Crash Bag Vol. 32: The Infield of the Future and Boozin’ With Phillies

I would like to start this Crash Bag off by revisiting my well-thought-out, certainly-not-off-the-cuff Bobble-WorthinessTM rankings from a few Crash Bags ago. With Odubel Herrera’s recent sizzlin’ hot streak, he’s on pace for nearly four wins this season. By my criteria from that post, Herrera is on pace to be legitimately Bobble-WorthyTM next season. PUT IT ON THE SCHEDULE, PHILLIES.

Stay tuned for more hard-hitting bobblehead analysis.

@justin_klugh: Which two-first-named sub-.260 hitter would you rather have, Jay Bruce or Tommy Joseph?

Can I write in for Josh Donald(son) or Khris Davis? Actually scratch that second one. I don’t think Khris counts as a first name.

Contractual obligations notwithstanding, I think the obvious choice here is Bruce. He has a track record of being a good hitter that Tommy “second worst-hitting qualified first baseman in the MLB” Joseph doesn’t have. Bruce can nominally play the outfield, which means Rhys Hoskins wouldn’t have to Raul Ibanez it up out there.

Contractual obligations withstanding , I think you’ve got to take Tommy Joseph. Bruce is a free agent at the end of the year, and I think if the Phillies won 90% of their remaining games they still wouldn’t make the playoffs. Tommy Joseph might turn into something useful, while the ghost of Jay Bruce will only haunt the batting cages under Citizen’s Bank Park once the season is over.

@bxe1234: Of Williams/Altherr/Herrera, which two become Hall of Famers & which becomes a SUPER HALL OF FAMER. Or… who do you think has the best career?

The Hall of Fame rewards both lofty peaks and expansive careers; they’re the two poles that the sliding scale of worthiness toggles between. Sandy Koufax was in the Majors for 12 seasons, but was only notably above-average for six of them. But oh my lord, he was wonderful for those six seasons, posting 46.4 fWAR (46.6 bWAR), appearing in the All Star Game each year, and collecting an MVP, 3 Triple Crowns, and 3 Cy Young Awards. Eddie Murray, on the other hand, never reached the lofty heights of Koufax; his highest fWAR for a season was 6.8 and he never won an MVP, but he was above average for 14 consecutive seasons from 1977 through 1990.

Most players fall in the middle of that spectrum: a lofty peak with several more above average seasons.  How they’re weighted is a matter of opinion for each of the voters, but my happy place is somewhere in the middle. Chase Utley, for instance, had a peak from 2005-2009, where he was worth 38.5 fWAR, followed by five consecutive above average seasons. I firmly believe the Silver Fox should be enshrined, but I don’t get a vote, so whatever.

I think the obvious answer as to which two of these players would have a chance at a lofty, spicy peak and sustained creamy goodness is Herrera and Altherr. Williams has been hurt even more than Altherr and he hasn’t proven he could be an above-average hitter at the Major League level at this point. So those are our Hall of Famers. As to our SUPER HALL OF FAMER, I think the crown has to go to Herrera. He’s younger than Altherr and already has nearly three seasons of injury-free above-average production. In other words, his creamy goodness is already established. Altherr has been great for parts of two seasons, but Herrera has been great for all of three.

So there you have it: Odubel Herrera is a future SUPER HALL OF FAMER! You heard it here first.

@theotherguysmom: What will it take to make the Phillies a .500 team next season?

The Phillies are 2 games above .500 since the All-Star break, so you’re lookin’ at it now!

But realistically, we need Williams and Altherr to prove their not flukes. We need Herrera to not revert to the proto-human he was until June. We need Eickhoff, Velasquez, and Nola to stay healthy. We need JP Crawford and Scott Kingery to get to the Majors and be pretty good. If all that happens, we’re probably a .500 team next year.

But in case it doesn’t, we could definitely use a starting pitcher or two and an entire bullpen. As Cesar-hater Adam Dembowitz tweeted, we could trade him for a starter.

@RobertDalton52 Compare an infield of Hoskins, Kingery, Crawford, Franco to that of Joseph, Hernandez, Galvis, and Franco

Let’s take this position by position:

First Base: Tommy Joseph is not particularly good. In fact, I just referred to him as Tommy “second worst-hitting qualified first baseman in the MLB” Joseph, so yaknow, I don’t think he’s a great option. Hoskins, while unproven, should immediately be better than Joseph. The projections support this, as Steamer projections on FanGraphs already have Hoskins as the best hitter on the Phillies. Neither is particularly great on defense so that’s essentially a wash. Since I don’t watch much minor league baseball, and I’m not a scout, I’ll defer to FanGraphs’ projections for both Joseph and Hoskins, and assume they’ll provide similar levels of defensive and baserunning value. Over 600 PAs, Josephs projected .325 wOBA would be worth 2.6 weighted runs above average (wRAA), while Hoskins .356 would be worth 18.2 wRAA. That’s about a win and a half in favor of Hoskins.

Second Base: Cesar Hernandez is in the second consecutive season of posting above-average offensive and defensive numbers. He’s not the flashiest player in the world, but over the past 1000 PAs, he’s given us nearly 4 fWAR/600 PAs. That’s nothing to sneeze at, and it’s why I’ve been a vocal supporter of Cesar Hernandez in these digital pages. (Side note: I still stick by my assertion that Cesar Hernandez should be playing a bunch of positions. He’s a versatile guy, and to quote myself, “Baseball’s a grind y’all, and Cesar loves to grind all over the diamond. I say we let him.”) Kingery has a real chance to be special, though. In his preseason prospect rankings, our own Matt Winkelman said Kingery’s ceiling is that of an above average role player, though his lack of power was holding him back, as he’d only hit 8 home runs in 868 PAs over the prior two seasons. His calling card would be speed, defense, and gap power. Then he came out in 2017 and bashed 24 home runs in fewer than 500 PAs this season. However, his Triple-A wOBA is just .016 higher than Cesar’s, and his 38-to-7 K-BB rate is concerning enough that at this moment, I think Cesar is the better option. A year or two down the line, I expect Kingery to iron those problems out as he did from 2016 to 2017 in Double-A. Right now, I’d take Cesar’s offense, but that would be offset by Kingery’s defense and baserunning. Let’s call it a wash.

Shortstop: Man, Freddy Galvis is just so damn good at defense. He’s also in the midst of the best offensive season of his career. The problem is that still produces something like an average shortstop. His ideal role is a super utility player, where he could play second, short, and third. JP Crawford, while not as good at defense, brings everything Galvis does not at the plate (namely some semblance of a plan), and he should be a good defender as well. After a rough start for the IronPigs, Crawford has been searing hot in the second half. He’s already better than Galvis offensively. I’d put him about a win ahead of Galvis at this point with plenty of room to grow.

Third Base: We really couldn’t get a better player than Franco to compare with Franco? Could we try Freddy Galvis or Cesar Hernandez or JP Crawford here? Anything has to be better than Franco.

So I guess that’s about two and a half wins for the young guys, by my estimation, with plenty of untapped potential.

@PaulSocolar: What do you make of Leiter’s recent success and ability to miss bats in long relief?

That’s an interesting question. For those of you who may not be aware, Leiter has pitched four innings or more in relief twice in the past week. He pitched 9.1 innings, recording 16 strikeouts with no walks and just 6 hits and 1 earned run. Before those two games, his K% and BB% were entirely mediocre, at 17.7% and 11.6% respectively. In these two games, those rates are 47.1% and 0%. I’m not seeing anything in his peripherals, like increased velocity or the usage rate for a certain pitch trending up.

Batters have been swinging more freely at his pitches outside the zone, and not making contact (seems like a recipe for success). Whether that is sustainable, I’m personally doubtful, but the difference is striking:

For reference, the highest qualified SwStr% for a starting pitcher is Corey Kluber’s 16.5%. If he can keep this up, we’ve got an ace on our hands. I wouldn’t count on him keeping it up.

@wkgreen06: If you went out to the bar with some Phillies for drinks, what would they order? Would Rupp be the guy who asks for a food menu also?

I’ll give this a try:

Cameron Rupp – Definitely wants to see a food menu to match a big greasy burger with his porter.

Freddy Galvis – I feel like Freddy, with his competitive fire, likes a drink that brings the same type of energy. How about a Flaming Moe?

Tommy Joseph – Light domestic beer.

Odubel Herrera –Excited by the deliciousness of his tequila sunrise, he chugs the drink and bat flips the straw, taking out the eye of a nearby patron.

Aaron Altherr – The Rhineland Rocket wants a nice Kölsch.

Mark Leiter Jr – Noticing that Vince Velasquez left the bar after taking only one sip of his drink, Mark Leiter decides just to finish his drink for him.

I’m not very good at this. Have a good weekend everybody!

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