRail at this point. Plus, they’ll only be home for 12 more games. Only 8 of those games will be when I’m available, and five of those happen over the closing, Labor Day weekend. Those last five games are all in September, when the MLB rosters will have expanded and some of our better players could be called up. So I’m not giving up, just accepting the reality of the situation for this season, remaining. We still have games to play, and fun to be had. Some interesting players are around, including the two new starters who came over in the Rangers/Cole Hamels trade. So I’m still paying attention.
No, what got me thinking about next season has more to do with an article I read this morning. Matt Winkelman over at Phillies Minor Thoughts does a great deal of writing and thinking about the players in the Phillies’ minor league system. He spends the time to watch the video of player performances and talk with people who have seen the players play in person, rather than getting fooled by “box score scouting.” He approaches things very objectively–rather than emotionally–which I appreciate. He did a mid-season “Top 30”–and that’s what I read this morning. Of course, I couldn’t help but calculate when each player might arrive in Allentown to play AAA ball for the IronPigs. A bunch of the top ones could be arriving soon. Go read the article here.
My crystal ball tells me that a bunch of these guys will be invited to MLB Spring Training, whether they have 40-man spots, or not. I’m not considering 40-man limits here, because I think space can be made. Options are another matter, and I’ve got some notes, below. Some MiLB free agents will be added, and MLB guys will be brought to camp as well. But consider, these are some guys who COULD be 2016 IronPigs on opening day in April (Matt’s Top 30 ranking, in parentheses; HM=Honorable Mention):
Gabriel Lino (28)
Discussion: I’d expect Rupp to remain with the big club, and some veteran talent to be around for both MLB and AAA–perhaps even Kratzy. I think Andrew Knapp (22) will go back to Reading, to start.
Jake Thompson (3), Zach Eflin (9), Jesse Biddle (18), Jerad Eickhoff (19), Alec Asher (30), Ben Lively (31), Severino Gonzalez (HM), Joely Rodriguez (HM)
Discussion: Certainly, that’s more than the five we need. Some will make the big club, and some might be converted to relievers or be sent back to Reading. A veteran arm or two might be added. In any case, though, it’s a nice group to choose from.
Nefi Ogando (HM), Jimmy Cordero (HM), Tom Windle (HM), Mario Hollands (MLB-DL)
Discussion: Again, guys will have the opportunity to earn MLB spots, and a veteran or two might appear at both levels. Some guys who are with the big club right now, could be back. However, there should be some nice choices and talent here, as well.
Tommy Joseph (not ranked)
Discussion: Perhaps he’s not a prospect any more, at 1B, but you never know–and his power may play up without the defensive responsibilities at catcher. He’ll DH some, and there’s been talk about 3B. However, I’m expecting to see him at 1B with either Reading or Lehigh Valley to begin next season. He does have an option left.
Odubel Herrera (MLB)
Discussion: Secure with the big club this season due to Rule 5, and now converted to outfield, he may be needed there again next season–depending on what else happens at the outfield position. Plus, I’m not sure he has options left, which would probably assure him an OF spot. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at 2B in Allentown on opening day.
JP Crawford (1)
Discussion: I see no reason why he’ll need to go back to Reading in the Spring. I think they get him some MLB time during March, then send him down to AAA to start the season. His glove is MLB-ready right now. He’ll just need to fine tune his hitting and he’ll be with the Phillies before the end of next season.
Cody Asche (MLB)
Discussion: Like I said with Odubel, it depends on what they decide about the outfield. If the Cody in LF experiment is over, and other players are manning the corner spots, then Cody could become the back-up for Maikel. Maikel’s arm is wasted at 1B, and Cody has options. It wouldn’t totally shock me to see him back with us to start the season at 3B. An MiLB FA could man this spot, as well.
Nick Williams (3), Roman Quinn (7), Aaron Altherr (12), Kelly Dugan (23), Cameron Perkins (HM)
Discussion: Pick four, I guess. Quinn could go back to Reading to start, I suppose, and it’s likely Altherr earns a spot on the opening-day MLB roster. A free agent could be added, too, but there should be some talent here for us to watch.
With the possibility of 11 of the top 30 players in the system starting with the IronPigs next season, the future looks bright. Young, talented players who were previously ranked could occupy additional roster spots. We know, of course, that crystal balls are not 100% accurate, and that nothing is guaranteed. It does give us something to look forward to, though, and should give some hope to Phillies fans as well.
See you at the park,