For most of the 2017 season, the Phillies have been trying to walk a fine line between playing established, but struggling, big league players and calling up and playing the young prospects who have a higher upside and more promise.
For what seemed like a long time, Michael Saunders was hacking his way to .200. Tommy Joseph was blocking Rhys Hoskins. Cameron Rupp got way too much playing time after Jorge Alfaro was promoted. And then there was the quest to get Freddy Galvis in all 162 games (that’s still ongoing, by the way).
In some of those cases, minor league players were struggling during the first half of the season but then got better. In others, the team wanted to give the established Major League guys an opportunity to turn things around.
But now, it appears the team is now fully engaged in getting ready for 2018, as evidenced by the lineup for the first game of the Phils-Marlins series.
Tonight's lineup. pic.twitter.com/Sc1T2tywyi— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) September 12, 2017
While Galvis is still lodged in the No. 2 hole like Winnie the Pooh in Rabbit’s lair after eating 14 buckets of honey, the rest of the lineup features most of the players you should expect to see next season, even if it isn’t in their natural positions (Crawford at 2B, for example).
And comments made by Mackanin ahead of the series opener against Miami indicates the team is fully ready to turn their attention to the kids.
Pete Mackanin said with Altherr, Herrera and Williams in OF that Rhys Hoskins will spend most of the rest of the season at first base.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) September 12, 2017
C Jorge Alfaro will continue to get the majority of the playing time, even with Andrew Knapp activated from DL today.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) September 12, 2017
“Rhys Hoskins will spend most of the rest of the season at first base.”
That means very little Tommy Joseph.
“Jorge Alfaro will continue to get the majority of playing time...”
That means very little Cameron Rupp. And it sure as heck looks like they’re willing to move J.P. Crawford all over the infield in order to prioritize playing time for him.
Getting Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams in the lineup all at the same time, with Rhys Hoskins, Crawford and Alfaro, is the logical choice, and is at the same time enormously exciting and an indication the team realizes the future should start now.
They’re done messing around, gang. But here’s the thing. Playing the young guys is also better for the team to, you know, win actual baseball games.
Joseph is batting .238/.288/.432 with 21 HRs, a .304 wOBA, and a -1.2 fWAR this season. Hoskins is batting .296/.420/.722 with 14 HRs, a .465 wOBA, and a 1.9 fWAR in 366 fewer PAs.
Rupp is batting .220/.302/.426 with 14 HRs, a .308 wOBA and an fWAR of 0.8. Alfaro is batting .324/.370/.441 with 2 HRs, a .348 wOBA and a 0.3 fWAR in 237 fewer PAs.
Crawford has only had 20 PAs and hasn’t done much since being called up, but had a terrific final two months in AAA and is battling for playing time with Galvis, who is a fine defender but is batting a meger .253/.306/.385 in 594 PAs. Yes, they’re still going to get Galvis in all 162 games, but it’s clear either Freddy, Cesar Hernandez or Maikel Franco is going to sit to give the young prospect as many at-bats as possible.
Oh, and anyone who tells you the Phillies are tanking to get the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft by playing all these young players doesn’t know what they’re talking about. These former prospects are actually better players, and they’ll also get the much-needed experience needed for 2018.
The oldest player in Tuesday night’s lineup (Galvis) is 27. It’s clear the future is now.
It’s good to see the Phillies are acknowledging the same.