March 09, 2015
With the Phillies picked to finish last in baseball this season, it seemed only appropriate to use the 1989 comedy classic Major League as a way to frame this season.
And before you start screaming at us for being too negative, remember two things.
First, we didn't pick the Phillies to finish in last place. That was almost everyone else. They said it. And second, that lovable band of losers came together to prove everyone wrong and save the team from an incompetent front office and an awful owner and -- the important thing is they won.
The two teams aren't entirely alike. For example, I don't know of any Phillies players being seduced by another player's wife. Their closer, while crazy, is not on parole. At least I don't think he is. And the center fielder was never convicted of tax evasion.
Still, keeping it light may be the only way to make it through the season.
With that in mind, here's a look at who we think is a lock to make the Phillies roster, who is on the fence, and who doesn't quite stand a chance now that they have a handful of Grapefruit League games in the books:
These guys are locks to make the 25-man roster, if for no other reason than they are already under contract. Furthermore, you can pencil them all in as starters (aside from the relief pitchers, who more or less have defined roles already). You likely know all the names, so there's not much need for us to go in-depth on each player. We'll save that for some of the guys whose spots are not so secure.
However, there are two players here that need to be discussed, Cliff Lee and Chad Billingsley, mainly because they could both start the season on the disabled. Billingsley is coming off surgery and will likely be out until late April. That one is expected. The other, scarier injury concern belongs to lefty Cliff Lee, who underwent an MRI this weekend after feeling discomfort in his throwing elbow following his first start of the spring.
After the MRI revealed only "very mild inflammation," according to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., Lee and the Phillies decided the 36-year-old former Cy Young winner would do the one thing fans feared most, pay a visit to Dr. James Andrews. Then, on Monday, Lee said that if he does need surgery, it would almost certainly end his season, and possibly his career.
That hurts the team for two reasons. First, they'd be losing their No. 2 starter. Second, they'd be losing a guy that, if healthy, they could use as a trade chip when the July 31 deadline rolls around. For now, however, we're going to consider Lee as a member of the rotation, but that could change by the time we do our next projection. Since Billingsley hasn't pitched yet, we'll start him on the disabled list.
With that being said, here's a look at how we see the 25-man roster looking when the Phillies open the season against the Red Sox on April 6:
This next crop of players features a bunch of guys who have a decent shot to make the 40-man roster, but will have some work left to do if they want to make the 25-man. Like
President Palmer the Allstate guy Pedro Cerrano, these guys all have at least one major flaw in their game. Some more than others ...
These next four guys will battle for the final two spots in the rotation, or perhaps a shot at the bullpen. Of course, Cliff Lee's injury could open up another spot in the rotation for one of these pitchers, but because his status is still uncertain, will stick with just needing two for now:
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, RHP -- Assuming he can stay healthy, the Cuban pitcher could find a spot in the rotation when the season starts, at least until Billingsley returns. But because the Phillies have such a plethora of mediocre pitchers, he's not a lock to start the season with the team. He'll still have to beat out some of the other guys in this category. However, he signed a three-year, $12 million deal last winter, and for that, the team may prefer to see him pitching for the big club. Therefore, he could become a innings-eater out the bullpen. I have a feeling they may need more than one of those.
Jonathan Pettibone, RHP -- Pettibone is coming off surgery on his pitching arm. He went 5-4 with a 4.04 ERA in 18 starts with the Phillies in 2013, so they know what they can get out of the 24-year old righty. He's yet to begin throwing to hitters, meaning he'll likely spend some time with the Iron Pigs until the team deems him ready for big league action.
Jerome Williams, RHP -- If Billingsley and/or Pettibone aren't 100 percent on April 6, there's a good chance Williams could enter the season as the team's fifth starter. In nine starts last season, Williams was sharp, posting a surprisingly low 2.83 ERA, and in the process earned himself a one-year deal.
David Buchanan, RHP -- Buchanan started 20 games as a rookie for the Phillies in 2014, posting a 6-8 record to go with 3.75 ERA. In his second season, however, the 25-year-old righty could be moved to the bullpen with the additions of Harang and Billingsley. However, if Lee starts the season on the DL, look for Buchanan to get the nod as the team's fifth starter.
And in the bullpen...
Jake Diekman, LHP -- So far, we've only have righthanded arms in the bullpen. After a strong showing in 2014, there's a good chance he's the first lefty out of the 'pen.
Mario Hollands, LHP - Holland will likely be the Phillies other lefty reliever despite a 4.40 ERA in 47 innings last season.
Odubel Herrera, 2B/SS/OF -- Herrera will likely be the Phillies utility man off the bench this season. Considering the fact that he's a Rule 5 pick with a lot of upside, he's the most-likely of this bunch to make the roster.
Cameron Rupp, C -- He's the favorite to win the Phillies backup job, but hitting .165 in triple-A Lehigh Valley last season certainly doesn't help his cause. If he can prove he's 100 percent healthy after being plagued by a left oblique injury, look for him to start a lot of Sunday afternoon games this season to allow an aging Carlos Ruiz to get some rest.
Cesar Hernandez, 2B -- Had it not been for the addition of Herrera, Hernandez likely would have been a lock to serve as the utility guy off the bench. Unfortunately for him, Herrera is a Rule 5 pick, meaning that if comes down to a final roster spot, Herrera will have the edge. However, the Phillies are out of minor-league options for Hernandez, meaning he'll likely find his way on to the 25-man roster anyway.
Jordan Danks, OF -- Already on the 25-man roster, Danks is not a lock to start the season on the Phillies bench. He doesn't hit well, but he could be used as a defensive replacement off the bench, or a pinch-runner at the very least. Because Herrera is locked in to a roster spot, and Hernandez is out of options, the fact that the 28-year-old outfielder still has a minor-league option in his contract may work against him. He'll have some work to do before he can be moved up to the Roger Dorn division.
Jeff Francoeur, OF -- He was once on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but the 31-year-old outfielder hasn't been a big-league regular in over two years. It'll be interesting to see what the Phillies can get out of Francoeur. Since leaving the Braves in 2009, the Phillies will be his sixth stop in as many seasons, which doesn't bode well. So far this spring, he's just 1-for-7 with a double.
And now, before we move on to the Ricky Vaughn division, it's time to update where the 25-man roster stands after factoring the above players:
These guys entered camp as relatively long shots to make the 25-man roster. They still stand a chance, clearly, considering there's four open roster spots according to this totally fictitious projection. Unfortunately for them, they'll need to really open some eyes in Clearwater.
Fortunately for them, the Phillies aren't going to be very good this year. Otherwise, they could be stuck in the California Penal League. So at the very least, they have a shot at making (or staying on) the 40-man roster.
Joely Rodriguez, LHP -- Acquired in the deal that sent Antonio Bastardo to the Pirates, look for the 23-year-old lefty to join Biddle in Lehigh Valley to start the season. But if he keeps pitching like he has been, it'll be hard for the Phillies not to give him a look. He's tossed four scoreless innings so far this spring, and opponents are batting just .077 off him.
Kevin Slowey, RHP -- After spending the last two seasons with the Marlins, Slowey has a lot to prove if he is to make the big-league roster. So far, things are looking up. In five innings (two starts) Slowey has yet to allow a run. Especially considering the injuries to Billingsley, Pettibone and potentially Cliff Lee, I actually think he could make the team as a non-roster invitee.
Phillippe Aumont, RHP -- Aumont is out of minor-league options after struggling since coming to the Phillies in the deal that sent Cliff Lee to the Mariners a few winters ago. The fact that he allowed two runs in his first appearance this spring isn't a good sign.
Hector Neris, RHP -- He's appeared in just five games for the Phillies over the last three seasons, but they're taking a good look at him so far this spring. In 3.1 innings, Neris has yielded just one hit. He's yet to allow an earned run and is holding opponents to a .083 batting average. Sure, he allowed that grand slam against Tampa University, but other than that, he's been great so far this spring.
Luis Garcia, RHP -- He struggled out of the 'pen last season, and could lose out to our next guy if the Phillies want another lefty reliever.
Andy Oliver, LHP -- This Rule 5 pick is yet to allow a run in two innings. Since he needs to stay on the 25-man roster all season, there's a good chance he starts there.
Ethan Martin, RHP -- Once a starter, Martin will compete for a bullpen spot, but he's coming off a back injury, so there's still work to be done.
Adam Morgan, LHP -- Yet another pitcher coming off injury with something to prove. He's likely to start the season in triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Andres Blanco, 2B/3B/SS/OF -- A non-roster invitee, Blanco could also find his way onto the roster. The fact that he plays multiple positions certainly helps his case. After appearing in 25 games last season with the Phillies, Blanco has three hits in at-bats this spring. He's also scored three runs.
Maikel Franco, 3B/1B -- Franco would be a lock to make the Opening Day roster if it wasn't for this: If he starts the season in the minors, and stays there for 40 games, he'll have to wait an extra year for arbitration. That's too good for the Phillies to pass up. And he's making the decision easy for the Phillies, as he has just a pair of hits in his first 14 at-bats this season.
Aaron Altherr, LF -- Altherr, who only got five at-bats for the Phillies in 2014, can help his chances at making the 25-man roster with a big spring. So far, the results have been mixed. He has two hits in five at-bat and two RBI, but the 24-year-old struck out all three times he failed to get a hit.
So here you have it, a filled out look at the 25-man roster for Opening Day:
Maybe they need to go sign Parkman...