Sunday, November 23, 2014
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40-man roster politics

40-man roster politics

Sebastian Valle is likely to be named to the 40-man roster. (David Schofield/Lakewood BlueClaws)
Sebastian Valle is likely to be named to the 40-man roster. (David Schofield/Lakewood BlueClaws)

The World Series begins tonight and we're talking about the 40-man roster in Philadelphia. Another slap of harsh reality in the face, but here's guessing Whitney nets better primetime ratings in this city than FOX does. (OK, let's not say things we can't take back.)

Regardless, the Phillies already started massaging their 40-man roster in preparation for the winter. Pete Orr and Brandon Moss were outrighted to triple-A Lehigh Valley to clear two spots. The roster stands at 38.

Five days after the final game of the World Series, that number will drop to 33 when the five free agents are removed. Then it'll go to 31 when Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge's options are declined. Even then, names like John Bowker, Scott Mathieson and Erik Kratz remain.

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The point is, the Phillies have some flexibility with the 40-man roster, and they may need it.

Part of the fall period is for evaluating players on the fringe. A little over a month remains until the Phillies must set their roster prior to the Rule 5 draft. The current CBA states that players signed at age 19 or older must be protected after their fourth year in the organization. Players signed at 18 or younger have five years until that juncture.

Of course, an addition to the 40-man roster means an automatic invitation to big-league camp in spring training. So it's more than a label (and possibly more money). 

The Phillies sent many of their more interesting decisions to the Arizona Fall League for further evaluation. We know the Rule 5 draft has generally been kind to the Phillies (Shane Victorino, David Herndon, Michael Martinez), but rarely have the Phillies lost a player of substance. (Remember Miguel Asencio?) That means, generally, they have been able to make the right call on who or who not to protect. 

The biggest name to hit Arizona is Tyson Gillies, who is actually playing baseball -- and that matters more than any of his numbers. Figure the Phillies will protect Gillies, so long as he demonstrates health, because he was acquired in the Cliff Lee trade. Gillies started strong in his first round of extensive games in two years but is 0 for his last 6 with four strikeouts. He's hitting .227 in nine games with more walks (seven) than hits (five). Nonetheless, if Gillies can stay on the field this fall and avoid the hamstring and foot issues that befell him, it's a success.

Another name to watch in Arizona is Tyler Cloyd, a 6-foot-3 righthander. He was an 18th-round pick in 2008 and posted a 2.78 ERA at double-A Reading with a stellar 99:15 K:BB in 106 2/3 innings. He turns 25 in May and began the season at single-A Clearwater, pitching below his age. But he was moved to Reading in June, turned into a starting pitcher, and something clicked. He was shelled in his third AFL start, so he has a 6.00 ERA in nine innings.

Cody Overbeck stands to gain a lot, too. He's much in the mold of Matt Rizzotti, who went to Arizona and hit .333 last fall. That was enough to garner a 40-man roster spot and look-see in spring training. It didn't last long because the Phillies saw an overmatched Rizzotti against better pitching than he sees in the Eastern League. 

Like Rizzotti, Overbeck doesn't have a position. The 25-year-old is at first base after the Phillies tried him at third and left field. However, unlike Rizzotti, Overbeck has shown an ability to hit for power beyond double A. Rizzotti hit .333 in the AFL last fall, but only two hits were for extra bases. Overbeck already has two in eight games. He slugged .416 in 68 games at triple A to finish the season. Given what the Phillies did with Rizzotti last winter -- plus the injury to Ryan Howard -- Overbeck could merit a spot for further evaluation come springtime.

The guys over at Phuture Phillies have a decent discussion going about other names. Phillippe Aumont is a lock for a 40-man spot. So is Sebastian Valle, the young catching prospect who needs at least two more years. (And yes, teams have been known to snag unprotected single-A catching prospects before.) Jiwan James has a lot of promise after only three years since becoming a full-time hitter, but it's raw. (He also runs a fantastic Twitter account.) Because of that, James could be on the bubble. The Phillies may decide his profile indicates no team will take a chance on him. Or, just to be safe, he can be added.

That's probably not enough to distract you from remembering that Game 1 was supposed to be in South Philadelphia tonight.


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Matt Gelb Inquirer Staff Writer
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