Tyler Goeddel Decommissioned

Tyler Goeddel’s 2016 starting gig in left field lasted just 23 games. The reasoning behind his short stint was cloudy at best, especially given his above-average (and near team-best) production over that time.

Pre-Goeddel Era

Let’s take this from Opening Day. For the first month of the season, manager Pete Mackanin deployed a combination of Cedric Hunter, Darin Ruf, Emmanuel Burriss, David Lough and Goeddel in left. All but Burriss made at least six starts.

None hit over .240. None got on base more than one-third of the time. None slugged over .320.

From batting average to slugging percentage, on-base percentage to wRC+, the left field position was head and shoulders below that of every other MLB team. They lacked power in a big way, with a slugging percentage a point below their already low .212 OBP.

Phillies (Rank) .144 (30th) .212 (30th) .211 (30th) .423 (30th) .189 (30th) 11
-10.5 (30th)
.191 (29th) .243 (29th) .245 (29th) .572 (29th) .254 (29th) .53 (29th) -6
Difference .047 .031 .034 .149 .065 42 4.5

So Mackanin turned to the Phillies first overall draft pick from 2015. No, not that draft. The Rule 5 Draft, where teams get to select non-40-man roster players buried on other team’s minor league depth charts.

The Phillies snagged 23-year-old Goeddel from the Tampa Bay Rays organization, a player who by all reports was not a top-30 prospect in that system.

Goeddel Era

After 27 games of the league’s worst left field production, Mackanin tried Goeddel’s hand in an everyday role. He broke out. In those 23 games, Goeddel was the second best hitter on the team.

During that bout of consistent playing time, he looked like a candidate to get serious playing time in left in the upcoming months.

What was by far the worst left field position in baseball in the season’s first 27 games posted borderline top-10 production when Goeddel expected to see his name in the seven-hole on the lineup card on a nightly basis.

Singling out Goeddel began to look like an impressive bit of pro scouting from the Phillies, as the slender rookie slashed .286/.337/.481 in 23 appearances (all starts) over a 26 game stretch from May 4 and June 1.

What is especially interesting, in hindsight, was that Mackanin didn’t abandon his experiment after Goeddel went 1-for-9 in his first three games. Good thing too, because if he had, he would have lowered the number of effective offensive weapons he employed daily from two to one.

The only other player that produced at better than league-average rates in that span was Goeddel’s next-door neighbor Herrera in center field.

After starting slowly in those three games, Goeddel posted an OPS a few points shy of .900 for the remainder of his starting days.

In that time he held the best slugging percentage on the team—keep in mind the willowy Goeddel weighs in at just 180 lbs, literally less than half the man former Eagles offensive lineman Shawn Andrews was coming out of college—and the second best on-base percentage. He even struck out in a lower percentage of his at-bats than any other Phillie. So what happened? Why did he lose his starting role?

It wasn’t a discernible or worrisome decline. He slashed .222/.300/.444 in his last eight starts, and while that was a dip from where he was, it was significantly better than the production the team received before he took over the role.

He was striking out more over the final week of that span—six times in 26 plate appearances—than he had in the first two weeks—five times in 57 plate appearances—but he was also walking three times as often. So Goeddel was putting the bat on the ball less, raising both his walk and strikeout rates. But those sample size is just a week’s worth of games, not nearly enough to ignore out his previous production.

The answer, in short, was that Cody Asche returned from injury.

Post-Goeddel Era

Asche couldn’t come close to replicating Goeddel’s impact on the lineup while he held a firm grasp on the starting spot over the next two months.

Starting 45 of the next 54 games in left, he slugged over 100 points worse than Goeddel. Asche started consistently through June and July, until, in August, the position was once again split between a handful of players. These included Aaron Altherr—who also returned from injury—and Goeddel who received eight sporadic starts that month.

When Goeddel made 23 starts in 26 games from May 4 to June 1, he posted a 118 wRC+. The consistency of his playing time looked to benefit him.

In the week after he lost the left field job, he started five of six games, four in right and one in left. In the remaining 100 games afterward, he made consecutive starts only twice.

After losing the starting job and finding himself as an intermittent spot starter at best, he hit .135/.224/.189.

As autumn breeze flipped the calendar to September, Mackanin addressed the situation when reporters asked if Goeddel would see an increased role in September with the Phillies out of the playoff hunt.

“I’ve seen enough of Goeddel to know,” Mackanin said. “We’ve kept him this long and we’re going to keep him and we’ll see where we go next year with him. I don’t see a need to play him, especially after he hasn’t played so much. What’s the point?”

It seemed the rhythm of starting day in and day out was good for both Goeddel and the team’s league-worst offense. Once he lost the job, the Phillies left field position fell back to the bottom third in the league in offense.

For Mackanin to essentially throw his hands up and ask the point of giving playing time to a young outfielder who showed spurts of potential (given consistent playing time) raised questions on its own. Why then, down the stretch, would Goeddel not play a steadier role? Mackanin noted he didn’t see the point, “Especially after he hasn’t played so much.”

For a player who thrived with steady playing time and then, due to others returning from injury, couldn’t play so consistently, wouldn’t the homestretch on a non-playoff team be the perfect place to determine if that early season hot streak was just a fluke or whether he could really be relied on when given consistent at-bats?

Why not observe him closely now and have a greater understanding of his potential role down the line and not try to split time with up and coming outfielders in the high minors? There’s no guarantee all of those outfield prospects even have a month as good as Goeddel’s May so early in their careers. Essentially, why not learn as much as possible instead of having to squeeze in at-bats for Goeddel down the road closer to the team’s window of contention?

Why was Jimmy Paredes eating starts down the stretch? Why was Darin Ruf? And, for that matter, why was Bourjos still getting starts in September? Surely some of those could have gone to Goeddel in creating some semblance of consistency for the youngster.

Here’s how the three eras of the 2016 Phillies left field position looked in terms of offensive rankings:

Pre-Goeddel Era Last Last Last Last Last
Goeddel Era 10th 11th 10th 12th 12th
Post-Goeddel Era 28th 28th Last 28th 27th

2017 Outlook

Mackanin asked for veteran outfield bats in the offseason and got them, so no starting spot is open even after the team purged their older outfielders in the offseason. Bourjos, Paredes, Ruf and Asche are all gone. No spot on the 25-man roster will be open either.

And with the exploits of Dylan Cozens, the second-half hiccup from Nick Williams that put off a big league promotion and those veteran additions that likely blocked Altherr/Roman Quinn from duking it out for a starting spot in the big club, there’s no room for Goeddel to get regular licks in triple-A where everyone assumed he’d begin 2017. What now?

Maybe he starts the season as an extra outfielder in triple-A, but he won’t get too many regular at-bats behind three guys knocking on the big league door. As we saw, inconsistent playing time wasn’t the best predictor of success for Goeddel at the major league level. Maybe he gets a starting job in double-A.

While the additions of Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders made sense, they cast doubt onto why Mackanin didn’t make the most of a hot-hitting Goeddel, or at least learn as much as possible about him in the last month-plus of the season when the outcomes didn’t matter. Instead, a couple players who were clearly not going to be on the 2017 roster were stealing his innings.

Because of Mackanin’s reluctance to get the most information out of the available playing time in 2016, it may be some time before the Phillies learn what they have in Tyler Goeddel.

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  1. Chris S

    February 15, 2017 10:07 AM

    The whole Tyler Goeddel situation from last year is one thing that bugged me about Mackanin. I generally have liked Mackanin, but his handling of Goeddel was curious to me.

    • Chris S

      February 15, 2017 10:08 AM

      Additionally it feels very similar to the start of the Domonic Brown era in Philadelphia.

    • JustBob

      February 16, 2017 01:06 AM

      What is curious about it? Goeddel was terrible outside of one month (May) and couldn’t adjust all season long after that when teams pounded him with fastballs on the outer part of the part and he wasn’t able to adjust. LA bemoaned that fact and wondered why Goeddel wasn’t making that adjustment.

      He is largely an afterthought at this point given how many other OF options they have including Cozens, Quinn, Altherr, and Williams.

      • Michael C Lorah

        February 16, 2017 08:27 AM

        It’s curious because we all want to see if the 23-year-old with some potential future can maintain his success and give us some hope for 2017 and 2018, rather than seeing the same old deadwood trotted out there to fail night after night. There was no purpose in playing Bourjos or Paredes and very little point in playing Asche (surely, in comparison to Goeddel, who Mackanin had seen enough of, we’ve seen plenty of Asche).

        I don’t think any of us in the pro-Goeddel camp necessarily assume he’s an everyday player on a contending ballclub, but we’d rather have that glimmer of hope that comes with seeing a young guy taking a shot, especially when he succeeded during his limited chance at the job.

      • JustBob

        February 17, 2017 01:00 AM

        Up until Bourjos got hurt on July 26th, Bourjos was possibly someone they wanted to try and trade at the deadline. He did have a really good June.

        They also wanted to see what Asche could do and if he could ever show something with his bat.

        I guess they could have played Goeddel instead of Bourjos in Sept but he had been horrendous at the plate since May 31st (.127/.211/.216 with 2 HRs in 114 PAs) with lousy defense to boot. If he hadn’t been a Rule V player, they would have sent him down in July/early August at the latest.

        I did want to see what Altherr could do when he came back and they gave him plenty of playing time. He just stunk too.

      • Ben Harris

        February 17, 2017 01:21 AM

        A major point of the article was to point out that, with continued play, Goeddel was solid. When playing sporadically, he struggled. Mightily. I acknowledge why he wasn’t playing immediately when Asche came back. But the September issue is another beast. The reason to do it has nothing to do with whether or not he’s a part of the next good outfield. The reason is to maximize his potential and put him in a scenario that he had shown he could succeed in, even in a small sample. If he duplicated that success in another bout of continuous playing time, then he’d proven he could be somewhat of a reasonable contributor. There are many teams that would need that. In a position of power, seemingly, with so many OF prospects on the horizon, having a guy who played well means another chip to deal. It was worth giving him that playing time and taking it from Bourjos after he was unable to be dealt and Paredes with the small inkling that maybe, just maybe, he could turn into a chip.

  2. Chayce

    February 16, 2017 01:06 PM

    Isn’t Goedell a infielder turned outfielder? They could just turn him back to 3B and start him at AAA. I haven’t read that much indicating the Phillies have another prospect there behind Franco in the minors. Could be an Interesting move to try to get him decent playing time while not stepping on the other outfielders playing time.

    • Romus

      February 16, 2017 03:43 PM

      Goeddel . or any of Williams, Quinn or Cozens could also DH for PAs at LHV.
      In the IL, there’s 6 NL and 8 AL affiliates, so the DH is in effect about 40% of the NL affiliates’ home games.

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