Phillies Continue to Pare Spring Roster
The Philadelphia Phillies have been paring down the spring training roster as the club moves closer to Opening Day of the 2016 season.
On Friday morning the Phils shipped catching prospects Andrew Knapp and Jorge Alfaro out, with Knapp assigned to the minor league camp and Alfaro officially assigned to the AA Reading Fightin’ Phils roster.
Today it was announced that both 1st baseman Brock Stassi and infielder Taylor Featherston were sent out, Stassi to the minor league camp and Featherston assigned to the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs roster.
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With the organization’s two top catching prospects now looking to be slated to begin the season with Lehigh Valley (Knapp) and Reading (Alfaro), the battle for what is likely two jobs with the big league club is coming down to a trio of veterans in 27-year old Cameron Rupp, 37-year old Carlos Ruiz, and 30-year old J.P. Arencibia. Also remaining in camp are 22-year old Gabriel Lino and 25-year old Logan Moore.
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Stassi will open the year as the starting 1st baseman in a loaded Lehigh Valley lineup. The 26-year old lefty was the Phils 33rd round pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. He hit for a .300/.394/.470 slash line with 15 homers, 90 RBI, and 76 runs scored at AA Reading in 2015, and has 1,786 minor league plate appearances. He will be doing his finishing work in preparation for what will likely be his Major League debut later this summer.
Featherston came to the Phillies in a trade from the Los Angeles Angels just before the opening of spring training last month. He made his big league debut with the Halos last season, hitting for an ultra-light .162/.212/.247 slash line over his first 169 plate appearances in Major League Baseball.
The 26-year old Featherston also displayed defensive versatility, appearing in 39 games at 3rd base, 33 at 2nd base, and 22 at shortstop, which attracted the Phillies. He will simply provide organizational depth.
Knapp and Alfaro are each legitimate prospects. Knapp broke through a year ago, winning the organization’s Paul Owens Award among the Phillies’ offensive position prospects after posting a .308/.385/.491 season with 13 homers and 84 RBI in a 2015 campaign split between High-A Clearwater and with AA Reading.
With 1,173 plate appearances in the minor leagues under his belt, and another 100 in the Arizona Fall League, the 24-year old Knapp is probably a half-season away from being Major League-ready. With Ruiz aging out in his final Phillies season, only the mediocre Rupp stands in the way of his becoming the Phillies starting catcher by the end of the year, next spring at the latest.
Alfaro is even more talented a hitter than Knapp, and possesses a cannon for an arm behind the plate. At just 22-years of age, Alfaro has still amassed 1,866 minor league plate appearances, as well as another 190 between the Arizona Fall League and Venezuelan Winter League.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s rookie league or double A. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the big leagues. It doesn’t matter where I play. I just want to be the best,” Alfaro said per Philly.com’s Matt Breen. “I just want to give 100 percent all of the time. I always want to help my teammates. I never think how close I am. I never worry about that. They make the decisions. I’ll just play hard wherever I go.”
One of the top hitting prospects in the entire organization, we ranked Alfaro as the Phillies #6 prospect last month. The real question with his development will be, does the club continue to move him along as a catcher, or do they switch his big bat and powerful arm to right field at some point? And if so, when does that process begin?