Phillies Spring Training Position Preview: Left Field
The Phillies stand to get a significant upgrade at the corner outfield positions in 2017 – especially in left field – after their offseason acquisitions.
Phillies left fielders were notoriously bad in 2016. They combined for a .207/.278/.316 slash line and their collective -3.6 fWAR was the worst in the major-leagues. Roman Quinn was the only left fielder to have a positive fWAR, and he played in just 15 games. Tyler Goeddel played the most games of any Phils left fielder, and he had the worst fWAR at -1.4.
It was safe to say the team needed a significant upgrade in left field heading into the offseason. They found that upgrade by trading for Howie Kendrick from the Dodgers. He is coming off an unspectacular season at the plate, as he posted a .691 OPS and 91 wRC+. However, it was still better than any Philadelphia left fielders last year and he only cost the team Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney.
Kendrick played 94 games for Los Angeles in left field in 2016, but he also spent time at first, second, and third base. He is expected to start for the team in left field, but he may very well get some playing time in the infield if it is needed.
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Aaron Altherr and new signee Chris Coghlan are expected to be the two backup outfielders this season. Altherr struggled last year after returning from a wrist injury, managing a meager .198 average and .587 OPS in 57 games. The hope is he can return to 2015 form now that he is a year removed from the injury. That year he racked up 20 extra-base hits in 39 games for an .827 OPS.
Philadelphia is Coghlan’s fourth team in his major-league career. The 2009 Rookie of the Year split 2016 between the Athletics and the World Series champion Cubs. He hit for a collective .188/.290/.318 line in 99 games. He played first, second, and third base along with left and right field.
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The Phils also extended an invite to spring training to Daniel Nava. Prior to the Coghlan signing, many expected him to be the fifth outfielder on the major-league team; now that role is in jeopardy. Nava bounced between Triple-A and the majors in 2016, spending time with the Royals and Angels. At the major-league level, he had a meager 66 wRC+.
Turning towards the prospects expected to be in spring training, Nick Williams is the biggest name at left field. He is coming off a poor 2016 at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he walked just 19 times but struck out 136 times in 527 plate appearances.
Williams posted a slash line of .258/.287/.427. He will be in the big-league camp since he is on the 40-man roster, but the 23-year old will return to Triple-A in hopes of better results.
Minor-leaguers Cameron Perkins and Andrew Pullin will also be in the big-league camp, but neither are particularly flashy prospects. Pullin had success last year after briefly retiring at the beginning of the year. In 82 games, Pulin had an .885 OPS with 14 home runs, ten of which came at Double-A Reading.
The Phillies were paltry in left field in 2016, but heading into 2017 they should receive a definite upgrade there.