Phillies will soon face numerous 40-man roster decisions with top prospects

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Pretty soon, the Phillies will have to make decisions regarding their 40-man roster. Some of their top prospects will need to be added to the 40, which means several current members of it will be designated for assignment and/or placed on waivers.

The Phils had to make no such decision when they promoted Zach Eflin to the majors earlier this week. They had only 39 players on their 40-man roster at that time so a spot was available to accommodate Eflin.

But if the Phillies choose to give a taste of The Show in September to top prospects like outfielders Nick Williams or Dylan Cozens, right-handers Jake Thompson or Mark Appel or catcher Andrew Knapp, they'll have to trim some of the fat. The good news is that they have some replaceable players on the 40 in David Buchanan, Michael Mariot, Colton Murray and Severino Gonzalez.

Prospects already on the 40 are catcher Jorge Alfaro, centerfielder Roman Quinn and relievers Edubray Ramos and Jimmy Cordero. Alec Asher was on the 40 before his 80-game PED ban, but players do not count against the 40-man roster for the duration of their suspension. (Nor do players on the 60-day DL, like Charlie Morton.) So with Asher now serving his ban, the Phillies are back at 39 players on the 40.

Even if the Phils choose not to call up Williams, Cozens, Thompson, Appel or Knapp in September, they'll have to add all five players to the 40-man roster this winter. If they don't protect those players, all of them would be eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 draft. The Phillies won't allow that to happen the way the Rangers did with Odubel Herrera two years ago. Texas' farm system was so strong then that it didn't have enough room for Herrera, who has thrived with the Phillies.

But adding those prospects to the 40-man roster this winter won't be too challenging because the Phillies have a bunch of players coming off the books: Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Jeremy Hellickson, David Hernandez, Andres Blanco, Peter Bourjos and Andrew Bailey. 

One player who won't yet need to be protected this winter is shortstop J.P. Crawford. The rule regarding the 40-man roster is that for a player to avoid Rule 5 draft eligibility, he must be added to the 40 within four years of his first pro contract if he signed at 19 or older, or within five years of his first pro contract if he signed at 18 or younger. Crawford signed at 18; Williams and Thompson were 19.

Still, the Phillies could opt to give Crawford a taste of the big leagues in September the way they gave most of their top prospects time in major-league spring training.

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