Here are some of the players that the Phillies are least likely to want to lose as minor league free agents:
Erick Burke - The 28 year old left-hander split his time between AA Reading and AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre in 2005. He's put up decent numbers throughout his career and went a combined 6-2, 3.07 in 58 games in the organization last season with three saves. If nothing else, Burke could be a decent insurance policy for the bullpen and with Rheal Cormier's struggles in 2005, could possibly slide into a left-handed reliever's role with the major league club. This is a guy that the Phillies should look to keep in the organization.
Francisco Butto - At just 23, Butto is likely to be the highest priority for the Phillies to re-sign. Butto pitched in 36 games at AA Reading in 2005, posting a 3.65 ERA and in 17 games at Clearwater, going 1-2 with a 3.49 ERA in the process. His combined numbers for 2005 work out to 3-7 with a 3.60 ERA. Through seven minor league seasons with the Phillies, Butto is 36-40, 3.39, pitching in 172 games (62 as a starter). He is definitely worth trying to save and will likely draw attention from other clubs as well.
Carlos Chantres - The Phillies don't have a lot invested in Chantres, having plucked him from the ranks of independent baseball in 2003. Since then, he's been serviceable, but hasn't exactly set the organization on fire. He's 29 and has pitched just one game at AAA for the Phillies, but pitched a total of 85 games at the highest minor league level in the White Sox, D-Rays and Brewers organizations earlier in his career. His career AAA record is 25-24, 4.15 with 455 innings of work under his belt. Odds are that a pitching starved team will look to add him as some insurance for their staff.
Chris Coste - At 32, Coste is nowhere near being a prospect. The positive part of having a guy like Coste in your organization is that he is almost like having another coach for young players and if you need some insurance, he's not a green, young player who will likely make a lot of mistakes for you. Actually, it's a little surprising that Coste has never even gotten a sniff of the majors. He's a guy who loves the game and plays hard at all times and you sort of hope that somewhere, somehow, he gets an at bat or two in the majors. Plus, he's a career .306 minor league hitter, who hit a career high 20 homeruns in 2005. Plus, he'll play anywhere you want him to, including behind the plate.
Martire Franco - After spending two full seasons at AA, the 24 year old Franco reached AAA in 2005. He didn't set the world on fire with his stats, but showed some promise and was used to shuttle back and forth between the rotation and bullpen for the Red Barons. The Phillies have looked to transition him primarily into a reliever and he's had some success working out of the pen. Most notably, Franco saved 15 games for AA Reading in 2004.
Nate Grindell - While he's not a top prospect, Grindell is one of those guys that organizations like to have around. He can play a couple different positions and works hard for a club. He's also respected and liked by his teammates, mostly because of his strong work ethic and ability to chip in when it counts on the field. Grindell will turn 29 next April and split his 2005 season between AA Reading and AAA Scranton with just average numbers. Still, he's one of the guys that the Phillies wouldn't mind hanging onto if possible.
Josue Matos - This is an interesting case. Matos started the season in the Blue Jays organization and struggled at AAA. After struggling there last season, the Jays cut him loose and he wound up with the Phillies. He was placed on the AA Reading roster and pitched very well in 16 games (4 starts) going 3-1, 1.31 for the R-Phils. The problem is that whenever Matos pitches at AAA, he gets hammered. He's pitched at the AAA level in three different seasons and has a mark of 15-16, 5.74 in 66 games. He'll be 29 when next season starts and if he's not able to handle AAA, what's the use? On the upside, many scouts like his delivery and think most of his struggles at AAA are mental, but he should have overcome the stage fright by now.
Edwin Moreno - In his first season in the organization, Moreno didn't have much of an opportunity to make a good first impression. Because of injury, Moreno was limited to just four starts for AA Reading, going 1-3, 4.35 in 20 2/3 innings of work. Moreno has some talent and the Phillies may be interested in having him back, but the injury makes him a question mark.
Jorge Padilla - Early on in his career, Padilla looked to have a little pop in his bat, hitting 16 homeruns at Clearwater in 2001. Since then, his career has stalled and he hasn't shown much power, hitting just 17 homeruns since then. Padilla has a decent stroke and has maintained a decent average for the most part, but hasn't shown a lot of great potential to be an everyday major leaguer. While he still has some promise, Padilla is 26 now and has likely sort of worn out his welcome in the organization. A change of scenery may be a good thing for him.
Juan Richardson - As recently as 2003, Baseball America ranked Richardson as the best power prospect in the Eastern League. Unfortunately, Richardson has had a number of injuries since then and hasn't shown much of the promise that he did just a few short seasons ago. He was relatively healthy in 2005 and played in 122 games at AA Reading, hitting .249 with 15 homeruns. While it might be easy to write Richardson off, keep in mind that he just turns 25 in January and he could potentially still be a surprise if he can get healthy and stay that way. Until late this past season, he was on the Phillies 40 man roster, but now, it's likely that they'll let him go elsewhere if he so chooses.
Chris Rojas - The 28 year old right-hander made 22 starts for AA Reading and another for AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre. While he's a little old to have just hit AAA for the Phillies this past season, he did pitch six games at AAA for San Diego the previous season. It's thought that he could provide at least some insurance for the big league club in 2006 and could contend for a spot either in the rotation or in long relief for 2007.
Randy Ruiz - After having two run-ins with the policy police over violations of baseball's drug policy, it's not clear how much patience the Phillies will have with Ruiz. Generally, they don't tolerate players who don't want to follow rules and policies, but then again, Ruiz has a lot of talent. Ruiz, who just turned 28, missed a total of 45 games this season because of two suspensions, but still hit a career high 27 homeruns. The fact that the Phillies have a decent stockpile of first basemen - particularly left-handed hitting first basemen - could be a factor in determining what happens to Ruiz. Odds are that the Phillies could let him move on.
Here are the remaining Phillies' minor league free agents:
Catchers: John Castellano