The Philadelphia Phillies took their time addressing their needs this offseason, but they have managed to acquire four players whose roles are already defined heading into next season.
Ben Revere is set to take over in center field, while third base belongs to Michael Young, as long as he can remain healthy while playing regularly in the field for the first time since 2010. As for the pitching staff, the newly acquired John Lannan will have the inside track on the fifth spot in the rotation, while Mike Adams joins Jonathan Papelbon in giving the Phils an experienced back end to their bullpen.
But what about the rest of the roster?
Although the infield and starting rotation are either set or include few other alternatives, the rest of the roster features players who will be competing for roster spots and playing time during spring training.
And they won’t be competing simply against those players already on the 40-man roster.
The Phillies currently have nine players who have been named as non-roster invitees to spring training. Some of these players have played for the Phils in recent seasons, while others were signed this offseason.
This list includes players who could receive extra attention during spring training as players with either an outside shot at winning a final roster spot or being sent to Triple-A until a call-up is needed during the regular season. Looking at the Phils' current roster, it becomes clear that reserve infielder, bullpen and outfield spots are all up for grabs.
Here are five players who could get long looks by the Phils as non-roster invitees in spring training.
If not for Carlos Ruiz’s 25-game suspension, the Phillies would be set behind the plate with Ruiz and Erik Kratz as the team’s catchers for the start of next season.
However, the Phillies will need someone else to step up until Ruiz’s return and back up Kratz for the first 25 games, and Humberto Quintero may be given the opportunity.
Quintero, who bats and throws right-handed, played in 43 games for the Kansas City Royals last season while also bouncing around the Triple-A level. Despite his lack of power at the plate, Quintero still managed to bat .245 in 30 games in the minor leagues this past season.
However, his showing in the Venezuelan League this offseason, where he's batting .325 with 25 hits in 25 games with a .381 OBP, is a bit more encouraging.
But as a potential backup catcher to start the season, it will be Quintero’s ability behind the plate that will determine whether he is able to beat out competition from a player such as Sebastian Valle.
For his career, Quintero has a caught-stealing percentage of 33 percent, and he had a 35-percent mark in 355 innings this past season. In comparison, Brian Schneider’s caught-stealing percentage was 32 percent this past season, but it was 21 percent and 13 percent in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
Quintero’s recent experience in the big leagues could give him an edge during spring training, where he will likely get a long look to either start the season on the major league roster or remain in Triple-A in case of an injury.
The Phillies currently have eight outfielders on their 40-man roster, but only one has done enough to solidify himself as a starter at the major league level.
Besides Ben Revere, the Phils outfield currently consists of only question marks, and it may eventually consist of four players sharing the starting jobs at the corner outfield spots. Therefore, just about every outfielder will get a look in spring training until the starting jobs are won.
That’s good news for Jermaine Mitchell, who at 28 years old has now batted a combined .289 during the past three seasons in the minor leagues.
Mitchell spent this past season playing for the Oakland A’s Triple-A affiliate after having knee surgery following the 2011 season. In 108 games, the former fifth-round draft pick batted .252 with six home runs and 38 RBI. 2011 saw him bat .332 with 15 home runs and 78 RBI between Double-A and Triple-A.
Although he primarily played center field this season, Mitchell has minor league experience at all three outfield positions.
Mitchell bats left-handed, meaning his best chances for making the roster at some point are likely in left field, where he could platoon with a right-handed Darin Ruf. John Mayberry, Jr. could have an advantage over him as a right-handed batter, as well as a backup option at first base, while Laynce Nix and Domonic Brown are also left-handed batters.
However, a strong showing in spring training could at least keep Mitchell on the Phillies' radar as he heads to Triple-A and tries to regain the form that helped him earn an invite from the A’s to spring training last year.
Outside of outfielders, the Phillies bullpen is the next area that has few spots firmly cemented for next season.
Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Adams are both locks for the Opening Day roster, but the remaining spots will be fought for by players such as Phillippe Aumont, Michael Stutes, Jake Diekman, Jeremy Horst, Raul Valdes, Justin De Fratus and Antonio Bastardo.
However, the Phillies used 19 relief pitchers last season, which means the chances are high that more than just this group of relievers will pitch out of the bullpen this upcoming season.
Joining this list could be Zach Miner, who had a 2.50 ERA for the Detroit Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate this season. Miner managed to hold batters to a .180 batting average, but he struggled with his command while walking 20 batters in 36 innings.
Miner hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2009, when he had a 4.29 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 92.1 innings. However, Miner was able to lower his minor league ERA from 5.27 in 2011 to 2.79 last season.
Miner’s chances of making the roster out of spring training appear slim, especially with fellow right-handed pitchers Aumont, Stutes and De Fratus battling to join Adams as the Phils' right-handed relievers in the bullpen.
But just as Valdes was able to earn a call-up last season, Miner can put himself in a position to join the team’s bullpen at some point as either an injury replacement or roster upgrade.
Josh Fields may not be the best defender, but if he bats the way he did last season at Triple-A, he could make a case for a big-league promotion at some point.
Fields batted .322 with 13 home runs and 71 RBI for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate last season while playing seven different positions. Although he has made his share of errors at third base both at the major league and minor league level, Fields could make for an intriguing option if his offensive production continues while with the Phils.
The former first-round draft pick batted .306 in limited action with the Kansas City Royals in his last major league stint and has since found success in the minors. In the last three seasons in the minor leagues, Fields has batted a combined .372.
Fields will likely need to show an improvement defensively in spring training to stay on the Phils' radar. However, he at least has experience at multiple infield positions, and even in left field.
As a right-handed batter, Fields could use a strong offensive showing in spring training to become a potential call-up during the season. Currently, the Phillies are set to use players such as Kevin Frandsen, Freddy Galvis, Pete Orr and Michael Martinez in reserve infield roles.
If Fields can improve defensively, his offense could help him see action in one of these reserve roles at some point during the season.
The Phillies have a number of left-handed relievers who could make up the team’s bullpen next season, such as Antonio Bastardo, Jeremy Horst, Jake Diekman and Raul Valdes. However, none of these players have displayed consistency just yet or are still in the early parts of their careers.
Cesar Jimenez may have a chance to do what three of these pitchers did last season and earn an in-season call-up if his spring training performances catch the eyes of the Phillies coaches.
Jimenez had a 5.24 minor league ERA last season but managed to rack up 44 strikeouts in 44.2 innings. This strikeout total came one year after he recorded 81 strikeouts at the Triple-A level.
2011 saw Jimenez hold opponents to a .222 batting average while with the Seattle Mariners. He has also struck out 26 batters and walked seven in 21 innings in winter ball this offseason.
The Phillies already have a left-handed reliever with high strikeout numbers in Bastardo, but Jimenez could become a solid backup option while trying to lower his ERA at Triple-A. If Diekman struggles to adjust to the major leagues in his second season or Horst is unable to match the 1.15 ERA he had last season, Jimenez could use a strong offseason and spring training to become one of the team’s options if a call-up is needed.
With the number of relievers that the Phillies used last season, chances are high that any pitcher who continues with their solid spring training performances while at Triple-A will receive a strong look once the season gets under way. Currently, the Phillies have left-handed relief options but few sure bets to have strong showings.