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Non-Roster Invitees: Position Players

February 4, 2013

As the blistering cold continues to resonate across the confines of Coca-Cola Park, spring training's beginning rests just beyond the horizon. For baseball fans, that means another glorious summer of America's pastime is almost upon us. For the non-roster invitees below, this is a time to warm up the bat in preparation for the grueling campaign to come. Some of these ballplayers will be spending time in Philadelphia this summer. Others will see their seasons commence in Lehigh Valley or Reading. For all of them, however, this spring is an opportunity to get their name out and their skills honed for the 2013 season:

C Tommy Joseph

2012 Organizations: San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies

Career Statistics: .256-49-211 in 352 games (MILB)

Outlook: The centerpiece to July's Hunter Pence deal, Tommy Joseph is a raw but talented young power hitting catcher. A native of Scottsdale, AZ, Joseph broke out in 2011 at the age of 19. Playing for A-San Jose of the California League, Joseph hit 22 home runs with 95 RBI and was a key reason why his team won 51 of their first 70 games. Now a member of the Phillies organization, Joseph is heading into his first full season with AA-Reading. With Carlos Ruiz's contract up at the end of the season, Joseph figures to be the "catcher of the future" in the eyes of many. But, nothing is guaranteed. His performance in 2013 will go a long way to determine whether-or-not Joseph is long for the Philadelphia organization.

C Steven Lerud

2012 Organization: Philadelphia Phillies

Career Statistics: .200-0-0 in 3 games (MLB); .221-53-277 in 685 games (MILB)

Outlook: Some may remember Steven Lerud for his three game cup of coffee with Philadelphia last season. Carlos Ruiz and Brian Schneider's injuries forced the Phillies to call up the 28-year-old backstop from AA Reading. The Reno, Nevada native went 2-10 in his brief stint with the team. It is, to date, the only appearance Lerud has had in the majors. A 2003 first round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Lerud has spent nine season s in the minors, cracking AAA just once, a nine game stint with Norfolk (BAL) in 2010. His career .221 average and .664 OPS suggests the obvious: Lerud is not an offensive threat behind the plate. However, he is a capable fielder and will give it one last shot to crack the ceiling of AA and latch on with the IronPigs.

C Humberto Quintero

2012 Organization: Kansas City Royals

Career Statistics: .234-16-113 in 422 games (MLB); .276-31-323 in 796 games (MILB)

Outlook: With Carlos Ruiz suspended for the first 25 games of the regular season, journeyman C Humberto Quintero has an excellent chance of breaking camp with the major league club. Throughout his career, fielding has been Quintero's forte. The 33-year old has just 25 errors in his ten year MLB career and has thrown out about 33% of base runners. The Maracaibo, Venezuela native spent 2012 with the Kansas City Royals, where he hit .232-1-19 in 43 games. He has never played in more than 88 games in a season during his major league career.

Quintero does, however, have an abundance of MILB experience. At the AAA level, the backstop's offensive numbers are impressive (.290-26-159). Even more notable is Quintero's penchant for nailing opponents on the bases. Joining his fifth organization, Quintero has thrown out 44% of base runners in the minors since his rookie campaign back in 1999. As mentioned, it is likely that the veteran will begin the season in Philadelphia. But, once Ruiz returns, he should provide Lehigh Valley with a capable veteran catcher to tutor the young, promising arms that make up the IronPigs' pitching staff.

3B Code Asche

2012 Organization: Philadelphia Phillies

Career Statistics: .283-14-91 in 198 games (MILB)

Outlook: The Phillies' fourth round pick in the 2011 draft out of the University of Nebraska, Cody Asche burst onto the scene in 2012 after a tumultuous first season with Williamsport. As a member of the Crosscutters in 2011, Asche managed to hit just .192 with 50 SO in 239 AB. It is suspected that the former Cornhusker struggled with his move from third to second base that year. Hoping for better success in his sophomore campaign, Asche was moved back to the hot-corner in 2012. Success was easy to come by, as fans and scouts alike soon found out. In 130 games between Clearwater and Reading, the 22-year old raked .324-12-72 with just 93 SO in 518 AB.

Most predict that Asche will be brought along slowly in 2013. Assuming Michael Young can stay healthy, there should not be a need for the youngster's services in Philadelphia until at least 2014. But, one can expect that the kid will find his way onto Lehigh Valley at some point this season. The organization may want to bring him along slowly, but Asche's progression might warrant a quicker look than many expected when he was drafted in 2011.

SS Andres Blanco

2012 Organization: Philadelphia Phillies

Career Statistics: .255-3-47 in 235 games (MLB); .253-23-224 in 727 games (MILB)

Outlook: Andres Blanco was in competition for a roster spot with the Washington Nationals when the Phillies signed him following spring training last season. After joining the IronPigs, Blanco did not disappoint. Despite hitting just .235, the 28-year old showed surprising pop with 10 home runs and 40 RBI in 120 games. Per usual, Blanco was flashy with the glove and a pleasure in the clubhouse. In 2013, he enters his first spring training with Philadelphia, hoping to snag one of the few remaining bench spots on the 25-man roster.

The Urama, Venezuela native has adequate experience at the MLB level. His finest season came back in 2010 with Texas, where he hit .277-0-13 in 68 games whilst playing three different infield positions. Versatility is the name of the game for Blanco, who hopes to latch on with the Phillies after a season in Lehigh Valley.

3B Josh Fields

2012 Organization: Los Angeles Dodgers

Career Statistics: .234-34-107 in 217 games (MLB); .289-93-412 in 723 games (MILB)

Outlook: Once a top prospect in the Chicago White Sox organization, Josh Fields is merely trying to claw his way back to an MLB roster. The 18th overall pick in the 2004 draft (selected ahead of such stars as Phil Hughes, Dustin Pedroia, Huston Street, and Gio Gonzalez), Fields burst onto the scene in his youth. In 100 games during his rookie year of 2007, Fields batted .244-23-67 en route to finishing seventh in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Fielding has long been a problem for the former Oklahoma State Cowboy, as he has been tested at the corner-outfield positions as well as first base during his career.

In the minors, Fields has been an offensive catalyst. In 133 games with Albuquerque (LAD) last season, the 30-year old went .322-13-71. In fact, AAA has been the strongest of Fields' stops throughout the minor leagues as evidenced by his .888 career OPS. If he is to be playing with the IronPigs this season, fans can rest assured that the hot-corner will be manned by a very capable bat in Josh Fields.

UTL Michael Martinez

2012 Organization: Philadelphia Phillies

Career Statistics: .188-5-31 in 133 games (MLB); .264-22-225 in 585 games (MILB)

Outlook: A Rule 5 draft pick in 2010, Michael Martinez has seen extensive playing time the past few seasons in Philadelphia. The 30-year old utility player is known for his versatility in the field and not for his increasing struggles at the plate. In two seasons with the Phillies, Martinez has been unable to crack the Mendoza-line, hitting .196 in 2011 before slumping to .174 last year. The problem for Martinez is that there is stiffer competition this time around for backup infield spots on the 25-man roster. With Kevin Frandsen almost guaranteed a bench spot, there may be only one utility position left to compete for in the spring. In the minors, Martinez has experienced a higher level of success at the dish. His .271-2-15 performance in 32 games with the IronPigs last year should be a barometer of what to expect if the Dominican born talent is left off Philadelphia's roster. Martinez may not be the offensive catalyst that his peers are, but, he can play both the infield and the outfield adequately, a skill that any manager would be happy to have in a ballplayer.

2B Pete Orr

2012 Organization: Philadelphia Phillies

Career Statistics: .259-3-46 in 428 games (MLB); .262-44-343 in 1009 games (MILB)

Outlook: Pete Orr is another well-respected ballplayer who will likely spend significant time with the IronPigs. New Lehigh Valley Manager Dave Brundage, who managed Orr in 2007 when they were both members of the Richmond Braves, noted that he was looking forward to managing the 33-year old veteran. "He plays the game the right way," said the former Gwinnett skipper.

One thing Orr brings to the table that the other non-roster invitees do not is the ability to run. In just 81 games last year, the Canadian born journeyman stole 16 bases whilst being caught just twice. In his 11-year MILB career, Orr has 190 steals. With a healthy 2013, one should expect the veteran infielder to reach and, hopefully, surpass the milestone mark of 200 career stolen bases.

SS Yuniesky Betancourt

2012 Organization: Kansas City Royals

Career Statistics: .266-67-411 in 1019 games (MLB); .288-10-58 in 111 games (MILB)

Outlook: Yuniesky Betancourt has been around the block a few times. The 30-year old first emerged on the scene with the Seattle Mariners, starting at shortstop from 2006-09. During that time, Betancourt made a name for himself as a low-OBP infielder with some pop. He was traded to Kansas City for his first stint with the Royals in July, 2009. That year, he had the lowest on-base percentage of any starter in the majors at .274.

In 2010, Betancourt was a part of the massive Zack Greinke deal, being shipped along with the 2009 AL Cy Young award winner to Milwaukee for a slew of prospects. The Cuban-born infielder led the National League in sacrifice flies that year, with 10. However, he also saw the fewest pitches per plate appearance at 3.16. Betancourt turned his game on for the playoffs that season, leading Milwaukee in hitting at .310-1-6. He is expected to compete for a reserve role on the Phillies this spring.

OF Joe Mather

2012 Organization: Chicago Cubs

Career Statistics: .219-14-49 in 229 games (MLB); .260-124-474 in 891 games (MILB)

Outlook: Philadelphia already had an overflow of outfield options when they signed Joe Mather in January. The 30-year old former St. Louis Cardinal is with his fifth organization in four seasons. In 103 games with the Chicago Cubs in 2012, Mather struggled to the tune of .209-5-19. His finest MLB season came during his rookie campaign of 2008, where Mather clubbed eight homers in 54 games. Since then, however, the Sandpoint, ID native has bounced around from Colorado, to Atlanta, and finally to Chicago, where he managed to earn a roster spot last year.

Mather's minor league numbers are impressive. From 2010-11, Mather raked .289-17-81 in 164 games between Memphis (STL), Colorado Springs (COL), and Gwinnett (ATL). His .806 career AAA OPS suggests that Mather should be a strong compliment to an already intriguing IronPigs outfield.

OF Jermaine Mitchell

2012 Organization: Oakland Athletics

Career Statistics: .281-55-325 in 753 games (MILB)

Outlook: Jermaine Mitchell might just be the most intriguing of all the non-roster invitees this season. The 28-year old was a fifth round pick of the Oakland Athletics in 2006 and had been with that organization his entire career before joining Philadelphia this offseason. Prior to the 2012 season, Baseball America ranked Mitchell as the seventh best prospect in the entire Oakland system; that honor coming after a spectacular 2011 campaign which saw Mitchell hit .332-15-78 in 130 game between AA-Midland and AAA-Sacramento. Mitchell's skill-set is captivating; a 20-20 threat, the former UNC-Greensboro standout has reached double-digits in triples each of the past three seasons. From 2010-11, Mitchell recorded 104 extra-base hits including 26 triples and 25 home runs.

2012 was a disappointment for the Naples, Texas native. The lefthander saw injuries and inconsistency contribute to his worst offensive season since 2009. Still, the tools are there for Mitchell to be a heavy contributor either in Philadelphia or Lehigh Valley in 2013. If he can manage to stay healthy, look for the former Athletic to get plenty of opportunities to be a catalyst with the IronPigs this season.