March 02, 2017
DUNEDIN, Fla. – The Phillies have 12 outfielders in camp – or 13 if you include first baseman Brock Stassi, who will make his first appearance in the outfield on Wednesday against the Blue Jays – and most of them fall into pretty specific categories.
Newcomers Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders were brought in to add a veteran presence to the lineup and corner infield spots around All-Star center fielder Odubel Herrera. Dylan Cozens, Nick Williams, and Roman Quinn are among the organization’s top position player prospects. Non-roster vets Chris Coghlan and Daniel Nava are competing for big league bench jobs, along with Aaron Altherr, the longest-tenured Phillies outfielder in big league camp.
Tyler Goeddel, however, fits into another category entirely. Sure, he’s on the Spring Training depth chart to compete for a major league job, but it makes little sense to put him on the major league bench.
Given where he’s at in his career – a 24-year-old two years removed from a productive season at Double-A Montgomery – it makes an awful lot of sense for Goeddel to play 2017 at Triple-A, working with Cozens, Williams and Quinn in the outfield (and designated hitter spot) in the Lehigh Valley IronPigs prospect-rich lineup.
“It’s a little give and take,” Goeddel said Thursday morning. “Obviously everyone wants to be in the big leagues, that’s the goal. But you also want to play. Wherever I end up, I’m going to work as hard as I can to play as much as possible. It’s out of my control at this point.”
Goeddel's best comp in camp might be Nick Williams – both
played at Double-A in 2015. Some Double-A numbers:
|Tyler Goeddel||Nick Williams||Roman Quinn|
Goeddel may not fit into the same category as any other outfielder in camp, but is probably most similar to Nick Williams. He’s a toolsy outfielder with promise who only graduated from ‘prospect’ status because he was a Rule 5 pick who had to be stashed in the major leagues for the duration of the 2016 season. (Per Rule 5 rules, he would have to have been offered back to the Tampa Bay Rays before the Phillies could have sent him to Triple-A last summer).
Some could surely argue that the Rule 5 process can impede the development of a young player in need of regular reps.
“I understand that,” Goeddel said. “Everyone wants to get 400 or 500 at-bats. … I feel like last year was still a productive year.”
Knowing Goeddel was an unfinished product – and not as far along as the previous year’s Rule 5 pick, Odubel Herrera – manager Pete Mackanin was reluctant to play Goeddel much during the 2016 season.
Goeddel had 234 plate appearances last season – 299 fewer than he had the previous year at Double-A. He started just 14 games after the All-Star break; he had just 55 at-bats after the All-Star break, the same as veteran utility infielder Andres Blanco.
So how was the 2016 season beneficial for Goeddel?
“Just being up in the big leagues you learn so much,” he said. “The experience was great for me. Just playing against that competition when you’re on the field. … You still learn so much, working with the guys every day. Even though I didn’t get the at-bats I wanted, I’d say, I definitely learned a lot and got better.”
But it’s difficult to say the Phillies have a better idea of what they have in Goeddel now than they did a year ago, given his limited playing time. He hit .192 in 92 games, but (obviously) played sparingly.
Again, he’s best suited for a season of 400-500 at-bats in the minor leagues to continue to develop and for the Phillies to better evaluate his potential.
Goeddel has never played at Triple-A. He’s only seven months older than Quinn (who has also never played at Triple-A) and 11 months older than Williams (who played at Double-A the same year as Goeddel, in 2015). He probably fits right there with those two (and Cozens) in the IronPigs’ plans, although he’d obviously prefer to leave minor league bus rides behind the stick in the big leagues come April.
“I know guys like Coghlan, Nava, they’ve been around,” Goeddel said, sizing up camp. “They know what it takes to get there. And then there are the younger guys like Stassi, (Cameron) Perkins, all of those guys who are playing for a job also. No one knows anything, so it’s exciting. We’ll see what happens.”
Both Stassi (27-years-old) and Perkins (26) were in Mackanin’s lineup on Thursday in Dunedin, penciled into the corner outfield spots around Herrera. Both have already seen ample time at Triple-A and don’t have any obvious places to play with the IronPigs; they make sense as options for a major league bench.
Goeddel is still developing.
After a week of exhibition games, the lanky, 6-4 outfielder has started just one game. He has fewer at-bats than Taylor Featherston and just one more than Bryan Holaday.
Goeddel’s extensive playing time is likely to come in April at Triple-A, even though he keeps a fresh reminder of last May in his memory bank. Goeddel started 24 of the Phillies 29 game between May 4 and June 4 last season, hitting .277/.326/.482 with three home runs, three triples, and two doubles in 25 games.
“I know I can play there,” he said. “That month I had in May when I was playing a lot, and I was playing well, proves that I can play up there. That helped a lot, even when I was struggling later on in the year. Just knowing that I’ve had success up there, that was huge. And it’s something you can build off of. The next time I’m up, I’ll know I can do it.”