Odds of Top Philadelphia Phillies Prospects Making 2014 Opening Day Roster
With spring training just around the corner as pitchers and catchers report by Feb. 13, baseball's offseason talk moves from transactions and the Hall of Fame to the new season ahead.
Along with that transition comes the discussion of who will make teams' rosters out of spring training, and while that sometimes can be almost set before a baseball is thrown, it's rarely the case.
For the Philadelphia Phillies, that possibility is probably more true than false, although there are still some openings to be determined. The bullpen is still shaky, the rotation's fourth member has yet to be officially named and third base remains a tossup.
While there are incumbents at each of those positions who could handle the starting duties, surprise runs of dominance in spring training could change each incumbent's status.
On Jan. 8, Matt Gelb of Philly.com reported that Phillies top prospects Maikel Franco and Jesse Biddle would be invited to big league camp, which is generally a sign that those players will surface in the majors at some point in 2014. The only question is when that will happen during the season. If they play their cards right, like some of the Phillies' other top prospects, they stand a better chance at defying the odds and cracking the Opening Day roster.
However, this slideshow only covers those prospects who have a legitimate shot at making the Phillies' roster to start the season. Prospects at levels such as Single-A will not be considered. In addition, in includes those prospects who have yet to make their major league debuts, meaning that players such as Ethan Martin and Cesar Hernandez will be excluded.
Here are the Phillies' top prospects' odds of doing just that.
*All prospect rankings courtesy of Baseball America's 2014 Top 10 Phillies Prospects list.
3B Maikel Franco
Entering the 2013 season, Maikel Franco came in as a top-10 prospect with a high ceiling, but with a ton of risk attached to him. While that remains the case entering the 2014 season, the difference this year is that Franco has proven he has defied that risk to an extent.
Franco is no defensive whiz, though he does possess the Phillies' best infield arm, but his offensive numbers in both High-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading last year were outstanding. In 2013, Franco hit .320 with a .926 OPS, 31 home runs and 103 RBI in 134 games. As a result, Franco propelled himself from outside the brink of relevancy to being the Phillies' top prospect entering 2014 and the organization's top power hitter.
Although Franco was only so-so in the Dominican Winter League. He batted .226 with only three home runs, 14 RBI and an ugly .624 OPS in 47 games, but the experience gave the Phillies a chance to see what they have in Franco at an arguably more competitive level than the minors.
Franco will compete with Cody Asche for the third base job, and while it may be Asche's to lose right now, the tides could turn by the end of spring training, if not partway into the season.
Odds of Making the Opening Day Roster: 20 percent
LHP Jesse Biddle
Jesse Biddle made strides in 2013 and cemented himself as the Phillies' best pitching prospect. He comes in at No. 2 overall behind Maikel Franco, but Biddle is probably a safer player, in terms of risk level.
Franco's ceiling may be higher, but Biddle's potential is known. He's bound to be a No. 3 or 4 starter in the majors, and if things go well for him, his place as a No. 2 starter could also happen. Biddle sports the best curveball out of all the Phillies prospects, which is no surprise considering that it's his bread and butter. In the Futures Game last July, Biddle earned the win, thanks to his devastating curveball, which has true 12-6 break when it's on target.
Biddle started out 2013 well, including a 16-strikeout performance, but he faded down the stretch. Consequently, his numbers for the year ended up 5-14 with a 3.64 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 154 strikeouts in 138.1 innings. It was a disappointing end to what looked to be a promising season for Biddle, but he should be fine going forward.
The chances that Biddle makes the Phillies roster on Opening Day are slim to none. Others in the organization, such as Jonathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin, have an upper hand on Biddle due to their faster progression through the system.
Biddle will make the team in 2014, but making it this Opening Day might be a stretch.
Odds of Making the Opening Day Roster: 5 percent
RHP Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is an enigma. He's the guy who the Phillies originally signed to a six-year, $48 million contract, which later reverted to a three-year, $12 million deal following some elbow concerns.
All that's publicly known about Gonzalez is that he's got a decent repertoire and he's a 27-year-old right-hander. He was one of Cuba's finest pitchers before defecting, though that may or may not be saying all that much since the Cuban leagues are not especially stacked with talent.
Despite the cloud of mystery hanging over Gonzalez's head, me may stand the best shot of making the Opening Day roster of any Phillies prospect. He has more upside than Jonathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin—as evidenced by his fourth-best prospect ranking in the organization—but health concerns and lack of innings on the mound recently could hurt Gonzalez's chances.
Like Biddle, Gonzalez should be on the roster sooner rather than later, but Gonzalez stands a better shot at making the rotation out of spring training.
Odds of Making the Opening Day Roster: 40 percent