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How Brock Stassi can crack the Phillies’ 40-man roster

As spring training rolls along, the Phils have some interesting decisions to make regarding their final roster spots and the 40-man roster.

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at Baltimore Orioles Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With every Brock Stassi dinger, general manager Matt Klentak’s job gets just a little bit harder.

Yeah, Stassi went deep again on Monday, his 4th of the spring, the team leader in homers. After their game against the Baltimore Orioles, the left-handed first baseman/outfielder was hitting .407/.484/.889 with an OPS of 1.373. All those numbers were team highs.

All things being equal, with the normal caveats that spring stats largely don’t matter, Stassi’s spring would be more than enough to earn him one of the two bench spots up for grabs on the 25-man roster. But Stassi is not on the 40-man roster, and the Phillies’ 40-man is loaded with top prospects and arms with upside. There simply aren’t a lot of candidates to jettison in order to make room for him.

Not only that, there are a couple other spots on the 25-man roster that may require the team to have to drop some players from the 40-man, too.

If the team wants to add Chris Coghlan or Daniel Nava to the team as their fifth outfielder, they would have to be added to the 40-man roster. If they wanted to add a left-handed reliever other than Joely Rodriguez or Adam Morgan to the bullpen, that would require an additional 40-man roster move.

It’s easy to see why getting on the 40-man before spring training is so important. Players given that security have a much better chance of staying with the organization. But Stassi, at the very least, may be forcing the Phils to drop someone before the team heads to Cincinnati for the start of the regular season.

Here are the most likely candidates to be dropped from the 40-man roster (age in parentheses).

  • Luis Garcia (30) - “The Northeast Extension,” as I like to call him, has been back and forth from AAA to the Phillies so many times he could probably make the drive to and from Lehigh Valley with his eyes closed. Garcia has always had a tantalizingly-fast four-seamer, but has never been able to put everything together in the big leagues. Last year he was in 17 games for the Phillies and put up a 6.46 ERA in 15 1/3 innings. In 126 career games, he has a 4.24 ERA and a 4.43 FIP, with a ghastly 1.688 WHIP. And that 5.7 BB/9 innings for his career is just not going to cut it. It doesn’t seem as if Garcia is going to make the big league bullpen or is really a part of the team long-term.
  • Adam Morgan (27) - Morgan’s best chance to make the team is as their second lefty out of the bullpen/long man. His days as a top prospect are over, and he has yet to show the ability to get Major League hitters out consistently. In 21 starts last year he went 2-11 with a 6.04 ERA and a WHIP of 1.500. He gave up 11.2 hits per nine and struck out 7.5 per nine while walking 2.3. He’s probably second in line to go.
  • Tyler Goeddel (24) - Last year’s top pick in the Rule 5 draft is slated to start the season as Lehigh Valley’s designated hitter. The Iron Pigs’ outfield is stacked with top prospects, and it’s unclear how much action Goeddel is actually going to see. The Phils protected him on the 25-man roster all season just so they could let him play in the minors this season, so it would be a pretty dumb investment if they were to let him go now. But of all the Phils’ minor league outfield prospects, Goeddel seems to have the least amount of upside. He hit .192/.258/.291 in 234 PAs last season, but actually did pretty well when given consistent playing time.
  • Alberto Tirado (22) - Tirado is a hard thrower who has a heater that can reach triple digits, which I’m told is good. The Phils worked really hard to put him on the 40-man roster this off-season, and it would be a shame to jettison him for veteran players who probably won’t be with the big league club for more than a year. Last year he went 7-1 with a 2.50 ERA for the Lakewood BlueClaws in the second half after a rough first half in which he simply couldn’t control the baseball. But after some time away and some instruction with team pitching coaches, he returned to Lakewood as a starter and struck out 37% of batters faced, which is insane. He also lowered his very high walk rate down to 11%. It’s hard to imagine they let him go after all that progress.

So how might this all shake out? Here’s just one man’s guess.

Stassi has done enough to make the team. Whether he’s the team’s last infielder or the fifth outfielder, Stassi should be on the squad. The corresponding move would be to release Luis Garcia.

The middle infield job could then go to prospect Jesmuel Valentin, who is already on the 40-man roster. It would probably make more sense for him to play every day at second base with the Iron Pigs, but the big league club has to like his career .348 on-base percentage, and manager Pete Mackanin decided to play him some at shortstop down in Clearwater, in case they decided to put him on the 25-man roster. Valentin, who is already on the 40-man, then becomes your utility infielder.

That unfortunately means no Coghlan or Nava. Stassi would be the fifth outfielder.

With the bullpen, you either give the job to Morgan, or to one of the left-handers not on the 40-man roster, non-roster invitees Sean Burnett, Cesar Ramos, or the newly-acquired, ambidextrous, Pat Venditte.

There are other combinations that would make sense, but if the desire is to get Stassi on the team, this is probably how it would have to shake out without releasing Goeddel or Tirado, something the Phils surely don’t want to do.

Either way, these are not easy decisions for the front office, who are faced with the horrible problem of having too many talented young players to protect.

The horror.