I love the non-roster invite. Maybe it's because this is the most obvious beginning to any baseball rags-to-riches story; maybe it has to do with my strong belief that there's no scientific way, and certainly no surefire fiscal strategy, to fill out the end of a bench or bullpen, and you might as well try to find bargains. Whatever the case, there are a bunch of intriguing names among the 18 prospects, suspects and rejects who will line up with the Howards, Utleys and Liebers when training camp opens next month in Florida. Here's how the list breaks down:
Catchers: Tim Gradoville, Jason Jaramillo, Dusty Wathan
Infielders: Chris Coste, Bobby Scales, Joe Thurston
Outfielders: Peter Bergeron, Shawn Garrett
Pitchers: Ryan Cameron, Clay Condrey, Jeremy Cummings, Gio Gonzalez, Cole Hamels, Aquilino Lopez, Travis Minix, Aaron Myette, Brian Sanches, Matt White
Some of the NRIs, of course, are to prospects who won't break camp with the Phils and haven't yet been added to the 40-man roster. Jaramillo and presumably Gonzalez and Hamels are in this group. Others are likely organizational filler who will play in the high minors this year, for the Phillies or another organization: Wathan, Coste, Bergeron, Condrey and Myette probably qualify. But I wouldn't be surprised at all to see at least two of the pitchers go north with the team, or at least appear at CBP over the course of the 2006 season. These four seem the most likely candidates:
- Ryan Cameron is a 28 year old reliever who enjoyed a fine season with Reading last year, going 6-5 with 19 saves and a 2.55 ERA in 58 games. He struck out 99 batters in 88.1 innings and held opponents to a .216 batting average. Maybe he's not better than Ricardo Rodriguez, but I see no harm in finding out.
- Aquilino Lopez you know about; I'm not sure he isn't the second or third best bullpen arm the Phils have right now, and I don't understand why he hasn't been snapped up by some other relief-starved team.
- Travis Minix put up a sub-2.00 ERA and struck out nearly a man per inning at Reading and Scranton in 2005.
- Matt White is a well-traveled lefty who also struck out better than a man per inning as a reliever for Washington's AAA affiliate last summer.
Is there another Chris Hammond or Ben Weber in this bunch? Maybe, maybe not. But I like the idea of sorting through these guys, in addition to people like Rodriguez, Chris Booker and Yoel Hernandez, a hell of a lot more than trawling for the next round of Terry Adams types.