Phillies add 4 pitching prospects to 40-man roster

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Phillies add 4 pitching prospects to 40-man roster

The Phillies added four promising pitching prospects to their 40-man roster on Monday. In a corresponding move, they subtracted a notable name.

Right-handers Franklyn Kilome, Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Taveras and lefty Ranger Suarez were all added to the roster, protecting them from being selected by another club in next month's Rule 5 draft.

The Phillies also added an infielder, Engelb Vielma, to the roster. He was claimed off waivers from the San Francisco Giants.

To make room for these additions, the team needed to clear three spots on its roster, which had been at 38. Left-handed pitcher Elniery Garcia cleared waivers and was sent outright to the minor leagues while right-handers Alberto Tirado and Mark Appel were designated for assignment. The Phillies will try to trade Tirado and Appel before placing them on waivers. If they clear waivers, they could stay in the system.

The Phillies cut Appel loose after he'd struggled with injury and ineffectiveness during two seasons in the organization. The 26-year-old right-hander from Stanford University had twice been a first-round draft pick, by Pittsburgh in 2012 and by Houston — No. 1 overall — in 2013. The Phillies acquired him from the Astros as part of the package for Ken Giles in December 2015, but he never lived up to his huge potential.

"A lot of the tools that Mark showed as an amateur that led to him being the No. 1 overall pick are still there," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. "He has simply struggled with performance. It's certainly not for lack of effort on his part. We think the world of the kid and wish him well. It was a tough decision."

Tirado, 22, was acquired from Toronto in July 2015 as part of the return for Ben Revere. He arrived with a fastball that could reach triple digits on the radar gun and that promise earned him a spot on the 40-man a year ago. Tirado suffered a shoulder injury early last season and struggled in the minors.

All four of the pitchers that the Phillies protected are products of the team's international scouting department. Taveras, 24, was a standout at three levels in the minors last season and could be in the picture in Philadelphia in 2018. He led the system in strikeouts in 2016 and 2017.

"He knows how to get guys out and often times that comes via the strikeout," Klentak said. "No matter where he pitches, he rises to the occasion and puts up a strong performance."

Kilome, 22, and Dominguez, 22, are both power arms who project to see significant time at Double A in 2018. Suarez, 22, should also get to Double A at some point in 2018. He had a 2.27 ERA in 22 starts at two levels of Single A ball in 2017.

"He may have been the breakout pitcher of the year for the Phillies," Klentak said. "We'd always heard a lot about him and this year he took his performance to another level.

"We're really excited for all four of these guys. All have worked extremely hard and they are all deserving of being added to our roster. Our international scouting operation, Sal Agostinelli and his group, continues to crank out players. They've done a great job. These four pitchers have earned this through their work ethic and performance. By no means is this the ultimate goal for them, but it's one step closer. We believe really strongly in the futures of these four pitchers."

Vielma, 23, is a top defensive shortstop who can also play second and third base. He was waived by Minnesota in September and claimed by the Giants, who let him go in a roster crunch.

"He's an intriguing claim," Klentak said. "He adds depth to our infield."

The Phillies’ roster is at 40. The team will have to clear space if it wants to add a player in next month's Rule 5 draft. Last November, the Phils added 11 players to the 40-man roster and still lost lefty reliever Hoby Milner to Cleveland. Milner failed to make the Indians' opening-day roster, returned to the organization in March and ended up making 37 appearances for the big club after coming up in late June. He was one of 12 rookies to make their big-league debut with the Phillies in 2017.

Notable players who were not protected include outfielders Carlos Tocci and Andrew Pullin and pitcher Brandon Leibrandt.

"One of the byproducts of a strong system is every year there are some tough omissions," Klentak said. "There are always tough calls. But we look at that as a good problem to have."

Future Phillies Report: Positive steps for J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens

Future Phillies Report: Positive steps for J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens

This week's Future Phillies Report begins with J.P. Crawford, who is slowly but surely heating up at Lehigh Valley.

SS J.P. Crawford (AAA)
Crawford is inching closer to .200 after a dreadful April. He's reached base in all nine games this month to increase his batting average from .145 to .162 and his on-base percentage from .261 to .290.

Over his last 12 games, Crawford has hit .244 with a .380 OBP fueled by nine walks. 

In an interview Monday with CSN's Marshall Harris, Crawford discussed his adjustment process. He's not big on watching video because he likes to go to the plate with a clear head, but he knew he had to do something after how his April went.

A look at some tape from 2015 showed him that his hands were lower now than they were then.

"If you're doing good, if you're doing bad, you look at the video and it causes me to think — causes me to think a lot more than I have to," Crawford said. "I just try to go out there and do me and have fun doing it. I don't like to think about where my hands are or timing and all that stuff. I just like going out there and just playing."

Despite the poor numbers, Crawford has reached base at least once in 17 straight games.

1B Rhys Hoskins (AAA)
Phillies GM Matt Klentak said last week that despite how "awesome" Hoskins has been, he is not giving up on Tommy Joseph after one month. 

Joseph is showing this month why a reaction to 90 plate appearances would have been an overreaction, going 11 for 28 (.393) so far in May with four doubles, three homers and five walks. He's reached base in 17 of 34 plate appearances.

Meanwhile, Hoskins continues to drive in runs for Lehigh Valley. He hit a grand slam Sunday, giving him an International League-leading eight home runs. His 21 RBIs are tied for fourth-best in the IL. Teammate Dylan Cozens also has 21 RBIs but is hitting 131 points lower.

Hoskins is also still leading the International League with a 1.023 OPS.

"I think the biggest thing is patience at the plate," Hoskins said last week on CSN's Phillies Clubhouse. "I've been taking what the pitchers are giving me, swinging at pitches in the zone. I'm not swinging at too many pitches out of the zone and I'm not missing when I do.

"Really, I think it's just a stubbornness. It's hard at the plate, it really is. You try to make it as simple as you can. ... I think it's starting to pay off."

OF Nick Williams (AAA)
As Aaron Altherr continues to hit himself into the Phillies' future, Nick Williams is performing better of late at Triple A.

Williams has hit .276/.353/.448 over his last nine games with two doubles and a homer. But what sticks out even more is that he walked three times last week. 

He needs to be more patient at the plate because it's tough for a hitter to provide value without walking — especially at an offensive position like the corner outfield — unless he's hitting close to .300. 

In 155 games at Triple A the last two seasons, Williams has hit .259/.292/.423 with 41 doubles, six triples, 15 home runs and 74 RBIs. 

The Phils are still high on Williams, but he hasn't hit his way to the bigs.

A positive development has been that he's staying in against lefties. He's 9 for 33 (.273) this season off lefties with a double, a homer and three of his five walks. 

"A lot of [lefties] kind of do the same thing to me and that helps," Williams said last summer. "I just want to master, really figure out what I'm trying to do and what they're trying to do to me. I didn't like when [managers] thought I couldn't hit a lefty, and they would call a guy in from the bullpen just to pitch to me. It bothered me. I didn't like that, them thinking it could just take a lefty to get me out. I worked on it, worked on it, and I got better at it, being more patient.

"Breaking balls away, sometimes they try to come in, but usually if they throw me a breaking ball that's a strike, it's a good pitch to hit. There's a couple times you can tip your hat to them for hitting a certain spot, but really, when lefties throw me a breaking ball for a strike, it's a good pitch to hit. Just staying patient and the one that's an inch off, two inches off, just bite your lip and take."

OF Dylan Cozens (AAA)
Cozens hit a mammoth walk-off home run in the 11th inning to lead Lehigh Valley to its fifth straight win Wednesday night.

Seriously, look at this thing.

Cozens is hitting .196 with six homers and 21 RBIs. He's hit very well this month, going 11 for 31 (.355) with a double, triple and two homers.

He's also cut down on the strikeouts with just six in his last nine games compared to 19 in his previous nine.

OF Roman Quinn (AAA)
The switch-hitting Quinn has been solid against right-handed pitching but has had a slow start vs. lefties this season. 

He's hit .205/.271/.227 off lefties compared to .290/.351/.377 off righties. That second slash line is more of what to expect from Quinn.

But if there's a side to be better from, it's the left side since the overwhelming majority of pitchers are right-handed. Plus, Quinn is a natural right-handed hitter who's been much better against lefties throughout his pro career, inspiring confidence that what we've seen this season is just a small sample size.

The best thing for Quinn has been that he's stayed on the field regularly, save for a few days off with an illness. 

"I'm just trying to make my adjustments on a newer level," Quinn said earlier this week. "There's pretty good pitching here (at Triple A). Good catchers, veteran catchers behind the plate here.

"My No. 1 thing is to stay healthy. Get a whole season of at-bats. That's been my main goal all year."

C Jorge Alfaro (AAA)
Alfaro continues to make hard contact at Triple A but he's also striking out at a concerning rate lately.

He's whiffed in 12 of 29 plate appearances this month and has two walks and 31 K's on the season.

The difference between Williams and Alfaro is that Alfaro has hit more consistently. Those two walks are easier to live with when you're batting .320 with a .480 slugging percentage. Still, the Phillies want to see bona fide improvement in this department from Alfaro before they'll be ready to turn over the catching reigns to him.

Klentak expressed confidence last week in the Phillies' major-league catching situation. Cameron Rupp has turned it up the last three weeks and is hitting .263 with an .840 OPS. Backup Andrew Knapp has a .410 on-base percentage.

The Phillies aren't hurting for offense behind the plate, though they'd like all of their catchers on the 40-man roster to improve their game-calling and pitch-framing.

CF Mickey Moniak (Class A Lakewood)
Moniak continues to show consistency, hitting safely in 10 of his last 13 games. 

He's batting .281/.331/.360 with seven doubles, a triple and 15 RBIs in 30 games.

But he's been very productive against right-handed pitching, hitting .346 with six of his extra-base hits and 11 of his 15 RBIs.

The adjustment to lefties will come in time. Moniak doesn't even turn 19 until Saturday.

RHP Sixto Sanchez (Class A Lakewood)
Sanchez has a 3.70 ERA in five starts but he's been much better than that. He has 28 strikeouts and three walks in 24⅓ innings with a 0.90 WHIP. 

One of those three walks belongs to Tim Tebow, who Sanchez also struck out in his last start.

Sanchez continues to show well-above-average stuff and he has a 14-percent swinging strike rate this season, which is about one-third better than the league average.

RHP Seranthony Dominguez (High-A Clearwater)
A name to keep in mind moving forward. Dominguez has been extremely impressive the last few years and his control has improved this season as he's made the jump from Lakewood to Clearwater.

Dominguez, a 22-year-old, 6-foot-1 right-hander, is 3-0 with a 1.74 ERA for the Threshers this season with 38 strikeouts and 10 walks in 31 innings. He was similarly effective for Lakewood last season with a 2.42 ERA, but he's shaved nearly a full walk-per-nine off last year's rate.

He has a mid-90s fastball and a good curveball and is an arm the Phils are excited about.

RHP Mark Appel (AAA)
Six weeks into the season, Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr. and Jake Thompson have all been called up from Triple A by the Phillies.

Appel has not.

He's 2-2 with a 5.93 ERA and .304 opponents' batting average in six starts this season. 

But he's coming off his best outing of the season — 5⅔ innings, two hits, no runs, four walks, five strikeouts at Buffalo on Sunday.

Appel has made 14 starts in the Phillies' farm system since being traded here from Houston and he's pitched six innings just once. His pitch count tends to soar because of the walks and foul balls. He's walked three or more batters in half his starts in the Phils' system.

RHP Ben Lively (AAA)
Lively continues to overmatch Triple A hitters with his pinpoint command. Since being sent back to Triple A after a few days up with the Phillies, he's 3-0 with a 1.78 ERA in four starts.

Lively's pitch economy has been the opposite of Appel's — he's needed just 14.5 pitches per inning this season.

Lively doesn't have the velocity or upside of a Pivetta or Eflin, but if he keeps pitching like this he'll be in position to make a spot start at some point this season. If he impresses in that role, we'll see what happens.

One thing the Phillies should probably avoid, though, is using Lively as a reliever the way they did with Thompson this week. Neither has stuff sharp enough to consistently come into a game in which the hitters are already comfortable and fool them.