With 40-man roster spots at a premium, the Phillies have to narrow their choices of who to protect.

There is going to be some maneuvering to be done in the next few weeks as the Phillies look to clear some spots on the 40-man roster. After they decide how to clear those spots, they'll have to decide how to fill them right back up with young players.

The Phillies have 53 young players who would be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in December if they aren't placed on the 40-man roster. Currently, there are 34 players on the Phillies roster, but another four who will need to be pulled off of the 60-Day DL, bringing the number to 38. There are also four players who will qualify for free agency and will come off of the roster at the end of the World Series, so the working number, barring re-signing any potential free agents or moving others off of the roster, is 34.

In the Major League Phase of the Rule 5 Draft, teams are looking for players that they believe they can easily keep on their 25-man roster for the entire season, like the Phillies have done with Tyler Goeddel and Odubel Herrera in the past couple of seasons. With that in mind, players with too little experience to be likely to stick with a team for an entire season likely don't need to be protected. That takes the following players off of the list of those likely to be protected by the Phillies.

Pitchers (17): Drew Anderson, Harold Arauz, Luis Carrasco, Ranfi Casimiro, Seranthony Dominguez, Elniery Garcia, Reiwal Gonzalez, Carlos Indriago, Ulises Joaquin, Will Morris, Jairo Munoz, Yacksel Rios, Alexis Rivero, Ranger Suarez, Jose Taveras, Alberto Tirado and Shane Watson. Catchers (2): Deivi Grullon and Gregori Rivero. Infielders (4): Malquin Canelo, William Cuicas, Wilson Garcia and Zach Green. Outfielders (6): Carlos Duran, Samuel Hiciano, Jose Pujols, Herlis Rodriguez, Carlos Tocci and Jiandido Tromp.

There are other players, who might not have the numbers to warrant protecting them or whom the Phillies believe won't be attractive enough to other teams to take in the Rule 5 Draft. Some of these players also could be considered expendable. Those players include:

Pitchers (4): Phil Klein, Hoby Milner, Jesen Therrien and Tom Windle. Catchers (2): Gabriel Lino and Logan Moore. Infielders (5): Harold Martinez, Angelo Mora, K.C. Serna, Brock Stassi and Darnell Sweeney. Outfielders (0): none

That leaves 13 players who still need to be protected, some of whom are no-brainers to protect:

Pitchers (2): Mark Appel, Ben Lively Catchers (1): Andrew Knapp Infielders (1): Jesmuel Valentin Outfielders (2): Dylan Cozens, Nick Williams

The remaining seven players would be considered "on-the-bubble."

http://www.scout.com/player/207732-mark-leiter?s=309

The 25-year old split the 2015 season between Clearwater and Reading and was with Reading for all of the 2016 season. Of his 31 games at Double-A, 25 have been starts. He's posted a 3.82 ERA at Double-A, but showed improvement this past season. The key could be that as a reliever, the role he would most likely fill with a major league club, he posted a 1.15 ERA in six games this past season and converted his only save opportunity. He struggled a little with his command - six walks in 15 2/3 innings - but he struck out 13 hitters.

http://www.scout.com/player/203220-ricardo-pinto?s=309

At just 22 years of age, it would be tough to lose Pinto in the Rule 5 Draft. The right-hander pitched in 27 games with Double-A Reading last season, but he's been a starter his whole career, so it's difficult to assess how he might pitch in a relief role, plus he struggled at times in his first stint with the Fightin Phils, posting a 4.10 ERA on the season. In the grand scheme of things, the Phillies could likely sneak him through the Rule 5 Draft without losing him, but if they can find the room, he's worth protecting.

http://www.scout.com/player/202090-nick-pivetta?s=309

After posting a 7.48 ERA at Double-A Harrisburg and Reading in 2015, Pivetta rebounded nicely in 2016, going 11-6 with a 3.41 ERA with Reading this past season and earning a promotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he made five starts and was 1-2 with a 2.55 ERA. Like Pinto, Pivetta doesn't have a track record as a reliever, but there may be a team out there that likes him enough to take a gamble on what he may be able to do for them out of the bullpen or on thinner staffs, even give him a shot at winning a spot in the rotation in camp.

http://www.scout.com/player/161902-mitch-walding?s=309

The Phillies like Walding enough to have sent him to the Arizona Fall League, so there is definitely interest in keeping him. How he performs there could determine where on the bubble he stands this offseason. The 24-year old played just 23 games at Double-A Reading this season and hit just .214, which may be enough to get him through the draft without being selected. The fact that he has also played only at third base in the minors will also keep other teams from taking him, so it's likely that he won't be protected.

http://www.scout.com/player/169863-joey-curletta?s=309

The Phillies got Curletta as the player to be named later in the Carlos Ruiz trade with the Dodgers. Since they just acquired him, it's likely they like him enough to protect him, but might not like him enough to put him above other players already in the organization who they also like. Curletta is just 22, but he's only played 32 games at Double-A, where he's hit .213 with five home runs. He's primarily a center fielder, but can play all three outfield positions, if needed. Odds are that he makes it through without being protected.

http://www.scout.com/player/202377-cam-perkins?s=309

Cam Perkins may be one of the tougher calls on this list. While he's not necessarily tabbed to be an everyday player in the majors, he can play all three outfield spots, plus could handle first base, if needed. He's 26 and has played in nearly 200 Triple-A games, with a .262 average and ten home runs at the highest level of the minors, so it's not out of the question that a team could tuck him away much like the Phillies did with Goeddel this season. He hit .292 for the IronPigs this past season with eight home runs and 47 RBI and came up with some clutch hits throughout the season. He's exactly the type of player that teams look for in the Rule 5 Draft and could be taken if not protected.

http://www.scout.com/player/173952-andrew-pullin?s=309

Pullin came up to Double-A for the first time this season and looked to set the Eastern League on fire, until he went down with an injury. He did play 46 games with Reading and hit 10-32-.346/.397/.559 for the Fightins. Pullin, 23, is primarily a left fielder, but might be able to fit into right or even at first base for a team. It might be a bit of a stretch for him to be taken, but he is young and has a good bat, so someone could put up the money and give it a shot.

Keep in mind that it's likely the Phillies will open more spots on the 40-man roster by jettisoning players like Darin Ruf and maybe even Cody Asche. With the new regime having had a full season to assess players, they could make even deeper cuts that would give them more flexibility with the roster


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