Tuesday, Arizona Fall League rosters were announced. This off-season, seven Phillies minor leaguers will compete on the Peoria Javelinas alongside players from the Astros, Mariners, Padres and Royals. Teams usually send players to the AFL for one or more of the following reasons: they missed time during the season with an injury or suspension, players who will will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft on the fringe of the 40 man roster and players who need a little more experience against upper level competition. For the most part, the Phillies’ representatives fit somewhere in these groups.
CF Aaron Altherr: It’s been a bit of a rough second half, but Altherr is going to finish up 2013 with a career season. He’ll be tested against AFL pitching which will probably be tougher than what he’s faced in his career so far, and he’ll have to work on cutting down his strikeouts to succeed. He’ll be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December, and because of his athleticism and potential, it seems likely the Phillies will put him on the 40 man roster.
OF Kelly Dugan: Dugan has had mixed results with Reading since his mid-season promotion, and like Altherr, will be Rule 5 draft eligible this off-season. With consecutive mostly healthy seasons, he has become a top 10 prospect in the organization thanks to his plus power potential and solid right field defense. With all of the injuries he’s had throughout his career, he’ll get a chance to make up for some of the recent missed time.
RHP Ken Giles: Giles missed time this year with two different oblique injuries, and his time on the mound has been poor. He only has 23.2 innings with Clearwater, and going to the AFL could help him reach a more respectable total for a season. He still has perhaps the best stuff in the system and the high strikeout rate to show for it, but his control has gone backwards with a 16.1% walk rate. Going on the DL at two separate times probably prevented him from getting into a rhythm, but whatever the reason, it’s clearly not the season the Phillies were hoping for.
RHP Mike Nesseth: Nesseth will be Rule 5 eligible for the first time, but he’s probably going to have to pitch really well in October to get attention from the Phillies or teams around the league. His stuff as an amateur at Nebraska was intriguing, but after Tommy John surgery, he hasn’t been able to improve his strikeout rate to a point where he looks like a major league relief option. He’s 6’6 and can throw some ground balls though, and that can really help pitchers in the run scoring environment in Arizona.
C Cameron Rupp: Rupp has had another decent season just before becoming Rule 5 eligible, and with Tommy Joseph’s concussion issues moving him from behind the plate and Sebastian Valle’s awful season, he’s probably now the best catching prospect in the organization close to the majors. His plate approach is far too aggressive and limits his upside, but he does have power and can handle his defensive responsibilities. He’ll get some nice experience handling good pitching in Arizona and be a familiar face to the Phillies pitchers there.
RHP Kyle Simon: After moving to the bullpen upon being acquired by the Phillies, Simon broke out and looked to be close to major league ready. With poor performance and elbow problems this year, he’s not any closer. Whether the elbow soreness led to his struggles or not, his strikeout rate is down to an ineffective 12.9%, and his walk rate is up to a troubling 9.1%. He’s still generating a ton of ground balls, but he could really use a good showing in Arizona in his second straight assignment there.
LHP Austin Wright: At one point, I felt Wright was a better prospect than Adam Morgan (who I expected to be assigned to the AFL), but he was mediocre last year and a disaster this season. He completely lost control of the strike zone with a walk rate now over 13%. A month ago, they moved him to relief, and the results haven’t been any better. On his better days, he still looks like a potential number five starter, but those days were too few and far between. He’ll get a chance in Arizona to figure out how to throw more strikes again in a low pressure environment.
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