Earlier this week, the Phillies announced their seven participants in the Arizona Fall League. Six will be on the Scottsdale Scorpions full time, and one will be on the “taxi squad” which means they’ll practice with the team every day and be able to play during Wednesday and Saturday games. The AFL has roster eligibility rules, but it seems like teams never follow them, so I won’t bother going over them.
The AFL only lasts a month or so, and it’s important to keep that in mind. Some players will struggle and some will do well, but it really is just a small sample size in a weird environment. There are players from all different levels with different ages competing against each other, and in the hot, dry Arizona air, the ball really flies. Hitters tend to do well, and pitchers tend to struggle. Still, it’s baseball, and it’s fun to follow.
Teams send players to the AFL for various reasons. One that rarely if ever applies to the Phillies is to get draft picks their first exposure to pro ball. Because players that sign right at the signing deadline rarely get into games that season, the very best can go to the AFL and get their careers started like Bryce Harper last year. Another reason that’s more common for the Phillies is to get an extended look at a player, particularly if they’re eligible for the rule 5 draft in the coming winter. Generally, college picks taken in the 2008 draft or sooner are eligible, and high school picks and international signings from 2007 or sooner will be eligible this year. The last reason teams send guys to the AFL is to make up at bats or innings pitched missed during the season due to injury. This will take a look at the players the Phillies are sending and what they hope to get out of the assignment.
RHSP Tyler Cloyd, Reading- This is Cloyd’s first year eligible for the rule 5 draft, so the Phillies will take a look to see if he’s worth protecting on the 40 man roster. This is a bit of a breakout year for Cloyd who has had success in the rotation for Clearwater and Reading. His strikeout rate has been up for the last two years, and this year his hit rate has decreased too. He’s been extremely reliable in AA, and he’ll probably be able to start 2011 with Lehigh Valley. His stuff isn’t overwhelming or even whelming though, so it’s unlikely he’d be taken in the rule 5 draft. His fastball sits in the high 80’s, so he’s more of a command and control guy that probably has a long reliever ceiling.
LHRP Jacob Diekman, Reading- Diekman was eligible for the rule 5 draft last year, but his numbers are pretty pedestrian, so he didn’t get a look. This year, I wonder if teams will reconsider. As a starter, Diekman was not very good in the lower minors. In 2009, he was converted to a reliever and started moving through the system. He has a great K/9 of 11.3 this year owed almost entirely to his very deceptive sidearm delivery. The stuff isn’t great, but he can get lefties out. A lot of them. In 27 total innings against lefties this year, he’s only allowed seven hits for a .082 BAA. Can this keep up in the majors? I don’t know, but someone could give him a shot.
RHRP B.J. Rosenberg, Reading- Like Cloyd, Rosenberg was a college pick in the 2008 draft, and he isn’t likely to be taken from the Phillies this winter. Rosenberg is a pitcher with a really good fastball that can be in the mid 90’s. He doesn’t have much else, but pitchers that throw as hard as he can get a lot of chances. This season, he was moved back into the rotation for the first time since college before he had a shoulder injury, and it predictably didn’t go well. His overall numbers this season aren’t great, but as a reliever he’s been good, striking out 45 in 42.1. He’ll likely top out as a minor league reliever in the long run.
RHRP Colby Shreve, Clearwater- Coming into the season, Shreve was seen as a bit of a sleeper by some. As an amateur, he had great stuff with a fastball that could sit in the mid 90’s. However, he needed Tommy John surgery in 2008, but the Phillies drafted and signed him anyway. He didn’t pitch until 2010, and he held his own with Lakewood last year. He lost a numbers game in spring training and got re-assigned to Lakewood, where after struggling as a starter, he was moved to the bullpen. That allows his stuff to play up in short bursts, and his career has forward momentum again.
1B Cody Overbeck, Lehigh Valley- Overbeck is also in his first year of rule 5 eligibility. He’s an aggressive hitter that has pretty good power despite only being 6’1 and 200 pounds. He can hit fastballs which leads some to believe he could have a cup of coffee off a major league bench but not much more. His minor league numbers over the last two seasons are nice, but he’s a limited player. He’ll strike out once a game, and he’s not particularly patient. He’s not the most athletic person in the world, and he’s not a third baseman and probably not a corner outfielder. First basemen that can’t smash the ball have little value, so Overbeck probably won’t be protected by the Phillies.
1B Darin Ruf, Clearwater- Ruf is an interesting selection. He’s not eligible for the rule 5 draft yet, so the Phillies just want to get a look at him facing better pitching than he’s seen before. He’s had a great second half in the pitcher-friendly FSL to raise his OPS near .900, and that’s not surprising since he spent most of last season with the Threshers too. He’s 25 years old so there’s probably not a lot to see here, but he’s shown increased power this season. He’s mainly a first baseman with a little third and left sprinkled in, so he really has to hit to have value. At one point this year, the Phillies had a 25 year old first baseman at every level from Lehigh Valley to Lakewood.
OF Tyson Gillies- He’s only played three games this season, but the Phillies expect to have a chance to evaluate Gillies this fall. He’ll be eligible for the rule 5 draft, so it’s really the only opportunity they have to see if he’s worth protecting on the 40 man roster. He’s played so little it’s impossible to know what to expect. He only has 31 games in the Phillies organization, and before that, his only full season was played in High Desert, the hitters haven in minor league baseball. I don’t think anyone knows what the Phillies have with Gillies at this point, so maybe a stint in winter league can answer some questions.