Chances of Philadelphia Phillies' Top 5 Nonroster Invitees Making 2014 Roster
Although far from flashy, many of Major League Baseball's nonroster contracts with invites to spring training that are inked every offseason end up being rather significant. Oftentimes it is these players, or minor leaguers invited to spring training, who surprise the most and break camp with the big league roster.
For the Philadelphia Phillies, this designation has applied to Raul Valdes and Juan Pierre in recent years. Marlon Byrd was also in this position last spring with the New York Mets. All three of these players had major impacts on their MLB teams, whether positive or negative.
This offseason, the Phillies signed a few notable names to minor league deals and also will bring along some significant prospects to big league camp. Here's a look at the Phillies' top five (in no particular order) nonroster invitees and their odds of cracking the Opening Day roster.
RHP Chad Gaudin
Chad Gaudin has had quite the journeyman career, and that trend only continues with the Philadelphia Phillies, who would potentially be Gaudin's 10th major league team.
Although Gaudin's rarely been deserving of a major league contract, he came off a strong 2013 with the San Francisco Giants. This past season, the swingman posted a 5-2 record in 30 appearances, 12 of them being starts. His ERA on the year was 3.06 and his WHIP was 1.25.
While FanGraphs' FIP stat has Gaudin pegged at a 3.34, his xFIP was 4.00. Maybe the Phillies' new stats guy convinced Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. not to sign Gaudin to a major league deal after all.
But I digress. Nevertheless, Gaudin's valuable in that he's not an overly expensive option for the team and is a versatile pitcher. According to MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo, Gaudin would only make $750,000 should he break camp with the Phillies. Even if this signing turned out to be a bad one, it's not a tough pill for the organization to swallow.
This is a low-risk, high-reward signing. Gaudin's got only an outside chance at making the Opening Day roster barring an injury, though he should still make the majors at some point during the season. A good spring could cause the Phillies' coaching staff to turn their heads, but only a truly great spring would guarantee Gaudin a spot with the Phillies for Opening Day.
Chances at Making the 2014 Roster: 20 percent
OF Bobby Abreu
Bobby Abreu is as close to being a has-been as they come, yet he's still found a way to keep himself even slightly relevant.
At the tender age of 39 years old, Abreu somehow managed to ink a minor league contract (with a spring training invitation) with the Phillies this offseason. No, this isn't trying to slight Abreu just because of his age. He didn't even play in the majors in 2013, and his 2012 was primarily spent serving as a pinch hitter and occasional outfielder.
Always an offense-first outfielder, Abreu was signed as a possible left-handed bench bat and, like he served in 2012, an occasional outfield option. However, the question remains as to how effective Abreu can be in the majors after missing an entire season. Granted, he played in Venezuela and played winter ball as well, though that isn't necessarily a strong indicator of what he'll do once he's back stateside.
For the record, Abreu's 2012 batting average was .242 and his OPS was a paltry .693. This was compiled over 100 games. Perhaps for the wrong reasons, Abreu has a potential shot to make the roster, though it would take an injury and a cut or two for Abreu to become the clear front-runner for the job.
Chances of Making the 2014 Roster: 15 percent
RHP Ken Giles
While Ken Giles is a long shot to make the majors out of 2014 spring training, it isn't a stretch to suggest that he could make the major league roster by the end of the season.
Per CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury, Giles has a gift of a speedy fastball that touches 100 miles per hour. Baseball America rated it as the best in the organization. But Giles does have a couple of issues: command and a lack of viable secondary options.
Giles walked 5.8 batters per nine innings last year while also striking out 12.2 hitters over the same number of innings. He's got the potential to be a future closer for the Phillies and has the mentality of one, but until he harnesses his control, he'll only make it so far.
As was mentioned in the CSN Philly link provided above, Giles looks forward to meeting Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon in spring training and learning from him, but what he expects to grasp from Papelbon is uncertain. Giles' chances of making the Opening Day roster are near zero, but an incredibly impressive spring training, though unlikely, could put him on the map.
Chances of Making the 2014 Roster: 1 percent
LHP Jesse Biddle
All eyes are on homegrown product Jesse Biddle as he attends his first major league spring training. As the Phillies' consensus top pitching prospect, Biddle has to prove that he's well on his way to making the majors, even if he doesn't make the rotation out of spring training.
Of course, that move isn't expected. Despite a breakout 2013 season at Double-A Reading—especially the first half—Biddle struggled down the stretch and slightly reverted back to his former uncontrolled ways. He's still got tons of promise, as his 3.64 ERA and 10.02 K/9 rate would suggest, though his 5.33 BB/9 rate will have to drop significantly.
Even though Biddle should make the major league roster in 2014, the upcoming season isn't a make-or-break year for him. He's still only 22 years old, yet starting in Triple-A. His development has already exceeded expectations. What more can the Phillies ask?
It's probably for the best that Biddle will likely get to use this spring training as more of a learning experience. It takes the pressure off, and Biddle gets to mature into a better pitcher. He should see some major league action by late 2014, but it's far-fetched to expect Biddle to be a part of the major league rotation from the get-go.
Chances of Making the 2014 Roster: 5 percent
3B Maikel Franco
Widely considered the Phillies' top organizational prospect, Maikel Franco will also attend his first major league spring training. He began 2013 as an under-the-radar player who could develop into a talent into a few years. However, nobody saw Franco's 2013 coming so soon.
Last year, Franco—as a 20-year-old—batted .320 across two levels with a .925 OPS and 31 home runs. It was a completely unexpected breakout season for Franco, who isn't exactly the most agile player. What Franco's 2013 season provided was a young right-handed power bat for the Phillies in the near future, in addition to a possible contender for the Phillies' third base job, currently held by Cody Asche.
Franco has more upside than Asche, that's for sure. Franco's arm is stronger and his offensive game is much more well-rounded than Asche's. However, Asche is a superior defender and will likely hit for a better batting average once both settle into the majors at some point.
Like Biddle, Franco has plenty of time to develop. But because Asche hasn't exactly cemented his job at the hot corner, an exceptional spring could make for an intriguing competition between these two young guns within the organization. Asche is still the favorite to land the job out of the gate, though Franco could take the job by force with a solid start to 2014.
Chances of Making the 2014 Roster: 10 percent
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