Phillies Spring Training: A Closer Look At The Non-Roster Invitees For 2024

Phillies Spring Training: A Closer Look At The Non-Roster Invitees For 2024

About two weeks ago, the Phillies officially announced their non-roster invitees.

For 2024, the team chose to invite 15 players to join them in Clearwater come February.

Notably missing from this list for many fans will be the team’s top prospect Andrew Painter. Painter was in Spring Training last season, but was shut down after an injury suffered in March and ultimately had Tommy John surgery in July, so he’s not expected to pitch again until 2025 (though it wouldn’t be too shocking if he was around Spring Training just getting to know other players, getting input from coaches, etc.).

Some fans who may keep closer tabs on the prospects may also notice the absence of Andrew Baker. Although Baker was discussed by many as a potential bullpen option in 2023, he struggled mightily in AA last season and did not get close to breaking the bubble for the AAA team at any point. Despite that, there is still some reason for optimism as he still has the gas and did well in the Arizona Fall League, it just may take him longer than some expected to be major league ready.

Mick Abel (RHP)

Abel will be returning to Spring Training for the second season after spending some time with the team last year and will now be the top prospect the Phillies have in camp.

Abel did not have the season that fans were hoping to see in 2023, unfortunately. He clearly has the pitches and was able to fool batters while spending the season at AA Reading. Overall, he posted a 4.13 ERA and recorded 132 strikeouts in just 113.1 innings pitched, which are solid numbers. The fans and the team can see he has dominant stuff, however, and are hoping the young man (only 22) can take that leap to improve those numbers.

The primary problem for Abel in 2023 was control. At times, it would just vanish completely – there could be and were games where he had a shutout through three innings and then suddenly came back out unable to throw a strike. It’s what lead to his averaging less than five innings a start – the lost control would lead to wasted pitches and he’d reach his pitch count sooner than they probably would have liked to see. Opposing batters only hit .192 against him (and were worse when he had control), but his WHIP was 1.26 because of the 65 walks he allowed. In just seven of his 23 starts did he allow free passes to two or fewer players.

It’s an area the team will be looking for improvement on, but there is some progress that was shown over the course of his starts in 2023. At the start of the year, he’d have to leave games from the command issues; for example, his first start of the year he only threw 0.2 innings with both outs coming by strikeout, but a hit allowed along with four walks before he got pulled. By the end of the season, the team was willing to stick with him and allow him to find his control again. It still shortened his games, but it showed an ability to work through the struggles. The hope is that this progress continues in 2024.

Abel is basically one step away from cracking the major league roster, he just needs to prove he can maintain control of his pitches consistently.

Ryan Burr (RHP)

Signed to the team on December 12, Burr is one of the most intriguing “under-the-radar” signings that the Phillies made in December.

From that previous article: “The most recent minor league signing, Burr would seem like a player likely to be around in Spring Training. He has an incredibly strong set of minor league numbers (like 2.31 ERA over parts of seven seasons), but he’s also spent parts of four seasons with the White Sox major league team (most recently in 2022). He’s not a player that’s a shoe-in for a roster spot (hence the minor league deal), but he should provide some very good play to the AAA IronPigs and be a top option in the case of an injury should he not find himself on the major league roster come the end of Spring Training.”

Carlos De La Cruz (OF)

De La Cruz is a bit of a fan favorite. The man may only weight 210 pounds, but he is a giant standing at 6′ 8″. If he makes the major leagues, he’d be the tallest position player in the game with only a few pitchers standing an inch or two taller than him. The New York native was actually signed as a free agent by the organization in 2017 – he was not drafted.

De La Cruz was one of our minor league standouts halfway through the season last year. He walked, he hit home runs, he slashed an incredible .290/.363/.495 and had a 38-game on base streak in the first half. Unfortunately, he was not able to maintain that and he just seemed slower and struggled to hit down the stretch. He wasn’t awful, but with the above numbers a bit over halfway through the season, he dropped to .259/.344/.454 by the end of the year. He had 15 homers in the first half and only nine in the second half. Of course, he did lose the players who were hitting well around him in Matt Kroon (listed below) and Johan Rojas, who was called up to the majors and never sent back down. He’d probably have made it to AAA had that hitting from the first half continued.

Though he’s listed as an outfielder, De La Cruz split time between the corners in the outfield and first. He originally started playing first in Spring Training as the Phillies lost both Hoskins and Derick Hall at the position leaving only Kody Clemens. Of course, Harper returned and began playing there when he couldn’t throw and it seems to be where he’ll stick now, so the 1B training isn’t as critical anymore.

It may be a make or break year for the fan favorite in the Phillies organization. De La Cruz is rule 5 eligible, so the Phillies will have to look into adding him to their 40-man at some point this season or look into trading him if they don’t want to risk losing him for nothing should he produce a season like he did in the first half of last year. If they don’t see a spot for him this year and he’s producing, there’s probably not a more likely time in his career for a potential trade to occur.

Aramis Garcia (C)

This figures to be Garcia’s second season in the Phillies organization. Signed as a free agent in February of last year, Garcia joined from his last stop with the Orioles organization. He’s also spent time with the Reds, Athletics, Texans and Giants.

Garcia is the definition of a journeyman catcher. He’s been catching in the minors since 2014 and provides that veteran catching leadership that teams like the Phillies like to have in their systems to help them develop pitchers on their paths through the upper levels of the minors. His last two seasons have not been strong offensively (though his power numbers last year were solid), but he does have a decent track record of being able to make contact with pitches and keep things moving at an average to above average place in his seasons before that.

Garcia is unlikely to see any shot at a roster spot unless something happens with Rafael Marchan, but he’ll be a strong backup or split-time option for the IronPigs again. With 116 games of major league experience under his belt, he will still be a decent depth option if called upon. That could also make him a reasonable trade option for the Phillies in a deal like they made when they traded veteran C Austin Wynns from the IronPigs in 2022. It wouldn’t net a return that’s likely to get a ton of press, but it could be a good deal. For Wynns, the Phillies received Michael Plassmeyer, who undoubtedly provided more to the organization that Wynns would have over the past two seasons and even saw a few stops in Philadelphia.

Scott Kingery (IF)

He’s back again. Yes, the former second-round pick is still with the organization. The Phillies obviously got out of his atrocious contract as soon as they could and now he’s on his final year of minor league control.

He’ll provide some depth at AAA, but really he hasn’t even hit above .250 in the minors since 2017. He basically provides a boom or bust production with solid defense. Last year he operated as one of the three players at the bottom of the order for the IronPigs by the end of the year. Kingery had good relationships with some of the guys from his time with the team but that’s so long ago now the team is almost entirely different people. He must be a reasonable clubhouse presence for the minor league guys if the Phillies are inviting him back to major league camp – or maybe it’s just intended to be a classy gesture.

There’s not much else to say here. The best possible outcome is that Kingery catches fire during the Spring so much so that some team is willing to swoop in and offer the Phillies something to acquire him. It’d get him the fresh start he could probably use and would recoup some value for the Phillies and perhaps open up a roster spot for someone (like some of the others on this list) to join the lineup in AAA daily to get regular at bats.

Matt Kroon (OF)

Kroon is probably not known by a large portion of Phillies fans, but those that follow the upper levels of the minor league system may be aware of him. An 18th-round pick in 2018, Kroon had a breakout season in 2021 and made it all the way to AA Reading, where his dominant hitting continued.

He figured to be a quick riser in 2022, but he appeared in just two games and suffered a torn ACL in the first inning of his second game during a steal attempt. With that, he essentially lost an entire season. He returned to the lineup in Reading and was a hot hitter, lighting up the Eastern league along with Johan Rojas and Carlos De La Cruz at the top of the order. His dominance in AA lead to a promotion to AAA Lehigh Valley in early August. He played in just two games there before suffering an injury, but returned at the start of September to close out the game as a pretty regular player in the lineup for the IronPigs.

Despite coming off an injury and a promotion, Kroon’s batting stats actually increased in AAA. Overall, he slashed an incredibly strong .326/.399/.526. As with many minor leaguers, he was used at several different positions throughout the season – although he’s officially listed on the graphic as an outfielder, he played in the infield, too. If he can reproduce that production at camp and at the start of the season (should he not crack the 40-man roster), he may be the Phillies strongest internal candidate to serve as a bench bat outside those who spent time in that role with the team in 2023.

His father, Marc Kroon, did pitch in the majors.

Griff McGarry (RHP)

McGarry is also returning to Spring Training for his second season after spending last year with the big league club. One of the team’s top prospects who may profile more as a reliever, McGarry was a starter in the minors for the 2023 campaign.

Originally billed as a pitcher with two strong pitches but who frequently loses control, that’s still what the Phillies were seeing last year. McGarry was perhaps the most effective starter in AA (3.13 ERA, .163 BAA). He recorded 74 strikeouts in only 54.2 innings, but also walked 36. He really got into a groove in the summer with a really low 2.57 ERA through all of June, July and his lone AA start in Reading. With 60 of his strikeouts coming in that time and his being named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Month for July, he was promoted to AAA Lehigh Valley.

Things did not go well following the promotion as McGarry made just three starts for the AAA team. He threw only 4.1 innings, but allowed 20 earned runs with 14 walks compared to only five strikeouts (41.54 ERA). After those starts, McGarry was moved to the developmental list to work on his control and did not pitch again during the season. McGarry is probably the closest big name prospect to the majors, but Spring Training will be for the team to decide what version of the player they’re getting and if he was able to address the command issues at all – will the team see the one that was dominant and posted an ERA at 2.5 or the one who had no control and struggled to get through each inning?

Tyler McKay (RHP)

McKay, a Missouri native, has different rooting interests than many Phillies fans and could often be spotted sporting a Kansas City Chiefs jersey in AA Reading when a game wasn’t taking place.

McKay is the last player on the list who’s spent their entire career with the organization. A 16th round pick in 2018, McKay really came out of nowhere with his 2023 season. Over his previous three full seasons in the minors, McKay posted a 4.99 ERA and really struggled when the team would promote him to the next level. Starting off in AA Reading, McKay became one of the only reliable relievers for the Phillies in AA to start off the season. He earned his first promotion to AAA and did not see the same struggles he previously had.

In 2023, he posted a 2.60 ERA across 55.1 innings. At the highest level of the minors, he also posted a career low batting average against (.200),  tied a career low in homers allowed (3, tying a season he pitched 8 fewer innings in) and posted a 56:29 strikeout to walk ratio. He was a player that was relied on fairly regularly in both AA and AAA. With his stuff playing almost as well in AAA as it did in AA, McKay could have an outside shot at a roster spot in the bullpen, though a more likely path would be to see him start the season in AAA to see if he can improve his play there and work his way into a call-up when the team inevitably needs a pitcher.

Tyler Phillips (RHP)

Phillips is an odd story for the Phillies. He was kind of a ghost name for a long time on the Phillies minor league rosters. That story goes back to July 2021, when the Rangers DFA’d him and the Phillies claimed him. He then spent almost a month on the Developmental list and appeared in two games during a single Reading Phillies homestand at the end of that year. He made two away starts but wound up in the IL to end that season.

He was DFA’d and released by the Phillies that offseason, but re-signed to a minor league deal again a few weeks later. Despite being under contract with the team, he was unable to pitch in 2022 and was just a name that appeared on the roster for the IronPigs (much like Mark Appel’s did for several years). He did return to play 2023 and was a very solid option for the Phillies.

Starting in AA Reading, he pitched every fifth game for most of the season and was ultimately promoted to AAA Lehigh Valley for the last third of the campaign. Though he wasn’t dominant, he did throw quite a few innings (averaging about five innings per start) and was a solid starter with a 4.92 ERA and a strikeout to walk ratio of 110:52. He figures to be good depth for the team once again and, since his family is at pretty much every game, I’m sure the Phillies will make that a blast for his wife and youngster. 

Nick Podkul (IF)

Podkul sort of just appeared in AA Reading last season. It’s sort of a true statement given he was signed from the Blue Jays as a minor league free agent, so there was little to no coverage of the move and he was not a non-roster invitee last year, so he spent time in minor league camp before reporting to Reading. Although he started off with a few stints on the Developmental List that left him not playing games for about a week at a time, he rocketed through the system in 2023.

Podkul showed some positional versatility and was a strong hitter for the Phillies at a time when other major prospects like Johan Rojas and Carlos De La Cruz were also shining with the bat despite slow starts. He slashed .285/.396/.588 and was moved to the AAA IronPigs in July. His stats all seemed to transfer, but he only got two weeks with the club before an injury landed him on the 7-day IL and eventually the 60-day IL. Spring Training would be his first game action since late last July, but if he can play like he did last season, the Phillies may consider him as a bench option for the club at some point during the season.

Cody Roberts (C)

Although not an officially announced member of the NRI list last year on the Phillies graphic, Roberts was with the organization for all of last season. He was claimed off minor league waivers from the Orioles in December 2022 and did receive an invite on the same day that the Phillies announced their other invitees – he just didn’t get the fancy announcement. In Reading last year, he started off playing about once every three days until injuries at the position saw him start about every other game later in the season, something that didn’t really change much when the injuries at the position subsided.

Roberts is entering his sixth season of professional ball but only has two very short stints at the ends of two seasons at the AAA level. He is certainly coming off his worst season in the minors in 2023. He spent the entire year with Reading and posted the worst slash line of his career – .214/.277/.349. That said, the team clearly values how he calls games and he showed some good defense. In over 465 innings of work, he had just eight errors (four passed balls).

He also saw 53 runners attempt to steal on him and threw out 39.6% of them. For reference, JT Realmuto’s incredible thrown out percentage is around 36%. The Phillies would certainly like to see him rebound and get more in line with his career numbers in that regard, but his game calling and defense should allow him to stick for quite some time in a system that lacks high-end catching prospects that would otherwise take the playing time.

Jose Ruiz (RHP)

Originally signed on November 28, Ruiz probably figures to be in line for some hardware this season after spending some time with the Diamondbacks last year.

From the article on his signing, “Phillies fans may remember from the NLCS the constant mention of how the Arizona Diamondbacks changed essentially their entire bullpen staff in the back half of the season. Well Ruiz was one of those players who was replaced. He was acquired from the White Sox for cash and wound up with Arizona from April 11 until July 25. During that time, he threw 40.2 innings in 34 games (one start) and recorded a 4.43. He had a strikeout to walk ratio of 36:17 but allowed an opponent batting average of .277 and a WHIP of 1.50. In 23 of those 34 appearances, however, he allowed no runs. Of the remaining games, there were six occasions he allowed more than one run and four of those included home runs.”

William Simoneit (C)

Simoneit is a newcomer to the Phillies as the team selected him in this year’s minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. He was with Oakland. He was originally signed by the Oakland Athletics as an undrafted free agent in 2020.

Starting in High-A, Simoneit was moved to AA and then AAA in 2022, proving a strong ability to hit at each level and appearing in a fairly high (for a catcher) 174 games over his first two seasons. For reference 2019 is the only season that Phillies prospect Rafael Marchan appeared in over 70 games in a single season.

Back in AA in 2023, his batting average and walks dropped a fair amount, but most of his other batting stats stayed close to on par with the previous two seasons. The Phillies are also probably high on how he calls games for pitchers if he’s the only one of the several Rule 5 catchers they selected on the NRI list. He probably doesn’t have much of a shot at the 40-man roster, but the Phillies organizational depth at catcher is really Rafael Marchan and then a fairly large void until you reach the next major prospect in Eduardo Tait (a 17-year old in Dominican League). There are plenty of at-bats and spots throughout the minor league system up for grabs.

Nick Snyder (RHP)

Originally signed on December 4, Snyder showed some promise earlier in his career but has been bitten by the injury bug in recent years.

From the article on his signing: “Snyder is a bit of a flyer for the Phillies. He appeared in six games for the Rangers in 2021 and 2022, but wound up back in the minors. He had a single poor outing in his short AAA stint in 2021 but ultimately his season with the Rangers that season was ended due to an injury to his throwing shoulder. He was signed by the Rangers to a minor league deal for the 2023 season, but did not play due to injury.”

Cal Stevenson (OF)

Stevenson was with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs by the end of last season.

Although a fringe major league player with 29 games and an absolutely nice 69 at bats at the Major League level over the last two seasons, Stevenson hasn’t really shown much in his limited opportunities in the big leagues. He wound up DFA’d by the Giants and the Phillies claimed him off waivers with an open 40-man roster spot they had available. Five days later, he was DFA’d by the Phillies so they could utilize that spot (Alec Bohm was placed on the injured list and Drew Ellis was added to the 40-man roster).

Ultimately, the play worked for the Phillies and no one claimed Stevenson, who spent the back half of 2023 with their AAA team. He became a reliable option for one of the top teams in the International league as he appeared in 56 games. Though he doesn’t have much power at all, he hits for a fairly high average and has an incredible eye at the plate, slashing .271/.437/.472 for the squad. In fact, he had 46 walks – more than the 45 strikeouts he had with the team, which isn’t a stat you’ll see much anywhere in any level of baseball now.

Stevenson should provide the Phillies with valuable veteran depth for the IronPigs and could prove to be someone that the Phillies look to in the event of an injury that requires a short-term replacement. If (and it’s a big if) he’s got any ability to teach his eye to others that has helped with his walking instead of striking out and swinging at pitches he can hit, that insight could be incredibly valuable to a player like Johan Rojas that has so many physical tools but struggles in that regard; it’d be a skill worth keeping around the organization.


Go to top button