The 2011 Philadelphia Phillies received promising performances from several players that weren’t even expected to play in the major leagues that season. Vance Worley came out of nowhere to win 11 games and contend for the NL Rookie of the Year award. Michael Stutes played an integral role in the bullpen and both Joe Savery and Michael Schwimer showed potential as late-season call-ups.
5. Erik Kratz: The Philadelphia Phillies went with Brian Schneider as their backup catcher for 2012, inking the 35-year old to a one-year, $800,000 contract. Schneider has shown nothing with the bat lately though, hitting just .176/.246/.256 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 139 plate appearances in 2011. He is 2-for-12 with three strikeouts this season, and a .397 OPS won’t be enough to offset his good handling of the pitching staff. I expect Schneider to be designated for assignment before the trade deadline, and I think the Phillies will promote Erik Kratz from Triple-A to handle the regular backup catching duties. Kratz could be the next Chris Coste, as he has a lot of raw power and is a good hitter (.288/.372/.466 with 15 home runs and 53 RBIs in 409 plate appearances in 2011). He has struggled in limited major league at-bats, but it is a small enough sample size that it is worth giving him another shot. And he really couldn’t do much worse than Schneider.
4. Michael Schwimer: Relief pitching seems to be the fastest way to get to the major leagues, as nearly half of all relievers in any given season will see the DL. Michael Schwimer is one of the first in line to get called up, as he enjoyed a stellar season in Triple-A in 2011. He was 9-1 with a 1.85 ERA in 68 innings, striking out a whopping 11.4 batters per nine innings. Schwimer is off to another great start in Triple-A in 2012 with a 1.17 ERA in 7.2 innings. He has experience as the closer at the minor league level, and Schwimer will assuredly see action with the big league club in 2012. He struggled in limited innings last season, posting a 5.02 ERA in 14.1 innings, but he should be a key piece of the bullpen in the near future.
3. Justin De Fratus: Justin De Fratus has future closer written all over him, although he won’t be able to get a chance until Jonathan Papelbon’s contract with the team expires. De Fratus hasn’t pitched in Triple-A yet in 2012 because of a right elbow sprain, but when he does return, he will be near the top of the line for relievers that will be called up in terms of an injury. De Fratus has a 3.18 career minor league ERA and he has averaged a strikeout per inning. Last year, he struck out 56 hitters in 41 innings in Triple-A, and throws in the mid-90s with a good slider.
2. Phillippe Aumont: Phillippe Aumont is 6’7” and over 250 pounds, and he’s been rated by Baseball America as a top 100 prospect three separate seasons. Aumont was acquired in the Cliff Lee trade, and he is a good project – he throws upwards of 97 miles per hour with a good slider, and he has recently been developing a splitter. Aumont struck out an incredible 14.1 batters per nine innings in 21 frames in 2011 and posted a solid 3.18 ERA. His walks are high but he’s a typical power pitcher, and if he can strike major league hitters out, he will see action.
1. Domonic Brown: GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. has said he will keep Domonic Brown in Triple-A for all of the 2012 season so as not to rush the up-and-coming player, but I think Brown will definitely see action this year. The Philadelphia Phillies need to see what they have in Brown, and while playing him regularly in left field at the Triple-A level will be good for him, the major league offense may be bad enough that the team will call him up in June or July. Brown needs to learn to hit lefties or he won’t make it at the major league level but I expect a .250 batting average and 10-15 home runs from Brown in maybe 250 plate appearances.