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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  1. Michael C Lorah

    August 11, 2017 11:48 AM

    Cesar vs Kingery is certainly an interesting discussion. They both have winning arguments, and I can’t say I’m overly concerned that the Phillies will go wrong no matter which player they opt to go with in the long run. Kingery doesn’t have to be on the 40, so there’s not really a rush to do anything right now.

    I see very little reason to support Joseph or Galvis, and certainly looking for an upgrade for Franco should be on the table (although given that he is only 24 and there are several other areas on the roster that need attention, I am not entirely averse to giving Franco one more shot at proving himself in 2018).

    Tommy’s been covered at length. Freddy vs. JP seems to be a thornier debate, as JP’s struggles at AAA haven’t convinced people that he’s an upgrade, but I’m inclined to take a chance on Crawford. This seasons, in his best-ever offensive showing, Galvis has mustered a meager 87 OPS+.

    What I’m curious about is Galvis’s defense – I certainly see what everyone else sees, acrobatic plays, seeming to always be in the right place. What I haven’t really reconciled is that his defensive metrics do not match the eye test, and I know I tend to trust numbers more than my biased observations. For all the statements that Freddy just HAS to win a Gold Glove this year, he’s earned a -3 DRS on the season and is 9th in MLB (5th NL) in UZR. Add the meager bat to the good-but-not-elite defense, I just don’t see a strong argument for not seeking an upgrade here. Whether Crawford is going to be the player he was for his first 8 months at AAA or the player he’s been since (and prior), that’s another matter entirely. I don’t see Galvis becoming a significantly better player at this stage of his career. I think there’s room for Crawford to achieve that growth.

    • Romus

      August 12, 2017 08:21 AM

      Of the the following six below….the top four have to eventually go.
      And rather relatively quick over the next year or two.
      Their OBP is not conducive to a playoff caliber productive lineup.
      Only Cesar and Odubel should be held onto.
      Maikel is the only third basemen in the system of value right now,
      so that will be a difficult decision that will have to be made.

      • Edwin

        August 12, 2017 06:36 PM

        Why would you hang on to Cesar? He is not in the future plans at all. He is a one position player who is at his peak now and they have to trade him in order to get something for the future. Kingery is the future at 2nd base. As for Franco, they should just suck it up and hope for the best and forget about Machado – go for Arenado in 2020.

    • denzen

      August 14, 2017 07:24 PM

      Eddie, thanks for the clarification. Not to split hairs, but what you said was, “Crawford and Valentin must be added to the 40 man this winter”. That is what I was responding to. But since, turns out, he is already on the 40, that makes a difference.

  2. Eddie

    August 11, 2017 12:04 PM

    “I still stick by my assertion that Cesar Hernandez should be playing a bunch of positions. He’s a versatile guy, …”

    What other positions, exactly, is he supposed to play? He plainly doesn’t have the arm to play SS or 3B on anything more than an emergency basis, and his bat would be subpar at LF and CF (and reportedly he didn’t look good in his short auditions there a few years ago). What is the sense in turning an above-average regular into a mediocre utilityman?

    • Eddie

      August 11, 2017 12:19 PM

      “Freddy Galvis …His ideal role is a super utility player, where he could play second, short, and third. ” Same silliness. At SS Galvis is an average bat; at 2B or 3B he’s well below average. His glove would play anywhere, but so what? You’re gonna keep a multi-million dollar salaried defensive whiz around so you can stick him in at 3B in the 8th inning, like a glorified Kim Batiste?

      Zobrist-like super subs are useful because they can handle the defensive AND offensive demands of multiple positions. Galvis can’t do that: he’s a purpose-built machine; every inning he spends away from SS is sub-optimal use.

      • Steve

        August 11, 2017 01:27 PM

        I think Zobrist was an example, and he is certainly the golden child of the super-utility role. Neither Galvis or Cesar have his talent. I think a better comparision is Emilio Bonaficio.
        Its good to have a utility guy off the bench, and youd pay a few million to acquire that via FA, so why not pay Freddie a few million to do it if both Crawford and Kingry become starters? He has a good presence in the clubhouse, and the guy has a knack for clutch hits.
        Hernandez should be the starting 2b for the rest of this year and the beginning of next yearsince Kingry doesnt need to be on the 40 man. He may be able to be packaged for a nice return, especially if a contending team has an injury.

      • Eddie

        August 11, 2017 03:02 PM

        Freddy will make ~$6 million in arbitration next year, and barring collapse, will command that much or more in a multiyear deal as a FA in 2018. Utilitymen like Bonifacio or Andres Blanco make half that or less. Even if you ignore the money, it’s hard to see him just easily and happily taking a backup role to Crawford, and it’s not hard to imagine fans wanting to bench Crawford and bring back Freddy everytime Crawford has a bad week.

        Crawford and Valentin must be added to the 40 man this winter, and Kingery might well beat out Cesar in ST. The odds of Crawford, Valentin AND Kingery all still being unready for the Majors by March are pretty long. Assuming there is a fair offer, I’d deal Cesar in the offseason to a team looking for a medium/long term solution at 2B (Blue Jays, Angels, etc) and keep Galvis since he’s better suited as a SS/2B swingman. If by next July, it looks like BOTH Crawford and Kingery are ready, you trade Galvis instead of letting him walk for free.

      • Steve

        August 12, 2017 08:06 AM

        I cartainly dont know Galvis but i dont see him as having a big ego. I think he might sign an extension worth 7/8 mil per year with the understanding that hes going to see some time at 2B, SS, and 3B. Thats the best opportunity hes going to get on a good team. He may get a guaranteed SS gig on a bad team, but he also may just prefer to stay in Philly on an up and comming team. I dont mind over paying Glavis a few mil while i have Kingery Hoskins Williams Alfaro and Crawford on leaghe minimum deals.
        Id certainly make Cesar very available this offseason, but i wont criticize the organization for keeping Kingry off the 40 man this offseason and not calling him up until june/july 2018.

      • denzen

        August 12, 2017 12:23 PM

        Eddie, I am not sure why you think Valentin must be added to the 40 man roster. I think he has been passed by a number of more worthy players.

      • Eddie

        August 14, 2017 09:41 AM

        Steve — Players want to play. I could be wrong, but I suspect Galvis would rather be a starter somewhere than a backup here. That’s not “ego” that’s normal.

        denzen — Valentin is already on the 40 man. Based on 2016, I don’t see the sense in cutting him loose for nothing.

      • Kim Batiste

        August 14, 2017 02:47 PM

        I beg your pardon? I don’t recall Freddy hitting 1.000 in an NLCS.

    • Edwin Folk

      August 13, 2017 08:20 AM

      Yep, that’s a pretty stupid thing to say about a player who is as limited as Hernandez – are you surprised?

  3. Steve D

    August 11, 2017 12:11 PM

    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.

    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.

    GOLD! Hahahaha

  4. Bill G

    August 14, 2017 02:35 PM

    Why have we never given Franco a chance to play first? He’s clearly never going to be anything more than a below-average glove at third, but he’s spending so much time fighting himself there that now he can’t hit either.

    I think our optimal future IF is Franco at 1B, Kingery at 2B, Crawford at SS, ____ (insert FA 3B here) with Cesar as the fill-in guy who could play OF in a pinch.

    • Steve

      August 14, 2017 05:51 PM

      Hoskins probably projects as a better 1b than Franco

    • Major Malfunction

      August 15, 2017 12:48 PM

      Over the last 2 years, Franco has successfully deconstructed any notion that he’s a plus bat that should be put in the lineup everyday. He just appears to be clueless up there. Unless Hoskins shows otherwise, I can’t imagine there is any need to supplant his soon-to-be-his spot at 1B by putting Franco there.

      I’m not saying give up on Franco. It’s obvious he has the tools, but he’s got to actually use them efficiently to stay as a starter in MLB. His last 2 years say otherwise. In fact, he’s somehow worse this year.

  5. Kurdt Kobeyn

    August 14, 2017 06:05 PM

    Assuming that both Cesar and Kingery holds up to their current performance – the decision who is the 2B of the next contending Phillies is determined by the FOs timeline to win. If Middleton wants to within the next 2 years, then keep Cesar. No specific timeline mentioned yet, but I think it’s around 2020 (and Trout will be FA in 2021).

    I like Cesar but Kingery just have the better skill set across the board. and Kingery’s physical projection is in line with the Phillies timeline to win so my opinion is that Kingery is the future 2B. Cesar has played an above ave baseball now for 2 years. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t really have loud physical tools so he probably reached his physical peak. I’ve been advocating to trade him for the best trade package then can get (knowing that 2Bs don’t bring a l lot in return) and start playing the next core of Hoskins-Kingery-JPC and some other young dudes together.

    Doobie is the harder decision. But if the Phills draft 2 CF as their 1st pick in the last 2 drafts – Moniak and Haseley. The 2 of them plus Altherr, Quinn, an improved Tocci can probably bridge the 2-3 year development period to Moniak/Haseley or eventually (my preference) Mike Trout when he’s available.

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