Philly, we’ve got a problem.
The Phillies have a problem that, quite frankly, a lot of major league teams would love to have. The problem is that there is just not enough spots on the diamond for their position players to all play every day.
The Phillies are in the middle of a series in Tampa Bay where they are able to use a DH, which presents a wonderful time to talk about this. This team is 10 solid start-worthy players deep. Luckily, during this series, the Phils can roll out 9 of these 10 players all 3 games, but being that they only have a DH for a small handful of games during their 162-game season, they’ve got too many bodies with not enough spots.
Let’s just go around the diamond, starting with Jorge Alfaro behind the plate. Andrew Knapp has seen his fair share of starts thus far, which irks some, but that’s a conversation for another day. Alfaro is the guy who should be seeing most of the action behind the plate and ultimately will in the long run.
Moving to the infield, we’ve got Carlos Santana, Cesar Hernandez, JP Crawford, Maikel Franco, and for the sake of this article, Scott Kingery is an infielder.
Looking at the outfield, the Phils have Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, and Aaron Altherr who would all be starting outfielders on basically any team in baseball.
Count ’em up. That’s 10 players deserving of every-day roles on this club. Here’s the problem, though, There’s only 8 positions to go around, leaving 2 odd men out each game (other than when they’ve got a DH, which of course is uncommon for the NL’s Phils).
Now, we all know Gabe Kapler has left us all with a mixed bag of emotions so far in his young tenure as Phillies manager up to this point. One thing is for certain, though. He has been giving all of these players significant playing time one way or another.
The only players to start every game so far have been Hernandez & Santana, and Rhys Hoskins has only not started 1 game. Other than that, playing time has been about even for the rest of the team. Even Scott Kingery has been playing almost every day, whether it be at third base, shortstop, left field or right field. He has yet to start a game at second base, but has gotten the starting nod from Kapler elsewhere in all but 3 games so far.
Gabe has done a great job of rotating these players in and out, and one thing that this rotation does is it keeps these guys fresh. It’s a long season. 162 games isn’t easy. We were lucky enough to see Freddy Galvis play all 162 games last season, but the former Phillie is just one of only 5 players in baseball to achieve that feat during the 2017 season (Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer, Joey Votto, Rougned Odor, Galvis). Don’t expect every player to play 150+ games during such a long season.
In reality, most teams would kill to have the problem that the Phillies have. Have someone slumping? Give them a night off. Have a veteran who could use a day off a week? Give them a night off. Have versatile players that can spell almost anyone else on the team when needed? Give them some playing time. Not every team has this luxury, but the Phils sure do right now, and we should all be appreciating that. They have the ability to give players off, but most teams can’t say that their first two options off the bench will always be someone who is deserving of playing every day.
Obviously there are those of us who believe we should have the same set lineup almost every night, but wouldn’t you rather have players fresh when it matters?
Lets just say that the Phils come through on all the hope and expectations that we’ve had for them all offseason and are right in the thick of things in September for a wild card spot. Do you want young players who aren’t used to playing a 162-game season drained by the time the biggest games of the year come around?… Yeah, we don’t either.
If it’s stats you’re worried about, you shouldn’t worry about that either. For instance, of the 19 players in baseball that hit 35 home runs last year, just 12 of them played at least 150 games. Of the 24 players who had 100 RBI last year, 16 of them played 150+ ballgames.
The occasional off day is not a bad thing in baseball, especially for a team as young as the Phillies.
Let’s put a little more into this. Maikel Franco has been seeing Scott Kingery spell him at third base probably 1-2 times a week so far. The season is about 26 weeks long. So, if Maikel plays 5 games a week on average, he still plays 130 games this season. The same goes for the outfielders who have been rotated in and out, as well as JP Crawford and Scott Kingery. That seems like plenty of playing time for these guys to all put together statistical seasons that will reflect why they all deserve to be in the lineup every day.
At this rate, Hoskins, Hernandez and Santana will probably be the only ones to play at least 150+ games if healthy (knock on wood).
Hoskins might be the exception to what we’ve been talking about in terms of taking it easy on players who haven’t played a full major league season yet. The guy is a beast, though. If he’s the star he could and should be, he should be playing that much. Otherwise, keeping up this rotation of players and keeping them fresh in the early stages of the season can only be good for them in the long run.
Would you rather have a team where all your players have already given all they’ve got when it gets to crunch time later in the year? Or would you rather have a group of young studs who have plenty left in the tank? I’ll take the second one for 500, Alex.
TRUST THE PROCESS, and LET’S GO FLYERS. It’s a fun time in Philly.
Oh yeah, and #BeBold.
Photo via @Phillies Twitter
All Stats via MLB.com