By 8 pm Eastern today baseball teams must make the additions to their rosters to protect players from the Rule 5 draft. Since the Phillies started their rebuild, their 40 man roster has become a precious resource as each year a new wave of prospects forces uncomfortable protection decisions. Last year, with an uncertain CBA, the Phillies opted to overprotect adding more players to their 40 man roster than any other team in baseball. This season they are facing a similar crunch because of last year’s decisions, but with the additions of J.P. Crawford, Rhys Hoskins, Yacksel Rios, and Victor Arano late in the year, some of the drama is removed from today’s decisions. The brings us to the candidates to be added.
Franklyn Kilome, Seranthony Dominguez, Ranger Suarez
Kilome is first time eligible and is coming off an decent year. His velocity is still there, as is his curveball. The Phillies are forcing changeup development on him and bringing back his slider, and both pitches are works in progress. Getting his body all moving in concert to throw his pitches where he wants them is still a problem, but he is an easy top 10 prospect in the system and one of the best arms in the system. Speaking of good arms, Seranthony Dominguez might only be surpassed in raw stuff by Sixto Sanchez. The short Dominican righty was left unprotected last year after less than 50 innings in full season ball, but has forced the issue this year with an uptick in stuff. Dominguez’s fastball will sit 94-97, and touch up to 99. He has a plus slider and feel for an above average changeup. An arm injury cost him time and command this year, but his stuff is good enough he might be able to step into a big league bullpen right now. Ranger Suarez was another second year eligible player having a breakout year. While he was overshadowed by JoJo Romero, Suarez is a lefty who can reach 95 and has back end starter upside.
Jose Taveras, Carlos Tocci
Jose Taveras shot up through the system this year, skipping to AAA due to injuries in the system. He doesn’t have big stuff, but he has a deceptive delivery, solid control, and mutlipitch mix. The problem is that Taveras is exactly what the Phillies have in abundance between guys like Eflin, Thompson, Lively, Leiter, Anderson, and Eshelman. Carlos Tocci is very unlikely to ever be an impact player, but what he showed in AA this year was that he can be a good baseball player. He just turned 22 years old so he has time to keep improving, even if the power is never coming. Right now he could be someone’s 5th outfielder because of his glove and ability to make contact.
Austin Davis, Andrew Pullin, Aaron Brown, Jose Gomez, Brandon Leibrandt
Early in the year it looked like Davis was a lock to be protected, but his control wavered and his strikeout rate dropped off in the second half. He is still a big lefty reliever who can get it up to the mid to upper 90s. The Phillies like his arm, but he may be in less danger to be picked in the Rule 5 draft than Hoby Milner was last year because he is a bit more of a project than a plug and play LOOGY. Speaking of projects, Aaron Brown as a pitcher makes the list because he is left handed and has already flashed some arm strength. Like Davis, there is not starting or even back of a bullpen upside with him, so his lack of immediate MLB impact should make him safe. Andrew Pullin looked early in the year not only like he would make the 40 man roster in the offseason, but that he would make Philly by the end of the year. His stumbles in AAA only highlight more that he is a left field only bat who lacks impact offensive tools. If the Phillies think a team might take him based on his work in AA, they could protect him. Jose Gomez was the headline prospect in the deal that sent Pat Neshek to Colorado. He is a shortstop now, but most think he won’t handle it an everyday role in the future. Ultimately he is probably a utility infielder, and that lack of upside should keep any team from stashing him all year. His presence on the 40 man roster would also be highly redundant with Jesmuel Valentin and Eliezer Alvarez. Leibrandt is almost certain to be unprotected, but as a lefty with feel a team could be interested in him as a bullpen arm as a LOOGY.
Cord Sandberg, Jan Hernandez, Tyler Viza, Emanuel Marrero, Drew Stankiewicz, Damek Tomscha, Derek Campbell, Joey DeNato, Alexis Rivero, Grenny Cumana, Jesus Alastre, Ramon Rosso, Malquin Canelo, Zach Green, Carlos Duran, Shane Watson, Tom Windle, Mario Sanchez, Jose Pujols, Deivi Grullon, Gregori Rivero, Jiandido Tromp, Harold Arauz, Mitch Walding, Logan Moore, Ranfi Casimiro
The other part of all of this is how do the Phillies clear all of the spots they need? Right now the roster is at 38 and they need at least 3 spots, possibly more.
Zac Curtis, Cameron Perkins
Curtis is 25 years old and a waiver pickup from Seattle. While the Phillies need lefty relievers, Curtis is of the type that is completely replaceable. Speaking of replaceable, Perkins is a generic bench outfielder on the field, who just didn’t do much of anything in the majors last year. His presence on the bench will be missed.
Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp
It is clear both that Tommy Joseph has no future in Philly and that he has no trade value. The Phillies might get org filler as a PTBNL for him, but in reality protecting a Taveras or Tocci is likely worth more than his roster spot. The Phillies have 3 catchers for 2 roster spots, and with Jorge Alfaro guaranteed to get one it comes down to Knapp vs Rupp. Rupp is 3 years older and arbitration eligible. They may get something light in trade for him, but I don’t expect him to command much value.
Major League Spare Parts:
Mark Leiter Jr., Hoby Milner
It isn’t that either of these relievers are horrible players undeserving of being on a 40 man roster, but both are pretty replaceable. Leiter will be 27 on opening day and while he had success in a swing role this season, his skill set is pretty similar to a lot of what the Phillies have (see the Jose Taveras comments above). Hoby Milner had a lot of ERA success in 2017 thanks to close management by Pete Mackanin, but ultimately he is a LOOGY who doesn’t strike anyone out, and while the Phillies need left handed pitching help, he just doesn’t provide any long term hope he can replicate his success.
Prospects on the Bubble:
Mark Appel, Elneiry Garcia, Alberto Tirado, Eliezer Alvarez, Dylan Cozens
The Phillies have a decent bit invested in Mark Appel without getting to see him as a full time reliever. I get the feeling they want to see that before chucking him aside. Before his drug suspension and injury Garcia looked like he might be better than a back end starter as his fastball routinely reached 95 and touched up to 97. He is now back to being a soft tossing lefty with a solid pitch mix highlighted by a loopy curveball. If the Philles think he is nothing more than a LOOGY he could be on the way out. Injuries and another failed attempt in the rotation robbed Tirado of some of his electricity, even though he is back to being a reliever. Much like Jimmy Cordero last year, if the lightning in his arm isn’t there the control problems are too much to deal with. Alvarez came over for Juan Nicasio and while there may be some utility upside, he is probably second base only, and is coming off a bad year in AA. Now is not the time, but there may be a time soon when the Phillies are going to have to come to grip with the fact that Dylan Cozens may not be able to hit high level pitching. For now the slim chance he figures it out is worth keeping him around.
The Phillies could also look at the Victor Arano, Yacksel Rios, and Ricardo Pinto group of a relievers as a source of redundancy or make a move to ship out a back end starter for something. However, those are more likely to be moves deeper into the offseason when trades and free agent signings force roster changes. For now my best prediction is:
Phillies add Ranger Suarez, Franklyn Kilome, Seranthony Dominguez, Carlos Tocci, and Jose Taveras and they DFA Cameron Perkins, Zac Curtis, and Tommy Joseph, ultimately trading Joseph for a low level PTBNL or cash.