The main focus of all the Phillies talk this summer has been focused on their lack of hitting. This has led to many discussions on how they should improve the lineup both internally and externally. But there is also another topic that the Phans love to discuss with great emotion. This topic is whether or not utility man Michael Martinez deserves a spot on the 25 man roster. During the offseason, they selected the 28 year old Martinez in the Rule 5 draft. This is the 2nd consecutive season they have not only selected a player in the draft, but made the roster. Many people think that they wasted a roster spot last year with Herndon and many think they are doing the same thing with Martinez.
Before I get into the Phillies pat selections, I just want to make sure everyone knows how it works. The Rule 5 draft was created to keep teams from stockpiling young talent and to allow players a chance to make it to the big leagues with another team. It allows players to have a fresh start with another organization if they are not put the 40 man roster by a certain time. A player is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they are not on the team’s 40 man roster during the winter meetings in November and have been in the minors for a specific period of time based on their age when they were drafted (age 18-5 years in organization, age 19-4 years). The draft’s order is decided by the previous year’s draft, starting with the team with the worst record and following that order.
To prevent teams from going crazy in the draft and selecting a bunch of players, any player selected must remain on the team’s 25 man roster during the following season. He cannot be optioned or designated for assignment. If a team A does tries to option or DFA him, the player must be sent through waivers giving every team a chance to claim him. If the player is unclaimed, Team A must be offer the player back to the team B. They can either accept him back, let the team keep him or work out a trade with team A. If team B allows team A to keep him in any way, the Rule 5 draft rules no longer apply.
For some reason, the Phillies have fallen in love with the Rule 5 draft. A major reason could be the accusation via the draft of a large piece of their right now. In 2002, while Shane Victorino was in the Dodgers system, he was selected in the Rule 5 draft by the San Diego Padres. Then after playing 36 games with the Padres, he was returned to the Dodgers. Then in 2005, the Phillies selected the speedy outfielder. But after failing to stay on the 25 man roster after spring training, he was offered back to the Dodgers. Luckily for the Phillies, the Dodgers declined and he was assigned to the Phillies AAA team. Shane played in just 21 games with the big league team at the end of the 2005 season before joining the team in 2006 for good. Shane has been a key member of the past Phillies team and he looks poised to make his 2nd all star game this season.
The Phillies tried to strike gold once again when they selected David Herndon from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 2009 Rule 5 draft. When he was selected, he had only pitched in 50 games at AA and had never pitched at AAA. Herndon made the team out of spring training and stayed with the team all season despite limited success. In 52.1 innings he went 1-3 with a 4.30 ERA. This season he started the year with the Phillies but was optioned by to Lehigh. He is now back with the Phillies, so far this season he has a 4.61 ERA in 27.1 innings.
Herndon has received a lot of criticism from the Philly Phaithful and many feel he was a waste of roster spot last season. Many people feel that he shouldn’t have been kept on the roster last season. I have always been a fan of Herndon; he has a heavy sinker and is still developing his secondary pitchers. If he can add the ability to strike hitters out, he will be a solid middle reliever. I believe he can turn into a Chad Durbin type of pitcher, a guy who can go multiple innings and be the gap between the starters and the backend of the pen. If you can pay some players the minimum that Herndon will get for the next few years, you can use that saved money on other players. The fact the Herndon was on the roster last season, didn’t play any role in their season ending in the NLCS. If he turns out to be a solid reliever great, if not, you didn’t really lose anything.
Last season the team kept RP David Herndon on the roster throughout the season and it looks like they will do the same with Martinez. They selected the 28 year old utility man in the 2010 Rule 5 draft from the Nationals system. He was seen as a major underdog coming into the spring, but once Utley’s injury became known, Martinez became a dark horse in the race. Mickey Mart or M-Mart has done little with the bat so far this season. Martinez is currently batting just .188 with 0 home runs and 8 RBI’s. Last night with the bases loaded, he drove a pitch in the gap for a bases clearing triple. That was his only hit of the night and I seriously doubt he has the power to even take a BP fastball out of the park. But his versatility has given Charlie a lot of options as he has spent time at 2nd, SS, LF and CF and he will start tonight’s game at 3B.
The all important question is whether he deserves to be on the roster. I think that Martinez will be a solid utility man for this team for the next few seasons. He is a switch hitter with speed and can play almost every position on the diamond. But is a player who has the potential to be a utility man worth keeping on the roster. I would say no, Pete Orr or John Mayberry would bring more to the table than Martinez does right now. But now that he has spent the first 3 months with the team. He has to stay on the roster the rest of the way. With the starters going so deep into the games, the bench doesn’t get a lot of PH opportunities. And if Shane does get hurt, Mayberry can always be recalled to play CF. In the end this team’s success or failure this season with have very little to Do with Martinez.
The Rule 5 draft has given a lot of players another chance to get a fresh start with a new team. In addition to Victorino, some great players have been acquired by a number of different teams. The list includes past players like Bobby Bonilla and Dave Hollins, current stars like Jose Bautista, Josh Hamilton and past all-stars like Johan Santana, Joakim Soria and Dan Uggla. Some of these players might have not be given a chance to shine in the big leagues if it wasn’t for a team taking a chance on them in the Rule 5 draft. The Phillies have seemingly fallen in love with the draft and hit a home run in Victorino. I doubt the players they selected the last two seasons will ever be all-stars, but they help the Phillies win some games while letting them spend money in other places.