NASHVILLE - Tyler Goeddel, a former-first-round pick by Tampa Bay, appears to be the player the Phillies will target with the No. 1 pick in Thursday morning's Rule 5 Draft.
Goeddel, a 23-year-old outfielder, spent all of last season in double A. Tampa Bay drafted him in 2011. He spent his first three seasons as an infielder before transitioning to the outfield last year. He can play any of the three outfield positions. The righthander batted .279 with a .350 on-base percentage in 473 at-bats. Goeddel stole 28 bases in 123 games. He has stolen at least 20 bases in each of the past four seasons.
If selected, Goeddel must stay on the team's 25-man roster for the entire season. If not, the Phillies must offer him back to Tampa Bay. The Phillies had two open spots on their 40-man roster as of Wednesday evening, meaning they could draft more than one player on Thursday as the Winter Meetings come to a close.
"I am confident we'll take one," general manager Matt Klentak said. "The second one, it's going to depend on who's there after we get through 30 picks."
Klentak said Jorge Alfaro "seems to be back to his old self" after the catching prospect finished his first week in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Alfaro has four hits in his first 16 at-bats. He went 3 for 4 on Tuesday night for Tiburones de La Guaira, whose general manager is Phillies coach Jorge Velandia. Alfaro, 22, was sidelined with an ankle injury when the Phillies acquired him from Texas in July as the centerpiece of the trade that sent Cole Hamels to the Rangers. Alfaro returned to action in late August to play three games with the Gulf Coast League.
Alfaro will likely begin next season with double-A Reading, while 24-year-old Andrew Knapp starts the season in triple-A Lehigh Valley. Baseball America ranks Knapp as the Phillies fourth-best prospect and Alfaro as the No. 5 prospect. Klentak said having a pair of young catchers is a good problem.
"Finding catching is hard to do. You can see it in every year's draft. There's not a lot of catching out there," Klentak said. "For us to have at least two guys at the upper levels of our system that they profile as big-league catchers, that's a really nice situation to find ourselves in. Both of those guys still have a little bit of development to go. But we feel very fortunate to have two young kids that are going to be good big-leaguers behind the plate."
The Phillies will extend the protective netting at Citizens Bank Park for next season to conform to the recommendations of Major League Baseball.
The netting, currently behind home plate, will extend 10 feet on both sides, extending to the near side of each dugout, the Phillies said. The new netting will be stronger than the existing netting, but also thinner and more easily viewed through.
The Phillies also will install the new netting at their spring-training home in Clearwater, Fla.
"We understand that our fans differ in their opinions about sitting behind protective netting, and we will do our best to accommodate those different preferences," Phillies executive vice president and chief operating officer Michael R. Stiles said in a statement. "We will take the opportunity in the upcoming season to remind all of our fans about the importance of being alert to the possibility of balls and bats entering the stands throughout the ballpark."