Rule 5 draft

Phillies lose prospect in Rule 5 draft, gain money to sign more

clearwater-phillies-carlos-tocci.jpg
Photo: Clearwater Threshers

Phillies lose prospect in Rule 5 draft, gain money to sign more

ORLANDO, Fla. — Carlos Tocci has long been an intriguing prospect in the Phillies' system. The club's international scouting staff liked the slender outfielder from Venezuela enough to give him a $759,000 signing bonus as a 16-year-old in the summer of 2011.

The big question with Tocci was whether he'd develop enough offensive pop to go with his outstanding defensive prowess.

Tocci made strides every year in the Phillies system, but not enough, in the minds of team officials, to move past other prospects and win a spot on the 40-man roster. The Phils left him unprotected last winter and managed to slip him through the annual Rule 5 draft, but they weren't so fortunate this year. Tocci was selected by the Chicago White Sox with the fourth pick in Thursday's draft and quickly spun to the Texas Rangers in a trade.

The price to select Tocci was $100,000. He must spend the entire 2018 season in the majors (or on the big-league disabled list) or be offered back to the Phillies for $50,000.

"Obviously, it stinks for us to lose a guy like that, but it's the risk you take when you don't protect someone," Phillies assistant general manager Bryan Minniti said. "I'm happy for him to get the opportunity. Selfishly, we hope to get him back."

Tocci, 22, hit .307 with a .362 on-base percentage and a .398 slugging percentage in 113 games at Double A Reading in 2017. He hit .189 in 17 games at Triple A.

Tocci has athleticism and speed. He is a plus defender. His speed and defensive skill could help him stick in the majors as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement.

The Phillies added a player in the Rule 5 draft, but only briefly. They selected right-handed pitcher Nick Burdi from Minnesota with the third pick and quickly traded him to Pittsburgh for $500,000 in international signing money. The Phils have just over $1 million remaining in their current pool, which expires June 15.

Extra international money is valuable. The Phillies recently added four pitchers — Seranthony Dominguez, Ranger Suarez, Jose Taveras and Franklyn Kilome — to their 40-man roster and all were international signings. The team recently used international pool money to sign catcher Abrahan Gutierrez, one of 13 former Atlanta prospects who had been set free after the Braves violated signing rules. Several of those players are still unsigned and other prospects pop up all the time. Remember, the Phillies' top pitching prospect is a kid named Sixto Sanchez. He caught the eye of Phillies scouts three years ago while throwing batting practice to a catcher that the Phillies were watching (see story).

"Our international department with Sal Agostinelli and those guys, they're weapons for us," Minniti said. "So for us to have the ability to give them more money to spend is a positive. They're seeing workouts every day all over the world. It's good to have the reserves to continue to spend."

The Phillies have two open spots on their 40-man roster. Those will soon be filled by relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter.

The Phillies also completed their coaching staff on Thursday, hiring Jose Flores as first base coach and infield/baserunning instructor. Flores was a 34th-round pick by the Astros in 1989 and spent six years in their minor-league system. He spent 10 years as a coach in Puerto Rico's winter league and was also a coach for Puerto Rico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Gabe Kapler's full staff includes bench coach Rob Thomson, hitting coach John Mallee, assistant hitting coach Pedro Guerrero, pitching coach Rick Kranitz, assistant pitching coach Chris Young, bullpen coach Jim Gott, first base coach Flores and third base coach Dusty Wathan. 

Detailed look at 40-man roster decisions Phillies face this winter

Detailed look at 40-man roster decisions Phillies face this winter

If you follow the Phillies, you've likely heard or read the phrase, "crowded 40-man roster" quite often in recent months. It's come into play in their call-ups, trades and signings.

The construction of the 40-man roster matters because an organization risks losing a player in the Rule 5 draft if he is not one of its 40 protected players. 

The quick refresher there, from the CBA:

Players are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft who are not on their major league organization's 40-man roster and:

– were 18 or younger on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fifth Rule 5 draft upcoming; or

– were 19 or older on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fourth Rule 5 draft upcoming.

The Phils, after their recent flurry of moves, have 39 players on the 40-man roster. The following players could be selected by another team in December's Rule 5 draft if the Phillies don't first add them to the 40 this winter:

• 1B Rhys Hoskins
• SS J.P. Crawford
• RHP Seranthony Dominguez
• LHP Ranger Suarez
• RHP Franklyn Kilome
• OF Carlos Tocci
• OF Andrew Pullin
• LHP Brandon Leibrandt
• RHP Yacksel Rios

Those first six players are no-brainer additions to the 40. The Phils probably would like to figure out a way to protect all of them, but that will depend on how they approach adding veterans this winter via trades and free agency.

Adding eight or so players to the 40 would require trimming six or seven others. So, how do they make the pieces fit? 

3 players have expiring contracts
INF Andres Blanco
OF/1B Daniel Nava
LF Hyun Soo Kim

10 players the Phillies could consider removing from the 40 — sorted by most likely to least likely based on replaceability/value/ceiling
RHP Pedro Beato
OF Cameron Perkins
RHP Alberto Tirado
1B Brock Stassi
LHP Adam Morgan
INF/OF Ty Kelly
LHP Hoby Milner
INF Jesmuel Valentin
RHP Mark Appel
OF Roman Quinn

Let's examine each case in order:

Beato is a 30-year-old reliever who's been with six different organizations and has a career ERA 10 percent below the MLB average.

Perkins is essentially the outfield version of Stassi — he's been a solid minor-leaguer in this organization but hasn't hit enough to cement his role as a major-league bench piece.

Tirado has walked 56 batters in 74⅓ innings this season at Clearwater and Reading. That won't sit well when it comes time to make roster decisions, but since he's already on the 40 he'll probably get an audition in the majors when rosters expand on Sept. 1.

Tirado was one of two pitchers the Phillies acquired from the Blue Jays at the 2015 trade deadline for Ben Revere. The other player was hard-throwing reliever Jimmy Cordero, who was designated for assignment by the Nationals last Monday to make room for Brandon Kintzler.

Stassi plays very good first base defense, which is important moving forward because that's not exactly a strength for Tommy Joseph or Rhys Hoskins. But Stassi just turned 28 and hasn't hit enough for a first baseman/corner outfielder. The Phillies would like to keep him around, but if they have to remove him from the 40, finding an inexpensive defense-first 1B in free agency wouldn't be too difficult.

Morgan has become something of a scapegoat among Phillies fans, kind of like Luis Garcia once was. But Morgan's throwing harder than ever before, flashing a mid-90s fastball this season, and the Phillies don't have a whole lot of close-to-major-league-ready left-handed pitchers. They could find some lefty specialists in free agency this winter, though, and those decisions will determine Morgan's fate.

Kelly has had some clutch hits this season, no doubt about it — three-game winning knocks and six go-ahead RBIs. He could have a career in the National League because he's a switch hitter with the ability to play so many positions — for the Phillies this season, he's played 2B, 3B, LF, CF and RF. Still, he's a .209 career hitter in 156 plate appearances.

• The Phillies will probably try to keep Milner as an inexpensive lefty specialist. The 26-year-old has been just OK in 12 appearances this season with the Phils but has pitched very well at Triple A. You'd rather have a lefty reliever for $600,000 than $3 million so it's worth giving Milner some more time. 

Valentin's season-ending shoulder injury opened up a natural spot at second base at Triple A for Scott Kingery, who has thrived. Valentin himself is a nice little player, though, a potential utility infielder. Valentin had a decent 2016, hitting .269/.341/.395 at Double A and Triple A, then impressed in spring training, going 15 for 41 (.366) with six doubles and four walks. He's not a lock to remain on the 40, but he's a pretty good bet to stick.

• If you looked at Appel's career arc in the minors and did not know he was a former No. 1 overall pick, you might wonder why he's on the 40-man roster. Appel has not had a good year. He has a 5.27 ERA in 17 starts with 60 strikeouts and 53 walks in 82 innings. He has a 4.82 career ERA at Triple A. 

Will the Phillies non-tender him this winter? They could choose instead to try him out as a reliever next season to see if they could salvage some of his strengths. If they give up on Appel, they'd be giving up on a major piece of the Ken Giles trade, which looked like a win at the time.

Quinn's case is the most interesting. He's so talented that if he were Rule 5 eligible this winter, he'd probably get picked pretty high — he's exactly the type of high-reward player another team would seek. But he hasn't been able to stay healthy. Quinn has been in pro ball since 2012 and his career high during that six-year span is 382 plate appearances. He's yet to play 90 games in a season. 

Throughout his career, Quinn has dealt with a broken wrist, a torn Achilles, a torn hip flexor, two oblique strains, a quad strain and now a ligament injury in his non-throwing elbow that has kept him out since Memorial Day and looks like it will end his season.

There are pronounced pros and cons with keeping Quinn on the 40. You'd think the Phillies would try their best to keep him in case he ever does play a full season.

The last group
Lastly, there are two players — 2B Scott Kingery and right-handed starting pitcher Tom Eshelman, another member of the Giles trade — who don't yet need to be added to the 40-man roster for Rule 5 protection reasons, but who could help the Phillies as immediately as opening day 2018 and thus would need to be added to the 40.

If Kingery is up here on opening day 2018, it likely means either Cesar Hernandez or Maikel Franco is no longer in the picture, so you'd think that would be a 1-for-1 roster swap.

Hernandez is a valuable leadoff hitter, and Franco could hit 200-plus home runs in the majors, but Kingery might be a better all-around player who makes one of them expendable. Teams were interested last offseason in Hernandez and will certainly be calling the Phillies about him again this winter.

Eshelman was on the DL for three weeks with an elbow strain, and the Phillies will be cautious with his workload the rest of the summer. The 23-year-old is already at 113 innings, seven shy of his career high.

Eshelman allowed eight runs in four innings in his return Friday night, but he's been so good at Triple A this season that his ERA is still 2.86. Prior to Friday night, he was 7-2 with a 2.14 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 12 starts with the IronPigs, even better numbers than he had at Double A.

Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively and Zach Eflin make for six starting pitchers ahead of Eshelman on the depth chart, but he's probably next on the list at this point. If he gets a spring training invite in 2018 and impresses, he could move up a spot or two.