Well, the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline has passed, and the Phillies sure made a splash in acquiring Hunter Pence. It came at a high price, though—the Phils had to surrender their two top prospects, first baseman Jonathan Singleton and starting pitcher Jarred Cosart, along with pitcher Josh Zeid and a player to be named later. Fortunately, the Phillies did get $2 million cash from the Astros as well in order to cover Pence's remaining salary, but more importantly, not surpass the $178 million luxury tax threshold.
Now that it's August, transactions news has seemingly cooled—for now. Possible waiver trades could occur at any point before the August 31 waiver trade deadline, but once September comes rolling around, that's when the real excitement begins. Teams will be battling for division titles and wild cards, and rosters will expand from 25 players to 40 at the major league level, meaning that in September, minor league players on the 40-man roster will get a chance to make a name for themselves in the limited time they have to do so.
However, there are some players on the 40-man roster than might not necessarily make it to the big leagues just yet, for a variety of reasons. They could be too young, inexperienced, injured, or simply just not ready to handle the major leagues just yet. So, while one or two of the following players listed will be on the 40-man roster, there might be a few who aren't, but could be when rosters expand at the beginning of September.
This list is of players who have not yet made their major league debut either, so players like Scott Mathieson, Drew Carpenter and Mike Zagurski will not be included (not like they would necessarily contribute anyway).
Here are five minor league players who the Phillies could see contribute once September roster expansion arrives.
Justin De Fratus has been nothing short of great this season. A product of the 2007 MLB Draft, De Fratus was originally drafted in the 11th round as a starter, but after starting didn't go so well for De Fratus, he was converted to a reliever, and he has been fantastic in that role. In fact, De Fratus, who is currently on the Phillies' 40-man roster, is currently considered the Phillies' seventh-best prospect.
Having started out the year at Double-A Reading, in 23 games De Fratus went 4-0 with a 2.10 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP in 34.1 innings pitched (IP). He also fanned 43 batters and walked 14, amounting to an 11.3 K/9 rate and a 3.07 K/BB rate, and opposing batters hit just .214 off him. In addition, having been the team's closer, he posted eight saves and finished 21 games. Not bad.
However, the 23-year-old De Fratus hasn't fared as well at Triple-A Lehigh Valley since his promotion on June 15. In 20 games (29.0 IP), he's gone 2-2 with a 4.34 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP, with 37 strikeouts and 11 free passes, which comes down to an increased-11.5 K/9 rate and a 3.36 K/BB rate. With the IronPigs, he has allowed batters to hit a little more against him with a BAA of .254, and he's also saved two games and finished 12 games.
It's very possible that De Fratus could be called upon the most should be make the September roster. He could give guys like Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo rest for the postseason if he pitches effectively. It's been reported that he has a fastball that tops out at 96 MPH, a slider, and a change-up. He's known most for his control, though; Baseball America said prior to the season that he has the best overall control of any Phillies minor league pitcher.
Should De Fratus make the roster in September—regardless of whether he closes or not—if he can revert himself back to his Double-A self, he could really make a name for himself against major league hitting. He's got the control, so if he finds himself again, he could show that he could be an important piece of the Phillies' bullpen in the future.
Photo courtesy of Philly.com.
Phillippe Aumont has also put together a very nice season.
Aumont, the centerpiece of the Cliff Lee deal with the Seattle Mariners, was a first-round pick in the 207 Draft, having been selected by the Mariners with the 11th-overall pick. At the time, it was the the third-highest pick of any Canadian player (Aumont is from Quebec), and the highest pick of any player from Quebec. He's also considered to be the Phillies' 10th-best prospect.
Like De Fratus, Aumont, just 22 years old, started out in Double-A this season and has made his way to Triple-A, and also like De Fratus, he was a starter-turned-reliever, except that after the Cliff Lee trade, the Phillies tried to convert him back to a starter, which didn't go very well, so now he's back to relieving again.
In 25 appearances at Double-A this season (31.0 IP), Aumont went a disappointing 1-5, but he posted a dominant 2.32 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, and also collected four saves and 21 games finished. Additionally, he struck out 41 batters and walked 11, which comes to an 11.9 K/9 rate and a 3.73 K/BB rate.
Despite not receiving any decisions at Triple-A Lehigh Valley yet, Aumont has been even more fantastic there since being promoted along with De Fratus in mid-June. At Triple-A, Aumont has made 10 appearances and pitched 13.2 innings, in which he's gone 0-0 with a microscopic 1.98 ERA, although his WHIP is a bit higher at 1.32. In addition, he's fanned 24 batters and walked just 6, compiling three saves and finishing six games in the process as well. His K/9 rate is astounding at 15.81, and his K/BB rate has improved to 4.00.
He's also started leaving more runners on base as well—at Double-A, he has a Left On-Base Percentage of 56.7, but at Triple-A, it's now 83.3 percent. Lastly, his BAA was better at Double-A (.189), although it's not terrible at Triple-A (.226).
His repertoire consists of a four-seam fastball that clocks in between the mid and high-90s, a slider-curve, or "slurve," and a decent change-up. He's also got the best curveball of all Phillies prospects according to Baseball America, so he's in great shape with his pitches.
Aumont could share closing duties with De Fratus in September and even beyond, but there could also be a good chance that Aumont could take closer duties by himself come next season (if the Phillies let Madson walk). He's got tons of potential and he's finally putting it to good use.
It looks like the Cliff Lee trade might not have been a complete bust after all.
Photo courtesy of Diamond Numbers.
Michael Schwimer has been incredible this season. Selected by the Phillies in the 14th round of the 2008 MLB Draft, he has been with the Phillies organization since becoming a professional, and he has been fantastic in it. However, unlike De Fratus and Aumont, Schwimer has spent the entire 2011 season in Triple-A, and he has been just as good, if not better in some ways.
Schwimer, 24, has gone 8-1 this season with a 1.80 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and has 83 Ks (and 20 walks) to go along with a .195 BAA, 10 saves and 28 games finished in 45 appearances (65.0 IP). His totals amount to an 11.49 K/9 rate and a 4.15 K/BB. In short, he's been awesome, having been recently named the Phillies' minor league pitcher of the month for July.
After spending two years in Triple-A, this may finally be the time where Schwimer makes his major league debut. Sharing closer duties at Triple-A with De Fratus and Aumont, Schwimer, who is 6'8" and weighs 240 pounds, could very well do the same at the major league level should all three of them make it there in September and in the future.
Schwimer's repertoire is comprised of a low-90s fastball, a decent slider, and a very good, "very deceiving" change-up. While his velocity isn't as good as that of De Fratus and Aumont, his size and his pitching angle, according to the aforementioned article, are "to his advantage."
Schwimer, having two seasons of Triple-A ball under his belt, is probably the most major-league ready of these three relievers. Although that will ultimately be shown once they all hit the majors, it's worth considering that Schwimer could be a very effective future set-up man or closer. With De Fratus and Aumont alongside him, the three could find themselves in a hot competition for the closer's role should Ryan Madson sign elsewhere in the coming offseason.
In September, Schwimer will have to show that he's no minor-league fluke and that he's as ready for the majors as he's conceived to be. Should he close or just simply pitch in the bullpen, it will be very interesting to see how not only he, but also De Fratus and Aumont, shapes up.
Moving on to offensive players, third baseman Carlos Rivero isn't necessarily one of the more well-known names of Phillies prospects, but he's been just as good as any of them.
Rivero, 23, was claimed off waivers by the Phillies on November 3, 2010 from the Cleveland Indians as a shortstop, but as a member of the Phillies organization, he was converted to playing third base. The Venezuela native has since played for the Phillies at Double-A and was recently promoted to Triple-A.
In 105 games as a Reading Phillie, Rivero hit .285 with 11 home runs, 53 RBI, and hit 31 doubles. He also posted an OPS of .788 that includes a slugging percentage (SLG) of .449. While he's got the potential to be a very good fielder, his defense still does need some work. His .915 fielding percentage is abysmal, and his range factor per game of 2.10 is average at best. However, he was named the Phillies' top offensive player for the month of July recently, having hit .373 with three homers and 22 RBI in 28 games played.
Rivero has only played in five games at Triple-A, and as of right now he's not getting off to a great start. He's batting just .167 with an OPS of .609, although he does have a double, triple, and home run in 24 at-bats (26 plate appearances). While his on-base percentage (OBP) has been low (currently at a terrible .192), his SLG has remained somewhat consistent to his Double-A numbers at .417.
It's worth wondering whether he could be the heir apparent to Placido Polanco once his contract ends following the 2012 season. While he does have a mutual option for the 2013 season, should his injury woes continue through next year, there's a pretty good chance the Phillies wouldn't exercise his $5.5 million option, so they would probably give him the $1 million buyout that would be owed to him in such a situation.
Rivero may not necessarily contribute defensively just yet for the Phillies, but they could use him as a pinch hitter or as an occasional starter should Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez be unavailable to play or if Charlie Manuel simply wants to give the minor leaguers a chance, which would most likely happen only if the Phillies clinch the division and still have a few games left to play in the season.
As a hitter, Rivero could be ready to hit in the majors in September if he finds his Double-A numbers at Triple-A. But until he learns to field better, the likelihood of a September call-up shrinks by the day.
Photo courtesy of minorleaguebaseball.com.
It looks like Freddy Galvis has finally found himself at the plate. Signed by the Phillies as a free agent on July 2, 2006, the 21-year-old switch hitting shortstop also hails from Venezuela and has been extremely good this season, mainly in the field, but more recently at the plate as well.
Galvis, who has been said, in terms of defense, to "have scouts claiming that Galvis could be a major league infielder right now—perhaps even better than average," has been on a tear recently at the plate. After not starting out slow at the beginning of the season, Galvis has begun to hit, which was previously believed to be his biggest block from reaching the major leagues.
Prior to his recent promotion to Triple-A, Galvis hit .273 with eight home runs, 35 RBI, and posted an OPS of .727 in 104 games. He's also speedy, having racked up 19 stolen bases along with hitting 16 doubles and four triples. Sure, those aren't fantastic stats, but given his stellar defense, he doesn't have to worry too much about offense, although should it continue to improve at this rate it would definitely increase the rate at which he reaches the major leagues.
However, at Triple-A, Galvis has been keeping his improving pace alive. In seven games since his promotion on August 2, Galvis has hit .286 with a double and a triple and has posted an OPS of .679 along with stealing a base. Again, given his defensive skills, his hitting isn't as important, but it's also worth noting that players generally don't hit as well upon immediately being promoted from one level of the organization to the next, so we'll be able to see with time just how well Galvis does.
As for Galvis' defense, which I've talked much about but haven't really gone into depth, it's superb. While his fielding percentage at Double-A this season was a below-average .964, fielding percentage isn't the best indicator of how well a player does in the field. A statistic that better shows this is range factor. Range factor's average hovers around 2.15. Galvis' range factor per game stood at 4.15 when he was promoted, and he also helped turn 44 double plays.
That's incredible, and at Triple-A it's shaping up to continue along his usual trend: his range factor per game at Triple-A is currently 4.13, and his fielding percentage is actually 1.000, which means that in his first eight games at triple-A, Galvis has yet to commit an error. Fantastic.
Galvis is probably the player to watch most should he be called up in September. Like Justin De Fratus, Galvis is on the Phillies' 40-man roster, but that's not why he should be watched. Incumbent, former-MVP shortstop and face-of-the-franchise Jimmy Rollins is in the last year of his five-year, $40 million extension he signed during the 2005 season, and with his 2011 club option exercised, all Rollins has left following the season is free agency. He's said that he also won't take a "hometown discount" like Cliff Lee did, meaning that he could demand upwards of a three-year, $30 million contract in the coming offseason. He's currently 32 years old, so if the Phillies don't match Rollins' asking price or decide to let Rollins walk (which would be a stupid move), they'll need a shortstop, and Jose Reyes will probably be out of their price range.
Galvis, whose speed and defense are comparable to that of Rollins, could very well be his replacement should he leave the Phillies via free agency. If Galvis hits well at the major league level given the opportunity, he very well could ease the pain of Phillies fans should Rollins leave, regardless of why. With Rollins' offensive stats decreasing since his 2007 MVP year, he may appeal less to the Phillies, and if he asks for more than what the Phillies deem him to be worth, he could be turned down by the Phillies.
Galvis will almost certainly play sometime in September, not just to give him the chance as a minor leaguer, but because there could be a chance he'll continue playing for the Phillies after the season. If his defense lives up to the hype and he continues to hit like he has been recently, he could take Rollins' job and be the one playing shortstop on Opening Day of 2012.