Fear not, baseball. If you are thrown by Vance Worley in a two-strike count, no batter will swing at you. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
The Phillies have a lot of money to spend. With 45,000 coming to Citizens Bank Park on a daily basis, and a large TV deal looming in 2015, the Phillies will be able to spend quite a bit to keep its players around. But even the biggest payrolls need a few cheap players to fill in around the high-priced guys, and the Phillies certainly have their share of high priced players. Thankfully, in 2011, the Phillies may have happened upon two such players.
The first of the pair is Vance Worley. He surprised both the team and the fans with his effectiveness, pitching 125 innings (5.95 IP/start) with an ERA/FIP/xFIP of 3.02 / 3.24 / 3.64. A backwards K machine, Worley has continued to pitch well to start this season, with a very solid 2.37 / 4.03 / 2.70 start. If he continues to freeze batters at anywhere near the pace that he's started the season, he could match his 2011 without breaking a sweat. Well, okay, he'll probably still sweat, but Worley has turned into a strikeout pitcher almost out of nowhere. For a pitcher with a 6.2 K/9 in 260 innings in AA, Worley's 8.36 K/9 in the majors the last two years puts him right above... Cole Hamels. By K%, his 22.2% K% has him just below Jon Lester's 22.3%. He's not quite at the level of the Phillies' top three, as he walks a few too many batters, but Worley has pitched like a high-end #2 starter so far in the majors. Even more encouraging is the early uptick in GB%. In his last start, Worley managed to go seven innings without giving up a single fly-ball, and on the year his GB% is at 51.1%, well in GB-pitcher territory. It's early, but improvement in that category (last year his GB% was 39.3%) would go a long way to cementing Worley's status as a high-end starter.
If Worley performs at this level, it fills in the #4 spot in the rotation until at least 2016, and does so at very little cost to the MLB team. It allows the team to have more financial flexibility and get some extra production at a low cost, both of which will be crucial to the team as its stars grow ever older.
The second of the two is Freddy Galvis. Galvis had his first successful offensive season in 2011, and has succeeded early on in majors. It's way too early to say anything about his offense, but I don't think it's too early to say that his defense will keep him in the majors for a long time. He's played second base for a total of two months, and may already be the best defensive second baseman in the majors. He makes tough plays look easy, has fantastic range, and consistently shows up on the highlight reel. He's simply a joy to watch. His offense, (again, it's early) has been alright, with his .263 wOBA coming in a bit below his ZIPS projection. After his 0-12 start to the season, however, Galvis has gone 11 for 37, with 3 doubles, 1 home run, and two walks, for a line of .297/.325/.459. It's fairly meaningless, but that doesn't mean it isn't fun to look at.
Again, Galvis is good enough defensively to be a MLB player even if he produces almost nothing at the plate. But where does he slot in the Phillies future? It's complete speculation, but after this season, the Phillies have an option on Placido Polanco over at 3rd, and if they choose to forego picking that up, they could try Galvis at 3rd. I don't think he's played any 3rd base at all in the minors or majors, but he's mastered 2nd in two months, so I don't think it's out of the range of possiblities. He'd have to at be a bit better offensively to slot in as a starter at 3rd base, but if he's capable, it'd be a huge boon for the Phillies. Third base has been a major question mark for the Phillies going forward, with few options available on the FA market or in the minors, and having Galvis fill that hole could be of great benefit to the team. Even if the team does bring back Polanco, Galvis would be well-suited to a super utility role, allowing Rollins and Utley (and perhaps Polanco as well) to rest quite frequently and hopefully keep them healthy. As long as Galvis doesn't completely disappear at the plate, like a one John Mayberry Jr., he'll be a valuable contributor for this team.
Getting solid contributors like Worley and Galvis at league minimum is such a big step towards keeping this team afloat over the next several years. This team needs a few more, but it's a step in the right direction. And hey, there's also that Dom Brown guy too. He might be pretty okay.