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Phils claim OF Josh Kroeger

The Phillies claimed former Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Josh Kroeger off waivers yesterday and added him to the 40-man roster. A 23 year old lefty hitter originally taken in the fourth round of the 2000 draft, Kroeger was considered one of Arizona's top prospects going into 2005, ranking #7 on Baseball America's list after putting up an OPS of .981 at AA and .964 at AAA in 2004 and blasting 19 home runs in a combined 453 at-bats between the two levels. See Kroeger's complete professional record here.

Baseball Prospectus 2005 described him thusly: "Solid prospect with power, ability to hit for average, and a willingness to work on his plate discipline." In a nod to his combined 36/95 walk-to-strikeout ratio in '04, BP added that Kroeger "needs to keep tweaking that BB/K rate to be a keeper." Minor-league guru John Sickels--who's got a new book out, as you look to the left side of this page, and whom you can visit online at our SBN sister site--wrote this of Kroeger last winter:

This one is a real wild card. If he makes further adjustments and continues developing strike zone knowledge, he becomes a very impressive power hitter from the left side, challenging Conor Jackson and Carlos Quentin for jobs in the outfield. But if he continues to flail at breaking stuff outside the zone, he'll get stuck in Triple-A. Kroeger is only 22 and has lots of developmental time left. Given his improvement over the last two years, there is reason for hope.

In a full season at Triple-A Tucson last year, though, Kroeger's production declined.  In 472 at-bats, he hit just 14 home runs and drew 36 walks against 108 strikeouts while putting up a .261/.316/.422 line. This disappointing performance, along with the emergence of Jackson and Quentin in an Arizona outfield already featuring Shawn Green and Luis Gonzalez (with newly added Eric Byrnes now in the mix as well), evidently rendered Kroeger expendable.

Of course, if he hadn't dropped off at an age where some slippage isn't uncommon, the Phils wouldn't have been able to add him as free talent. And with the Bobby Abreu trade rumors refusing to die, the logic of adding a lefty-hitting outfielder with power is difficult to argue with. Whether Kroeger finds time on the Phils bench to start the season, is developed to the point where he might compete for a starting job in 2007, or puts up a good enough first three months at Scranton to create value as a trade sweetener, this seems like a very strong low-risk, moderate-to-high reward addition. After the Franklin episode earlier this week, I'm glad to see Gillick making a positive addition.