You never want to be the guy following The Guy, especially when you also might be coming in ahead of The Next Guy. But that could well be the fate of Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis. It didn’t help that his major league debut came on Opening Day 2012, the season when most people outside the Phillies front office came to understand that the good times were done, or that eventually he replaced a franchise legend in shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Nor that he’ll get expensive just as a wave of promising young players—led by shortstop J.P. Crawford, who looks like a potentially worthy successor to Rollins—could be leading the team out of the wilderness.
Galvis gets a little latitude as a homegrown guy. But given his career 0.4 bWAR in through 2015, it’s easy to see him as a bruised fruit from the Phillies’ sickly player development tree, arranged alongside the similarly unappetizing likes of Cameron Rupp, Cesar Hernandez and Cody Asche: guys who got playing time owing less to their merits than a lack of alternatives. Particularly with Crawford coming up fast behind him, 2016 could be Galvis’s last hurrah with the organization that signed him out of Venezuela a decade ago at age 16.
As early as 2008, when he played at low-A Lakewood at age 18, there were voices in the front office claiming that his was perhaps the best infield glove under the Phillies’ control. But he never got much prospect hype, largely because his batting lines compared unfavorably to those of, say, Cole Hamels. That year at Lakewood, he hit .238/.300/.288; the following season at Clearwater, .247/.280/.307. At Reading in 2010, he put up a .233/.276/.311 line.
Repeating the level a year later, Galvis suddenly flashed offensive adequacy: he batted .273/.326/.400, setting a career high with 8 home runs and adding 19 steals. The following April, he was lining up behind Roy Halladay at second base for the injured Chase Utley, and delivered enough value with the glove to justify a .226/.254/.363 line. Unfortunately, Galvis suffered a fracture in his back in early June, didn’t return in 2012, and bounced between triple-A and the majors through the following two seasons.
Finally assured a starting job last season after Rollins was dealt away, Galvis turned in his best offensive season to date, batting .263/.302/.343 with 7 home runs and 10 steals in a team-high 603 plate appearances. But the defense that had been his career-long calling card was suddenly a concern: Galvis committed 17 errors, fifth most among NL shortstops, and advanced metrics rated him roughly average.
If Galvis is to defy the odds and stick around to be a part of the next Phillies contender, he’ll likely have to do it as the second baseman—beating out countryman Hernandez—or a utility infielder. His ability to play every infield position as well as the outfield corners, most of them pretty well, probably assures a solid major league career. But the ticking of his service clock and the waves of talent coming up behind him make his long-term Phillies future cloudy at best. Meanwhile, the Phillies will take his usually solid, sometimes-spectacular defensive contributions, and look for continued improvement at the plate.