PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies needed to protect as many prospects as possible from the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 8, and on Friday afternoon, they announced they added 11 of them to the 40-man roster.
The group includes right-handers Drew Anderson, Mark Appel, Ben Lively, Ricardo Pinto, Nick Pivetta and Alberto Tirado; left-hander Elniery Garcia; catcher Andrew Knapp; infielder Jesmuel Valentín; and outfielders Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams. Nine of those players rank among the organization's top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.com: Williams (No. 3), Cozens (No. 6), Appel (No. 10), Knapp (No. 11), Pinto (No. 15), Pivetta (No. 17), Garcia (No. 19), Lively (No. 23) and Tirado (No. 28).
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"I think with adding this many young players, and with the average age of the roster being as young as it is [25 years old], I think there's a reasonable expectation that many of these young players are going to spend time in the big leagues this year," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said in a conference call with reporters. "It might be on Opening Day. It might be in the first week of May. It could be midseason, it could be a September callup. Players are going to be on the roster at various points of the year and we're going to need to call them."
The Phillies have reached capacity on their 40-man roster. That is because they designated right-handers David Buchanan and Jimmy Cordero for assignment. The Marlins also claimed left-hander Elvis Araujo off outright waivers.
"We still have the ability and go out and make acquisitions to improve our 2017 club," Klentak said. "Obviously the complication now is with our roster at 40, each addition is going to require a corresponding reduction on the roster. It makes some of the future moves a little trickier. But we still feel like we have some areas on the Major League club that we can improve for next year, and we're committed to exploring those options."
Anderson, 22, went a combined 3-4 with a 2.70 ERA with Class A Lakewood and Clearwater. He struck out 78 in 70 innings. Valentin, 22, hit a combined .269 with 19 doubles, five triples, nine home runs, 52 RBIs, a .341 on-base percentage and a .736 OPS with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The Phillies acquired him in August 2014 from the Dodgers in the Roberto Hernandez trade. His father, Jose Valentin, played 16 years in the big leagues.
The Phillies had other notable players left unprotected. That group includes shortstop prospect Malquin Canelo and outfield prospects Carlos Tocci, Jose Pujols and Andrew Pullin. But the players might not be selected because of their inexperience and unlikelihood they could remain on a big league roster the entire season.
"Yeah, I do," said Klentak, asked if he expects to lose a player or two in the Rule 5 Draft. "I think that's an unfortunate byproduct of having a talented system. We know we can't protect everybody and we did our best to protect as many as we could. Eleven is a lot. But we're prepared for the possibility that we might. There's two ways to look at that. One, it's disappointing we might lose players and on the flip side, organizationally, it's an encouraging sign and it shows that our system is continuing to produce good players."
MLB requires teams to add players who signed at age 18 or younger to 40-man rosters within five professional seasons, or those who signed at 19 or older within four seasons, or they will become eligible for other organizations to draft. Clubs pay $50,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, slated for Dec. 8. If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $25,000.