Third base is arguably the most unpredictable position to predict for who will start. With current starter Maikel Franco struggling mightily this season, many of the same fans who were convinced Franco would be a cornerstone piece have seen enough. Franco has a .226 batting average on the year to go along with a -.9 WAR, the worst of any starting third basemen in Major League Baseball. Franco, a once promising player, may be done in Philly with multiple players gunning for his starting spot.
JP Crawford will be a name to watch for the Phillies starting third base spot. Crawford, a shortstop by trade, has been forced to widen his repertoire due to the steady play of Freddy Galvis, who looks to capture his first Gold Glove in a year that has seen him him commit just seven errors. Galvis also has a 9.88 fielding percentage, which is the highest in the league among shortstops. A duo of Galvis and Crawford on the left side of the infield would likely create a bit more versatility than the duo of Galvis and Franco.
Though Crawford will likely never be able to match Franco’s 20-25 home runs a year, Crawford does something else much better: quality at-bats. Too many times have fans witnessed Franco swinging for the fences in situations that don’t require him to. With quality at bats generally comes a better on-base percentage. Crawford has always had a knack for getting on base, with a career .367 on base percentage throughout his minor league career. The Phillies brass has openly stated multiple times that they value getting on base. This should work in Crawford’s favor come next year when he battles it out with Franco.
With Franco and Crawford garnering all the attention, other players have been forgotten. One name to also keep an eye on is current second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Hernandez, who is just 26 years old, has hit .289 on the year. Hernandez will cause headaches with his occasional base running blunders, but his ability to hit and play average defense (his .978 fielding percentage is good for 14th in the league for second basemen) could give him a chance at third if Phillies prospect Scott Kingery is called up.
Kingery has done everything possible to warrant a Spring Training invitation at the very least, and could look to crack the Phillies lineup next season. Kingery, currently in Lehigh Valley, has hit .304 with 26 home runs. He also has 29 stolen bases. Kingery is a very versatile player who hasn’t let up ever since being drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft from the University of Arizona. Kingery, a good defender as well, should be able to push Hernandez for his spot come 2018.
When Spring Training comes around, I expect the trio of Franco, Crawford, and Hernandez to all battle it out for the third base spot. Franco is the least likely to make the roster if he cannot secure a starting role, as he offers little versatility compared to Crawford and Hernandez. I expect Hernandez to make the Phillies as their top utility player if he cannot secure the starting third base spot, while Crawford may return to Lehigh Valley for a bit to get him regular playing time. The possibility of the Phillies signing or trading for a starting third baseman is always possible, but my guess is the Phillies go with who they have and hope that one of the three can produce.
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