Bottlenecked Spots on the Phillies

Valentin Beats the Throw, but Will He Beat the Competition for a Utility Role? Photo by Reinhold Matay – USA TODAY Sports. Philadelphia Phillies.

For a few open jobs, statistics and performance count when general manager Matt Klentak and his skipper review each player on the bubble to decide the four reserve slots on the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Nitty-Gritty:

When it comes to choices, necessity always trumps luxury because more of a strength doesn’t fix a weakness.

For the most part, the bench has the only positional competition: two outfielders, one infielder and a backup catcher. And even though the decisions involved appear small, each spot is important during almost every game. Rarely does a manager finish a contest without considering his reserves for pinch-hitting, late-game defense or a double switch for an overextended pitcher. To complicate things, moreover, regulars drop any experimentation and use the last three weeks to prepare for the campaign.

If you consider their status, the two backups with a shot to go north in April are roster-protected players and invitees. However, Klentak must remove or disable someone from the 40-man roster if an extra participant makes the squad. In other words, those athletes are at a disadvantage from day one.

Entering camp, Andrew Knapp had the inside track for the back half of the catching tandem, but he isn’t hitting or ready to play first base. Of course, the plan was for Knapp to back up the regular receiver and starting first baseman, while Jorge Alfaro would handle the games behind the plate for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs. However, if this position is still a problem at March’s end, Klentak has backstops Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday.

While Tom McCarthy’s team recently broadcasted a weekend game, two fans watching at home voiced their evaluation regarding the infielders. One asked the other who besides Andres Blanco is going to be a utility man. Will it be Jesmuel ValentinHector Gomez, Pedro Florimon or Taylor Featherston? Well, Valentin was at Lehigh Valley last summer and his father and uncle played in the majors. Yeah, I though his name sounded familiar, but who are the others? Plan B.

Altherr Has the Inside Track for the Fourth Outfield Spot. Photo by Kim Klement – USA TODAY Sports. Philadelphia Phillies.

When it comes to coverage, the Philadelphia Phillies don’t need a fourth infielder for third base. The club has a second sacker who can play short, a shortstop who can handle second and third, and Blanco covers all four infield positions. So, a fourth middle infielder already on the 40-man roster is the logical choice. Ergo, Valentin.

While the locals enjoyed the exhibition contest, they also discussed the reserve outfielders: Aaron Altherr, Daniel Nava, Chris Coghlan and Tyler Goeddel. Hey, you forgot Brock Stassi. Isn’t he a first baseman? Well, they’re playing him in left field too.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:          

“I was such a dangerous hitter I even got intentional walks during batting practice.” – Casey Stengel        

If only Altherr is manning center field while Odubel Herrera is at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Altherr’s the fourth outfielder. He’s on the 40-man roster and can field all three positions. Basically, Goeddel needs at least one full year with the IronPigs to earn another opportunity in the major leagues. For the final spot, however, Nava is a switch-hitter, Coghlan is a pesky foe, and Stassi is a left-handed bat with some power.

Stassi Is Hitting His Way into the Phillies’ Plans. Photo by Kim Klement – USA TODAY Sports. Philadelphia Phillies.

Spring numbers aside, the Phillies need more than Blanco to rest Tommy Joseph against tough right-handers. So, Stassi is the obvious addition: First base is his natural position and he’s a left-side hitter.

IN OTHER WORDS:    

“A lot of times, a player is going to tell you what he’s ready for or capable of and how you would think he would handle adversity by not being fragile mentally.”  – John Farrell

To sum up, the IronPigs have three starting outfielders plus a new first sacker and catcher promoted from the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils. In other words, a logjam means Altherr, Knapp and Stassi will be backups in Allentown or Philly. Which uniform would remedy this bottleneck? The red pinstripes.

Knapp Has the Lowest Batting Average in Camp. Photo by Reinhold Matay -USA TODAY Sports.

The Numerical Bible:

This review is not a sabermetrics article, which means no heavy statistical analysis. But because some readers rely on stats, this is only a reference: no reason to articulate the importance of these numbers.

Alfaro, 23.5:

  • MLB: 6 Gms., 17 PA, a .125 Avg., a .176 OBP, a .125 SLG, a .000 ISO, a .250 BABIP, 0 HR, 0 RBI, a .301 OPS and a -0.2 fWAR.
  • Double-A: 97 Gms., 435 PA, a .285 Avg., a .325 OBP, a .458 SLG, a .173 ISO, a .347 BABIP, 15 HR, 67 RBI, a .783 OPS and a 4.0 WARP.

Reserve Hitting for Comparison:

  • Blanco, almost 33: 90 Gms., 209 PA, a .253 Avg., a .316 OBP, a .405 SLG, a .153 ISO, a .301 BABIP, 4 HR, 21 RBI, a .721 OPS and a 0.1 fWAR.

Hitting:

  • Hanigan, 36.5: 35 Gms., 113 PA, a .171 Avg., a .230 OBP, a .238 SLG, a .067 ISO, a .221 BABIP, 1 HR, 14 RBI, a .468 OPS and a -0.5 fWAR.
  • Holaday, 29.5: 44 Gms., 129 PA, a .231 Avg., a .281 OBP, a .359 SLG, a .128 ISO, a .281 BABIP, 2 HR, 14 RBI, a .640 OPS and a 0.4 fWAR.
  • Florimon, 30: 18 Gms., 25 PA, a .208 Avg., a .240 OBP, a .333 SLG, a .125 ISO, a .417 BABIP, 0 HR, 4 RBI, a .573 OPS and a 0.0 fWAR.
  • Featherston, 27.5: 19 Gms., 28 PA, a .115 Avg., a .179 OBP, a .154 SLG, a .038 ISO, a .200 BABIP, 0 HR, 1 RBI, a .332 OPS and a -0.2 fWAR.
  • Altherr, 26: 57 Gms., 227 PA, a .202 Avg., a .304 OBP, a .293 SLG, a .091 ISO, a .288 BABIP, 4 HR, 23 RBI, a .597 OPS and a -0.3 fWAR.
  • Nava, 34: 54 Gms., 148 PA, a .223 Avg., a .297 OBP, a .292 SLG, a .069 ISO, a .275 BABIP, 1 HR, 13 RBI, a .590 OPS and a -0.4 fWAR.
  • Coghlan, almost 32: 99 Gms., 300 PA, a .188 Avg., a .290 OBP, a .318 SLG, a .130 ISO, a .235 BABIP, 6 HR, 30 RBI, a .608 OPS and a -0.5 fWAR.
  • Goeddel, 24.5: 92 Gms., 234 PA, a .192 Avg., a .258 OBP, a .291 SLG, a .099 ISO, a .234 BABIP, 4 HR, 16 RBI, a .549 OPS and a -1.4 fWAR.

MLB Hitting for 2015:

  • Gomez, 29:  66 Gms., 134 PA, a .181 Avg., a .212 OBP, a .323 SLG, a .143 ISO, a .256 BABIP, 1 HR, 7 RBI, a .535 OPS and a -0.3 fWAR.

Triple-A Hitting:

  • Knapp, 25: 107 Gms., 443 PA, a .266 Avg., a .330 OBP, a .390 SLG, a .124 ISO, a .343 BABIP, 8 HR, 46 RBI, a .719 OPS and a 3.6 WARP.
  • Stassi, 27.5: 117 Gms., 442 PA, a .267 Avg., a .369 OBP, a .437 SLG, a .171 ISO, a .302 BABIP, 12 HR, 58 RBI, an .806 OPS and a 2.0 WARP.

Valentin, almost 23:

  • Triple-A: 36 Gms.,123 PA, a .248 Avg., a .325 OBP, a .381 SLG, a .133 ISO, a .286 BABIP, 4 HR, 14 RBI, a .706 OPS and a 0.6 WARP.
  • Double-A: 89 Gms., 388 PA, a .276 Avg., a .346 OBP, a .399 SLG, a .123 ISO, a .313 BABIP, 5 HR, 38 RBI, a .745 OPS and a 0.9 WARP.

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