What Are the Phillies Doing with Ben Revere?
CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury just posted tonight’s starting lineup against the Miami Marlins, and someone was once again noticeably absent:
Phillies at Miami tonight pic.twitter.com/RSrkbPB2sj
— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) May 20, 2014
The reasons why are obvious. Revere dealt with a stomach virus recently. He is also slashing .268/.284/.297. He has only two extra-base hits (both triples) and three walks a quarter of the way through the season. To say Revere has been a disappointment is an understatement, considering we were already accepting his weak arm in center field as a detriment.
Manager Ryne Sandberg recently suggested that he’ll decide each game’s starting center fielder based on the opposing pitcher. Revere has a reverse platoon split over his career, which means he hits same-handed pitching better than opposite-handed pitching. John Mayberry, Jr. complicates things as he crushes lefties and is currently hitless against right-handers. The left-handed Gwynn has a normal platoon split.
Sandberg’s lack of patience — and, it appears, that of the Phillies’ brass as well — seems to indicate that the Phillies legitimately view themselves as contenders this season. Mayberry and Gwynn offer one no benefits next season and beyond, but if one believes them to be more productive than Revere, then they offer an immediate upgrade. The Phillies are only four games out of first place in a wide-open NL East, so it’s hard to fault the team for thinking they have a shot. However, they have the third-worst run differential in the National League and aren’t even a week removed from being shut out in back-to-back games.
Giving up on Revere this early is a terrible long-term move for the Phillies. It’s a tacit admission that they can’t develop him further, but also stunts their ability to find out what he could bring to the team over the next three seasons, the second through fourth years of arbitration eligibility for the 26-year-old. It may be hard to see now, but there could be a Juan Pierre hidden within Revere — it’s a long shot, sure, but not a non-zero probability — and it’s up to him and the team to bring that potential out.
Based on what he did over the off-season GM Ruben Amaro appeared to view the 2014 as a transition year. He handed out no long-term contracts and didn’t deal away any valuable prospects. In a transition year, one does not expect to make the playoffs, instead using the season as a laboratory of sorts to gather lots of information on the club’s players.
Here is a summation of most of the information the Phillies have on Revere: During his career with the Twins, Revere hit .278 and stole 74 bases while playing above-average defense. In the first half of 2013 prior to his injury, he hit .305 and stole 22 bases with a 73 percent success rate while playing average defense in center field despite an incredibly weak arm. Over the first quarter of 2014, he’s hitting .268 with 12 stolen bases. He’s hitting a ton of ground balls up the middle, reducing the efficacy of his speed. He hasn’t shown any improvement with his instincts on reading fly balls off of the bat. Revere was worth 2.6 WAR in 2012, his final year with the Twins, according to Baseball Reference. He was at 0.5 last year and is already at -0.6 so far this season. Pros: speed, base running, range in the outfield. Cons: no power, no walks, a weak arm, and a bad read on balls off the bat. While all four cons can’t be fixed and turned into outright tools, the detriments can be mitigated at the very least.
Revere’s 478 plate appearances with the Phillies doesn’t even constitute a full season. His 1,064 with the Twins in his age 22-24 seasons, are roughly two seasons’ worth. To get a general feel for what he brings to the table — how often he strikes out and walks, how much power he has — that’s enough playing time, but it’s a blink of an eye for a player when he isn’t pre-built out of the box like a Mike Trout or a Giancarlo Stanton. Revere is a flawed player and his body type and skill set suggest he’ll be a “tinkerer” throughout his career. The Phillies are doing themselves a disservice by not providing Revere an environment in which he can tinker and learn and grow, making him an asset to the team. Instead, they appear ready to turn the chapter and address their center field problem somewhere down the line. It seems the Phillies think they have enough information on him. If that is true, they couldn’t be more wrong.
Player development is a process, one that requires plenty of patience. The Phillies, thanks to the success of their current core and a flurry of free agent signings and trade acquisitions in the recent past, haven’t had the need to develop their own players in over a decade. But now, with that core nearly on its way out and the team ushering in a new future, they have to go back out to the farm once more. It’s a farm they’ve neglected to water; one at which they’ve only thrown seeds, then became frustrated at the blight.
The Phillies could very well be right that Revere is not capable of handling their center field job over the long term. But what does it hurt them to give him a shot and prove them wrong? Or to try to mold him into the player they envisioned him being? Revere isn’t blocking anyone and the other options barely move the needle in either direction. The Phillies are only hurting themselves by limiting the amount of information from which they can draw when making investment decisions about the team in 2015 and beyond. All because Revere isn’t Shane Victorino.