Saturday, December 09, 2006

Belated Phillies Rule 5 Update

So the Winter Meetings are over and we've all had a couple of days to digest everything that has happened since the beginning of the week. Hidden under the hype created by the big Freddy Garcia deal was the not quite as important, but still relevant news that the Phillies adding three players at the annual Rule 5 draft. Much as been about Pat Gillick's reputation as a talent evaluator (and rightly so) and the impact of his skills in this aspect of his job come into play every year when it is time to pluck relatively unknown minor leaguers off of the rosters of your competition in the Rule 5 draft. Gillick's track record of success (Kelly Gruber, Manny Lee, and most famously, George Bell) is reason enough to be optimistic in feeling that at least one of the three names called by the Phillies last week at the Rule 5 will contribute, in some way or another, to the Philadelphia Phillies success in 2007...and hopefully beyond.

The sexiest names (i.e. guys with the most upside/guys that I would have seen become Phillies) that were selected were C Jesus Flores (Nationals) and former number one overall pick OF Josh Hamilton (Cubs, traded to Reds), but neither player was available by the time the Phillies picked...a trade involving either player could have been worked out, but obviously the Phillies decided it was best to go in a different direction. Fair enough, especially considering the talented arms they added to the roster by the end of the day. So without further ado, let's meet the newest members of the Phillies baseball family - RHP Alfredo Simon, RHP Jim Ed Warden, and C Ryan Budde.

Simon is the most recognizable name of the bunch as he does not actually need an introduction to the Phillies family, but a reintroduction - he pitched for Clearwater as recently 2004, the same year he was dealt to San Francisco in the Felix Rodriguez trade. Simon was once a highly thought of prospect in the Phillies chain and it was disappointing to see him tacked on in the aforementioned deal with the Giants, but the Phillies were very smart to pick him back up the first chance they got. Mike Arbuckle's comments are very encouraging:

"[Simon] has a power arm," said Mike Arbuckle, the team's assistant general manager for scouting and player development. "His numbers aren't good, but he's been throwing real well in winter ball, up to 98 [mph]. He's one of those high-ceiling, high-risk guys that, based on our reports from winter ball, maybe is starting to put things together. We thought it was worth taking a look."

More good news comes courtesy of the Dallas Morning News:

Baltimore selected Simon, who recently had been recalled from his winter league job in the Dominican Republic in an attempt to keep buzz about him to a minimum. Baltimore took the hard-throwing 25-year-old and dealt him to Philadelphia, where former Rangers scout Charlie Kerfeld is an assistant to GM Pat Gillick.

Simon's drop in velocity this past year was a huge concern of the Giants and a big part of the reason they dropped him from their 40-man roster at the beginning of the offseason. Texas picked him up, sent him to winter ball, and watched his velocity take off. When he got recalled many were worried that he had hurt himself, but it was merely a ploy by the Rangers to hide their investment. I know I get unnecessarily excited for bottom of the barrel relief guys (see my love of Chris Booker last year if you don't believe me), but I really think the Phillies may have found a keeper in Simon. Good relief help is everywhere, it just takes time, effort, and the desire to go out and find it.

For better or worse, Jim Ed Warden has been called more of a "gimmicky" reliever than a pitcher likely to make a serious impact in the bigs. The beauty of relief pitching, though, is that these two things are not mutually exclusive - you can be "gimmicky" and still a success in the majors so long as some team out there is smart enough to give you a chance (check Chad Bradford's chapter in Moneyball for a far better description of this). Bradford has had a pretty damn good career flying under the radar all these years (career 132 ERA+ guys don't grow on trees), so it would be foolish to predict that kind of success for Warden...but you never know. For the relatively small price of $50,000, it sure doesn't hurt to take a guy to camp and see if you can catch lightning in a bottle. At the very least, Warden's funky delivery will give fans desperate for baseball action yet another reason to watch spring training games this year.

John Manuel at Baseball America had this to say about Warden:

Relievers Levale Speigner (low 90s fastball, hard curve) and Jim Ed Warden (lowered arm slot, heavy, low-90s sinker) both could stick, Speigner with the Nationals and Warden with the Phillies, if they are at their best next spring.

Arbuckle on Warden:

He's an interesting guy," Arbuckle said. "He's a different-look guy, a 6-foot-7 sidearmer. He's got a real good sink on his fastball, throws up to 93 [mph] from the side. He's worth taking a look at, because he is deceptive because of his size and arm slot."

Relief pitchers that can potentially induce ground ball outs with low-90s sinkers have a tendency of finding jobs in the majors...we'll see what happens with Warden this spring.

Fearless prediction: Either Alfredo Simon or Jim Ed Warden will make the Phillies out of spring training and pitch significant innings for the big club by mid-season 2007. If I had to bet, I'd say Simon makes the team and Warden is stashed at Ottawa after some kind of arrangement is worked out between the Phillies and Cleveland.


Blogger GM-Carson said...

Jim Ed Warden has a good chance at making the staff because he is a funky right-hander along the lines of the much successful Chad Bradford. Taking a chance on this guy makes sense to me.

9:40 AM  
Blogger XXX said...

I'd be thrilled to see Jim Ed Warden get a shot to break camp with the team out of spring training. Finding guys that are younger, cheaper versions that represent the next Chad Bradford rather than pay big bucks for the actual Chad Bradford is the best way to build a bullpen due to the high fluctuation of reliever performance from season to season.

12:42 AM  

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