A major league team will typically carry at least a couple of players on the 40-man roster whom they do not expect to contribute in a given year. They’re usually younger players who needed protection from Rule 5 exposure, or because the team wanted additional depth. If they do make it to the major league roster, it is usually because the team is facing an injury-related crunch, or in September when the active roster expands.
That description fit both Simon Muzziotti and Donny Sands in 2022. Both spent the majority of the season in the minors (although in Muzziotti's case, he also spent time on the Injured List) and only had cameo appearances with the big-league club.
Muzziotti took an unusual route to the Phillies. He was originally signed as an international free agent by the Red Sox, but it was revealed that the Sox violated MLB rules, and Muzziotti was declared a free agent. The Phillies snatched him up, but his career has not gone smoothly since then.
Like most minor leaguers, he didn’t really have a 2020 season due to the pandemic. In 2021, he missed a good chunk of time due to visa issues. In 2022, with other Phillies centerfielders dealing with injuries, the team recalled Muzziotti for a nine-game stint in which he mostly served as a defensive replacement.
Phillies have been quiet offensively but Simón Muzziotti brought his glove to Miami.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 15, 2022
The rookie's second defensive gem of the night. pic.twitter.com/zveMPO5W3I
He soon returned to the minors - aside from a one-game stint - where he spent most of the year. Just as it seemed like he was hitting his stride at the plate, his season was cut short when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in mid-August.
Sands also started his career with a different organization. The Yankees selected him in the 2015 draft and soon converted him to catcher. He rose through their system until the Yankees traded him and Nick Nelson to the Phillies in November 2021.
With the best catcher in baseball on the Phillies’ roster, as well as a solid backup, there wasn’t much opportunity for Sands in the major leagues. As a result, Sands spent the majority of the year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley until he was called up to the big leagues as part of expanded rosters. But with the Phillies in a playoff push, the team wasn’t going to us a third-string catcher very much, and he appeared in just three games with three hitless at bats.
Both men played well defensively in the minors - and that carried over when Muzziotti got his chance in the majors. If you’re going to serve as major league filler, then it is imperative that you can at least play your position well when called upon. Sands put up strong offensive numbers in the minors, and while Muzziotti got off to a slower start, he was also heating up with the bat as the season progressed.
Muzziotti has been downright unlucky the past three years, and he will spend at least part of the offseason rehabbing his knee injury. There was nothing really bad about Sands season, except that he has the personal misfortune of being in an organization that has had superior depth at the catcher position. His chances of future playing time likely increased with the trade of catching prospect Logan O’Hoppe. Ironically, that trade brought back young centerfielder Brandon Marsh, which probably hurts Muzziotti’s long-term outlook.
Both men remain in the Phillies organization, but neither seems likely to spend much time on the major league roster barring injury. But injuries do happen, and both have shown signs that they won’t be liabilities if called upon.
I was considering giving Sands a grade simply because his name sounds like he should be performing at an Atlantic City Lounge. (Next up, we’ve got the sweet sound of Donny Sands and the Waves!) But ultimately, neither man got enough of a chance to even earn a grade at the big-league level.