There is not much mystery about the composition of the 2011 Phillies. Seven of eight positions are locked in, as are four bench spots. The entire starting rotation is set.
There are three bullpen locks (Lidge, Madson, Contreras), three more “almost certains” (Romero, Kendrick, Bastardo), and one final spot that will go to whoever looks better in the Spring: Danys Baez or David Herndon. The fact that Baez is due $2.75MM and Herndon can be optioned to the minor leagues at no penalty sways the odds in Baez’ favor.
(If you recall, Herndon was a Rule 5 pick last year, and, had the Phillies not kept him on the active roster for all of 2010, the Angels could have taken him back at half price. That is no longer the case this year. The Twins did this with Johan Santana once upon a time – kept him for all of his Rule 5 season, then sent him down to the minors for more seasoning.)
Despite the constant reminders of Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro that “Domonic Brown needs to earn his spot,” the top prospect will probably find his way on the team. The only hindrance would be a pitiful, mistake-prone Spring. He may not be fully groomed yet, but necessity and newly available semi-regular playing time will thrust him into the majors.
The only “free-for-all” exists at the final roster spot – the 25th man. In years past, this spot has been filled by the likes of Greg Dobbs, Eric Bruntlett, and So Taguchi. Dobbs, like some of the candidates mentioned below, was once a Non-Roster Invitee who performed well enough to earn himself the final spot.
Let’s take a look at the five men with the best chance to go North:
- Strengths: Power, pedigree, athleticism, organizational experience
- Weaknesses: Inability to hit offspeed pitches, poor plate discipline, career stagnation
Mayberry is the most physically gifted of the five candidates you’ll see mentioned here. He is a former 1st-round pick from a baseball family that the Phillies sought out through trade several years ago.
He has traveled up-and-down between the majors and Triple-A (mostly Triple-A), simply because he has never performed well enough to stick in The Show. He is widely regarded as a 4-A player because of his one-track swing and 27:3 major league K/BB ratio.
Mayberry may have the most upside of these contenders, but what hurts his chances is that unless he has a miraculous Spring or Ben Francisco gets hurt, Mayberry won’t instill enough confidence in management that he can be called upon in pinch-hitting situations. As in years past, Mayberry will probably serve as organizational depth, getting regular at-bats in Triple-A in hopes that his Werthian physique may one day translate to Werthian production.
- Strengths: Glove, versatility, speed
- Weaknesses: Can’t do anything else
Little is known about the middle infielder the Phillies Rule Fived from the Nationals. Martinez, at 27, has never played a game in the majors. He is a utility infielder (and outfielder) with good speed. He has no power, and, aside from brief stints in Low-A and Triple-A (at the end of 2010), Martinez has never hit for average, either.
It is hard to see him making this team unless the Phillies decide the 25th spot would be best occupied by a pinch-runner/versatile defensive replacement. Even still, Wilson Valdez makes Martinez redundant in the field, and if Domonic Brown is sitting against a lefty starter, Brown would be the ideal pinch runner.
Expect Martinez to be offered back to the Nationals at half price.
- Strengths: Experience, defensive versatility, switch-hitter
- Weaknesses: Was terrible in five of six months last season
The former Pirate invited to Spring Training is my pick for the 25th man. His 2009 and 2010 numbers won’t set the world on fire, but he has experience starting and pinch-hitting, and he has major league experience at second base, third base, and both corner outfield spots.
Young is also a switch-hitter, which adds late-inning value. He is practically identical as a right-handed hitter (.710 OPS) and left-handed hitter (.708 OPS).
He is not guaranteed a roster spot, but he”ll receive plenty of playing time in Spring Training to prove himself. On paper, he is the most useful of this bunch.
Brandon Moss, Robb Quinlan
If you recognize Moss’ name, it’s due to his inclusion in the Manny Ramirez-Jason Bay trade. Or maybe you remember his pathetic few seasons with the Pirates. Either way, Moss will have to outperform Mayberry, Young, and the guy I’ll mention next in order to make the team.
If you recognize Quinlan’s name, it’s from his eight mediocre seasons with the Angels, in which he usually received 150-180 plate appearances. He has numbers similar to Delwyn Young, and can also play many of the same positions. There was a cute story in the Inquirer this morning about Quinlan’s locker, which sits in between Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt.
It all comes down to Spring production, but as of now, I’d give Delwyn Young the leg up on this list of players. He gives you plenty of versatility both offensively and defensively. Isn’t that what you want from a 25th man?
My rankings (in terms of value added), would be:
- Delwyn Young
- John Mayberry
- Robb Quinlan
- Michael Martinez
- Brandon Moss
What would yours be?