Phillies Mailbag: Starting Pitching Depth, Nava, Roster Spots
It is Tuesday and it's once again time for the Phillies mailbag, heard each week on The Sports Bash with Mike Gill on 97.3 ESPN. Tune your radio to 97.3 or listen online at 973espn.com. Have a question? Send me a message on Twitter at @FrankKlose or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where might the Phillies put their young starters? It does not appear that they have as many spots available as there are young arms in the system.
This is a great question. Thanks to the rising young talent, the Phillies find themselves with too many starting pitchers for a five-man rotation in the Major Leagues, but even at Triple-A and Double-A, if you realize the great depth the organization has. Here is my best guess of how it will play out, assuming that the Major League starting rotation will be Jeremy Hellickson, Clay Buchholz, Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Nola and Vince Velasquez.
Triple-A Lehigh Valley:
1. Jake Thompson
2. Zach Eflin
3. Mark Appel
4. Alec Asher
5. Ben Lively
1. Nick Pivetta
2. Drew Anderson
3. Elneiry Garcia
4. Thomas Eshelman
5. Ricardo Pinto
Mark Leiter may need to be in a bullpen until a spot opens up. Pivetta deserves a Triple-A slot, but needs to start more than he needs to be at that level.
1. John Richy
2. Alberto Tirado
3. Franklyn Kilome
4. Harold Arauz
5. Shane Watson
I assume that Adam Morgan is in the big league bullpen. I have also advocated for Asher to be considered for a big league bullpen spot, but the value of having him ready to start could be greater and thus keep him in Triple-A. As of right now, Thompson and Eflin have been battling minor injuries, so they may not even be ready for Opening Day and that could change this list. However, both saw some minor league and batting practice action this week.
Daniel Nava: does he have a shot at the big league roster?
The biggest position battle in 2017 Spring Training for the Phillies might be the final bench bat. Whoever wins the position needs to bat left-handed, as Aaron Altherr and Andres Blanco are going to likely be the other two spots next to the backup catcher. Blanco often is near the last off the bench, protecting the middle infielders. Daniel Nava is in the thick of the competition for that spot.
The main contenders for the job are Nava, Chris Coghlan, and Brock Stassi, whom we spoke about at length last week. Stassi has played very well, as we noted and even continued his fine play the last week. Coghlan has batted just .227, but has a very impressive resume. This will be a tough decision for the Phillies indeed.
At this point in Nava's career, he is almost exclusively an outfielder. So far this Spring Nava has appeared exclusively in left field. But, Nava has batted .476 with a triple and a 1.113 OPS. Stassi is at .407, with four home runs and a 1.373 OPS. But numbers alone might not determine this decision.
The Phillies must consider the rest of the roster makeup. If Andrew Knapp wins the backup catcher job, he may be able to serve as a back up at first base. If the Phillies are confident that Howie Kendrick can play some second base or third base at this point of his career, they may be less worried about covering a middle-infield spot in a pinch.
And, there is a contractual consideration. All three candidates for the job need to be put onto the Phillies 40-man roster. Of those three, only Stassi can be optioned to the minor leagues once added. The Phillies could find themselves in a position where they want the flexibility to do that, particularly since they have other young outfielders that might eventually force their way into the big leagues.
Nava is a fan of Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, as Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted yesterday (and I recommend this read about Nava's journey). But the decision is not Mackanin's to make alone. It could be that Nava does not make the Phillies but shows enough that he is added by another team at the end of Spring Training. But Nava is showing he could be worth of a spot on someone's team.
The Phillies are like going to need to open a spot on the 40-man roster before the season opens. Who will get cut?
This is a tough one. The Phillies are at the point where they are going to lose some players that could help other clubs in the Major Leagues. If I had to pick two players on the thinnest ice, I would pick reliever Luis Garcia and outfielder Tyler Goeddel.
Garcia is now 30 years old and others have probably passed him on the Phillies depth chart. With Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek in the fold, the Phillies have two new right-handed relievers who can fit in the Phillies bullpen behind Jeanmar Gomez and Hector Neris. The fifth right-handed spot could go to Edubray Ramos, who has showed some impressive stuff along the way. Two left-handed relievers should round out the roster, perhaps Morgan and Joelys Rodriguez.
With no clear spot on the Phillies roster, Garcia could be the one who goes. If he does, I could see him appearing in the Major Leagues with a big league club in 2017 at some point. The last player cut, Severino Gonzalez, is having a decent spring with the Marlins and could make their roster. I would expect the same to happen.
Goeddel is in a tough situation. The Phillies did spend all of 2016 keeping him on their Major League roster to fully gain control of his rights after being a Rule 5 pick. The big league outfield will feature Kendrick, Odubel Herrera, and Michael Saunders as starters, with Altherr and a left-handed option behind him. At Triple-A Lehigh Valley, the Phillies will start Nick Williams, Roman Quinn and Dylan Cozens, while Cameron Perkins could also be around. Goedell is better than a backup Triple-A outfielder.
Last year, the Phillies lost Altherr and Cody Asche to injury early, which led to a 60-day disabled list stint. While the Phillies prefer that does not happen, if someone is hurt prior to the start of the season, that would open up a space on the 40-man roster. The Phillies could also make a trade, moving someone like Goeddel for a lower-level prospect not in need of a 40-man roster spot and retain some value.