Every year I take a look at the potential IronPigs roster right around Christmas (read here for this year). Usually, the Phillies have already added several minor league free agents before, during and after the baseball winter meetings in December. This year, however, Christmas came a little later for IronPigs fans.
Yesterday, the Phillies announced the following free agent signings–all on minor league deals–with invites to major league spring training. As you probably know by now, these are the players who often have some major league experience, who are brought into the fold to serve as depth for the major league squad and veteran experience for the AAA squad. This season, as in the past couple, the IronPigs are expected to field a talented roster of prospects, so there aren’t a ton of signings. However, you should familiarize yourself with these players as they may be important cogs in the hopes for another IronPigs playoff run in 2018, for new manager Gary Jones:
RHP Pedro Beato (cover photo by Cheryl Pursell)
We had known about this signing previously, but Beato does indeed get the invite to MLB spring training.
Pedro was our closer last season, and set records in the process. He certainly earned his trip to the majors, but unfortunately suffered an injury and didn’t get much of a chance to contribute to the big team. He did return and help the IronPigs during the playoff run. It’s great to have him back.
RHP Steve Geltz
30-year old veteran Geltz spent last season with Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League. Prior to that, he spent the previous three seasons splitting time between Durham and Tampa. Last season he went 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA in 27 innings over 23 games. He had 29 strikeouts and 12 walks. As far as I could tell, he was not injured–although in previous seasons with the Bulls/Rays he worked many more innings/games. Geltz came up with the Angels, and could possibly be another in the line of Angels/Phillies connection.
With Colton Murray off to Durham, you could think of him as a type of replacement. Geltz does have two positive tests for “drug of abuse,” the latest in 2014 resulting in a 50-game suspension. Geltz has a low-90s fastball that can touch 95. He likes to elevate to get swing-and-miss. He also has a 85-86 slider and a delivery with a fair amount of deception.
From an organizational standpoint, you can see by the Phillies major-league and minor-league signings that they’ve dedicated some resources to relievers this off-season. It makes sense as a method to protect the starters both young and old and give the team a chance to win games. We’ll talk more about that philosophy in an upcoming post.
Geltz has been reasonably successful on every level; however, it’s not clear to me if he has enough MLB service time to demand an opt-out clause on his MiLB deal. He’ll be good depth for Philadelphia, but it doesn’t appear that he has any options left, so if he goes up, look for him to stay there rather than be a “swing” guy from AAA.
INF Pedro Florimon
Pedro is back, and although his deal is of the minor-league variety, I fully expect him to win a bench job in Philadelphia as a utility player–2018 Andres “Let’s Go” Blanco, if you will. There are scenarios where Florimon could win a starting job, or could be held in the minors for a time, but for now this mode of signing gives the Phillies the maximum flexibility with regard to the 40-man roster, and the bench spot seems most likely.
INF Heiker Meneses (RHB)
The 5’9″ 26-year old played in P’tucket (AAA) and Portland (AA) in the Red Sox system last season. He’s listed on the MiLB site as a third baseman, but despite AAA time with P’tucket and Rochester, and AA time with Portland over the past five seasons, I’ll be darned if I can remember him at all.
He’s not really a corner infielder, though. He’s really a second baseman who can fill in at shortstop and who hits for very little power. His slash line in the IL last season was .291/.317/.363 over 68 games–actually better than he did in AA over 20 games. He did steal 11 bases last season, but doesn’t walk quite enough to be a lead-off guy for the ‘Pigs.
Although he has no MLB experience, he has seen AAA pitching over a fair number of seasons and can fill in at a number of positions on the diamond including the ever-important shortstop. His fielding percentages over the years have been outstanding. He may start the season as the IronPigs shortstop or serve as depth up the middle once Scott Kingery gets the call the the show. He’s almost certainly an IronPig though, as I see Canelo back in Reading at SS and Campbell and Stankiewicz at 2B–not to mention Eliezer Alvarez.
INF Will Middlebrooks (RHB)
Here’s one I was expecting. Well, not Middlebrooks per se–a name you should recognize from seasons gone by where he tormented the IronPigs as a prospect for Boston. No, I was expecting a third-baseman to challenge Mitch Walding for the starting job in Allentown.
Middlebrooks made it all the way to Boston, debuting in 2012. Over the next three seasons he played in 232 games with the Red Stockings before he found himself in San Diego in 2015. In 2016 he made it to Milwaukee for a cup of coffee. Last season he spent 78 games with Round Rock in the PCL where he hit .258/.327/.529 with 23 HR. His 22 games with Texas were not nearly as impressive. The homers may be a bit of a mirage created by the PCL as his seasons in P’tucket yielded 2,9,10,4 in that particular category, over a variety of game appearances. He had 88 Ks and 31 BB in 306 AB in his 2017 PCL campaign.
Still, Middlebrooks will bring some MLB experience to the hot corner in Allentown, give the Phillies a veteran alternative to Maikel Franco if that becomes necessary, and some competition for Mitch Walding. It is certainly possible that he has an opt-out clause in his contract.
INF Mitch Walding (LHB)
Walding is a 25-yo Stockton, Ca native who was drafted in the 5th round by the Phillies in 2011, and resigned on a minor league deal as this off-season got underway. He arrived at AA in Reading in 2016 and held his own in a couple-dozen games with three homers. Last season he got a chance to hold down the hot corner in Reading for the better part of the season, save a nasty collision with catcher Chace Numata which caused injuries for both. In 99 games he hit .242/.327/.516 with 25 home runs. He also had 127 strikeouts to go with 44 walks. He represented himself well with the IronPigs during the AAA playoffs.
The key for Walding is going to be the strike-outs–which you can explain away versus the power numbers he put up in the friendly confines of FirstEnergy Stadium in Baseballtown. How will that translate to AAA over the longer term? I’ll be looking to see if he can make more consistent contact rather than if he can maintain the homers. With Middlebrooks around, Walding will have to earn his spot and earn his at-bats. There’s a scenario where he starts in Reading, too, but the invite to MLB camp is a good sign for him.
C Eric Fryer, C Logan Moore
These are signings that we knew of before. We welcome the return of “LoMo” and look forward to the veteran presence of 32-yo Fryer.
Fryer is a The Ohio State product, and was drafted by Milwaukee, but came up through the Pirates system making it to the show in 2011. Since then, he’s logged big league time with the Twins and the Cardinals, in addition to a return visit to Pittsburgh. The only team he appeared with last season was the Cardinals. In his last significant time in the IL he hit .293/.367/.360 with Rochester in 2015.
C/1B/OF Matt McBride
In the model of Russ Canzler (above) the local product (Bethlehem, Lehigh) finds his way home at age 33 to play for the home town team. The veteran has logged MLB time with Colorado and Oakland over the past six seasons. The 6’2″ RHB is listed primarily as a catcher, but is expected to log significant time at 1B and DH with the IronPigs. In the PCL last season, he slashed .231/.299/.434 with 10 HRs over 79 games for Nashville.
He should provide plenty of veteran leadership for the team, as well as someone who knows where the good restaurants are.
OF Danny Ortiz (LHB)
The 27-yo native of Puerto Rico is 5’11”, 190 and spent a significant portion of the past four seasons in the International League. He’s played with both the Indianapolis Indians and Rochester Red Wings. Last season, he got his first taste of the big leagues in a 9-game stint in Pittsburgh. His slash in Indy was .270/.303/.457 with 15 HRs.
With Carlos Tocci off to Texas by way of Chicago, it’s unknown whether he’ll return to the Phillies organization or not as he’ll have to make the Rangers MLB squad or be offered back–and pass through waivers. Perkins is also gone (Seattle) so that leaves Pullin, Cozens, and Quinn as the outfield trio in Allentown. Ortiz should provide a nice adjunct, and a lefty always has an advantage at Coca Cola Park, and it does appear that he has the flexibility to play center field if needed.
Is That It?
The Phillies could still add a player or two to invite to MLB camp, but more likely would be a signing or three on the minor league side. If they think they need more depth on the corners in Allentown or Reading, or if they think they want a veteran AAA pitcher to add to the mix in case of injuries, that could happen. It’s also very likely that the Phillies add a major league talent at starting pitcher–could occur via free agency or via trade, and a trade would impact other positions at AA and AAA, most likely–so we’ll wait and see.
Coming up, I’m going to take a look at the starting pitchers who could make up another strong IronPigs staff–but who would much rather be living the good life in Philadelphia.
Current IronPigs Roster Guess:
Current Reading Roster Guess
- Elniery Garcia
- Leibrandt (?!)
- Edgar Garcia
(Footnote to the rosters. They are but guesses and many assumptions have to be made. Who knows? Injuries, trades, and guys who do great will impact decisions. Stay tuned, I’ll keep guessing. If I missed someone, go ahead and put them in the comments and tell me who to drop. I mean no disrespect by my guesses.)
See you at the park,
(I’ll likely keep my twitter handle the same (@kram209) but I’m on the move this season: now sitting in 207.)