The Philadelphia Phillies added more depth to their infield options in a minor trade with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Coming to the Phils is 26-year old infielder Taylor Featherston, who filled a utility infielder role with the Halos during his rookie season in Major League Baseball a year ago.
During that 2015 campaign, Featherston appeared in 39 games at 3rd base, 33 games at 2nd base, and another 22 games at shortstop. He hit for just a .162/.212/.247 slash line over 169 plate appearances in 101 total games. He produced a pair of home runs, drove in nine runs, scored 23 times, and stole four bases in six attempts.
The Phillies didn’t pay anything to acquire his services – yet. The deal calls for the Phils to send a player to be named later, or cash considerations, to the Angels at some point.
Born in Houston, Texas, Featherston attended Katy High School in the Houston suburbs. He was the Colorado Rockies selection in the 5th round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of Texas Christian University.
In December of 2014, Featherston was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft. The Angels purchased him from the Cubs that same day. Over parts of five minor league seasons, Featherston produced a .274/.343/.453 slash line with 43 homers, 103 doubles, 254 runs scored, 212 RBI, and 49 steals in 1,542 plate appearances.
The Angels had designated Featherston for assignment in early February in order to make room for the signing of pitcher Christian Freidrich. In order to fit him on to their own 40-man roster, the Phillies designated pitcher Bobby LaFromboise, whose signing had been the impetus for the DFA and trade of former 1st round draft pick Jesse Biddle to the Pirates last week.
So in effect now, the Phillies gave up on Biddle in order to add Featherston and Yoervis Medina, the pitcher whom they obtained from Pittsburgh. This brings up a legitimate question: why the interest in Featherston?
Featherston is a defense-first infielder at this stage of his career. Just one year ago, Taylor Blake Ward wrote up Featherston for Scout.com, the full report on him can be read at that previous link. Here are a few excerpts:
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“Featherston has a quick stride and direct path to the ball in his swing, which allows him to put the ball from gap to gap. He also has quick hands which allows him to make contact even on bad judgement swings and foul them off with ease, as well as put balls down the lines and into the gaps with even more ease.”
“Featherston hits the gaps well, and may have one of the better line drive swings in the system, which added with his speed, has resulted in a multitude of doubles. Don’t be surprised to see Featherston tag double digit home runs in the future though, he’s got the swing and athletic frame for it.”
“Featherston has a great range and quick first step towards any ball in the infield. He has the ability to play second base, third base and shortstop with ease on any given day. His glove is all around good, and his arm is even better. He uses that plus athleticism to dig for balls in hard hit spots, and can retrieve nearly everything hit in his general direction and sometimes beyond it.”
The full squad of position players is due to report to Bright House Field in a week and a half. The infield heading into spring should include Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf splitting 1st base, Cesar Hernandez at 2nd, Freddy Garcia at short, and Maikel Franco at 3rd base. Both Darnell Sweeney and Andres Blanco will be around for depth, and of course Cody Asche can still play 3rd base.
Featherston has to be considered cheap competition for a backup infield spot, as well as insurance. He is in no way a big piece of the rebuilding program, so fans have nothing here to get excited about. However, since it appears that he cost little or nothing, other than the release of LaFromboise, it can’t hurt.
What the Phillies are doing here is a classic example of stirring up the bottom. Theirs was a 40-man roster that produced the worst record in Major League Baseball a year ago. If they can make their 40th player better at every chance they get, short of exposing prospects to that process before necessary, there is no reason not to do so.