Well, it has finally happened. What not too long ago seemed like a day that would never come will finally arrive. Tomorrow, JP Crawford will make his long awaited debut. We’ve watched him ascend prospect lists. We’ve seen his patient approach get refined as he climbed the minor league ladder. We’ve watched him struggle, then adjust. We’ve watched him use dings to his pedigree as motivation for success. It’s almost been like watching our own children grow up before our very eyes. And now - graduation.
In a way, this feels like something out of the Marvel universe. All of the individual movies and characters coming together to form one superhero team that can win the day. First was Nick Williams. Then came Rhys Hoskins. Almost below the radar was the promotion of Jorge Alfaro. Now, with Crawford about to make his debut, it’s almost as if Phase One of The Rebuild is complete, even though that other guy is still awaiting his opportunity to make an impact. The team’s top prospects have made it to the major leagues and will have a chance to prove they belong.
Now comes the hard part.
Pete Mackanin has one real job to perform in these waning days of the 2017 season. One thing to make sure that the future of this franchise is set on the right path to success. One thing to continue the rebuild that has taken so much patience to watch and hope for.
He must play Nick Williams, Rhys Hoskins and JP Crawford every single game possible.
As I mentioned on the Twitter machine last night, there is no real logical reason why they should be sitting at all. The team is long out of any possible playoff spot. On their remaining schedule, they will play maybe three games against teams that will have anything to fight for when they play Miami next week, so they will not be facing any teams desperate for wins. They have the opportunity to let their top three young bats go out and simply get the plate appearances against major league pitching that they so desperately need in order to evaluate their preparedness for the spotlight. They must play.
Now, this might mean management makes some difficult (for them) decisions when it comes to the lineup. It’s been well said that Freddy Galvis would like to play all 162 games. This is a noble request, one that Mackanin is probably going to take very seriously when Freddy’s contributions to the club are taken into account. However, we are all well aware of what Galvis brings to the table. Gold Glove-worthy defense, pop in the bat, poor on base skills. In other words, nothing that should be blocking Crawford from taking reps at shortstop. If they wanted to give Crawford time at third base in order to keep Galvis’ glove on the field, that’s perfectly plausible. It’s not like Maikel Franco and his 69 wRC+ should be blocking anyone right now. However, Crawford needs to be playing every day, and Galvis’ desire to play every game should not be impeding that.
Last week, Galvis played a game in centerfield, ostensibly as a way to pave the road for Crawford’s impending arrival. At the time, it made sense, since they were in the second game of a doubleheader and needed bodies in the outfield. But, if Mackanin has desires to play Galvis there, displacing Odubel Herrera in the process, Pete might need some intervention. Doing so would weaken a key defensive spot, perhaps even two if you believe Crawford’s glove is that far below Galvis’ at the shortstop position. With a pitching staff that needs all the help it can get, that might not be the soundest of strategies.
So, while Galvis has become a fan favorite, and deservedly so, it is more important for the team to put their more talented players out on the field than it is to put one player’s wishes above sound decision making.
With regards to Hoskins and Williams, the call is much easier. In order for the two of them to stay in the lineup with Herrera and Aaron Altherr coming back, Tommy Joseph needs to sit. He has been a below average hitter in every important offensive category and no longer needs to be a regular anymore. It would allow Hoskins to go back to his natural position of first base, Williams to slide over the left field and Altherr to head back out to right. Doing so not only makes this team better offensively, it makes them better defensively as well. It’s a win win situation.
The catching situation is slightly more complex. Cameron Rupp had been starting behind the dish during each of Aaron Nola’s and Jerad Eickhoff’s starts, which is perfectly fine. I’m a believer in a pitcher-catcher relationship that is not quantifiable, so if they felt more comfortable with Rupp, run him out there. However, with Eickhoff’s season ending, perhaps Alfaro needs to take on the lion’s share of starts from here on out. He is the catcher of the future, and in order to get a head start of building the type of relationship that Rupp has now, Alfaro must be given a chance to work on a consistent basis with the entire pitching staff at every chance possible.
As much as it might pain them to sit down players like Galvis and Joseph, guys who have had their moments this season, Mackanin and company have to understand that it is truly what is best for the team. Now that the kids are here to stay, they have to be on the field. Letting them fester on the bench in favor of inferior options does no good for anyone. The future is now. It’s time to watch it grow.