The AA/AAA Pitching Roster Crunch

Both the Ruben Amaro and Matt Klentak lead front offices acquired a lot of pitching in the past few seasons through trades, signings, drafting, and waiver claims.  Much of that pitching was in the high minors at the time of acquisition, and was poised to be part of the wave of players that the organization would have to filter through to find the pitching staff for the next great Phillies’ team.  Now the natural and good problem you get out of all of this is that the Phillies have more pitchers than roster spots in the majors, Lehigh Valley, and Reading.  There are going to be cuts and there are going to be players demoted to the bullpen, but let’s start by getting to the names involved (excluding players who are known to be starting on the DL).

Big League Camp (28): Elvis Araujo, Andrew Bailey, Jimmy Cordero, Jerad Eickhoff, Ernesto Frieri, Luis Garcia, Jeanmar Gomez, Severino Gonzalez, Jeremy Hellickson, David Hernandez, Frank Hermann, Dailier Hinojosa, Bobby LaFromboise, Chris Leroux, Michael Mariot, Yoervis Medina, Adam Morgan, Charlis Morton, Edward Mujica, Colton Murray, Hector Neris, Aaron Nola, Brett Oberholtzer, Reinier Roibal, James Russell, Daniel Stumpf, Vincent Velasquez

Demoted From Big League Camp (8): Edubray Ramos, Gregory Infante, Greg Burke, David Buchanan, Alec Asher, Jake Thompson, Mark Appel, Zach Eflin

MiLB Camp AA/AAA Experience (12): Jeremy Bleich, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Edgar Ibarra, Ben Lively, Hoby Milner, Ryan O’Sullivan, Nick Pivetta, Ken Roberts, Joely Rodriguez, Anthony Vasquez, Tom Windle, Mark Leiter Jr.

MiLB Camp hi-A Experience AA/AAA option (12): Cody Forsythe, Joey DeNato, Lino Martinez, Miguel Nunez, Yacksel Rios, John Richy, Victor Arano, Ulises Joaquin, Ricardo Pinto, Alexis Rivero, Jesen Therrien, Matt Imhof

That is 60  pitchers and somewhere in the 36 to 40 spots between the majors and the top two levels of the minor leagues.  Some of the Hi-A group is going to repeat Hi-A, especially in the Phillies want pitchers like John Richy, Matt Imhof, and Victor Arano to work out of the rotation at a lower stress environment.  This still leaves us with too many pitchers, so let’s start with some rotation projections and go from there.

MLB: Aaron Nola, Jeremy Hellickson, Charlie Morton, Jerad Eickhoff, Vincent Velasquez
AAA: Mark Appel, Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin, Adam Morgan, Severino Gonzalez
AA: Ben Lively, Nick Pivetta, Ricardo Pinto, John Richy, ?

There is some room in the AA rotation, there are candidates, but for now that spot seems to be up for competition.  The AAA rotation is also in flux, as the #5 MLB starter is not determined, if Oberholtzer wins it then Velasquez and Morgan end up in AAA, if Morgan wins it then Velasquez takes Morgan’s spot here.  The Gonzalez spot could also be David Buchanan or Alec Asher.  Those starters that are not in the rotation almost certainly will be in the bullpen, which will clog up an already convoluted situation.  Speaking of the bullpen, players that seem to be “locks” to stay in the org and are likely to be demoted off the major league roster include Jimmy Cordero, Michael Mariot, Yoervis Medina, Colton Murray, and Reinier Roibal.  Roibal could go to AA if needed, but the others seem set for AAA.  Frieri, Mujica, and Bailey all have opt outs and it is hard to see more than one making the Phillies’ roster.  With Gomez and Hernandez presumed to be locks for the major league bullpen, that leaves 2-3 spots for one of the veteran relievers plus some of the Garcia, Neris, Hinojosa group, which will send another 1-2 relievers to AAA.  On the left handed side, Oberholtzer seems to be a lock to be on the opening day roster, if it is the rotation he bumps two starters to AAA, if in the bullpen it is a starter and a reliever (likely a RH reliever).  That leaves likely two left handed spots for the combination of Araujo, LaFromboise, Russell, and Stumpf.  Russell and Stumpf are likely out of the organization if they are off the roster, making the most likely outcome, 2 with the Phillies, 1 in the minors, and 1 out of the org.  All of these demotions make the AAA bullpen full on their own.

This means that unless the Phillies want to cut players they had in major league camp, the players in danger are those that have no prospect chances, and those who are holdovers because the Phillies still own their rights.  I think the Phillies like Anthony Vasquez and Chris Leroux as up and down swing men so they could be anywhere (including Clearwater) while the Phillies find room for them.  That leaves the most likely cuts coming from the Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Joely Rodriguez, Mark Leiter Jr., Greg Burke, Edgar Ibarra, Jeremy Bleich, Ken Roberts group.  This could all be escalated if the Phillies choose to promote more of the Hi-A pitchers to AA for the 2016 season.

Image by Baseball Betsy

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.


  1. Kurdt Kobeyn

    Matt – do you see any of the minor league teams employing a 6-man rotation to address the SP logjam? I agree with the names you mentioned that’s likely to be released and might include Vaquez and Leorux too.

    • Matt Winkelman

      Joe Jordan has mentioned that the rotations Clearwater and below are likely to be 6 man rotations again

  2. Travis

    Are the minor leagues 25-man rosters too?

    • Matt Winkelman

      They are 25 man active rosters, there is more liberal use of restricted list and disabled list, but those are not permanent solutions