We round out our preview of the non-roster invitees with a look at a small but talent-rich group: the starting pitchers. The Phillies are inviting three starters to camp who are not currently on the roster: two solid veterans and one of the Phillies top prospects.
The Pitcher with the Most to Gain, Least to Lose
The superlatives and high marks are suddenly piling up for the lefty coming off a breakout campaign. Morgan was ranked the best Phillies’ prospect and the 92nd best prospect in baseball by Keith Law and second in the Phillies organization by Minor League Ball’s John Sickels, while Baseball Prospectus ranked him third in the Phillies’ ranks, and Baseball America put him at fifth. He also clearly got the Phillies attention: he is the only Minor League starter who was with the organization last year not on the 40-man to be invited to camp.
With the onslaught of praise, Morgan suddenly has high expectations to meet but has emerged in the nick of time as former top pitching prospect Brody Colvin has struggled. For me, Morgan is the most intriguing name coming to camp: Law thinks he has the command right now to pitch in the Majors and his improvement last year was second to none among those in the Phillies organization.
Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: F-. Never say never: this one is really, really low, slightly less than one-in-a-million low, but Morgan is riding one of the biggest waves of positive press a Phillie prospect has received since maybe Domonic Brown in 2009 when the Phillies refused to trade him. Please don’t misinterpret that comparison: Morgan is projected to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter and Brown was pegged to be an All-Star. Yet, the momentum is swelling behind Morgan like it was for Brown. Highly improbable (remember, less than one in a million) but not impossible to start the year with the Phils.
Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: D+. The same sentiment is true when discussing Morgan as when discussing Cody Asche and Tommy Joseph‘s probability of 2013 call-ups: the Phillies have no reason to start their arbitration clock or add them to the 40-man roster, yet alone waste an option, just to spot start or fill-in. This is a mistake they made with Brown in 2010 after others returned from injury. If Morgan is coming up in 2013, it will be in September unless he dominates the way he did in Reading. It will be fun to watch Morgan pitch with suddenly great expectations on his shoulders.
Dislcaimer: I Have No Idea Where to Put This Guy
Miner’s a pitcher who found a home in the Majors with the AL pennant winning 2006 Detroit Tigers, breaking in around the same time Chad Durbin returned to the Majors with the club. The two will be reunited in camp. The Pride of Palm Beach is coming off two really solid years as a reliever in Triple-A, first for Omaha in 2011 then Toledo in 2012 but has the ability to start. I likely flip-flopped Miner and Rodrigo Lopez on my lists (Miner is more a reliever who can start, Lopez is more a starter who can relieve), but Miner has been effective as both.
Miner is a really interesting wild card to throw into the Spring Training mix: he missed all of 2010 with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He could be a useful reliever for the club or an emergency spot starter. He also could continue to develop as a reliever as he gains confidence back as he was doing in Omaha and Toledo. I wouldn’t want Miner taking time away from Phillippe Aumont or a returning Michael Stutes unless he really pitches well. And at age 30, with two really solid bounce-back years off Tommy John, Miner is suddenly again a viable pitcher. This was a really nice signing, even if the Phillies don’t end up putting him on the roster.
Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: F. I liked this signing a lot. Miner’s road to the Bank was a lot clearer before the Phillies added his former teammate Durbin. It is a little more complicated now but his successes as a reliever in Triple-A over the last two years coming off of Tommy John were rather impressive. His odds as a swing man, spot starter, or long man are better than Morgan’s.
Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: D+. Miner has a few different ways to see time with the Phillies. It is not a slam dunk and the logjam of young righties in front of him, including Aumont, Stutes, Justin De Fratus, B.J. Rosenberg, and Michael Schwimer, is daunting, but it is possible.
Don’t Worry: Allentown Loves Veterans
Quick aside: when I was in middle school, I was a batboy for the independent league Allentown Ambassadors. When a former Major Leaguer like former Phils Kim Batiste, Juan Bell, and Rich Hunter came to the Ambassadors, they were treated like rock stars, royalty. I’m talking free hot dogs at Yocco’s and plenty of coverage on Service Electric Cable TV.
Cook will come to Phillies camp but should really not be in consideration for a Major League spot. The Phils already have five starters, not including Tyler Cloyd, Jonathan Pettibone, and even Morgan and Ethan Martin who are capable pitchers. Cloyd and Pettibone are best bets as spot starters since they are already on the 40-man roster and have options. Even if there was a path to the Phillies, Cook’s slowing talent does not warrant it: since his 2008 All-Star season, Cook is 24-35 with a 5.08 ERA and a 1.517 WHIP.
Back to Yocco’s and SECTV: he is the kind of veteran, former Major Leaguer that Lehigh Valley fans will adore and he will help the Pigs compete for the International League title in 2013.
Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: None. Cook has too many folks in front of him and he has rapidly declined in the last four years since his All-Star 2008.
Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: F-. I always hesitate to say that someone does not have a chance to see time with the Phillies. After all, Les Walrond and R.J. Swindle did pitch for the Phillies in a year they won the World Series and did not start Spring Training on the 40-man. But the Phillies starting rotation is unbelievably reliable, using only nine starters last year. Yet, strange things happen, even in winning years (the 2009 Phils used 12 starters). If Cook is a Phillie in 2013, it will be due to a series of injuries. He’s currently a solid tenth on my “Likeliness to Start a Game as a Pitcher for the Phillies” depth chart.