The Phillies announced they’ve selected the contract of outfielder Jorge Bonifacio. He’s getting the start tonight in center field against the Padres. To open space on the 40-man roster, Philadelphia designated reliever Mauricio Llovera for assignment.
Bonifacio joined the organization on a minor league deal in May. Originally assigned to Double-A Reading, he posted a strong .251/.343/.538 line across 198 plate appearances, earning a bump up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Bonifacio has been even more impressive at the minors’ top level, mashing at a .321/.432/.564 clip in 95 trips to the plate to earn his first big league call this year.
This marks the fifth consecutive year in which Bonifacio picks up some MLB playing time. A fairly well-regarded prospect during his days in the Royals’ system, the right-handed hitter broke into the majors in 2017 and spent that season as Kansas City’s primary right fielder. He hit a fine .255/.320/.432 over 113 games that year, but he was suspended for half the 2018 campaign after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Bonifacio picked up 270 plate appearances with the Royals down the stretch that season but failed to match his league average output from the year prior. After hitting just .225/.312/.360, he was mostly relegated to Triple-A in 2019. Bonfiacio only tallied 115 combined trips to the dish between Kansas City in 2019 and the Tigers last season.
He’s made it back to the majors and will apparently be an option for Philadelphia at all three spots on the grass. Tonight’s start in center will be just his second as a big leaguer, his first since his 2017 rookie season. Bonifacio has otherwise worked exclusively in the corner outfield.
Llovera was once one of the more promising young pitchers in the Philadelphia organization. At his prospect peak, he drew praise from evaluators for a mid-90’s fastball and pair of solid off-speed pitches. Llovera’s average fastball velocity has bounced back to 94.5 MPH this season after dipping last year, but he’s had a difficult 2021 campaign from a results perspective.
Over six big league appearances, Llovera has been tagged for seven runs in 6 2/3 innings, allowing five homers in the process. He’s spent more time in Lehigh Valley, where he has a 4.60 mark across 29 1/3 frames. The 25-year-old has posted strikeout and walk rates marginally worse than league average (24% and 10.9%, respectively) with the IronPigs.
The Phils will place Llovera on waivers in the coming days. He’s still young and not far removed from being regarded as a potentially useful bullpen arm, so he could attract interest on the wire. Llovera still has one additional minor league option year remaining, so any claiming team could keep him in Triple-A through the end of 2022 if he sticks on the 40-man roster.