With the playoffs nearing an end, most teams are already shifting their focus to next season. The Phillies are no different, having plenty of difficult choices to make in regards to who will and will not be on their opening day roster come March 29th when they take on the Atlanta Braves.
Bubble players who will:
Crawford has been heralded as the Phillies shortstop of the future. From the time he was taken 16th overall in 2013, Crawford has progressed rapidly through the minor leagues. After four years, Crawford finally got his first taste of the big leagues, hitting .214 with a .356 on base percentage through 23 games. Crawford saw action at second base, third base and shortstop. Crawford’s versatility and solid defense (he had zero errors on 26 fielding attempts) should allow him to stick around for a roster spot, although he will have to show a bit more power, generating just five extra base hits, none of which were home runs.
Hernandez, who missed nearly two months with an oblique injury early in the year, was a very productive player for the Phillies. Hernandez ended the 2017 campaign hitting .294 across 128 games. He led the Phillies in stolen bases with 15. Though he does not provide the Phillies with much power, hitting just nine home runs on the year, Hernandez deserves a roster spot because of his ability to hit for contact alone. Regardless if future Phillie Scott Kingery (who finished up the 2017 season as a member of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs) makes the jump to the majors or not, Hernandez deserves a roster spot.
Despite playing gold glove defense, hitting for power and average, and not missing a single game last year, Galvis is considered expendable by many. Plenty of people think That JP Crawford will take over for him. It’s a reasonable assumption, with Crawford being five years younger and having an on base percentage 47 points higher than Galvis (albeit in a limited sample size). The Phillies’ staff has constantly stressed that they value getting on base. Despite all of this, Galvis is still just 27 years old and one of the best defensive shortstops in the league. He finished the 2016 season with the least amount of errors, committing just seven even though he played in 155 games, fifth most among shortstops. Galvis, depending the route the Phillies take, could still land on another team over the next few months, but I don’t think it will happen. He has earned his place as the Phillies starting shortstop and deserves to be there.
Bubble players who will not:
Franco has led the Phillies in home runs and runs batted in each of the last two seasons, hitting a combined 49 home runs and 164 RBIs. If he starts 130 or more games next season he will likely have another 25 home run 80 RBI season. It just won’t be for the Phillies. The Phillies signed Franco in 2010 from the Dominican Republic, offering him $100,000 (narrowly beating out the Yankees $95,000 offer). Franco excelled in the minors, and had his big league debut in 2014. He has never had trouble hitting for power throughout his career. Most pitchers know not to challenge him with a fastball anywhere near the plate. Unfortunately for Franco, he chases pitches. Bad pitches. Pitches in the dirt, pitches six inches out of the strike zone, pitches over his head. Franco hit .230 last season, and only .216 with runners in scoring position. With his inability to have success in key at bats, shaky defense (he committed 15 errors last season), and his poor on base numbers, Franco will likely be sent packing, giving the left side of the infield to Crawford at third and Galvis at short.
With catcher Jorge Alfaro out of minor league options, he looks to be the Phillies opening day catcher. Rupp, the Phillies starting catcher the past two seasons, took a step back after a career year in 2016 where he hit .252 with 16 home runs across 105 games. Rupp managed to hit just .217 this season. He rarely played the last two or so weeks, taking a backseat to Alfaro. Alfaro impressed in limited action, hitting .318 across 29 games. Alfaro is younger, has a better arm and should be the Phillies starting catcher with a nice showing in spring training. Rupp has some value as the Phillies backup catcher, but that will likely go to Andrew Knapp considering Rupp should have a bit more trade value. Rupp will need to have an incredible spring training to stick around, but an impressive showing from him and Alfaro will likely just give the Phillies a bit more in return for him, if they choose to hold onto him that long.
Photo: Keith Allison, Flickr