In one week, the Phillies need to reduce their active roster to 25 players. There are currently nearly twice that number still in big league camp, plus the Phillies are rumored to be watching the waiver wire and contacting other clubs about some potential deals. All those players have to go somewhere, whether it's the unemployment line, another team, the Phillies roster or to one of their minor league rosters. That means a lot of decisions to be made in the next seven days.
On Saturday, the Phillies hoped to answer a question or two about the bullpen. Instead of having Aaron Nola pitch against the Detroit Tigers, the Phillies sent him to minor league camp for the day and used nine different relievers against the Motor City Bengals in an effort to get a look at some of the 15 arms still competing for spots in the revamped bullpen.
Here's what we know about the bullpen from manager Pete Mackanin. They're looking to go with seven relievers, there are "two or three openings," and it's not out of the question that they keep three left-handers in the pen. What Mackanin hasn't made completely clear is who the definite keepers are. Most reports out of Clearwater put Dalier Hinojosa, Jeanmar Gomez, David Hernandez and Brett Oberholtzer - a left-hander - on the roster. From there, it's a guessing game.
Daniel Stumpf is the lefty Rule 5 pick who the Phillies like a lot and might try to keep on the team for the season. He could well be the guy that puts the "or" into Mackanin's thoughts about how many openings they have. If they decide to hang onto him, they've got two spots. If they've determined that they are willing to risk losing him, there are three spots. Don't count out the possibility of the Phillies working out a deal with Kansas City, the team Stumpf was drafted from, that would allow the Phillies to acquire the 25-year old and send him to the minors.
How the battle for open spots, like those in the bullpen, pan out will obviously affect the makeup of the minor league rosters at Triple-A and, in a trickle-down effect, at Double-A as well.
At least one of James Russell, Bobby LaFromboise and Elvis Araujo - all lefties - figures to wind up at Lehigh Valley. It's possible that two of that group, and in some scenarios, all three, will wind up with Pigs on their hats to open the season. Then, there's Edward Mujica, Luis Garcia, Andrew Bailey and Hector Neris, who have all been impressive at times this Spring. Even though he pitched well for the Phillies last season, Araujo has an option left and could be sent to Lehigh Valley to provide depth. The same is true with Garcia. Bailey has had some trouble with command this Spring, but is on a minor league deal with a July 1 opt-out date, so he could be sent to Lehigh Valley, also providing some veteran depth, should it be needed.
Consider that Michael Mariot, Colton Murray, Reinier Roibal, Chris Leroux, Tom Windle and Greg Burke are already figured on to be in the 'Pigs bullpen and there isn't much room for others to trickle-down without causing more ripples through the minor league rosters. Windle and Roibal could potentially return to Reading until things sort themselves out once the season gets underway.
As for starters, Lehigh Valley already has Jake Thompson, Mark Appel, Zach Eflin, David Buchanan, Severino Gonzalez and Alec Asher are already penciled into the IronPigs rotation and there's already too many. Now, add either Adam Morgan or Vincent Velasquez, whichever loses the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation, and there is really no room. Eflin, Gonzalez and Asher could potentially get bumped to Double-A Reading, but Ben Lively, Nick Pivetta and Ricardo Pinto are the early favorites to be there to open the season, so again, there isn't much room.
There's not as much of a crowd among position players. The Phillies do have to decide whether Gabriel Lino, J.P. Arencibia or both will back-up Andrew Knapp behind the plate. Arencibia could serve as a DH for the club. Brock Stassi, Angelys Nina, Ryan Jackson and either Taylor Featherston or top prospect J.P. Crawford figure to start on the infield at Triple-A. Infielders Emmanuel Burris and K.C. Serna are fighting for spots, with Christian Marrero also figuing in to back-up Stassi. Crawford could open the year at Reading, since he only played there for half of the season last year, but it's certainly not out of the question that he opens at Triple-A, or at least moves there quickly.
Nick Williams and Roman Quinn both figure to be starting in the Triple-A outfield, with either David Lough or Cedric Hunter also being sent to Lehigh Valley, depending on which one doesn't make the Phillies roster. Cam Perkins could start the season either at Lehigh Valley or back at Double-A Reading.
The Phillies might actually be in a position where they would deal a young player in exchange for a veteran that they feel will help at the major league level. Keep an eye on both that scenario and a potential waiver claim, either of which would further muddy the roster waters to open the season. Even with all of the question marks, it's still hard to believe that the big league club wouldn't have benefited from having Jeff Francoeur in the mix for the major league roster.