There have been many consequences to the owner-imposed lockout thus far. Many of them have been foisted upon the fans to this point, but the loss of games is going to be directly tied to the players and the anticipated loss of pay they’ll have. The league has publicly stated that they will not pay players for games cancelled, though this promises to be fought by the players’ union tooth and nail. Outside of this loss of money is an unintended consequence happening to the bottom of the roster.
Since they are a part of the players’ union now, those that were placed on the 40-man roster in anticipation of being protected from being plucked during the Rule 5 draft are not allowed to attend spring training. Many of these players are ones that have never seen a major league field, having only faced minor league pitching, yet find themselves unable to get ready for the season. The progress that they had made in their own development led their teams to protect them in the first place, but now they cannot get started on continuing that development until the lockout is resolved. It’s a bad situation all the way around, and the Phillies have players that are no exception. You’ll have some relievers that have been put on the 40-man so that they can enjoy constant shuttle rides to and from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but some of the players are real prospects. They’re the ones that are really getting screwed here by everything (not that all players aren’t). Here are a few of these players on the Phillies that are really going to feel it.
Garcia was a guy who was always young for the level the team placed him at. Because of that, his bat often lagged behind his defense in terms of production. He’s great with the leather, but pitchers were able to knock the bat out of his hands for lack of fear of what he could do against their pitching. With 2020 lost to minor leaguers everywhere, Garcia was allowed to repeat the A ball level in Clearwater, a year that saw him show a ton of improvement thanks his being at a more age appropriate level. The walk rate went up, the strikeout rate went down and he was stinging the ball more often thanks to his getting some good weight on his frame. The team saw enough of him that they decided to add him to the 40-man roster for fear of a rebuilding team taking a chance on him in the draft.
The issue now is that while Garcia is still not ready for major league pitching, he desperately needs the live pitching reps to see if the improvements he made will stick. As we’ve seen written about him elsewhere, the glove he shows as a shortstop makes it seem like he’s going to stick there for a while, but to really be considered a major league shortstop, he is going to have to continue hitting the ball with authority. This spring training would have given him some of those reps against the big league arms for a little while until he was sent back to minor league camp, but now, he’s stuck waiting.
Ortiz is never going to be the one that pushes Bryce Harper out of right field and into a full-time DH spot. It would take a special prospect to even consider such a move. However, putting him on the 40-man roster after a season in which, as a 22 year old, he hung an .879 OPS in Jersey Shore made a ton of sense as that kind of production usually gets picked up by a team looking to maybe strike some gold on the cheap. The Phillies also had reason to protect him so that he would help with depth in the outfield in case of injury and give the team a legitimate power bat in their system that will be ready soon.
Ortiz, as you might remember, got $4 million from the team as a 16 year old who looked like he was going to be a offensive force. He struggled to get to that level, but finally, six years later, he’s showing why the team invested that kind of money in him. Like Garcia, it turns out he might be worth the wait. Like Garcia, though, a spring in which he could also have used spring reps against major league pitching now looks like it’ll be cut short. With Harper in right field for the immediate future and other players like Matt Vierling showing they can provide adequate depth in Philadelphia, it’s possible the team could have also used this spring as a possible showcase for Ortiz to other teams looking to make a deal. They’ll have the scouting reports from the past few years to fall back on, but the spring would have helped these scouts get some updated looks at any changes Ortiz may have made. Those reports will have to wait.
We all know the struggles the team has had developing competent pitching from within. Morales has been hailed as one of the team’s top arms for some time now, but his inability to harness his control last year knocked him down a peg. For his own sake, he needed to get to camp to show that he was making strides in the strike-throwing department and that he would be able to stick as a starter long term. With the possibility that the lockout could go on for some significant amount of time, losing that ability to get on a mound to show his development is something that might impact Morales negatively since he’s reaching the point where the team needs to make a decision on his ultimate role. Is he going to be a starter or is it time to make the conversion to relief pitching? This spring could have been the first step in making that decision final.
The team has plenty of other players whom the lockout is hurting, but these three might be affected the most. Hopefully, the lockout will end and they can begin getting toward their final endgame with the organization.