1/13/23 : Spring Competition - Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs
Updated: Jan 18
Continuing with the theme of anticipation for the 2023 season ( see https://www.philliesbaseballfan.com/post/12-26-22-2023-pre-season-is-near ) I’ve embarked on a five part series of articles looking forward to some spring competitions we might expect to see in the next couple of months for roster placements on opening day.
I began with the major league club https://www.philliesbaseballfan.com/post/1-9-22-spring-competition and now follow up with articles on Lehigh Valley, Reading, Jersey Shore and Clearwater. This series won’t be detailed profiles of players - we’ve done that for the minor leaguers already ( see https://www.philliesbaseballfan.com/post/12-20-22-who-will-reach-the-major-leagues-2023 ) but rather a limited discussion on what each roster may look like. There are maybe still player signings to be announced so at this point we may not yet know all the names competing for the jobs but we will do our best with what we know at present.
So here goes - the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs - there are 28 active roster spots allowed for the AAA level however teams generally carry a few more than that - they are just inactive on game days.
AAA - Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs :
Pitchers : with 28 roster spots usually 15 or 16 pitchers are rostered with a few more kept in reserve
There are 21 pitchers currently on the Phillies 40 man roster with 13 of them slotted for the big league opening day roster - the remaining eight will likely be part of the Iron Pigs staff and on the “shuttle” ride between LHV and Philadelphia as needed by the big club.
Among those likely headed to Allentown to start the year is starting pitcher James McArthur ( RH ) who spent the majority of last season on the IL with elbow issues - the big fella ( 6’7” ) I believe is healthy now and ready to go. Another starter on the 40 man roster who likely begins the year in LHV is left-hander Michael Plassmeyer who was a standout performer for the Iron Pigs in 2022. If Christopher Sanchez ( LH ), Bailey Falter ( LH ) or Nick Nelson ( RH ) don’t make the opening day big league roster it’s probable they begin 2023 as part of the rotation with LHV although Sanchez may be converted to a reliever this season.
Highly touted RHP Griff McGarry finished the ‘22 season with the Iron Pigs as a reliever but will return to the starting rotation in 2023 - he will be a non-roster invitee to big league spring training but odds are he starts the regular season with LHV. Young right handers Andrew Painter & Mick Abel will also be in big league spring training camp and while it’s possible they could make the major league opening day roster or be assigned to LHV from my perspective it’s more beneficial that both return to AA Reading to begin 2023 - will see. Jon Duplantier ( RH ) was signed as a minor league free agent and will be in big league camp as a non-roster invitee - he’s pitched both out of the pen and as a starter - finished 2022 with 10 starts for AAA Oklahoma City ( Dodgers system ) and at the least likely serves as a swing man/bulk reliever for the Iron Pigs.
Others in the competitive mix for a LHV starting rotation slot include minor league returnees Noah Skirrow, Ethan Lindow, Hans Crouse, Colton Eastman & Josh Hendrickson - Lindow and Hendrickson pitched at Reading in 2022 while each of the other three saw time with the Iron Pigs - Crouse spent most of the ‘22 season on the IL - could convert to a reliever.
RHP Sam Coonrad, RHP Yunior Marte, RHP Luis Ortiz, RHP Erich Uelmen & LHP Andrew Vasquez are all on the 40 man roster and will be in big league camp vying for a job - if they don’t break camp with the Phillies it’s likely each will be a member of the Iron Pigs - Coonrad, Marte and Ortiz are all capable of upper nineties heat, Uelmen is a sinker baller and Vasquez features a put away curve ball.
RHP Trey Cobb was selected from the Mets organization in the minor league portion of the rule 5 draft, he’s a sidewinder who gets big time spin rates on his deliveries. RHP Jake Jewell ( will likely be a non roster invitee to big league spring training ) was signed to a minor league free agent contract from the Twins organization and has major league experience with the Angels and Cubs - features a 91-95 mph fastball ( sinker ), a splitter as his changeup, slider and curveball (with the slider being the more advanced pitch) and a cut-fastball. RHP Louis Head is a veteran hurler who was signed to a minor league contract from the Orioles - he’s spent big league time with the Rays, Marlins and Orioles and will be a spring training non roster invitee who may open the year with LHV if he doesn’t opt out of his contract. RHP Jace Vines was signed from the Royals however he likely starts the season on the IL rehabbing. RH Zach Lingenfelter was taken in the minor league rule 5 draft from the Angels and will compete for a roster spot at either Lehigh Valley or Reading - he pitched at the AA level last season.
Phillies returning minor leaguers who will have shots to earn a LHV opening day bullpen role in spring training include RH Mike Adams, RH Andrew Baker, RH Albertus Barber, LH Jakob Hernandez, LH Taylor Lehman, RH Adam Leverett, LH Brian Marconi, RH McKinley Moore, RH Francisco Morales, RH Jack Perkins, RH Andrew Schultz, RH Brett Schulze, RH Matt Seelinger, RH Billy Sullivan, LH Zach Warren & RH Braden Zarbnisky. You can see their profiles and projections in the profile link shown above.
Position Players :
Rafael Marchan will likely be the primary receiver for the Iron Pigs - he’s had a solid winter ball season in Venezuela - got off to a late start last season due to a shoulder injury incurred in winter ball but is ready to go this year. John Hicks is a veteran who has major league experience with Seattle, Detroit and Texas - spent last season at AAA Iowa in the Cubs system and popped 20 dingers - he was signed to a minor league contract by the Phillies on 11/16/22. Max McDowell signed as a minor league free agent in December - he comes over from the Yankees with whom he played at AAA Scranton Wilkes Barre last season. Cody Roberts was taken from the Orioles organization in the minor league portion of the rule 5 draft - he’s seen limited time at the AAA level with the Orioles - primarily has played at the AA level. Jack Conley & Vito Friscia finished the 2022 season with the Iron Pigs after playing most of the year with Reading - they will both compete for a role - Friscia can also play first base and could see time there.
I believe that Darick Hall will make the Phillies opening day roster but if he doesn’t then a return to Allentown as the regular first baseman would likely take place. Jim Haley was signed as a minor league free agent - He played the 2022 season with the AAA level Durham Bulls in the Tampa Rays organization hitting 18 home runs and driving in 47 runs in 116 games. Haley played primarily first base but also can handle third base - he’s seen as a corner infielder and is from Upper Darby, PA - was the Rays 19th round draft selection in the 2016 draft from Penn State University. Weston Wilson was signed as a minor league free agent from the Brewers organization - he’s seen most of his action at third base, first base and left field - hit 21 doubles and 11 home runs for AAA level Nashville in 2022 in 118 games. Nick Podkul was signed as a minor league free agent from the Blue Jays organization where he appeared at both corner infield spots for AAA Buffalo last season. Will Toffey returns for a second year with the Iron Pigs - he played in 97 games last season, mostly at third base.
Scott Kingery finished the 2022 season strong posting a .372 OBP in September ( 82 AB’s ) with 5 doubles, 3 triples and a home run - he will get a look in big league spring training for a reserve role but if that doesn’t work out a return to the Iron Pigs middle infield where he played in 87 games last season is likely. Vimael Machin was signed to a minor league free agent contract coming over from the A’s organization - he also will get a look in big league camp for an infield reserve role, if that doesn’t result in a big league job he’s got AAA level experience - posted solid numbers appearing in 64 games for Las Vegas in 2022 hitting .324 with a .400 OBP in 292 plate appearances with 16 doubles, 3 triples and 4 home runs. He only struck out 30 times and walked in 33 plate appearances in the minors last season. He’s a career .277/.368/.399 minor league hitter in 2,457 plate appearances. Kody Clemens was acquired from the Tigers and is on the 40 man roster - he will also compete for a reserve infield role in big league camp. Clemens plays primarily second base and hit 12 doubles, 6 triples and 13 home runs posting a .327 OBP in 264 PA’s with AAA Toledo last season. Cameron Cannon & Oliver Dunn were selected in the minor league rule 5 draft from the Red Sox and Yankees respectively - both spent most of their time in 2022 at the AA level but could open this season a level higher. Wendell Rijo was re-signed as a minor league free agent - he posted a .353 OBP in 395 PA’s for Reading last year with 23 doubles, 12 home runs and 53 RBIs. The always dependable Sal Gozzo has seen reserve action with both Reading and Lehigh Valley the past couple of years. Podkul, Wilson and Toffey all can play middle infield as well.
Simon Muzziotti & Jhailyn Ortiz are both on the 40 man roster and will be in big league spring camp - Muzziotti missed most of last season with leg issues but is now healthy and is slated to be the everyday center fielder for Lehigh Valley. Ortiz should bump up from Reading where he hit 25 doubles and 17 home runs in 448 AB’s last season and see regular playing time with the Iron Pigs. Jake Cave was claimed off waivers from the Orioles and will be given a chance to earn a major league spot in spring training else he will likely man one of the corner outfield spots with LHV - he played in 85 games ( 322 AB’s ) with AAA level St Paul last season in the Twins organization posting a .370 OBP with 20 doubles, 7 triples and 14 home runs.
Madison Stokes seems slated to play the super utility role that Dalton Guthrie excelled in last season with outfield time being primary. Garrett Whitley was signed as a minor league free agent from the Brewers organization and should see time in multiple outfield spots this coming year - he’s a premium defender. Matt Kroon is rehabbing from knee surgery but when he’s ready a spot in the Iron Pigs outfield could happen. Carlos De La Cruz finished the 2022 season strong with Reading and in the Arizona Fall League and a jump to LHV out of spring training could happen but more time at the AA level to begin the year might be beneficial.
Next article we will take a stab at Reading’s opening day roster.
Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️
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Photo by Cheryl Pursell