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Non-Roster Invitee Preview

The 2012 Non-Roster Invites: Position Players

Juan Pierre V. Scott Podsednik

Who will win the battle for the last spot on the 25-man roster, Pierre or Podsednik? (Photos: AP)

Yesterday, we took a look at the 10 non-rostered pitchers the Phillies are inviting to Clearwater. Today, we’ll feature the 8 position players who have been invited to camp.

The storyline behind the non-pitching, non-rostered invitees to camp is a bit more exciting than that surrounding the non-rostered pitchers. A crowded, and very talented, pitching corp already existing on the 40-man roster limits the opportunities for just about all parties involved. Off the mound? It is almost guaranteed at least one of these players will break camp a member of the 25-man roster.

The Contenders

Pete Orr

With Wilson Valdez gone, Orr enters 2012 with one less roadblock to make the roster. Orr surprised many last year when he broke camp with the big club. Last year’s inclusion on the Opening Day roster may have been due to opportunistic injuries of which Orr may benefit from again this year. Without Ryan Howard, the Phils stand to carry 13 position players and 12 pitchers. Orr’s chances to crack the roster out of Clearwater rely solely on the front office’s perception, and to a lesser extent the play, of Michael Martinez.

Orr has a plus arm and plus speed that I’d rate better than Martinez. Orr plays league average defense at 2nd and 3rd, though, whereas Martinez has more value and plays a fine shortstop. Despite hitting only .219/.279/.250 in 104 ABs for the Phils last year, Orr has a solid stroke and hits more line drives than pop-ups. Orr’s .254/.288/.322 career Major-League line is more reflective of what to expect with consistent playing time. Working in Orr’s favor is Martinez’s perceived flexibility as a potential outfield reserve. You can do a lot worse than Orr as an emergency infielder.

Projected Role: Starting utility infielder (2B/3B, not an oxymoron) for the Iron Pigs, injury call-up for short-term injuries.

Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: B. If there is an injury or Martinez is considered both the utility infielder and fifth outfielder, these odds increase to A.

Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2012: A. Orr is really well-liked within the Phils, as demonstrated by his travel with the team during the playoffs despite him not being on the playoff roster. Orr is the go-to, stop-gap fill-in for short-term infield injuries for the Phils.

Juan Pierre

Pierre enters camp as the odds-on favorite to win the fifth outfielder spot and possibly compete for a spot in the left field platoon. Rumors of Pierre’s defensive demise have been greatly exaggerated: while he no longer provides the defensive value he once did while he terrorized the Phils with the Marlins in center field, Pierre still possesses great ball-recognition skills and response times. Pierre’s speed is slowing but is still a weapon and would jump start a Phillies bench or starting line-up immediately.

Pierre turns 35 in August, so age is a concern. Pierre was successful in only 61% of his base stealing attempts last year against a career 70% average. Pierre value is now no longer as a guaranteed base-stealing threat but as a veteran with great base-running instincts and good speed who can score from second on a hard hit ball to the outfield.

While it was, and still is, assumed that Pierre was signed to compete for the fifth outfielder role, a quick review of Pierre’s career numbers reveal that he is a better left-handed option than Laynce Nix. Pierre (.296/.345/.363) over his career has outhit Nix (.244/.288/.430), including better numbers against righties (.288/.334/.364) than Nix (.253/.296/.451). It may play to Nix’s advantage that Citizens Bank Park suppresses triples and helps left-handed home runs (source: cthabeerman, Is the Phillies Offense Good Enough). Either way, Pierre will be a Phillie in 2012.

Projected Role: Fifth outfielder for the Phillies.

Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: A+. Slam dunk and it would not surprise me if Pierre ended the season with the most starts in left field out of anyone on the team, including Mayberry.

Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2012: A+. It isn’t if Pierre will see time, it is how much time will he see.

Scott Podsednik

And the man Pierre’s signing effects the most? Scott Podsednik. Podsednik played 34 games through various foot injuries last year in both Philadelphia and Toronto’s systems in 2011. Before Pierre was signed, the general consensus was that the fifth outfielder spot was Podsednik’s to lose. Now, Pierre is definitely the front-runner.

Podsednik’s outfield defensive ability has steadily declined over the last few years and he never had a particularly good arm. His career line (.279/.340/.381) is somewhere in between Pierre and Nix, but the Podfather’s declining speed, he turns 36 in March, mixed with a history of recent foot injuries neuter a lot of Podsednik’s value. Podsednik steals at a better clip (74%) than Pierre (70%), but is outdone by Pierre in base-running value per season (3.99 v. 3.05).

Podsednik unfortunately finds himself behind Pierre on the depth chart but, with a great spring, could win the fifth outfielder spot. Long term injuries to a starter may not help either Pierre or Podsednik, as a long term opportunity may be beneficial for Dom Brown to log regular at-bats.

And D-Bo is looking jacked.

Projected Role: 4th outfielder for the Iron Pigs, behind Brown, Rich Thompson, and Lou Montanez.

Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: D. Candidacy was a slam dunk before the Pierre signing. Now, Scotty Pods, healed foot or not, is likely on the outside looking in.

Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2012: D+. Podsednik would need a lot of luck, and a lot of injuries, to leap Pierre and Brown, even for a September call-up. The Phillies currently have 38 out of 40 roster spots occupied, including injured players; it is highly unlikely that they would use one of those spots when they have such a similar player, Pierre, on the roster. A big year from Tyson Gillies in the minors could drive this to an F.

Could Make Things Interesting

Kevin Frandsen

Frandsen was the Iron Pigs’ hottest hitter in 2011, hitting .321 with 3 bombs across 30 games, before being placed on the restricted list for violating MiLB’s restricted substance policy for using Ritalin to treat ADD without a MiLB approved-waiver. Frandsen, like Orr, plays 2B and 3B, and is a slightly better Major League hitter (.243/.302/.335 v. Orr’s .254/.286/.322). Frandsen, however, rates as a below average defender at 2B and 3B and his offensive output does not separate himself far enough away from Orr to leapfrog him.

Projected Role: Starting utility infielder (2B/3B, again, not an oxymoron) for the Iron Pigs.

Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: D-. Would need to outplay Martinez and Orr and benefit from an untimely injury.

Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2012: D. If Frandsen has a monster season in LV, he could earn a late call-up to the big club.

He Was Once DraftEd Higher than Chase Utley

Lou Montanez

Montanez is the answer to an interesting trivia question: Which player was drafted third overall by the Chicago Cubs in 2000, 12 spots higher than Chase Utley? Montanez, 30, has shown power potential in the high minors but has yet to receive a consistent opportunity to display that in the Majors. Much like Pat Misch, I wonder why Montanez chose to sign with the Phillies when he may have had more of an opportunity elsewhere. Montanez is a career .223 hitter who doesn’t walk and strikes out at about a 16% clip. He probably could have seen time as a AAAA-type player for a lesser organization, but I suppose the allure of playing in front of a packed Coca Cola Park in Allentown chasing down an International League title was too good to pass up.

Projected Role: Starting right fielder for the Iron Pigs.

Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: F. Not particularly promising for Montanez, but he is the only right-handed non-roster invitee that plays the outfield.

Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2012: C-. It is possible, but improbable, that Montanez (who hit .318/.393/.489 in Triple-A in 2011) puts together a season like Brandon Moss had last year and earns a September call-up. Montanez’s right-handedness helps him.

Allentown is Beautiful in the Summer

Hector Luna

Luna, 32, enters camp as the best non-rostered infield hitter but the worst non-rostered infield defender. His .388 career slugging% caught me off guard, but his career triple-slash (.265/.317/.388) is inflated by two very good seasons (2005 and 2006) versus four poor or incomplete seasons. I don’t expect to Luna to contend for a spot on the Phillies this season and may have trouble breaking out of the crowded Iron Pigs infield.

Projected Role: Bench presence for the Iron Pigs or released before the end of camp.

Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: None. Luna has to leap everyone on this list and then some.

Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2012: None. If Luna sees time in Phillies pinstripes, the Phillies have likely faced the most unlikely series of injuries of all-time.

Tuffy Gosewisch

Is this the year Tuffy reaches Triple-A and stays there? Gosewisch, 28, briefly had a cup of coffee with the Iron Pigs in 2009 (.200/.228/.255) but has spent the last two seasons in Reading. Gosewisch may end up serving one of two roles: keeping the plate warm in Reading for Sebastian Valle and serving as a mentor or being Erik Kratz‘s back-up in Lehigh Valley. Either way, Gosewich is good for what he is: a minor league catcher who plays good enough defense and surprises you with a little power now and again. While I don’t think Tuffy will reach the Phils, I do think Tuffy may spend significant time with the Iron Pigs.

Projected Role: Back-up catcher for the Iron Pigs, mentor in Reading for Valle.

Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: C-. This one is surprisingly high. Gosewsich is essentially fourth on the depth chart in terms of Phillies’ catchers and catchers get nicked up all the time.

Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2012: B-. Again, surprisingly high but consider this: the Phillies have gone at least four catchers deep each of the last three seasons and four out of the last five. Although, I suppose they could always just sign Paul Hoover.

Steven Lerud

Full disclosure: I had never heard of Steven Lerud before this season. Lerud, 27, comes into camp as a career .221 minor league hitter. Lerud posted a .193/.268/.303 line with five home runs last year for Double-A Bowie. I haven’t heard much about Lerud but you can never have too many catchers.

Projected Role: Like Gosewisch, back-up catcher for the Iron Pigs, mentor in Reading for Valle.

Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: None. While you can never have too many catchers, Lerud has at least 5 in front of him, including Valle.

Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2012: F-. Because of the odd nature, and frequency, of catcher injuries, and the fact that the Phillies have been perfectly comfortable using Dane Sardhina in the past, I’m leaving the door just a little cracked open for Lerud.

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