It’s always fun to peruse the Phillies’ list of spring-training non-roster invitees because you never know when you’ll find a gem among the castoffs.
The best example on the current roster is Wilson Valdez, who was 31 years old and had 342 career at-bats in the big leagues when the Phillies signed him as a minor-league free agent and invited him to spring training in 2010.
Valdez, of course, has emerged as a valuable bench player with one unforgettable pitching victory over the last two seasons.
The Phillies released their latest crop of non-roster invitees Wednesday and it’s always risky to project who has a good chance of helping the big-league team and who is more likely to fill out manager Ryne Sandberg’s roster at triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Because fellow infielder Juan Castro received a big-league contract from the Phillies before the 2010 season, Valdez seemed highly unlikely to have any impact that season, but thanks to an early-season injury to shortstop Jimmy Rollins the circumstances changed and Valdez made the most of his opportunity.
At the risk of making a fool of myself, which I confess is one of my better qualities, here’s my opinion of who has the best chance of playing some role with the Phillies next season:
Scott Podsednik, OF
The left-handed hitting outfielder was an interesting addition to the triple-A Lehigh Valley roster in the middle of last season, but he appeared in just 14 games because of a foot injury. Podsednik, a former pest at the top of the Chicago White Sox's order, is only two years removed from hitting a combined .297 for Kansas City and the Dodgers. He would be a valuable insurance policy if he can recapture that form.
Brian Sanches, RHP
This is a terrific addition for roster depth and it would not be shocking if he made the roster out of spring training. Sanches, 33, spent time on the disabled list last season with a strained right elbow and his recovery from that injury could determine his chances. In his last three seasons with Florida, he is 10-5 with a 2.92 ERA in 147 games, so he's worth the risk.
Raul Valdes, LHP
The 33-year-old Cuban appeared in 13 games with the Cardinals and Yankees last season and did a respectable job in both places. Things have not gone as planned for Valdes since he defected from his homeland in 2004, but maybe he is a late bloomer and can emerge as the second lefty the Phillies lacked in their bullpen last season.
Tuffy Gosewisch, C
He is currently fourth on the Phillies’ catching depth chart behind Carlos Ruiz, Brian Schneider and Erik Kratz. Given the hazards of that job, it’s definitely possible he could spend some time in Philadelphia next season. It doesn’t hurt that Baseball America listed Gosewisch, 28, as the best defensive catcher in the Eastern League last season or that the Phillies’ aces enjoyed throwing to him last year in spring training.
Pete Orr, IF
The left-handed hitting infielder appeared in 46 games for the Phillies last season and did a professional job. He was 5-for-14 as a pinch-hitter, but batted .192 in 24 starts. Orr, 31, had just three extra-base hits – all doubles – in 96 at-bats. His chances of a second big-league stint in Philadelphia will be based entirely on the health of the roster, but they have been downgraded because of Ty Wigginton’s addition via trade.
Kevin Frandsen, INF
The right-handed hitting Frandsen batted .309 with five home runs and 43 RBIs at triple-A Lehigh Valley last season. He also was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for the banned substance ritalinic acid. Despite the suspension, Sandberg and the Phillies liked the way he handled himself and have obviously brought him back for a reason.
Pat Misch, LHP
The 30-year-old reliever has appeared in 78 big-league games, including 18 the last two seasons with the New York Mets. Any time you’re a left-handed reliever with some big-league experience, you have a chance of returning to the big leagues. See Juan Perez for proof.
Scott Elarton, RHP
He was a first-round draft pick by the Houston Astros in 1994, but we all know 1994 was a long, long time ago. Elarton will turn 36 in February and he has not pitched in the big leagues since 2008. He has not pitched professionally since 2010 when he went 1-2 with an 8.24 ERA at Charlotte, the triple-A affiliate for the White Sox. It would be a great comeback story, but don’t expect to read it.