2014 Phillies Report Card: Freddy Galvis
It feels wrong to talk about “the heady days” of 2012, but that’s appropriate in the case of Freddy Galvis. As the understudy for the injured Chase Utley, Galvis was a defensive revelation and fan favorite in a little more than two months of play at second base. He didn’t hit well at all–.226/.254/.363 in 200 PA–but he was simply magnificent in the field, and the ability to pick up for Utley without missing a step, as well as his cherubic disposition, made him a fan favorite. A couple of us even tried to get a silly nickname–El Falcon, after his home state in Venezuela–to stick on Galvis.
The hope was that Galvis would turn into the kind of dynamic defensive shortstop who could be an acceptable starter in this new dead ball era without contributing much with the bat. Now that we’re not expecting everyone to hit .280 with 20 home runs anymore, you can get away with a shortstop who doesn’t hit at all if he’s truly elite with the glove. The archetype of this player is Andrelton Simmons, who is simply the best defensive shortstop in the world, but there are others, including Brandon Crawford and Alcides Escobar. Galvis, who doesn’t run as well as Escobar or hit for as much power as Simmons, had a ways to go, but as a 22-year-old rookie, El Falcon represented a player we could dream on.
And then things started to go wrong. Galvis broke a vertebra in his lower back, and you can imagine what that does to an athlete whose main stock in trade is his agility. Galvis concurrently served a 50-game suspension for PEDs, and when he returned, Utley and Jimmy Rollins had already come back into the starting lineup full-time, relegating El Falcon to the bench of the Iron Pigs.
Whether the interruptions of 2012 stalled Galvis’s career, or whether his stature and swing limited his offensive potential from the outset–it’s probably a little of both–Galvis never developed into anything close to a starter-level player, and by 2014, Galvis was more of a bench player and utility infielder than anything resembling a starter.
After recovering from a MRSA infection in Spring Training, which he presumably contracted because Florida is a disease-infested swamp full of people whose bodies, or souls, or both, are rotting away as they live, Galvis hit very well in AAA, but not so much in 128 late-season plate appearances in the big leagues. His defense, insofar as the advanced metrics can figure in such short bursts, has regressed from an elite level in 2012 to more pedestrian marks in recent years.
In 2014, Galvis did continue his bizarre streak of not hitting for much power, but making it count when he did. Of his 14, career home runs, two were walk-off winners, and he’s got Jon Lester, Aroldis Chapman, Gio Gonzalez, Francisco Rodriguez, and R.A. Dickey (in his Cy Young year) in his book. Last year, Galvis hit four home runs, three of them in a 12-game span, and two of them in San Diego and Oakland, two of the less hitter-friendly ballparks in baseball.
The failure to force his way into the lineup by this point has probably scuttled any chance Galvis has of being the Phillies’ starting shortstop of the future. In the Phillies’ current situation, we have to look at every decision, every development, through the lens of what it means When the Phillies Are Good Again. Galvis is fine as an up-and-down utility guy for now, but he might not have a place in the team when the Phillies are gearing up to make a run with their next core group. First of all, the Phillies seem to have their full-time shortstop of the future in J.P. Crawford, who could arrive in the majors sometime around 2016. The Phillies also took Emmanuel Marrero, a Puerto Rican-born defensive specialist out of Alabama State, in the seventh round of the 2014 draft, and Marrero could eventually fill the utility role we expected Galvis to occupy.
Still, after two years of medical and developmental setbacks, Galvis is still only entering his age-25 season, so it’s possible the bat develops from bad to below-average and Galvis turns into something. I wouldn’t count on it, but it’s still within the realm of possibility.