What To Expect From Freddy Galvis

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.

Player Year  PA AVG/OBP/SLG OPS SO/BB SO% BB% SB/CS TB
Freddy Galvis 2011 464 .273/.326/.400 726 68/28 14.7% 6.0% 19/11 169
Hanley Ramirez 2005 519 .271/.335/.385 720 62/39 11.9% 7.5% 26/13 179

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.

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9 comments

  1. Jesse

    April 02, 2012 07:38 AM

    Is this april fool’s statistics? By only taking players who amassed more than 250 plate appearances in the bigs, you definitely threw out a ton of people who you know, sucked really hard and got sent packing. Galvis hasn’t made the group that got 250 plate appearances yet, and if he doesn’t learn how to walk, well, he’s cooked.

  2. SABR

    April 02, 2012 07:40 AM

    There is a large elephant in the discussion not mentioned above, which is that each of the other six players were selected by their club to play in MLB whereas the Phillies are using Galvis only due to injury. All of the other guys (except Olmedo) were called up because they were star prospects – their team wanted them and proactively made room for them rather than needing them to be a replacement for injury. The Phillies had the opportunity to pass up on Rollins this offseason and start Galvis at SS, and chose not to do so. That should tell everyone a lot about where he stands as a prospect. The selection bias here is pretty large, and I think that Galvis probably is not ready.

  3. Bradley Ankrom

    April 02, 2012 09:07 AM

    @Jesse:
    I had to draw a line somewhere and given that I don’t know exactly how many PA Galvis is going to accrue this year, I settled on 250. I think it’s likely he’ll hit well enough that, coupled with his defense, he sticks around all year.

    @SABR:
    Barring injury, Rollins is likely to be worth more than Galvis over the next couple of years, which is the window the club is most focused on. Ideally, Galvis would be at Lehigh Valley to start the season, sure, but the fact that the club chose Rollins over Galvis for the near-term says nothing about the latter’s status within the organization.

  4. James Kerti

    April 02, 2012 10:27 AM

    Jesse has a point.

    There’s a pretty significant selection bias there. Teams are less likely to keep a guy around for 250 at-bats if the player is performing terribly.

    Plus, only one of the players you cited played on a team that finished over .500, and so those teams were probably more willing to give young, inexperienced players more opportunities than they otherwise would have been.

  5. Mike B.

    April 02, 2012 11:12 AM

    I’m interested to see what FG can do. I can’t imagine it will do him anything but good to be around Chuck full-time.

  6. Bradley Ankrom

    April 02, 2012 12:02 PM

    @James Kerti:
    I think that if Philly could have acquired something better, they would have. Assuming his defense holds up – and he’s given no reason to expect that it won’t – Galvis should have a fairly long leash, at least while Utley is out.

    Let’s also remember that Galvis, while not Utley or Rollins with the bat, isn’t an awful hitter. He makes a lot of contact and showed improvement across the board between Reading and Lehigh Valley last year. He’s been fine this spring and there isn’t any reason to expect him to get eaten alive once the games start to mean something.

    Finally, recall that we didn’t expect much from Andrus when he broke camp as the Texas’ starter in 2009, and he worked out fine, contributing more than two wins above replacement to the Rangers that year. It isn’t unreasonable to expect Galvis to contribute similar value to this year’s Phillies.

  7. Bradley Ankrom

    April 02, 2012 01:59 PM

    Also, for what it’s worth, decreasing the PA threshold from 250 to 100 would have added only one more player to the study: Felipe Lopez.

  8. nik

    April 02, 2012 08:46 PM

    What are the chances Galvis has a hot start, makes every play look easy and becomes a fan favorite Valdez style? Can’t wait until Utley is back and slumps to see what talk radio has to say.

  9. Dan K.

    April 03, 2012 11:10 AM

    @nik,

    I may just lynch anyone that says Galvis is better than Utley if that happens. I’m cheering for Galvis, I want him to do well, hell I want him to be a superstar (note want, not expect). But blasphemy is better left unsaid.

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