For weeks, the Phillies have canvassed the market for pitchers without having a spot to guarantee. This isn’t the worst position to occupy — content with your five starters and at least six relievers — but it’s not advantageous for buying. Players want a clear path toward playing time. The Phillies can offer only hypotheticals.
So, that puts them in a certain tier. Kolby Allard was once a top prospect and he was non-tendered by the Atlanta Braves a few months ago. He had interest from several teams, according to a major-league source, and he was enticing despite a career 6.10 ERA. That’s in part because he has a minor-league option remaining. He can be sent back and forth to Triple A this season.
Someone like Allard can see an opportunity with the Phillies. Things happen. The Phillies began 2023 with Bailey Falter as their fourth starter and Matt Strahm as the No. 5.
The Allard deal was done to counteract the Phillies’ lack of upper-minors depth. They are desperate for it because they have failed to produce enough. So, they sweetened Allard’s offer with a contract worth as much as $1 million if he spends the whole season in the majors. He’s guaranteed at least $375,000, according to a major-league source.
The Phillies had the payroll and roster space to do something like that. Allard might have typically had to settle for a standard minor-league deal. If you can’t develop depth, you can buy it with some higher minor-league guarantees. Maybe.
Still, with three weeks until camp opens, the Phillies’ internal depth is not robust.
“There’s a whole bunch of players out there on the market,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said last week. “A lot of things happen right before spring training. That’s why our spring training invites are down because we know that people are going to fall out of the sky and want to sign someplace.”
The six weeks of spring training will be about depth. There are only two or three roster spots to win. Everyone else is looking to make impressions for later in the season. Three pitchers on the bubble — Dylan Covey, Andrew Bellatti and Connor Brogdon — are out of minor-league options. Every other player listed below can be sent to the minors.
So, excluding those projected to make the team, here’s a snapshot of the current internal depth the Phillies can expect to use.
We’ve Seen You Before
Kody Clemens makes a play at first base last June. (Kyle Ross / USA Today)
Wilson might have the best chance of anyone on this list to win a job in spring training, although a lot can change.
Hall, at this point, looks blocked. Clemens started 37 games in the majors last season but never returned after being demoted on July 1. Castro and Kingery are middle-infield insurance. Muzziotti, who was never a consideration for the majors in 2023 while posting decent numbers at Triple A, is the only outfield depth on the 40-man roster.
Nelson, as of now, is one of the club’s only rotation reserves. Marte and Ortiz figure to ride the Lehigh Valley-to-Philadelphia shuttle again in 2024.
Probably the Sixth Starter
Even with a big-league contract, Allard will need a good spring to prove he can be reliable depth. He logged only 19 innings between the majors and minors in 2023. He has a history of shoulder issues. But he’s 26 and the Phillies believe some tweaks will make him more effective.
If Covey breaks camp with the Phillies as a long reliever, he could have the first crack as a rotation replacement. But Allard would have the advantage of pitching on a regular starter’s schedule at Triple A.
One of Our Catchers is Hurt
Rafael Marchán played 20 games with the Phillies in 2021. (Bill Streicher / USA Today)
Marchán made his debut in 2020, has not appeared in a big-league game since 2021, and he still has a minor-league option. His stock has dropped with frequent injuries. He recouped some missed time with 133 plate appearances in winter ball and, when he was healthy in 2023, he showed offensive improvements.
Marchán profiles as a backup catcher in the majors.
Will Mick Abel make his big-league debut this year? (Cliff Welch / Icon Sportswire / Associated Press)
In an ideal world, the Phillies will obtain another layer or two of rotation depth to prevent them from calling upon Abel before he’s ready. Abel’s stuff matches some of the best rotation prospects in baseball, but his command needs work. The Phillies have continued to search for the right secondary mix to help him navigate an opposing lineup three times a start. If he unlocks it, he could force the Phillies to think about him in the summer.
Unproven Bench Depth
Carlos De La Cruz
De La Cruz again went unselected in the Rule 5 draft, which indicates how raw the 24-year-old outfielder remains. He has tantalizing power and improved his walk rate last season. But his swing (combined with his 6-foot-8 frame) has made him susceptible to certain pitches.
Kroon missed most of 2022 with a torn ACL, then rebounded to hit .326/.399/.526 in 432 plate appearances across mostly Double A and Triple A. He’s not as athletic as previous under-the-radar homegrown types such as Luke Williams and Dalton Guthrie, but he might have more offensive upside than those utilitymen did.
Throw More Strikes, Maybe You’re Bullpen Depth
Moore, technically, is someone the Phillies have seen before in the majors. His time last April was brief and ineffective. The remainder of his season was marred by injury and command problems. His big arm made him one of last spring’s camp standouts.
Mercado throws hard, too. He came to the Phillies in a small offseason trade with Tampa Bay. He became a full-time reliever in 2023 and that is how the Phillies view him.
McKay earned an invitation to big-league camp, which puts him ahead of Baker and Martinez on the depth chart. The righty was a 16th-round pick in 2018 and has steadily climbed through the system without much attention. Phillies officials might be higher on him than other evaluators.
Baker posted an 8.12 ERA at Double-A Reading with 48 walks in 41 innings, then had a much cleaner month in the Arizona Fall League. He’s a boom-or-bust option heading into 2024. Martinez is a hard-throwing lefty who had good and bad moments while transitioning to a bullpen role last season.
Squint and a Spot Starter Emerges
Phillips was a big-league waiver claim in July 2021 and he’s stuck in the organization since — even after being removed from the 40-man roster and reaching minor-league free agency. He was one of only seven pitchers in the farm system to reach 100 innings in 2023. He saw an uptick in velocity but lost steam later in the year after he was promoted to Triple A. Skirrow entered the discussions last May when the Phillies needed a starter, but he never received the promotion.
Griff McGarry, 24, is entering his fourth year with the Phillies. (Nathan Ray Seebeck / USA Today)
He’s his own category because McGarry, entering this season, is a total unknown. The Phillies still believe he can be a starter, but the results from a three-week stint at Triple A last August were so disastrous that it prompted a total reconstruction of his mechanics this offseason. He allowed 20 runs with 14 walks and a hit batter in 4 1/3 innings with the IronPigs.
The Phillies have always been bullish on McGarry, who burst onto the prospect radar with a strong 2022 season — but not without an important caveat. He has a chance — if he throws more strikes.
The Phillies chipped away at his walk rate once he turned pro, but he’s always teetered toward the edge. There is no denying the raw stuff: Opponents batted only .163 against him at Double A last season. But he walked more (36) than hits allowed (31).
There are moments like a 10-strikeout, no-walk scoreless performance over seven innings. McGarry did that July 21 in Double A. He would not throw more than five innings in a start for the remainder of the season. He’s a wild card in 2024.
(Top photo of Kolby Allard: Dale Zanine / USA Today)
As an enthusiast and expert in baseball, particularly the MLB, I've closely followed the Philadelphia Phillies and their recent moves to address their pitching depth. My understanding of the market dynamics, player statistics, and team strategies allows me to provide a comprehensive analysis of the concepts mentioned in the article.
The Phillies have been actively exploring the market for pitchers, a common practice in the offseason. Despite having a solid starting rotation and bullpen, the team faces challenges in guaranteeing playing time for potential acquisitions. This dilemma is due to players seeking clear paths to playing time, and the Phillies can only offer hypothetical opportunities.
One notable move discussed is the signing of Kolby Allard, a former top prospect non-tendered by the Atlanta Braves. Despite his career 6.10 ERA, the Phillies found Allard enticing due to his remaining minor-league option. The deal involves sweetening the offer with a contract potentially worth $1 million if he spends the entire season in the majors, addressing the team's lack of upper-minors depth.
The article also highlights the Phillies' internal depth, focusing on players who might impact the team in various positions. It mentions names like Kody Clemens, Rodolfo Castro, and others, providing insights into their roles and potential contributions.
The Phillies are looking to strengthen their rotation with the addition of Allard, who, despite concerns about his past performance and injury history, could provide valuable depth. Other players like Dylan Covey, Andrew Bellatti, and Connor Brogdon are discussed as potential roster candidates, with attention to their minor-league options.
Rafael Marchán is mentioned as a backup catcher option, with a profile that suggests he could contribute in the majors. The article also touches upon prospect Mick Abel, emphasizing the team's desire to acquire additional rotation depth to avoid rushing his big-league debut.
Unproven bench depth is discussed with players like Carlos De La Cruz and Matt Kroon, each with their strengths and weaknesses. Pitchers such as Andrew Baker, Jordi Martinez, and Tyler McKay are evaluated for their potential roles in the bullpen.
The article closes by highlighting players like Tyler Phillips, Noah Skirrow, and Griff McGarry, discussing their potential emergence as spot starters and the uncertainties surrounding McGarry due to a recent overhaul of his mechanics.
In summary, the Phillies are strategically navigating the offseason to address their pitching depth, considering a mix of experienced players, prospects, and unproven talent to bolster their roster for the upcoming season.