The first in a series of posts focusing on the Phillies Minor Leagues by Jeffrey Wittwer.
Phillies’ minor league prospects have extra pep in their step in Spring Training this year, and with good reason. Naturally, they are gaining more exposure being in camp with the defending World Champions. More importantly, they know with a strong showing and a bit of luck, a few of them may just make the big league club.
Carlos Carrasco, considered by many to big the Phillies’ number one prospect, is in camp as the dark horse to win the fifth spot in the rotation. While simply having a right arm gives him a shot, it remains unlikely he will out-duel Kyle Kendrick, J.A. Happ and Chan Ho Park. Carrasco has a tremendous opportunity to open some eyes during camp and earn himself a future promotion, as he will be watched seriously throughout the exhibition season.
Lou Marson has everyone buzzing with excitement as he prepares to become the team’s future everyday catcher. He is a very solid defensive backstop with a good bat and he homered in his Major League debut last season. He is less likely to make the team this season than a few other players, though he will certainly have the opportunity. Best case scenario is Marson makes it a difficult decision to send him down to Triple-A, and earns a call-up if someone struggles or is injured.
Jason Donald’s name has been thrown around a bit since Chase Utley’s hip surgery – and with good cause. He is a tremendous athlete with a solid average, decent power and strong base-running. Naturally a shortstop, Donald could also see time at second or third base as a potential short term replacement for Utley or Pedro Feliz, although it is less likely he will play third. Donald will be on the Phillies soon, but where and in what capacity remains to be seen.
John Mayberry, acquired when the Phillies traded Greg Golson, could earn a spot as a reserve outfielder right out of camp. He has the potential to develop into a solid power hitter and is likely to fit in as a corner outfielder.
There are also a few candidates that could be vying for a spot in the bullpen, including Yorman Bazardo. He has experience as a starter and reliever and has a stop to make the team with some strong outings this spring.
The Phillies also signed a few players to minor league contracts over the off-season who could step into a role on the team, including Marcus Giles and Miguel Cairo. Giles had some outstanding seasons a few years ago, but his number declined since All-Star season in 2003. He did not play at all in 2008. If Giles can return to form, he would be a formidable replacement until Utley is ready to go. Giles could also be a solid utility player and has been working out at third base in Clearwater to possibly fill in for Feliz. Cairo is not likely to make the team if Utley is healthy come April, but he could otherwise help fill the gap at second base in Utley’s absence.
There are a lot of names to keep an eye on during Spring Training, as any of these players could turn some heads and open some eyes with a strong showing. If nothing else, this should be a valuable experience for many of the youngsters who will don pinstripes in the future.
Minor League rosters have yet to be determined, making it difficult to foresee exactly how each team will come together. As rosters become more final, I will preview each team and their outlook for the 2009 season.