Moss, Blalock Among Unprotected Phillies

The Phillies - and the other 29 Major League teams - set their official 40 man rosters over the weekend in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft. While the Phillies locked up Scott Mathieson and Michael Bourn, as always, there are debates as to whether other players should have been protected as well.

With the recent addition of Michael Bourn and Scott Mathieson to the 40 man roster, there are just two completely glaring omissions of players who stand unprotected for next month's Rule 5 Draft. Tim Moss and Jake Blalock are being offered up to other teams to draft with the condition that they would need to be kept on the major league roster all season.

Granted that Moss and Blalock are very inexperienced and nobody believes that they're truly ready to play in the majors. Even with that said, there may be a club that will take a shot at one of them even if it means wasting a roster spot. There is little denying that both have the potential to be major league players. Teams may take a shot on that potential, especially if they figure they can waste a roster spot and still continue to find a way to develop their talent.

Of the two, Moss is more likely to be chosen. There is more call for a speedy infielder than for an outfielder/third baseman who is more of a power type player. Moss could potentially pinch-run and make an occasional start. He could find some playing time in blowout games and find a decent amount of playing time. The fact that Moss had somewhat of a breakout season in 2005 could attract some interest. After all, Moss put up impressive numbers at Clearwater, hitting a career high 17 homeruns and driving in 61 runs. Through his first two seasons, Moss hit just three homeruns and drove in 39 runs while battling health issues. Moss also stole 28 bases. The downside to Moss is that his homerun total jumped to 129, which wouldn't be a good omen for his ability to face major league pitching.

Jake Blalock's power potential may be tempting for teams to steal in next month's Rule 5 Draft. Blalock has hit .275 with 27 homeruns over the last two seasons and scouts believe that those numbers will only get better with time.

As for Jake Blalock, there's a lot to like. Unlike Moss, Blalock was concentrating on becoming more of a complete hitter and his homerun total dropped from 16 at Lakewood in 2004 to 11 at Clearwater in 2005, but he also cut down on his strikeouts. He improved his average from .271 to .279 last season. Another fact that could make Blalock of interest is that he has a background as a third baseman but was converted to outfield when the Phillies got a hold of him. It wouldn't take much for him to relearn third base and he could also help in the outfield. That's not to say that Blalock is ready for the majors, but he could conceivably find a fair amount of playing time if he was in the right situation.

Both Moss and Blalock are coachable and both have good enough work ethics that they would likely find a way to stay sharp. A season as a backup in the majors certainly wouldn't do either player as much good as a full season of playing everyday in AA ball next season. Still, they are both close enough that a team could consider the possibilities of taking a relatively inexpensive shot at stealing them away from the Phillies.

After Moss and Blalock, there are some interesting names, but none that really jump out.

When the Phillies drafted Keith Bucktrot in 2000, they likely would have thought you were nuts if you had told them they would be exposing him to the Rule 5 Draft just five years later. Still, there's Bucktrot available for the taking. Through the 2003 season, Bucktrot seemed to be pretty much on pace, but his star has fallen sharply since then. Two seasons of battling injuries and inconsistency have sunk Bucktrot to the point where he's a potential casualty in the Rule 5 Draft. Perhaps another organization, a change of scenery and different coaches could help to turn Bucktrot's fortunes around if he can stay healthy. Odds are though that teams will pass on a guy who will be 25 by the time the draft is held and split the past season between Single-A Clearwater and AA Reading without much success (4-5, 5.33).

Marc Tugwell is another interesting name. The 24 year old hit .295 with 7 homeruns for Clearwater last season and has put up decent, but not spectacular, stats throughout his minor league career.

Among the other Phillies prospects not protected for the Rule 5 Draft were Kiel Fisher, Ryan Barthelemy, Terry Jones and Seung Lee. Fisher and Jones have battled injuries over the past few seasons and it's unlikely that a club would figure on being able to do much with them on a major league roster. Lee was a high profile signing for the Phillies a few years ago, but has been pretty much of a bust. He shows signs of brilliance, only to look nearly lost in his next outing. His overall minor league numbers aren't bad (26-26, 4.06) in five seasons, so there's likely to be at least some consideration given to Lee from other clubs. Plus, he's pitched 38 games - 7 starts - at AAA over the last three seasons, so it's not like he's never gotten close to the majors. The downside is that he's gone 2-7, 6.29 with the Red Barons in parts of three seasons. He was also sidelined by a bad back in 2005 and it's not known exactly how healthy he is, but that may not hurt his chances of being grabbed by another club, since they could conceivably stow him away on the DL for a chunk of the season and have it count toward keeping him on the roster. As for Barthelemy, it looked after the 2004 season that he was  well on his way toward becoming a pretty solid prospect. After struggling through his first few seasons, Barthelemy started to show a quicker stroke and hit 14 homeruns with a .295 average at Clearwater. Last season though, he didn't see steady playing time and his average dropped to .237 at Reading, but he hit 12 homeruns in 117 less at bats than he had in 2004, showing good power potential. Again, many teams don't really figure on power players converting well as Rule 5 picks, but Barthelemy will be interesting to watch.

Perhaps Pat Gillick can do for the Phillies what he did for Toronto when he stole George Bell from the Phillies in the 1980 Rule 5 Draft. The Phillies were trying to sneak Bell through after he missed the '81 season with injuries, but Gillick was too much on the ball to let that happen. Bell went on to play 12 seasons with Toronto, the Cubs and the White Sox. The biggest loss for the Phillies in recent years was when they lost Derrick Turnbow to the Angels in 1999. The Angels kept Turnbow on the roster for the entire 2000 season, converting him from a starter to a reliever with limited results. They then stowed him away in the minors and he returned late in the 2003 and 2004 seasons to pitch well. This past season he was with Milwaukee and saved 39 games with a 1.74 ERA for the Brewers.

On the other side of the ledger, the Phillies had luck when they grabbed Dave Hollins from the Padres in the 1989 Rule 5 Draft. Hollins went on to play all or part of 7 seasons for the Phillies and in 12 major league seasons overall, finishing his career with decent stats. Just last December, the Phillies plucked Shane Victorino from the Dodgers and he went on to become the International League MVP after the Dodgers decided against taking him back when the Phillies decided they didn't want to keep him on the roster all season. The move worked out well for the Phillies as Victorino put up big numbers at AAA and then helped with a couple of key hits at the major league level in September. It's likely that Victorino will be the starting center fielder for the Phillies when they open the 2006 season.

Just for the record, after the addition of Mathieson and Bourn, the Phillies roster stands at 35 players. That leaves room for free agent signings and other player moves, but many believe should have given enough room to protect at least Mathieson or Moss, if not both.

Phillies prospects exposed to the Rule 5 Draft

Ryan Barthelemy, Jake Blalock, Jared Blasdell, Omar Bramasco, Keith Bucktrot, Ryan Carter, Justin Cerrato, Brad Correll, Jason Crosland, Rik Currier, Maximo De la Cruz, Kiel Fisher, Danny Gonzalez, Tim Gradoville, Bryan Hansen, Terry Jones, Chris Klemm, Seung Lee, Timi Moni, Tim Moss, Darin Naatjes, Zack Norman, Josh Paddock Kyle Parcus, Trent Pratt, Gabe Ribas, Carlos Rodriguez, Cory Schultz, Matt Squires, Maximo Reyes, Matt Sweeney, Marc Tugwell, C.J. Woodrow

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