Posted in MLB, Philadelphia Phillies, Sabermetrics | Print | 49 Comments »
Ben Revere was worth 3.1 Wins Above Replacement last season, according to FanGraphs. Baseball Reference pegs him at 2.6. This year, FanGraphs has him at 0.3 and Baseball Reference 0.5. In many ways, 2013 has been a disappointment for both Revere and for Phillies fans who had anticipated seeing their 25-year-old centerfielder of the future make progress. A slow April that left Revere among the three worst hitters in baseball didn’t help matters.
Due to the way media coverage works, we tend to think of player progression as a straight, continuously rising line through about age 30. Often, it looks more like a parabola: progress, followed by adversity, followed by progress, followed by adversity. A year after winning the AL Rookie of the Year in 1999, Royals outfielder Carlos Beltran finished with a .675 OPS. Braves shortstop Rafael Furcal went from 4.0 WAR (Baseball Reference) in his Rookie of the Year award-winning 2000 season to 0.2 the next season. Those are only a couple examples involving high-profile players; there are hundreds of examples every year.
Though Revere has been less valuable to the Phillies than he was to the Twins last year, and he has only been marginally above-average overall, his 2013 season is heartening. He posted a .712 OPS in May and .805 in June, shockingly. In fact, his .352 wOBA in June exceeded that of B.J. Upton, Shin-Soo Choo, Desmond Jennings, Michael Bourn, and Denard Span, among other center fielders. Additionally, after stealing a combined 10 bases in 13 attempts in April and May, he stole 10 in 14 attempts in June alone. Only five players in baseball have stolen more bases than Revere overall.
It must be pointed out that Revere has only been passable in terms of base-stealing efficiency (74%) and has taken a step back defensively. He has at times displayed the range for which he was lauded in Minnesota, but he has cost the Phillies on multiple occasions due to subpar decision-making and instincts, like this:
Fortunately, though, it’s teachable. Revere turns 26 years old next May 3. His most often cited comparable player, Michael Bourn, had posted seasons of -0.2, 0.3, and -0.7 WAR (Baseball Reference) prior to a breakout 3.8 in his age-26 season. In those seasons, Baseball Reference rated him as 0, +6, and +1 runs in the field, but +11 in that 3.8-WAR season (and +30 the next season as well). He improved several points in base running efficiency while improving both the rate and quality of contact at the plate. There is no guarantee that Revere’s career will follow the same path, but it has been done before.
Revere may seem like one of the more replaceable parts of the Phillies’ roster, but he is actually quite a valuable piece of a changing core of players. Earning a meager $515,000 in 2013, he will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the season. He won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season, meaning the Phillies will have the opportunity to allow Revere to blossom as a player over the next four and a half seasons at a price that allows them the financial flexibility to bolster the roster in other areas.