Merry Christmas 2017!
The presents have been opened and the kids are playing with their toys. It’s time for Kram to start thinking about spring. And spring means baseball and baseball means IronPigs…
If you are so inclined, you can take a peek back through the archives and see that I’ve done one of these almost every year–perhaps sometimes they went uncompleted and were published in the days following December 25, but you get the point.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at who might be on the field when the Gary Jones’ IronPigs open up in P’tucket on Friday April 6, 2018:
(Names in boldface are my 25-man roster for the 2018 IronPigs as of December 25, 2017)
As the Phillies have re-stocked their pharm system in recent years, you’ll see many positions, from the big club on down, filled with “prospects.” That is, players acquired and developed by the team with the hopes that they will eventually take a place and contribute at the top level of a playoff team. These players will get the priority of playing time and promotion, if they’re ready. This means that signing premium MiLB free agents is not a priority these days for the Phillies. In posts gone by, I’ve had the luxury of knowing who the Phillies had signed to play for the AAA team, by this point.
With those premium positions locked up by prospects–OK that does make my job easier, but in a different way–we’ll wait on free agent signings as we get into January and then subsequently into Spring Training. For those free agent players, they know the Phillies are a young team with a deep system, so a player who wants a quick path to the big leagues might not be in a big hurry to sign. Then again, some players might sign one of those ‘opt-out’ deals where they begin the season here in order to get an opportunity elsewhere.
As you read on, the most interesting position at AAA is starting pitching. With a bunch of prospects, and no one stepping up to get a strangle-hold on a major league job, there are a bunch of candidates. Those candidates are being pushed by some “younger” players and could get squeezed out, traded, or sent to the bull-pen to try for an opportunity there.
Darin Ruf is in Korea. Brock Stassi is in
Minnesota Rochester. Kyle Martin hit .193 in Reading last season and struck out 134 times. So what will the IronPigs do to fill the spot once patrolled by Andy Tracy, Rhys Hoskins and Jeff Larish?
I think we’ll see a minor league signing in January. The thing is, with Carlos Santana and Rhys Hoskins in Philadelphia, there’s not much of an opportunity for a 1B to get a shot in the majors, so we might not see a “headline” signing. Still, a couple names from the MiLB FA list: Dustin Ackley, Chris Carter, Chris Colabello, Efren Navarro, Neftali Soto and Joey Terdoslavich. Matt Hague, Matt Skole and Brandon Snyder are already off the board, along with Brock Stassi.
Or, the IronPigs could just use a combination of whichever “utility man in waiting” might be available. In other words, your opening day 1B could be Jesmuel Valentin.
Finally, 1B Tommy Joseph remains on the Phillies 40-man roster, may have options and has no real path towards a trade. One suspects that he may be put on waivers at some point in favor of the 40-man spot. He could get claimed by another team. Or, he could get out-righted and assigned to the IronPigs.
Barring trades or other unforeseen drama, we expect Scotty Kingery to man the second base position for the start of the 2018 campaign. Jesse Valentin should also be available to fill in here on nights when Scotty might be called upon to work at short or third, if they continue with that line of thinking.
The JP Crawford era in Allentown has come to a close with his September promotion to Philadelphia and the subsequent trade of Freddy Galvis to San Diego. In Reading, Malquin Canelo started the season strong, and has a good glove, but his final numbers at the plate in AA (.226/.301/.339) suggest that he might not be ready for such an assignment just yet. The Phillies claimed Engelb Vielma on waivers this fall, but he’s since been waived and claimed by the Pirates in a similar move. Pedro Florimon should be the utility guy in Philly, as Valentin should in Allentown. We could see a fair amount of Valentin at short to start the season, until Kingery moves up. We could also see a free agent signing here for depth and for Spring Training.
All signs suggest that Mitch Walding–who re-signed with the organization this fall–will be given the opportunity to play AAA 3B this season. His .236/.327/.516 line may seem a bit underwhelming–not to mention 127 strike-outs–but 25 homers is 25 homers and he didn’t look horrible in Allentown in the playoffs.
We’ll also probably see a fair serving of Valentin, Kingery and a free agent signing here as well.
Cam Perkins will be in Seattle, but expect Andrew Pullin, Dylan Cozens and Roman Quinn back with the ‘Pigs for 2018. In addition, I can imagine a free agent or two filling out the roster here as well. Jiandido Tromp could return as a fourth guy. If Carlos Tocci doesn’t stick in Texas, he could return for a spot here.
Here more than anywhere else, we’ll need to see what happens in Philadelphia. There could be some open spots available in Spring Training, and the guys with MLB experience will get a shot to earn one.
Philly: Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, and Jerad Eickoff can be penciled in. It is expected that Philadelphia will add at least one more starter, if not two or three, via free agency or trade, prior to the start of the season (at the latest).
The next group of guys might have a shot to earn the one or two spots available: Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively. I also think Tom Eshelman has earned the right to compete in that group, despite the fact that he has yet to make his MLB debut.
Enyel De Los Santos came over in the Galvis trade and is ready for the challenge of AAA after having spent all of 2017 at AA, with good success.
A couple guys who have been a AAA a bit, or have been considered to have graduated from AA, could get IronPigs rotation spots: Cole Irvin, Brandon Leibrandt, Jose Tavares, and Drew Anderson.
Jacob Waguespack and Franklyn Kilome might be names to remember for later in the season, but for now I have them inked into the Reading rotation to start the season.
Out of all that, you could also see a couple guys move to the bullpen. Mark Appel already has (see next topic). Nick Pivetta could be the guy who has the best stuff for that kind of spot.
Our 2017 closer, Pedro Beato, was just resigned to a minors deal, so I’d expect to see the big guy back closing out games for us in 2018. He’ll get another shot at the majors, too, if they need him at some point.
Mark Appel has passed through waivers and should get a real shot at a reliever role that many thought he was destined for. He should be healthy and ready to go. Mark Leiter could begin his season here again, as well. Victor Arano may not have a spot in Philly right away. Hoby Milner is still on the 40-man, as are Ricardo Pinto and Yacksel Rios.
It looks like Joey DeNato should be back as the lefty specialist. Despite his off-season assignment, I don’t think Alberto Tirado has earned a AAA spot yet in his 12.0 AA innings. He’ll go back to Reading. There are some other dudes in Reading who could be ready for a challenge. My first pick is the lefty Austin Davis, he of the 2.87 era in 32 appearances. Mario Sanchez pitched in a variety of roles in Reading last season, and although his peripheral stats don’t look amazing, he did give his team a chance to win going 4-2 with a 2.88 era.
Jorge Alfaro will be in Philadelphia as he’s exhausted his minor league options. Andrew Knapp spent all last season there, and is odds-on to be Alfaro’s partner. Cam Rupp is still on the roster, though, and veteran Eric Fryer has been signed to a minor league deal.
Logan Moore is still around, and plays some excellent defense. He’ll also give you an excellent at-bat and come through in the clutch.
If you count the boldfaced players above, I have 27 players and too many pitchers. But it should be fun to watch. Stay tuned for more roster updates as we work our way towards Clearwater in late February.
I believe we’re headed towards another great season of IronPigs baseball. But, I always think that. However, the organizational depth and commitment to winning that they’ve shown recently, should continue. Prospects may work their way up to the Phillies, but other talented players should find their way to the ‘Pigs from Reading. We’re in for another good one following two straight playoff appearances.
See you at the park,
@Kram209 (This season Kram 207!)