Another milepost of baseball's winter hits at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, the moment when 40-man rosters must be set in advance of the ever-thrilling Rule 5 draft. There will be a flurry of roster moves in the next two days as teams decide which players are worth protecting.
Not everyone is eligible for selection in Rule 5 draft, which takes place Dec. 6. Eligibility is dependent on a player's age when he was signed. The general guideline: If 19 or older when signed, you must be protected after four years. If 18 or younger, protection is required after five years of service time.
The Phillies currently have 34 players on their 40-man roster. It's unlikely they fill all six spots with minor leaguers. Last winter, they lost righty Lendy Castillo to the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft. Castillo is now property of Chicago after spending the entire 2012 season on the active major-league roster.
Protecting players is not always about pure talent; teams also must consider how likely it is Player X is selected in the Rule 5 draft.
And now, the candidates (April 2013 age in parenthesis):
RHP Trevor May (23) — He entered 2012 rated as the organization's top prospect by many and stumbled to a 4.87 ERA with 22 home runs allowed and a sharp decline in strikeout numbers. Nonetheless, May remains one of the top pitching talents because of his stuff. It'll be interesting to see whether he repeats double A or jumps to triple A in April.
RHP Jonathan Pettibone (22) — The jump to the Eastern League was fruitful for Pettibone, a former third-round pick never described as flashy. He maintained his strikeout rate (albeit it low) and even showed enough to warrant a late-season tryout in triple A. He succeeded there, too. Pettibone has made at least 23 starts in three straight seasons.
RHP Ethan Martin (23) — Acquired in the Shane Victorino trade, Martin excelled at Reading during a limited stint. Control will always be a concern; Martin has walked 5.5 batters per nine innings in his minor-league career. In seven starts with Reading, that figure was 4.1. After repeating double A in 2012, a promotion to triple A for the former first-rounder is likely in line.
OF Zach Collier (22) — The former first-round pick missed the first 50 games of 2012 because of a suspension for adderal. At single-A Clearwater, he posted his finest offensive numbers yet. Then the Phillies sent Collier to the Arizona Fall League and he dominated with a .371/.461/.532 line in 62 at-bats. It could be enough to protect him.
OF Leandro Castro (23) — Castro was unprotected last season and not selected. A decent (and healthy) season at Reading put him back on the map. But he profiles similarly to Collier and Tyson Gillies, who already has a spot on the 40-man roster. There may not be enough room for them all, considering the Phillies still have signings to make in the outfield.
RHP Julio Rodriguez (22) — In July, he represented the Phillies at the annual Futures Game in Kansas City. He was hit hard there and it portended a dismal second half of 2012. Rodriguez was shuttled between the rotation and bullpen at double-A Reading. His walks jumped after a magnificent 2011 in Clearwater. Scouts have never been enamored with his high 80s fastball.
RHP Colby Shreve (25) — Shreve, a sixth-round pick, started 2012 at single-A Lakewood and finished at double-A Reading. He's older for those leagues and has never been a big strikeout arm as a reliever. The Phillies sent him to AFL for another look and he was mediocre in 10 innings there.
OF Jiwan James (24) — He was left unprotected last winter and Phillies officials predicted he'd be plucked from their system. That did not happen. James responded with a lackluster season in Reading (.249/.291/.360). Given he was not taken in 2011, expect the Phillies to follow the same path in 2012.
Here is how the current 40-man roster is comprised:
Pitchers — 19
Catchers — 3
Infielders — 7
Outfielders — 5
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