Phils Active On Minor League Free Agent Front

While most of the attention focuses on major league free agents, the Phillies have done a little work at the minor league level, too. It's not likely that you will be seeing any of these names on the Phillies 25 man roster during the 2004 season, but there may be one or two that will help out at least a little down the road.

Adam Roller, RHP Born: June 27, 1978 (25) B:R T:R

The Boston Red Sox drafted Roller in the 33rd round of the 1996 Draft out of Hillsborough Community College, but was released after the 1999 season and signed with the Yankees organization. The Phillies signed him as a minor league free agent.

In seven minor league seasons, Roller went 14-20, 2.89 and moved as far up as AA where he was for the last three seasons. As a reliever, Roller is a strikeout pitcher, having set down 273 hitters on strikes in 274 minor league innings. His control deserts him from time to time and he has walked an average of four hitters every nine innings. He was limited to just 22 innings in 2002 because of bone chips in his elbow.

Roller could be a nice addition, since he will still only be 25 when the season starts. He's not going to set the world on fire, but could be one of those "insurance" arms that teams always love to have.

Mike Spiegel, LHP Born: November 24, 1975 (28) B:L T:L

Spiegel was originally drafted by the Indians in the 41st round of the 1995 Draft and pitched his first seven seasons in their organization, and finished 2002 by getting one start at AAA. That was the highest that Spiegel made it with Cleveland and he signed with Detroit for the 2003 season, where he was sent back to the AA level.

Spiegel has gone back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen in his minor league career. In 141 minor league appearances, 92 of them have been as a starter.

The Phillies hope that Spiegel, who will be 28 at the start of the 2004 season, will show them enough in spring training that they will be able to start him at AAA Scranton, most likely working out of the bullpen.

John Castellano, C Born: September 8, 1977 (26) B:R T:R

The Phillies are always on the lookout for minor league catchers. Having had little success themselves in developing catchers, they looked to the minor league free agent field and found John Castellano.

Don't get too excited. Castellano put up good numbers at high A Inland Empire in the Seattle organization in 2003, but he was old for that league. In six minor league seasons, he has more stolen bases (42) than homeruns (37). He is a lifetime .309 minor league hitter, but needs to start climbing the ladder a little.

Castellano has a shot at starting the season at the AAA level and the Phillies hope that he can start off there. Projections are that Castellano has a shot at being a backup at the major league level.

Kevin Gibbs, OF Born: April 3, 1974 (29) B:B T:R

Gibbs will be 30 shortly after the start of the 2004 season. That's bordering on becoming a career minor leaguer. The Phillies do love to stock their AAA team with some "veteran" minor leaguers though and Gibbs fits that mold.

Originally drafted by the Dodgers in the sixth round of the '95 Draft, it goes without saying that Gibbs has never reached his potential. In fairness to Gibbs, he did reach AAA with the Dodgers before injuries started derailing his career. He moved on to the Yankees organization and seemed to get back on track at the AA level in 2003, hitting .294 at Norwich.

Jim Rushford, OF Born: March 24, 1974 (29) B:L T:L

Rushford has seen the inside of a major league stadium without buying a ticket. He made it to the majors with Milwaukee late in the 2002 season and hit .143 in 23 games with the Brewers.

Rushford made it to the majors through the independent leagues and features a .318 minor league average. In 1,826 minor league at bats, he has struck out 216 times (once per every 8.5 AB) and has drawn 200 walks. The Brewers had hoped that he would develop some power and signed him after he hit 12 homeruns for Duluth in about a half season of play in 2000. He hit a total of 21 homeruns between A and AA ball in 2001 and has hit only 16 in the two seasons since then.

Rushford is another guy who is a veteran minor leaguer and the kind of guy that the Phillies love to sign to give them some help at the AAA level. Since he's a left-handed hitter, he might get a look or two, but don't expect much out of him.

Mark Budzinski, OF Born: August 26, 1973 (30) B:L T:L

Budzinski had a solid AAA season in 2003, playing for both Indianapolis and Louisville. Combined, he hit .273 with a .358 OBP. He doesn't have a lot of power or overwhelming speed, but he does a lot of the little things well. Like Rushford and Gibbs, Budzinski is the kind of guy that the Phillies love to have hanging around at the AAA level.

Danny Sandoval, SS/2B Born: April 7, 1979 (24) B:R T:R

Sandoval is not a bad guy to have in your minor league system. He can play almost every position on the field and can handle them pretty well. He's one of those guys who seems to annoy teams he plays against.

2002 seemed to be a turnaround season for Sandoval. That's when he developed much better plate discipline and truly became a hitter. He's got well above average speed that helps him both on the bases and in the field. He's also young enough that he could well be a major leaguer and it might not take that long. He projects mainly as a utility guy, but with a little more discipline, could become a Frank Catalonotto type utility player down the road.

In addition to the players listed, the Phillies have also re-signed Juan Sosa, who was one of their own minor league free agents. Watch for Sosa on our list of the Top 50 Phillies Prospects. One of the Phillies minor league free agents that won't be back is Brad Baisley. He signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers.

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