Originally written by Bradley Ankrom.
With Chase Utley beginning the season on the disabled list, the Phillies are turning to homegrown middle infielder Freddy Galvis at the keystone, hoping that his defense will provide enough value to offset his deficiencies at the plate.
Galvis split last year between Double-A Reading (464 PA) and Triple-A Lehigh Valley (126 PA), and didn’t receive a major-league call-up after the IronPigs lost to Columbus in the International League championship. After not hitting better than .240 in any of his previous four minor-league seasons, Galvis posted a .273 batting average in his second tour of the Eastern League and followed that up with a .298/.315/.364 line after being promoted to Triple-A in August.
He has held his own through 74 spring at-bats, hitting .257 with a pair of home runs and seven total extra-base hits while making steady contact (10.5 percent strikeout rate) and providing impressive defense (yes, they’re spring training statistics and, yes, it’s a small sample, but it isn’t meaningless data).
We’ve seen similarly-precocious players make the leap to the major leagues before they were expected to be ready. Is there anything that we can learn from their experiences in order to shape our expectations for Galvis?
Shortstops Age 21 or Younger with
>= 400 PA at Double-A,
>= 10% Strikeout Rate,
<= 730 OPS,
>= 250 MLB PA the Following Year
|Player||Yr/Age||OPS, SO/BB, SO%||Yr||OPS, WARP, FRAA|
|Freddy Galvis||2011/21||727, 2.43, 14.7%||2012||—|
|Ruben Tejada||2009/19||723, 1.59, 10.7%||2010||580, -0.1, -0.1|
|Elvis Andrus||2008/19||715, 2.39, 17.0%||2009||695, 2.2, 0.9|
|Hanley Ramirez||2005/21||716, 1.59, 11.9%||2006||830, 3.9, -9.0|
|Ray Olmedo||2002/21||645, 1.62, 15.6%||2003||546, -1.2, -2.5|
|Cristian Guzman||1998/20||656, 5.29, 18.9%||1999||539, -1.0, 2.4|
|Edgar Renteria||1995/18||712, 2.66, 15.2%||1996||756, 2.5, 5.9|
Three of the six players listed above were worse than replacement level in the major leagues, though the three others all made significant contributions to their clubs. Put another way, there has been little “in between” for these players — they have either damaged their teams’ chances of winning or substantially improved their clubs.
From a strictly statistical standpoint, Galvis compares favorably to Andrus and Renteria. All three players controlled the strike zone as youngsters in Double-A and Galvis posted the highest OPS of the bunch. Let’s take a closer look at each of the six.
Ruben Tejada, Mets
Tejada hit .289/.351/.381 as a 19-year-old in the Eastern League in 2009 and made the Mets roster the following spring, but was demoted to Triple-A after just three games. He returned to the big leagues when second baseman Daniel Murphy hit the disabled list with concussion symptoms in early June, and Tejada finished the year hitting .213/.305/.282 in 255 PA. He carried most of his contact ability (12.2% strikeout rate in the minor leagues) to the majors with him, but posted the 12th-lowest OPS among players with at least 250 PA.
Elvis Andrus, Rangers
Andrus’ bat took off after he was acquired by Texas in the 2007 trade that sent Mark Teixeira to Atlanta. Before earning the Rangers’ starting shortstop job in the spring of 2009, he had hit .295/.350/.367 in 535 Texas League plate appearances. Andrus provided sparkling defense and surprising pop en route to a second-place finish in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting in 2009, and has combined for 8.4 WARP in three big-league seasons.
Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
The similarities between the age-21 Double-A seasons had by Ramirez and Galvis are startling, but also serve to demonstrate why “stat line scouting” without knowledge of the player’s physical characteristics is generally a futile activity.
While their performances may have been similar, Ramirez was a 6-foot-3, 195-pounder with room to grow in 2005. Galvis, on the other hand, is currently listed at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, and his slight frame doesn’t project to add strength as he ages. Ramirez’s body oozed projectability in 2005, and he’s added 35 pounds to his frame since then.
Ray Olmedo, Reds
After a dreadful .247/.331/.314 season at Double-A Chattanooga in 2002, Ray Olmedo earned a ticket back to Double-A the following year. A .294/.349/.400 start convinced Cincinnati to give Olmedo a look in the majors, and he managed to hold his own before fading badly down the stretch. The 250 PA he collected in 2003 are 58 more than he’s earned in the eight seasons since, and he hasn’t sniffed the majors since 2007.
Cristian Guzman, Twins
When Minnesota elected to non-tender starting shortstop Pat Meares in December 1998, it handed the keys over to budding star Cristian Guzman. Guzman had hit .277/.304/.352 at Double-A New Britain after coming over from the Yankees along with Eric Milton and change in exchange for second baseman Chuck Knoblauch. His -13.45 VORP in 1999 was the fourth-worst in baseball, but he salvaged his overall value by ranking among the top 10 in FRAA among major-league shortstops. Guzman gradually improved at the plate, and his seven seasons of 1.0 or more WARP between 2000 and 2009 are tied with Luis Castillo, Brian Roberts, Orlando Hudson, and Carlos Guillen for the 10th-most during that time.
Edgar Renteria, Marlins
Believe it or not, there was a time when Edgar Renteria was considered precocious. After hitting .289/329/.388 as an 18-year-old in 1995, Baseball America rated Renteria the 33rd-best prospect in baseball and fourth-best shortstop behind Derek Jeter (okay), Rey Ordonez (his glove was pretty good), and Donnie Sadler (oof). The Marlins called him up in May 1996, and, like Andrus, he rode surprising offensive statistics and spectacular defense to a second-place finish in his league’s Rookie of the Year voting.
Galvis doesn’t have the body of any of the players discussed above, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him hold his own offensively while providing excellent defense up the middle for several years. His glove at shortstop is regarded by some as the best in the minor leagues, so with a little bit of development at the plate he could emerge as a solid first-division regular. Even if he tops out as a empty-average hitter with stellar glovework, that’s a player who can stick around and contribute to championship-caliber teams for a decade.