With the season over for the Phillies minor league affiliates, now begins the time of uncertainty. Many of the players on the IronPigs roster have no idea where they’ll be playing next season because they play on one-year contracts. Of the players under the control of the Phillies, there’s always the question of what minor league level they’ll open the season at in 2020. Of course, players being released or traded is always a possibility, too.
So, just what might the IronPigs roster look like on Opening Day of the 2020 season? Nearly impossible to tell, but let’s take a shot at some crystal ball ideas for the 13th season of IronPigs baseball.
Don’t be surprised if manager Gary Jones is not back for a third season with Lehigh Valley. Bench coach Greg Legg, who has minor league managerial experience and is well respected in the organization, could step into the role. Expect Legg to be with the organization in some capacity and that pitching coach Steve Schrenk will also have a job in the Phillies organization next season. If heads roll in Philadelphia, Schrenk could wind up as the major league pitching coach.
The two names everyone wants to know about are third baseman Alec Bohm and pitcher Spencer Howard, both of whom finished the year with Double-A Reading. Unless they make the major league roster out of spring training, which isn’t out of the question, it’s likely that both start the season with Lehigh Valley. Reading outfielders Mickey Moniak and Cornelius Randolph are also likely to move to the Lehigh Valley, along with another outfielder in Josh Stephen. First baseman Darick Hall is also on track to play for Lehigh Valley next season.
In addition to Howard, starters David Parkinson, Adonis Medina and Connor Seabold all have a shot at being IronPigs next April. Among relievers, count in Addison Russ (22 saves), Jakob Hernandez and Aaron Brown. Garrett Cleavinger is also a possibility.
Among IronPigs from this season, don’t expect to see Mitch Walding, Nick Williams or Maikel Franco back with Lehigh Valley. It’s likely that they will all be playing for another organization next season. Ali Castillo, Rob Brantly, Matt McBride, Andrew Romine and Shane Robinson will all be minor league free agents and it’s anybody’s guess whether any or all of them will return. Deivy Grullon will hope to be backing up J.T. Realmuto in Philadelphia, but he could also be a trade piece for the Phillies during the offseason. Austin Listi will most likely open the season as an IronPig, seeing time as a designated hitter and at both first and third base. If Hall does join the IronPigs and Listi returns, it would give Lehigh Valley two graduates of Dallas Baptist University on the roster; not something you see every day.
Pitchers Edubray Ramos, Edgar Garcia and Austin Davis were all back-and-forth between the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia and all are likely to be somewhere in the organization. Tyler Gilbert and Connor Brogdon were both impressive out of the bullpen and will fight for a spot in a revamped Phillies bullpen next spring, but both could be back with the IronPigs. Starters Cole Irvin and Enyel De Los Santos will fight for major league jobs, but both may be IronPigs again in 2020. As for Jerad Eickhoff and Nick Pivetta, it’s very possible that their time with the organization is up and they will both be elsewhere.
There are also likely to be a couple of new faces joining Lehigh Valley from outside of the organization as minor league free agents.
A ROUGH SEASON… Lehigh Valley finished the season at 66-74, nine games out in the division and 9 ½ out in the wild card race. It was the first time in the last four seasons that the IronPigs didn’t qualify for the IL playoffs. The 66 wins are the fewest since 2015 when Lehigh Valley won 63 games and ties for the fourth lowest number in the history of the franchise behind 2008 (55 wins), 2010 (58), 2015 (63) and ties with 2014. Overall, Lehigh Valley has a franchise record of 771-805.