The Phillies had 13 players suit up and play a non-catching infield position last year, a stark contrast to nine in 2011, 12 in 2010, ten in 2009, and nine in 2009. With the average number of infielders needed by the Phillies at just over ten and a half and the Phillies currently with only seven infielders on their 40-man roster, there is a very good chance more than one of these players will see extended time at an infield spot for the Phillies, particularly considering the health concerns of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and the ages of Jimmy Rollins and Michael Young.
Three-in-a-Row for Sneaky Pete?
Much to my surprise in 2011, Pete Orr began the year with the Phillies on their Opening Day roster. Last year? Orr didn’t catch me off guard. Orr filled in well in 57 PA last year, hitting .315/.327/.444, is still among the fastest players in the Phillies organization, and still plays, at worst, average defense at all infield positions. Depending on the Phillies’ development plans for Cesar Hernandez, Orr is likely the first option to come up from Lehigh Valley should there be an injury.
Like Steven Lerud yesterday, a lot of Orr’s value comes in the fact that he’s just valuable enough to have on a roster but not so valuable that another team would select him off waivers. With limited roster space, that is a plus for Orr. Another advantage for Orr? He will be able to showcase himself as the starting second baseman for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic.
Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: D+. Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis complicate Orr’s chances of starting the year with the team, but if Young, Rollins, or Utley aren’t ready, or even Frandsen or Galvis, Orr is probably the first infielder up.
Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: C. Not as likely as last year, but a reasonable 50/50 shot to be on the roster at some point in 2013 unless Hernandez or one of the others greatly outplays him.
Two Reasonable Replacement-Level Choices
Fields is a former number one pick by the White Sox who flew up their ranks and burst into the Majors in 2007, hitting 23 HRs. Since then, Fields has gotten 353 MLB PA over the last five seasons, hitting just .228/.296/.353. At 30, Fields is no longer a prospect but his glove won’t kill your team at third base. Fields had a hot 2012 for Triple-A Albuquerque last season, hitting .322/.392/.488 with 32 2B and 13 HR. His successes came in the hitters paradise known as the Pacific Coast League but the Phillies could do a lot worse with an emergency policy for third base.
Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: F+. Fields will need a very specific occurrence to happen, a M. Young injury, and then some luck, Orr or Hernandez are not called up, in order to make the Opening Day squad. It’s not impossible highly improbable.
Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: D-. The answer for this one is the same as above: very specific circumstance with a qualifier, however this gets a higher grade because it is not bound to a very specific time frame.
Blanco was a member of the 2011 AL Champion Texas Rangers, coming in mostly as a late-game defensive replacement at second base and shortstop. For our readers in Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton, you may recognize Blanco for his ten HR last year for the IronPigs. Blanco has a good enough glove and a good enough bat; he won’t hurt any team he plays for but, as a fan, he is not a guy you’d like to see on the field for more than a few innings or a small stretch of games.
When I spoke to General Manager Ruben Amaro on January 22, he noted Blanco was facing some injuries that he picked up while playing in the Venezuelan Winter League. If Blanco is ready to go, he could assume a Galvis-type defensive replacement role if Galvis or Frandsen are injured. Blanco was with the Phillies organization for all of 2012 and was not called up or added to the active roster at any point, hitting just .235/.301/.346 for the Pigs.
Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: F-. The door isn’t closed on Blanco but the depth in front of him and the fact that Jimmy Rollins is still an above average defensive shortstop hurts his chances greatly.
Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: F+. Blanco has an uphill battle but the Phillies have used over four different infielders a year who haven’t started the year on the roster.
Not Time. Yet.
Asche very quickly went from “older college Minor League filler” in 2011 to “legitimate prospect” in 2012, with 12 HR, 11 SBs and a .324/.369/.481 combined line across time split almost evenly between Clearwater and Reading. Minor League expert John Sickels likes Asche’s “sweet swing” and has him ranked sixth in the Phillies system, while Matt Forman of Baseball America believes Asche has the best plate discipline of any Phillies Minor Leaguer.
Asche, just 22 years old, is a very good player but will need some seasoning. He will likely start the season in Triple-A Lehigh Valley and that’s OK.
Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: None. Barring a hot Spring Training and the world’s craziest series of injuries short of the plague, to everyone above and below him on this list, Asche has no shot of making the team out of camp. This is obviously not a knock on Asche or his potential – 2013 is only his third professional season and Asche, at 22, all of the sudden, has plenty of time to develop.
Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: C+. This one gets complicated. If Asche has a really nice year in Triple-A, he could be added to the 40-man late in the year and get a September call-up. Yet, there is no rush for the Phillies to add Asche to their 40-man, with Asche needing at least three more years of service time in the Minors before he absolutely needs to be added to the roster. Asche isn’t in a position to force the Phillies hand in a call-up but could see one if he is as good as he showed last year.
Stay Away, Stay VERY Far Away
Martinez, now two years removed from his Rule 5 selection, is 30 years old – a Jack of All Trades but master of none. His list of positions that he played last year on Baseball Reference reads like a four year old’s interpretation of a telephone number: “45/6987″. Martinez has almost no value to the Phillies and can’t do any one thing better than anyone on this list: Orr is faster, Blanco is better defensively, and Fields and Asche are better hitters. Yet, like Ty Wigginton, Martinez will continue to get repeated chances because he does lots of different things, but none of them particularly well.
Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: None. Please, please let this be none.
Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: D+. When the Phillies finally designated Martinez last season, a weight was lifted off of the shoulders of fans everywhere. How could such a talented group over the previous five seasons, suddenly in the periphery of the playoff race, keep such a blah player on the roster? In 2011, there was the Rule 5 excuse – in 2012, they finally sent him down to Lehigh Valley.
I rarely do anything based on gut feeling, ever. But this projection? I have a sneaking feeling that even with all of the folks in front of him, Martinez will wind up with the Phillies at some point in 2013. If he doesn’t, don’t be surprised if some compromising photos of someone in the Phillies front office are released. Just kidding – although, that is as good an explanation as any as to why Martinez got as many chances as he did.
Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: If there is a higher power and they have mercy, please let this be none.
Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: See above.