2012 Phillies Player Preview: Freddy Galvis, Defensive Wizard

A congratulations, from one gold glover to another. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

The Phillies opening day second baseman is perhaps the most unlikely player on the entire 25-man roster. A minor league shortstop, he's won the job through superb defense at a position which he had never played before this year's spring training.

No, Freddy Galvis is not Chase Utley. No one can adequately fill the gap caused by Chase's absence. But simply on his own merits, is Freddy Galvis really a major-league caliber player? To figure that out, we must find out who Freddy Galvis is, and how's he gotten to where he is today.

Galvis was signed as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela at age 16. His first full pro-season came in Williamsport, at age 17, where he hit a mere .203/.255/.252. Even at 17, however, Galvis' defense was highly touted, with Baseball America ranking him 13th in the Phillies' system even with the poor offensive production. The 2008 Prospect Handbook touted Galvis as a breakout prospect: "He already excites scouts with his shortstop wizardry." That breakout didn't come in 2008, as while his defense was top-notch, he still only managed a .238/.300/.288 line at single-A Lakewood. As an 18-year old he was exceptionally young for the league, so his lack of offense was unsurprising, but his hitting left much to be desired nonetheless. However, while his power was nonexistent, Galvis' plate approach was rather solid, with a 7.5 BB% to a 11.1 K%. In light of this, Galvis was challenged and advanced first to high-A Clearwater, where he hit .247/.280/.307, and then finished the year at AA-Reading, where he hit .197/.222/.246 in 63 PA. At age 19, he was facing, on average, 23-year old pitchers in the FSL, and 24-year old pitchers in the Eastern League. Galvis was advanced due to his solid-glove work, but he was challenged offensively because of it. Only the best hitting prospects can succeed in AA at age 19, and Galvis was certainly not a highly-touted hitter. At Reading itself, Galvis was the first 19-yr old to play for the team since 2000, and only the 11th teenager in the team's history. His production was nearly non-existent, but his struggles were exacerbated to a great degree by this effect.

"He might be the best defensive player in the minors right now that I know of, because he's about the only player I can think of who gets promoted because of his glove, and not his bat."

John Manuel, Baseball America - November 9, 2009

In the context of the Phillies minor league system, Galvis, a shortstop, was a prized commodity. With Jason Donald and Lou Marson sent off to Cleveland, and Travis D'Arnaud traded to Toronto, Galvis, Sebastian Valle, and Jonathan Villar were the only real infield prospects left in the system. With Jimmy Rollins option picked up for the 2011 season, however, there wasn't an urgent need for a SS, and so expectations of Galvis' 2010 were relatively low. And the results were less than encouraging, with the 20-year old Galvis hitting .233/.276/.311 in 545 PA. Even accounting for his age, Galvis' struggles in an major hitters' ballpark were disappointing. The power wasn't there as he hit only five home runs, and had an ISO of .078. however, even with a full year at the same level, his plate approach didn't return to anywhere near it's 2008 form. His 5.5 BB% and 16.3 K% left him with a BB/K of only 0.34, almost exactly half of what it had been at Lakewood, at 0.67. Summing up Galvis' 2010, Kevin Goldstein said this of Galvis: "He's among the best defensive shortstops in all of the minor leagues, but it's too bad he can't hit."

After Jonathan Villar was traded for Roy Oswalt, Galvis was left as the only SS prospect that was even close to the majors. The 2011 season was make-or-break for the young shortstop, as his 3rd year in Reading was one in which he much closer in age to the rest of the league. He was still young, but if he struggled, it could no longer be waved away due to age. Thankfully, Galvis' 2011 was a breakout season, with the 21-year old SS hitting .273/.326/.400 in the Eastern League, where the league average was .259/.329/.395. He hit 8 home runs in Reading in 81 fewer PA, and managed to improve his plate appearance, with a 6.0 BB% and 14.7 K%, for a BB/K of 0.41. It was also the first time in Galvis' professional career in his we managed a BABIP over .300, coming in at .308. He wasn't an offense machine, but to hit league average as a 21-year old shortstop is impressive nonetheless. Galvis' base-running was a bit less encouraging, as he had 19 SB and 11 CS, for only a 63% SB%, well off the 79% he had managed in 2010. Galvis was promoted to AAA Lehigh Valley on Aug. 2, and struggled with his plate approach and power, hitting .298/.315/.364 in 126 PA. He had an inflated .350 BABIP, which kept his line respectable, but his 2.4 BB% and 14.3 K% was a big step down. Still, judging much of anything about Galvis based on a month's worth of plate appearances in a level he had never been in before would be silly. 2011 was a major success for Galvis.

With Jimmy Rollins entering free agency, Freddy Galvis began to enter the consciousness of Philadelphia's sports radio and fan base. Many called for him to be plugged in as the team's SS, and to let Rollins go where free agency would take him. Thankfully, the Phillies don't make decisions based on the opinions found on sports radio, and Jimmy Rollins was re-signed with the team through the 2014 season, with a vesting option for 2015. This left Galvis in an odd spot, as his natural SS position would be occupied for years to come.

Still, Galvis' 2011 had him rocketing up the Phillies prospect rankings, with Baseball America ranking him 6th in the system and BP's Kevin Goldstein ranking him 4th. John Sickels was more skeptical, and ranked him at 17th, with this justification: "Everyone loves the glove but I remain skeptical about the bat. Other sources will likely rank him higher, but he looks like a utility guy to me." Kevin Goldstein, on the other hand, praised his defense, both for his first step and his arm. He also touted the hard contract the Galvis made throughout the 2011 season. Galvis, in his mind, could not only play a major-league SS, but be among the best in the league at it.

Galvis entered this year's Spring Training trying to win a job on the 25-man roster. With Wilson Valdez traded to the Reds, and Michael Martinez being Michael Martinez, he had a real shot to make the majors for the first time in his career. To see if he could handle the role of utility player, Amaro and the Phillies had Galvis playing second base exclusively. He played the position without missing a beat, leading the team to announce that Galvis had won the starting 2B job in place of the injured Utley. In a year, Galvis went from near non-prospect status to a full time starting role on a major league roster. It's both an indictment of the Phillies' health and a demonstration of the progress that Galvis has made.

So, what can we expect of Galvis in the 2012 season? ZIPS projects him to hit .261/.299/.359, and to have 19 SB and 10 CS, for an overall wOBA of .290. That seems a fair mid-point projection. Among all 2B with at least 150 PA, that would have had him just above Jose Altuve, and just behind Ryan Theriot. Not exactly prime company, but not terrible, either. With 2B, there are higher offensive standards than SS, though not by much, with a league average 2B hitting for a .307 wOBA, and a league average SS hitting for a .303 wOBA. It's fairly certain that Galvis will hit below league average as a second baseman, but not by too much.

With Galvis, however, the value is always going to come from his glove. Even adjusting to a new position, Galvis is likely to be among the best defensive players at 2B. Just how valuable is that? Well, if Galvis plays as well as say, the 5th best second baseman, UZR/150 (among all qualified 2B) would put him at about 13 runs saved/150 games. DRS, on the other hand, would put him at about 11 runs saved over a season. Now, assuming that Galvis gets about 300 PA or so, between starting at 2B and eventually shifting into a utility role, what exactly would his production be worth? Well, estimating his batting runs by comparing him with Altuve and Theriot, he'd accumulate -5.0 runs batting. He's an average baserunner, so he likely won't add or subtract runs in that category. His fielding will be worth around 6 runs or so in a half of a defensive season. Then, adding in the replacement adjustment for his level of playing time, he accumulates another 10 runs above replacement. Lastly, a positional adjustment of about 1 run is added in for playing 2B.

Totaling that up, if Galvis is a great defender at second and hits to his ZIPS projection, he'll be about 12 runs above replacement level. This puts Galvis at 1.3 fWAR. For 300 PA, that's pretty good. It'd establish him as an above average major league player in a full-season at 2B. At SS, he'd be even more valuable. Of course, Galvis could go out and hit .220/.260/.310 or something similarly poor, and it wouldn't be shocking. Skepticism from people like Sickels is warranted, as he's only hit well for one full season in his career. It's harder to be skeptical of his defense, but it's not guaranteed that he'll automatically become one of the best defensive second baseman in the league. Given time, he probably would be, but in his first few months he may only end up as an average defensive player. His floor is probably around replacement level for this season, and his ceiling is something like Omar Infante's offense (.305 wOBA), but with the best defense in the league at 2B, which would put him at around 4.0 fWAR for a full season. He won't replace Utley's production entirely, but he can certainly make up for some of it, especially if he hits close to league average. At the very least, he'll fill in much better than Valdez or Martinez did last year.

Freddy Galvis won't be a star, but he'll be a decently productive player, who excites with his defense and fares well enough with the bat. He could be an important piece for the Phillies if he succeeds, given his age. Now it's up to him to take his fate in his own hands and prove the team right for trusting him.

2007 17 Williamsport NYPL A- PHI 38 156 143 20 29 5 1 0 7 9 4 10 20 .203 .255 .252 .507 36 1 0 3 0 0
2008 18 Lakewood SALL A PHI 127 523 458 59 109 12 1 3 42 14 7 39 58 .238 .300 .288 .588 132 11 4 16 6 0
2009 19 3 Teams 3 Lgs A+-AA-Rk PHI 86 365 341 41 82 9 2 2 20 7 5 13 54 .240 .272 .296 .568 101 7 2 8 1 0
2009 19 Phillies GULF Rk PHI 7 30 29 6 8 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 4 .276 .300 .310 .610 9 3 0 0 0 0
2009 19 Clearwater FLOR A+ PHI 63 272 251 29 62 8 2 1 15 6 3 10 43 .247 .280 .307 .587 77 4 2 8 1 0
2009 19 Reading EL AA PHI 16 63 61 6 12 0 0 1 5 0 1 2 7 .197 .222 .246 .468 15 0 0 0 0 0
2010 20 Reading EL AA PHI 138 545 502 58 117 16 4 5 48 15 4 30 89 .233 .276 .311 .586 156 8 1 8 4 2
2011 21 2 Teams 2 Lgs AA-AAA PHI 137 590 543 78 151 28 5 8 43 23 13 31 86 .278 .324 .392 .716 213 5 6 9 1 1
2011 21 Reading EL AA PHI 104 464 422 63 115 22 4 8 35 19 11 28 68 .273 .326 .400 .727 169 3 6 7 1 0
2011 21 Lehigh Valley IL AAA PHI 33 126 121 15 36 6 1 0 8 4 2 3 18 .298 .315 .364 .678 44 2 0 2 0 1
5 Seasons 526 2179 1987 256 488 70 13 18 160 68 33 123 307 .246 .292 .321 .613 638 32 13 44 12 3
AA (3 seasons) AA 258 1072 985 127 244 38 8 14 88 34 16 60 164 .248 .294 .345 .639 340 11 7 15 5 2
A (1 season) A 127 523 458 59 109 12 1 3 42 14 7 39 58 .238 .300 .288 .588 132 11 4 16 6 0
Rk (1 season) Rk 7 30 29 6 8 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 4 .276 .300 .310 .610 9 3 0 0 0 0
A- (1 season) A- 38 156 143 20 29 5 1 0 7 9 4 10 20 .203 .255 .252 .507 36 1 0 3 0 0
AAA (1 season) AAA 33 126 121 15 36 6 1 0 8 4 2 3 18 .298 .315 .364 .678 44 2 0 2 0 1
A+ (1 season) A+ 63 272 251 29 62 8 2 1 15 6 3 10 43 .247 .280 .307 .587 77 4 2 8 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/29/2012.
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