The Phillies are making some moves ahead of the Rule 5 draft, which takes place last month.
First, the Phils grabbed right-hander A.J. Acther off waivers from the Minnesota Twins on Thursday. He is a 27-year-old reliever who went 0-1 with a 4.20 ERA and 4.31 FIP in 13 1/3 innings for the Twins last year. In 48 innings at Triple-A he went 4-2 with a 2.63 ERA, 3.43 FIP, and 14 saves. He struck out 8.81 batters per nine and walked 2.44.
Acther doesn't throw hard, averaging just under 90 mph on his fastball last year, also mixing in a slider and changeup. However, opponents batted just .163 against him in Triple-A last year.
Acther has now been added to the 40-man roster, joined by minor leaguers Roman Quinn (the team's No. 8 prospect according to Baseball America), Jimmy Cordero and Edubray Ramos.
Quinn missed most of last year after tearing his hip flexor, but performed quite well before getting hurt, batting .306/.356/.435 with 29 stolen bases in 58 games, adding six doubles, six triples, four homers and 44 runs scored.
Cordero is one of the electric arms the Phillies got in the Ben Revere trade with Toronto. He put up a 2.55 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 67 Single-A and Double-A innings in 2015. He throws in the upper 90s, even harder than the Phils' current closer (at least for now) Ken Giles.
Ramos went 4-6 with a 2.07 ERA in 47 relief appearances for Clearwater and Reading last year. Just 22 years old, he held opponents to a .196 batting average.
It's easy to see why the Phillies protected those three players from the Rule 5 draft. All have tremendous upside. But a couple of the players left off the 40-man roster, and eligible for the Rule 5 draft, are particularly interesting.
One of them is Carlos Tocci, rated earlier this month by Baseball America as the team's No. 10 prospect. Tocci is a 20-year-old outfielder who hit .258/.296/.313 with a wRC+ of 86 in 298 PAs for the Phils' High-A ballclub this year. But Tocci did well in 261 Low-A PAs, batting .321/.387/.423 with a wRC+ of 133.
Even if a team does select him, it's unlikely they would be able to keep him on their 25-man roster all season, meaning he would be returned to the Phillies. But what would that do to his development? If he does stick on a team for spring training or part of the regular season, that could really impact his playing time and much-needed repetitions.
The other Phils' prospect left exposed to the Rule 5 draft was Alberto Tirado. Like Cordero, Tirado was acquired from Toronto in the Revere trade, and throws 93-95 with a slider that is half-decent but has the potential to get better. Batters hit just .208 against him in 61 1/3 innings at High-A for the Blue Jays this season, posting a 3.23 ERA and 4.08 FIP. He struck out 8.95 batters per nine, but struggled with his control, walking 5.14 batters per nine innings.
It's interesting that the Phillies would expose two players with promise in Tocci and Tirado, and put low-upside pitchers like Acther and Severino Gonzalez on the 40-man roster instead. Perhaps they don't think teams will take Tocci or Tirado, and if the do, that those teams won't keep them. Traditionally, teams selected in the Rule 5 draft almost always have been sent back to their original teams.
But not anymore.
Let's also throw out everything we thought about the Rule 5 draft, last year 12 out of 14 players stuck on their selecting team— Matt Winkelman (@Matt_Winkelman) November 20, 2015
The Rule 5 draft takes place at the end of the Winter Meetings next month. The Phillies now have 37 players on their 40-man roster. The remaining open spots will be filled by other potential moves to be made this winter, and any player the Phillies select in the Rule 5 draft.