What To Do About the Outfield

The Phillies have a good problem on the horizon. Howie Kendrick was bashing baseballs before succumbing to an oblique injury. Kendrick is eligible to come off the DL today, but indications are he’ll be out about another week or two. He was signed to start in the outfield, and he’s making $10 million this year whether he starts or not. Aaron Altherr, since Kendrick’s injury, has been unleashing the full force of his 6’-5” frame on the National League. If he qualified, he’d rank third among NL outfielders in wRC+ at 170. He’s picked up exactly where he left off after the 2015 season (let’s just pretend like last year never happened).

If you’ve been reading this site, you’ll notice that we love Altherr, and for good reason. Besides his hitting, he’s perhaps the best defensive outfielder the Phillies have, and at 26 years old he’s significantly younger than the Phillies other corner outfielders (Kendrick, 33, Daniel Nava, 34, and Michael Saunders, 30). If given the chance to grow, he could be a valuable contributor to the next great Phillies team. So the answer seems obvious; put Kendrick in the other outfield slot, where Saunders is producing just a 76 wRC+. However, it’s not that simple.

The Phillies have an overwhelmingly right-handed lineup. Along with Altherr and Kendrick, the Phillies have right-handed starters in Cameron Rupp, Tommy Joseph, and Maikel Franco. Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez are both switch hitters, but Hernandez has been worse against righties in his career, and Galvis, while he has produced better against righties, “produced” is a relative term when discussing a player with a career wRC+ of 75. Odubel Herrera is the only Phillies regular with a history of above-average performance against righties with a career wRC+ of 117. Oh, and you may realize that the overwhelming majority of the populace is right-handed, which means that 73% of plate appearances last year were against right-handed pitchers.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Phillies have run a 94 wRC+ against righties and a 101 wRC+ against lefties this season. Saunders, meanwhile, is a left-handed hitter with a league average career wRC+ against righties, and he’s been better than that the past few years excepting an injury-shortened 2015. That might not seem like much, but having more than one average hitter against lefties in a lineup is important. Consider that 17 of the Phillies 25 games have come against right-handed starters.

Perhaps the best solution, then, is to get them all in the lineup, especially against right-handed pitching. Tommy Joseph, with his 51 wRC+, looks ripe for a diminished role. Maybe the best solution is to keep Altherr and Kendrick in the outfield and move Saunders to first base.

I’m not sure if management is ready to reduce Joseph’s role, but one thing is certain. The Phillies cannot keep Aaron Altherr out of the lineup.

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  1. Eddie

    May 04, 2017 10:01 AM

    Altherr every day in RF, Kendrick and Saunders platooning in LF, with Kendrick getting spot time at 1B.

    Altherr is making a case to be a long-term piece, and especially since most of the other prospects are better fits in CF or LF, he belongs in RF every day.

    Joseph is not going to get out of his slump on the bench. I’m okay with “reduced time,” but if they’re not going to give him at least 4 starts a week in the bigs, they need to send him down. But there’s no room in AAA; meaning he stays here unless/until they are ready to call up Perkins or Hoskins or whomever.

    Saunders and Kendrick can get about 4 starts a week each. That’s enough.

  2. davels

    May 04, 2017 10:15 AM

    I like the idea, but Saunders has never played firstbase at any time in his 9 MLB seasons… ZERO times. But Daniel Nava has. A Nava/Joseph (or even a Stassi/Joseph) platoon, seems like a great idea to me… at least until Joseph starts hitting again.

    I’d also like to see a Saunders/Kendrick platoon in OF… with Kendrick maybe spelling Franco at 3B once every couple of weeks or so also. All we heard about was how much flexibility we had with our lineups this year… how about we start using it to get some more productive bats in there? (and give some guys a day off to keep them rested and productive all season).

    And where is Blanco? Lets get him a game a week too.

  3. Kram209

    May 04, 2017 10:19 AM

    Saunders at 1B vs RHP is a fine idea, but I’d give Stassi a longer look there as well. He’s a plus defender there and he might need to be moved out later in the season to make roster space, so see what you have now.

  4. Steve

    May 04, 2017 10:58 AM

    Im thinking Kendrick would slide to first before Saunders, but thats just me…

    • Romus

      May 04, 2017 02:11 PM

      Not just you…..Kendrick has played first base in his career…89 games….Saunders zilch.
      Seriously doubt at this point of his career and the season, Saunders will be handed a first basemen’s mitt and put in the infield.
      Not sure why fans are thinking that this could happen this season.

  5. NJ Mike

    May 04, 2017 11:25 AM

    To quote Darth Vader – ‘There is no conflict.’

    Play Altherr everyday, bench Saunders versus left-handed pitching, and move Kendrick into a super-utility role

  6. Bob

    May 04, 2017 04:14 PM

    I don’t understand why there was a need to sign both Saunders and Kendrick. One would’ve been fine. If Quinn or Williams come alive, we could see both our big veteran acquisitions sit.

    • Chris S

      May 04, 2017 04:43 PM

      I think they signed both so they could trade them in July and let the young kids (Quinn and Williams) get a bit more seasoning down on the farm before getting the starting gigs. Altherr has thrown a wrench into that plan, but you can never have enough quality players on the team!

      • Steve

        May 06, 2017 09:47 AM

        Exactly. Altherr has been a nice suprise, but he wasnt not somthing the FO could count on entering the season. Quinn is/will always be an injury risk, and honestly, Williams was in shambles to close out 2016. While Kendrick and Saunders wete not ideal players, they were adequate players on short term deals. It would have been irresponsible to not provide Mackanin with major league viable options this year.

      • Bob

        May 06, 2017 11:48 AM

        You can’t get anything in trade for marginal OFers. Look at the projected playoff teams. Saunders or Kendrick wouldn’t fit on any of them. No team is going to trade anything of value for a bench bat who can’t play defense. Look at the deadline last year. Players like Kendrick and Saunders didn’t get traded because they aren’t worth anything.

  7. ed

    May 04, 2017 04:34 PM

    Here’s a novel idea. Trade Hernandez and move Kendrick to 2nd. Hernandez hits, but doesn’t seem to know what to do once he gets there. If you don7t think this thought has crossed the mind of the FO, you are not paying attention

    • Dante

      May 08, 2017 08:36 AM

      So…..who plays second base next year then?

  8. Tom

    May 04, 2017 10:00 PM

    Altherr every day in RF, Kendrick and Saunders platooning in LF. Bring up Hoskins when Kendrick returns, send Joseph down to AAA to learn how to hit and release Kelly to free up the 40 man spot for Hoskins. And find some bullpen help please.

  9. TommyDigital

    May 05, 2017 08:46 AM

    Was not a huge Altherr fan coming in but man he looks solid. He’s gotta play everyday to at least see what we got with him.

    • Andrew R.

      May 05, 2017 04:57 PM

      I agree. I never thought he would be more than a 4th outfielder….and that still may be true. But we are rebuilding and trying to see what we have. Right now, he’s showing us some things and therefore, he deserves to continue playing.

  10. Mace chutney

    May 05, 2017 11:48 AM

    Altherr permanent RF/LF unless he falters badly
    Kendrick replaces Saunders against lefties
    Kendrick replaces Joseph against righties
    Kendrick traded at deadline, Hoskins arrives and mashes
    Alfaro arrives in Sept. Knapp back down or bench bat

  11. Brad

    May 05, 2017 12:13 PM

    Stassi!!! Last time I checked, he’s a lefty. And he’s a plus defender (at a less important position, I realize). I would employ platoons with Kendrick/Saunders and Joseph/Stassi at this point.

    • Andrew R.

      May 05, 2017 04:59 PM

      That’s not a bad thought. Stassi and Joseph both deserve time to prove themselves. Why not put them in against pitchers they will have a higher chance of success? We owe nothing to Kendrick and Saunders, let them platoon and whomever gets hot, plays. Let’s maximize our youth potential.

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