Two Six Year Minor League Free Agents May Alter 40 Man Plans

It is rare that a player sticks around a major league organization for 6 full years without once encountering the 40 man roster. For those that make it that far in their minor league career, free agency awaits. Their team may add them to the 40 man roster before the end of the league year to prevent this. For the most part, players that reach this distinction are players like the Phillies’ Carlos Tocci who were young international signings who developed late. While Tocci is probably the highest ranked prospect who could be a free agent, a pair of relievers offer the most intrigue.

The Phillies kicked off the 2011 draft with a complete dud in Larry Greene Jr, but the class will always be considered a success because of the reliever they took in the 7th round, Ken Giles. The rest of the class has marginal major leaguers (Adam Morgan, Cody Asche, and Colton Murray), a feel good story who is also a major leaguer (Brock Stassi), and an oft injured athlete (Roman Quinn). While the dust has settled on most of those players, it is the 18 year olds the Phillies took in the 12th and 17th rounds that are on the verge of making the majors.

Yacksel Rios has seen his stock go up and down over the years. When he was drafted, Rios was relatively raw as a converted 3B, and was 91-93. He has started in the past, but then moved full time to the bullpen and saw a velocity jump. He then got a bit stiff in his delivery, and his slider was no longer a good pitch and his command was poor. This year has seen Rios really take off. His fastball has been 94-97, touching 98. He is once again showing a good slider and solid command. Rios missed some time due to injury, but was just promoted to Lehigh Valley and is still showing the same velocity. He still needs some polish, but he won’t turn 25 until next June. Neither his fastball or slider is elite enough to say he has shutdown closer upside, but he could be a good arm.

In the 17th round the Phillies took a pitcher out of a Canadian junior college. Jesen Therrien, like Rios, was a bet on a body, not now stuff. He also has had an up and down journey through the Phillies season. He was up to 95 earlier in his career, but then saw his velocity drop to 89-91. His secondary pitches have gone through many transformations, with his splitter being his best pitch for a bit. Now Therrien is 91-93 touching 95 with a heavy two seam fastball. He has turned his slider into a plus pitch and has shown the ability to manipulate the shape of it. Therrien has walked just 7 batters this year. Since moving to AAA, he has generated more weak contact than swings and misses. His upside is probably a bit below Rios, but his slider has made him a legitimate major league prospect.

The Phillies have a very tight 40 man roster, which makes it difficult to predict spots going forward. While the Phillies need relievers, they have starting pitchers who will start to make that transition like Ricardo Pinto already has. Up until now, the Phillies’ 40 man questions have focused around the Rule 5 draft, but Rios and Therrien’s impending free agency change that equation. The Phillies have already pushed both to AAA, and Therrien has already excelled there (Rios only has 2 appearances so far). The next question is whether the Phillies are willing to commit a 40 man spot to both players.

Right now the Phillies are expected to trade Pat Neshek at the deadline. This will free up a spot in the bullpen and on the 40 man roster. The Phillies could promote Therrien into that spot. They could also turn to Edubray Ramos, who has been trying to get back on track in AAA. The Phillies could open up another spot if they manage to move Joaquin Benoit for literally anything, but otherwise the Phillies will have right handed pitching slots locked into Ricardo Pinto, Luis Garcia, and Hector Neris. They like having a long man like Mark Leiter Jr, and they have shown that they want to give some left handed pitchers a try. I think Therrien gets a spot by August 1, but if not, the organization seems high enough on him to give him at least a shot in September.

As for Rios, his arm is big enough that I think another team would offer him an MLB contract this offseason, meaning the Phillies would lose him for nothing. Given his upside, it is in the Phillies’ best interest to put him on the 40 man roster and probably bring him up this September. Both of these decisions will have ripple effects, which are likely to be felt most profoundly by Tom Eshelman and Scott Kingery, both of whom are not on the 40 man roster now, and don’t need to be added this offseason.

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17 comments

  1. Mike Fassano

    July 18, 2017 06:49 AM

    The Phillies preach that they want hitters with great plate discipline. Crawford, Tocci, Hoskins, and Kingery fit the bill. Herrera is an enigma to me. One week, I love him, and the next week, not so much. Since the All Star break last year, he’s been erratic.
    Beyond the players who will be dealt by the end of the season, others with expiring contracts, and fringe players (Blanco, Perkins, Stassi, Kelly, Morgan), the Phillies should have ten to twelve openings on the 40 man roster.

    • Romus

      July 18, 2017 09:00 AM

      Mike…..agree with you on Herrera. The guy is almost a 10WAR player since his time with the Phillies….in almost 400 games, but he can be exasperating to watch on a daily basis. Each at- bat is an adventure of sorts and between the corner OFers he can be a dominant presence in the gap fringes that awareness becomes paramount before actually catching the ball. However, if and when he can smooth those edges he can be a core player in the future,

      • Scott

        July 18, 2017 04:59 PM

        Herrera is not the guy you want to build a team around. His baseball acumen is mind boggling low considering his raw talent and he’s not worth the time and effort. He will never win a batting title or gold glove and to be honest I would not be surprised to see him either traded or riding the pine as a number 4 as early as next season.

      • ASK

        July 21, 2017 07:13 AM

        Scott,

        Baseball teams should never be built around one guy, so that seems an odd qualifier for rating Odubel Herrera. Why do you believe he will never win a Gold Glove? According to Fangraphs, he’s the top rated defensive OF in all of baseball this year. According to Baseball-Reference, he’s the top NL CF and the 2nd best NL OF in Total Zone Runs this year. I do agree with you that Odubel will probably never win a batting title, but I’ve never seen anyone expect that of Odubel. A stud defensive CF who provides average or slightly above average offense makes for a borderline All-Star. To be such a player at the age of 25 while signed to a team-friendly deal should make Odubel a key piece to the rebuild going forward.

      • Edwin

        July 23, 2017 04:23 PM

        Ask, defensive metrics is a debatable and very subjective area. Even the stats people at fangeaphs will admit to this. When deciding the GG it is the managers from the teams in the NL who will decide who wins the the award and use is stats are given little weight. It is based on what the managers see. When they see a player take a lot of poor routes, drop balls against the wall or show weak arm strength and poor decisions in general it is difficult to justify Herrera winning the award. Is he okay, sure he is on a second level team. The Phillies have a plethora of outfielders and a few years away from contention so if they can trade him for a pitcher they probably will. To be great you have to bring it everyday and Herrera never does this and likely never will.

      • ASK

        July 23, 2017 05:34 PM

        Edwin,

        Gold Gloves are a joke. Rafael Palmeiro won one in a season in which he started 28 games in the field. They’re a popularity / reputation contest. I agree that defensive metrics need some work and are debatable, but they’re a lot less subjective than Gold Gloves. Further, when the differing metrics used by Fangraphs and Baseball Reference align and rate a fielder at or near the top at his position in all of baseball, I’ll trust those metrics significantly more than whether said fielder win a Gold Glove or not.

    • Philly Fan in NY

      July 18, 2017 11:39 AM

      I’d like to see Matt do a piece on just our centerfield options and how that all gets managed. Between Herrera, Quinn, Tocci, Haseley and Moniak that’s a crowded position and a lot of talent. As Herrera bounces back, is he best served as a trade chip or do we really like him as a cornerstone piece. If he is a cornerstone, what does that mean for the others?

      • Steve

        July 18, 2017 12:55 PM

        Moniak is probably at least 4 years out.
        My impression of Hasley based on reports is that he can play CF but is probably more of a corner OF especially if he bulks up a little in the pursuit of more power. Maybe im mistaken.
        Herreras defense can keep him as the Phillies CF for the next 4 years alone. Consistant offense would be a bonus, and push him to all-star level, but he has value even without a consistant bat. If some of these young players develop as we hope he may find himself playing CF but batting 7th in 2 years.

      • Eddie

        July 18, 2017 08:07 PM

        Steve covered it all, with the exception of adding that Quinn isn’t in the picture until he can stay healthy. At this point he looks more like a 4th OF who can’t stay on the field.

        It’s a position of extreme strength, but they have no need to make a decision anytime soon. If/when someone else has some success in the bigs, or is just crushing it in AAA, then maybe you think about flipping Herrera. That’s a ways away.

      • Philly Fan in NY

        July 19, 2017 11:10 AM

        See I guess that’s where I disagree. Tocci has made excellent strides and is hitting for gap power, not HR power but gap power. Should Herrera play better in the second half and Tocci stay as solid as he’s been. I’d consider trading Herrera and his control for an Ace level LHP starting pitcher prospect at Hi-A ball. I agree on Quinn, but between him and Altherr and Tocci we have three plus defenders that can play CF, Herrera seems a luxury that might be turned into the piece we really need which is a Hamels-esque front line pitcher.

      • Eddie

        July 19, 2017 11:14 PM

        Yes, Tocci is hitting for gap power … in a half-season of AA. Dumping an young, cheap, above-average regular because another guy had a good three months in Reading is silly.

        “I’d consider trading Herrera and his control for an Ace level LHP starting pitcher prospect at Hi-A ball. ” That’s a wish, not a plan. Other teams are just as aware of Herrera’s failings as you are, and that’s not an offer that would be made. .

      • Philly Fan in NY

        July 20, 2017 01:31 AM

        Eddie – a known major league CF, with excellent defensive metrics, controllable contract and the hitting skills that Herrera has demonstrated could absolutely be traded for what amounts to a lottery ticket Hi-A stud is extremely reasonable and likely one that the Phillies wouldn’t make right now. However, that is the reason that I asked Matt to do the analysis as obviously we differ in our opinions. Also worth noting that Herlis Rodriguez has played himself into the CF mix too, although I am not sure if he projects to the majors as I don’t know enough about him

    • Major Malfunction

      July 19, 2017 12:10 PM

      Herrera is a roller coaster when it comes to my feelings about him. Last night against the Marlins, he took a pitch and threw his bat away knowing it was a walk before the ump called it. But he unfortunately threw it at the Marlins dugout rather than his own which no doubt raised some eyebrows. His showboating at times seems his top priority rather than focusing on the actual game.

      Yet since the break, he’s swinging a 1.297 OPS! Hitting .318 since June 1st. An obvious awesome talent, but he always seems to have at least one moment in a game where it’s obvious he’s zoned out.

      • Romus

        July 19, 2017 02:32 PM

        Even announcers are having fun with him lately, but I think some of it is in the form of exasperation, especially listening to Kruk lately commenting on Doobie’s plate and base path antics..
        IMO, I have to think fellow-countrymen Freddy and Cesar remind him at times about professional protocol.

      • Romus

        July 19, 2017 03:03 PM

        Surprised to see how close rumor-trade Marlin Yelich and Herrera are currently running.
        Yelich :
        Career—-576 gms-15.2bWAR
        2017 ——89 gms- 1.4bWAR
        Herrera:
        Career—-395 gms- 9.6bWAR
        2017——-89 gms- 1.5bWAR

      • ASK

        July 21, 2017 07:20 AM

        Romus,

        Also, Herrera and Yelich are the same age, but Odubel is signed to a much more team-friendly contract. Yelich is either due $44.5M for 4 years or $58.25M for 5 years. Odubel is either due $28.5M for 4 years, $37.5M for 5 years or $49M for 6 years.

  2. Dave Weaver

    July 24, 2017 11:47 AM

    No, the 2011 draft was NOT a success. The first round pick, as you noted , was a bust. The Phillies (as they like to do) gambled on high ceiling and got nothing while one pick later the Red Sox took a college player (Jackie Bradley) who is a serviceable major leaguer.

    Adam Morgan, Cody Asche, and Colton Murray made the show, but so did Tyler Goeddel (the next pick after Greene and Bradley) and none are really worth a spot on anyone’s 25-man roster. Stassi is a feel good story because he made the show and seems destined to wash-out? Roman Quinn is headed to being just another bust.

    Ken Giles at least earned us a return, BUT before that is considered as ‘saving the draft’ maybe someone we received in return could produce? Appel is likely done. Velasquez has talent (always has) but has a history of injury and that has followed him here. Arauz has potential but I am not happy he went from starter to reliever. Oberholtzer was waived. Eshelman is progressing well, but he is not even on the 40-man yet.

    The later picks (Therrian and Rios) are also progressing, but project as middle-relievers (at best) or long-men. Maybe one develops another pitch or two and can be a setup man?

    Six years after a draft and only the brief time we had Giles up (and the potential people see in the return from his trade) can be counted as returns from that draft?

    Plus, new GMs (like Klentak) tend to place far less value on guys acquired by their predecessor than their own guys. How many of these guys make the 40-man and someday get a shot will determine if the 2011 draft was a failure, or a disaster. It will not ever be viewed as a success.

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