It is now August 28 the Phillies bullpen ailing more than ever under the strain of a rotation of bright eyed rookies and corpses, and September 1 can’t come soon enough. We already know based on hints that the September call ups are going to be underwhelming, but take some solace that Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Altherr, and Darnell Sweeney are essentially September call ups who came up early. September callups in general tie in with the most feared and misunderstood event in baseball, the Rule 5 draft, because of how they tie into the 40 man roster. In general managing the 40 man roster well can give a GM a lot of flexibility to make marginal but potentially impactful moves like making a pick in the Rule 5 draft or offering a major league contract to a minor league free agent (like the Phillies did with Elvis Araujo), so even the meaningless marginal moves can be big for the future.
Current 40 Man Roster:
The roster currently stands at 41 players, but 3 (Lee, Hollands, Pettibone) are on the 60 day DL and two more (Billingsley, Harrison) could easily be added to that list to make the functional size of the roster at 36. This gives 4 immediate spots. Those little exceptions go away at the end of the year so they matter now, but less so for the future. In terms of the offseason there are 9 fairly obvious drops from the 40 man roster due to marginal value or free agency (some could be resigned but that is another post) in Billingsley, Gomez, Harang, Lee, Loewen, Williams, Ruf, Danks, and Francoeur. Now there are some more marginal players that could see their time on the roster end, so there isn’t really a crunch right now, but there also isn’t a ton of room for wanton adding of players needlessly. This leads to the first real rule of this September call up season:
- The Phillies are not going to call up any player who does not need to be added to the 40 man roster this offseason unless they think that player is in the major leagues to stay.
Playing Time is Limited:
Pete Mackanin is already struggling to find time for Darnell Sweeney and Aaron Altherr right now, catcher is all Cameron Rupp’s now. Unless you are a third or first baseman there really is not a ton of at bats out there. Sure there is spending time with big leagues, but is that worth the roster spot? Now if you are pitcher it is another story, the Phillies have lots of innings they need accounted for. So expect the Phillies to bring up most of the pitchers they can.
The other part of all of this is Reading’s playoff run. The Phillies care a lot more about what happens there, than what happens in the major league. The last game of the Eastern League regular season is September 7. If Reading makes the playoffs (which they are well on pace to do), they will face two best of 5 series to win the championship. Last year with a sweep in the finals the playoffs lasted 11 days, that means if Reading makes a title run, the last day of their season is sometime around September 18. That means any call ups from Reading would get roughly 2 weeks in the majors, with the already limited playing time. This brings us to Rule 2:
- There are unlikely to be any call ups from Reading unless the Phillies desperately need a pitcher over the last two weeks. No Reading hitter is likely to see the big league roster.
So What are the Options and Needs?
The third catcher is a formality of September because it is a luxury you can now afford. In practical terms the third catcher might catch one game a week and gives the manager the flexibility to do things like use Cameron Rupp as a pinch hitter instead of Darin Ruf. For the Phillies this all comes down to one player, Gabriel Lino. Lino is still young (turned 22 in May) and is heading into his second year of Rule 5 eligibility. He has really scuffled at the plate in AAA, but has managed to make himself into a decent defensive catcher. The Phillies currently have 4 “catchers” on their 40 man roster (Ruiz/Rupp/Joseph/Alfaro), Alfaro is still a year off and Joseph isn’t a catcher, so that is really only the 2 major league guys, Lino could slot in as the 3rd catcher now and the AAA depth next year. In a way he doesn’t really block Andrew Knapp’s ascent either because when Knapp gets added next summer he will be replacing one of the big league players. The real question is do they value protecting Lino from the Rule 5 draft more than having that 40 man roster spot. If they value the roster spot, Erik Kratz is going to be the call because they can DFA him after the season.
At this point the Phillies need all the extra arms they can get in Philadelphia, this seems to open up spots for at least Dalier Hinojosa and Nefi Ogando (EDIT Ogando called up in mid writing) in the bullpen. The Phillies have talked about going with a 6 man rotation and the obvious addition would be RHP Alec Asher who has been good since coming for in the Cole Hamels trade and needs a 40 man spot this offseason. The other two 40 man starters on the IronPigs who could get the call are David Buchanan and Severino Gonzalez who could be called up as either a starter (replacing Williams or Harang) or add more bullpen depth. However, due to the length of the AAA season, both would probably be up when that season is over, not on September 1.
The rest – 40 Man:
- Tommy Joseph – RH First baseman, probably worth the ABs over Darin Ruf, I would call him up, but I don’t pay major league per-diems.
- Jordan Danks – With Altherr, Herrera, and Sweeney in Philly, the need for a backup center fielder is almost null. Just no point in bringing up Danks to pinch hit, his roster spot will go to better use soon anyway.
- Jesse Biddle – I personally would bring him up in the bullpen, but the Phillies seem determined to bring him up as a starter eventually, but they don’t seem too positive about his stuff of late.
- Kelly Dugan – Better prospect than Danks by a fair amount, but I am not sure he actually gains anything by being in Philly.
- Joely Rodriguez – Joely might actually be getting the call right now if I hadn’t ingrained himself as a solid part of the Reading rotation. He is a candidate for a late call if the Phillies need another pitcher, but for now he is working on winning an EL title.
The rest – non 40 Man:
- Brian Bogusevic – He is more interesting than Danks, but is equally not a part of the Phillies future.
- Chase d’Arnaud – Given that the Phillies do have some 40 man spots available, it makes sense for the Phillies to bring up an extra middle infielder to ride the bench. d’Aranud has been the best of the group and can play 2B, SS, and 3B. He is easily let go of at the end of the year.
- Tyler Pastornicky – Take all the stuff about d’Arnaud and then add some more MLB experience and you have Pastornicky, which likely gives him an edge.
- Sean O’Sullivan – Just in case the Phillies wanted more redundancy with Severino and Buchanan.
- Colton Murray – Murray is actually not a horrible arm, but there is no chance he goes in the Rule 5 draft, but there is a decent chance he gets claimed off waivers, and there is no chance the Phillies want him clogging the roster.
- Jimmy Cordero – Electric fastball, plus slider, impact reliever who needs a 40 man spot anyway. Really dependent on how deep Reading goes in the playoffs and if they want to send him to Instructs to tweak anything.
- Edubray Ramos – Less electric fastball, plus slider, solid command, impact reliever who needs a 40 man spot anyway. Really dependent on how deep Reading goes in the playoffs and how desperately the Phillies feel like they need another arm.
- Cameron Perkins – An interesting Rule 5 decision, is hurt, so extremely unlikely.
- Roman Quinn – Needs a 40 man spot and they aren’t rushing him into games.
We get Alec Asher, Dalier Hinojosa, Gabriel Lino, David Buchanan, Severino Gonzalez, and Tyler Pastornicky at some point this September (with Nefi Ogando already up). It is not the most exciting list, but remember they already made a lot of their moves, next summer should be more exciting.