Nightmare Scenario

Last month, when I was on ESPN’s Baseball Today podcast with Eric Karabell (@KarabellESPN), I mentioned two things: Chase Utley was the Phillies storyline I would be most interested in going into spring training, and the Phillies will be in trouble if the four members of their infield are unable to stay healthy throughout the season.

With just a couple weeks left in spring training, it looks like that nightmare scenario may be coming to fruition. Per David Hale:

The sum total of Freddy Galvis’ endless work on his offensive game last season was a .716 OPS and eight home runs between Double-A and Triple-A.

For a 22-year-old heralded for his glove, that represented significant progress.

As a potential replacement for All-Star Chase Utley in the lineup of a team with World Series aspirations, it represents a huge question mark.

With a little more than two weeks remaining before opening day, Galvis is now the starter at second base for the Phillies, and when it comes to his bat, even he’s not quite sure what to expect.

[…]

The Phillies continue to try to put an optimistic spin on Utley’s situation, but he won’t be ready for opening day, and there’s at least a chance he won’t be ready any time soon after that. Amaro wouldn’t speculate on whether it might be a career-threatening injury.

That means the future is now for Galvis. Whether he’s ready remains to be seen, but the Phillies are prepared to give him a chance.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb predicts Utley won’t start on Opening Day, opening a window for Galvis or a trade acquisition. While Galvis plays smooth defense and hasn’t looked inept at the plate, PECOTA is very pessimistic about the 22-year-old’s ability to handle Major League pitching, projecting him at a .206 true average (TAv, the league average is .260). ZiPS isn’t hopeful either, projecting a .290 wOBA compared to the .316 league average last year.

Galvis doesn’t have anything more than slightly above-average speed and he hasn’t displayed premier base running smarts (career 67 percent success rate in the Minors). He lacks on-base skills (career .246 average, .292 OBP, and 5.6 percent walk rate in the Minors) and has very little power (career .075 ISO, set a benchmark at .114 last year). There is just no way around it: downgrading from Utley to Galvis is a huge loss in production and the Phillies will be scrambling to replace it.

Meanwhile, around the infield, the Phillies will be plugging other holes. In Placido Polanco‘s absence, Ty Wigginton will get more playing time. Wigginton’s defense leaves a lot to be desired and his spotty offense barely meets the league average at the hot corner. In the event both Utley and Jimmy Rollins are sidelined simultaneously, Michael Martinez will get some playing time at second base. The Rule 5 acquisition exceeded expectations with a .247 wOBA last year, which tells you all you need to know about the guy.

Finally, the Phillies are dealing with the loss of Ryan Howard with a patchwork first base platoon. Jim Thome, who has played 28 defensive innings since 2006, is expected to get a weekly start to get his legendary bat in the lineup. Otherwise, the Phillies will be using some combination of Wigginton, John Mayberry, and Laynce Nix. Neither of the three have great TAv projections, at .257, .270, and .263, respectively (Thome projects at .293). The more hopeful among us expect Howard back before June, but realistically, Phillies fans should be thrilled if he’s back at any time before the All-Star break.

As far as spring trainings go, 2012 has not been the best. Fortunately, the Phillies are blessed with an easy schedule early in the regular season. The Phillies open against the Pittsburgh Pirates and later have series throughout the month of April with the New York Mets, San Diego Padres, and Chicago Cubs, all teams that finished significantly below .500 last year. May includes more games against the Mets and Padres, as well as the Houston Astros. If ever the Phillies were going to stay afloat amidst crashing waves of adversity, it is in the first two months of the 2012 regular season.

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18 comments

  1. nik

    March 19, 2012 04:24 PM

    When life gives you lemons, squeeze them in people’s eyes. Lets see what young Galvis can do as his improvement last year and a solid spring suggest his bat is getting better and he’ll be very good on defense. I’d say until they know for sure that Utley is done, they should hold down the fort without making desperation trades.

  2. JoeDE

    March 19, 2012 05:12 PM

    I don’t think using Galvis’s entire MILB numbers does him justice. He has historically been very young for each level he has been at and has made some major strides the last 2 seasons. I don’t think he’s going to give the Phillies an .800 ops but .700 with GG defense seems totally possible.

  3. Ken

    March 19, 2012 05:34 PM

    I’d gone through the schedule a couple months ago, and set a goal of 14-9 for April. At Pittsburgh is never easy. Out of teams like the Cubs, Padres and Mets, some loser always seems to match up well against a “good” team, so considering I was optimistic about Utley, 14-9 seemed decent. Geez, would that be great at this point.

  4. Dan K.

    March 19, 2012 05:59 PM

    One other note about Galvis’ minor league numbers: MiLB base stealing is a vastly different beast than MLB. When looking at percentages in the minor league, 67% actually is in the upper end of the spectrum if I remember correctly. Not to say he’ll be Jimmy Rollins on the base paths, but stealing bases might be one of the things about Galvis that pleasantly surprises us. Of course it would be nice if we had Lopes around to work his magic…

    Still hoping Brown starts the season with us (and sticks) to give us an offensive boost.

  5. EricL

    March 19, 2012 07:25 PM

    Other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how was the play?

    All that being the case, the Phillies had a fairly atrocious offense through May 23 last season and yet were still in first place. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibilities that they’re able to do the same again this season.

  6. Ryan

    March 19, 2012 09:44 PM

    If I was RAJ, this would mean that Dom has to start the season as our left fielder to make up for some of the offensive drop off from Chase to Galvis.

  7. nik

    March 19, 2012 10:44 PM

    Ryan, that’s the only upside here, that it will force Dom’s callup earlier IF he’s tearing it up in the minors. From the latest I heard, the neck thing he’s going through is some kind of virus, so who knows with him at this point.

  8. Josh B

    March 19, 2012 11:33 PM

    Time for Dom Brown to play everyday in left. Mayberry/Thome to handle first. I personally don’t want to see wigginton or nix anywhere near a starting job, for however long that job might be.

  9. Jeff T

    March 20, 2012 09:00 AM

    While, I am a huge Dom fan and thought he should have been playing regularly the last season+, would he be better used a trade chip? Is there a viable second grade option that we can get for Dom?

  10. nik

    March 20, 2012 09:03 AM

    I wouldnt give up 6 years of service time from a guy with all-star upside for some 2nd base fill-in.

  11. RLD Investments

    March 20, 2012 09:19 AM

    I agree with Nik. Give young Galvis a chance. It doesn’t look good now but you never know. He’s young with a lot of room for improvement, he’s on the path up, as evidenced by his improvement since last year. Let’s do some sports analysis on this kid part way through and then make some judgement calls.

  12. ColonelTom

    March 20, 2012 12:00 PM

    If Brown goes, it’s obviously for more than a fill-in, and probably for a young guy under team control for several years. Cleveland has soured on Lonnie Chisenhall (3B) a bit and could use a power prospect. Seattle has a bunch of 3B and might be willing to deal Kyle Seager (3B/2B). Amaro has dealt with both GMs recently, so maybe something would happen there.

    Cleveland also has Cord Phelps, a 2B who is stuck behind Jason Kipnis. He wouldn’t cost Brown, so maybe something could be done there.

    Most likely they will go for a veteran stopgap and keep Brown, at least until Utley is declared out for the year. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.

  13. Ryan

    March 20, 2012 12:33 PM

    So you want to give up Dom for an infield prospect who may or may not be better than Galvis before seeing what Galvis can give us? I don’t buy that. Give Freddy a chance–his hitting has really come around recently which may or may not be a fluke. I’m hoping for the latter because he is hitting the age when prospects can really take off because they start to mature physically and get the power that wasn’t previously there.

  14. Rob SJ

    March 20, 2012 02:02 PM

    So will the production from Galvis be in line with what we got from Martinez/Valdez for the first 2 months of 2011? They weathered that ok (granted Howard was healthy then). If Utley is not back by around the all star break (and it’s clear no one knows if he will be) then have a big issue.

  15. Mike E

    March 20, 2012 04:52 PM

    and…MiniMart breaks his foot. What was option C again?

  16. Ryan

    March 20, 2012 09:03 PM

    F*** minimart. He’s horrible. HORRIBLE.

  17. ColonelTom

    March 21, 2012 10:24 AM

    @Ryan, you can’t argue that Chisenhall or Seager wouldn’t be a huge upgrade on Galvis. That’s not a knock on Galvis – he’s an outstanding defensive shortstop and a solid prospect – but you’re asking him to make a position change and hit passably at the big-league level after only 31 games in AAA in which he drew two (count ‘em) unintentional walks. Chisenhall in particular is a much higher-upside prospect than Galvis, and Seager’s ready to be a solid big-league starter now.

    I wouldn’t deal Brown for Seager, but if the Indians would do a Chisenhall-for-Brown deal, the Phils would have to consider it seriously at this point.

    The organization needs to decide whether Brown is in the Phils’ future or not. Alas, I don’t think anyone in the organization believes Dom can play OF defense even at an Ibanez/Burrell level, and his trade value is dropping by the day with every criticism about his defense and mental toughness. If he’s not up to start the season, he needs a change of scenery to succeed.

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