A Summary of the Phillies’ Active Waiver Claim Offseason
The winds of change swept through the Phillies organization last October, as Matt Klentak was named the organization’s new General Manager. Perhaps as would be expected for the worst projected team in baseball, the Phillies were tied with Klentak’s former employer (the Angels) for the most waiver wire claims of the offseason (seven).
These claims consisted of two outfielders and five relievers, the former of which figure to feature prominently in the opening day outfield mix. The pitchers selected will compete in Spring Training for jobs, with the hope that some of these unassuming relievers can slide through waivers a second time without being claimed, addressing the lack of immediate AAA relief depth in the organization.
These moves haven’t come without a cost – the Marlins were able to claim RHP Nefi Ogando and the Pirates were able to claim and trade for LHP Jesse Biddle, two pitchers with higher upside than these players, in part because the Phillies prioritized the relievers claimed in this way.
However, these players are of some modest interest, so below is a summary of what can be expected from these players in 2016.
Peter Bourjos, CF, Cardinals
The December 2nd claim of Bourjos from the Cardinals was the culmination of years of interest by the Phillies. Klentak was also the assistant GM of the Angels during the center fielder’s time there, and acquired him with every intention of allowing him to earn a full-time spot in the outfield.
Bourjos has struggled since his breakout 2011 season, and hasn’t seen consistent playing time since that year. Following Mike Trout‘s eruption, he was traded to the Cardinals, where the offensive struggles continued. His strikeout rate jumped north of 26 percent each of the last two seasons, and lacks the power to compensate for such a hole.
He has a strong defensive reputation, and despite not stealing many bases, rates well for his overall baserunning ability. If his worsening plate discipline can be corrected, he may rebound in a new environment. Worst case, he seems like a safe backup center fielder, pinch runner, and right-handed bat off the bench. He’s fairly safe to make the Opening Day roster.
Tyler Goeddel, OF, Rays
Tyler Goeddel was the fifth of the Rays’ ten first round draft picks in 2011, and steadily progressed through the Tampa Bay system with a steady approach at the plate, but without the flashiest tools. He’s been able to walk at an above average rate while keeping strikeouts under control at every level, has stolen 20+ bases in every professional season, hit double digit home runs for the first time in 2015, and has an above average arm in the outfield.
These factors made him the “obvious” choice to be the first pick in the Rule 5 draft, and Goeddel is “practically guaranteed a spot on the team’s 25 man roster,” per Philly.com‘s Matt Gelb. With Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, and the aforementioned Bourjos penciled in above him on the depth chart, he may not have an everyday spot on opening day, but he should comfortably be this team’s fourth outfielder.
Dan Otero, RHP, Althletics
Otero was on the Phillies’ roster for all of a month and a half, from November 3rd to December 18th, before being traded to the Cleveland Indians for cash considerations. He features fringe-y velocity and doesn’t strike anyone out, but has strong command and ground ball rates while throwing his sinker 62.4 percent of the time.
This is the benefit of liberally claiming relievers – if he was successfully sent outright to AAA, the team adds veteran depth to the bullpen without sacrificing a roster spot. If the pitcher is claimed, a trade often results, and the Phillies have created some small value out of nothing. It’s not significant, but a rebuilding team should be throwing darts at the wall.
A.J. Achter, RHP, Twins
Achter is also no longer on the roster, as the Angels claimed him shortly after he was designated for assignment on December 12th. They then successfully snuck him through waivers a mere six days later. This is the worst case scenario when claiming a pitcher, as the Phillies received nothing for their trouble. That said, they also sacrificed nothing to get him, so no harm, no foul.
He features similar unexciting velocity to Otero, but is somewhat notable for getting above average extension and spin on his four-seam fastball. His predominant secondary pitch is a slider. He’s racked up a ton of strikeouts in the minors with a 25.7 percent rate, but it has yet to translate in his short Major League career.
Michael Mariot, RHP, Royals
With a fastball averaging 93 mph and hitting 95 mph, three fringe-y secondary pitches, and a history as a starting pitcher, Mariot is maybe the most interesting reliever on this list. He was an 8th round pick of Kansas City in 2010, and was fairly successful as a starter (3.40 ERA, 19.7% K, 6.0% BB over 278 IP from 2010-2012) before being converted.
He became even more successful as a Minor League reliever, preventing more runs and jumping into another strikeout tier. Mariot has little Major League experience, but a 19.1 percent K-BB rate over the last three seasons at AAA offers hope for a future in the Majors.
Bobby LaFromboise, LHP, Angels
LaFromboise was designated for assignment by the Angels to make room for Ronald Torreyes, in one of the thousand times he’s changed teams in his young career. He’s yet another guy who has received spotty looks in the Majors, but has been successful over extremely small samples with the Pirates over the last two seasons.
His sinker consistently comes in below 90 mph, but features a large amount of arm side run, and his slider is his primary secondary pitch. He is yet another low Minors starter who converted to relief and saw a significant improvement in results and peripherals.
The Phillies successfully outrighted LaFromboise to the Minors two weeks after claiming him from the Angels. In an ideal world, this is the outcome they would have seen with Otero and Achter as well.
Daniel Stumpf, LHP, Royals
Stumpf was the Phillies’ second round pick in December’s Rule 5 Draft, picked out of the Royals’ farm system. He’s entering his age 25 season, and features a 94 mph fastball and slider combination that makes him deadly to other lefties.
However, due to a starter’s build and a 54.0 percent ground ball rate in 2015, the Phillies see him as more than just a left-handed specialist. He’ll likely also face right-handed batters and could potentially be given multiple innings of work. His Rule 5 status gives him an edge over left-handed pitchers in the competition for the Opening Day roster, as he cannot be sent to the Minors without being offered back to the Royals.
None of these players are world beaters, but they provide depth, and in the case of the outfielders, the potential for an everyday player. When Spring Training is over, the Phillies will probably feature Bourjos as the everyday left fielder with Goeddel as the first outfielder off of the bench.
Mariot and Stumpf have real shots at securing the last spots in a very open bullpen (though returning faces and veterans like David Hernandez, Ernesto Frieri, Andrew Bailey, Edward Mujica, and James Russell make it a competitive mix). LaFromboise, assuming he remains in the organization, will receive at least one Major League stint at some point in the season.