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What to do about a potential outfield crunch

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If Bryce Harper becomes a member of the Phillies, what does the team do with the remaining members of their outfield?

Philadelphia Phillies v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

We’ve all seen the rumors.

Bryce Harper is the proverbial apple of the team’s eye. They want him in right field in 2019. They NEED him in right field in 2019.

But what if they get him?

Right now, as it stands, the Phillies have five MLB-quality outfielders - Odubel Herrera, Andrew McCutchen, Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams and Roman Quinn. Add in Harper and that would give them six outfielders. That would be a lot of 40-man roster spots tied up in the green expanse. The question would then become - what do they do?

Let’s start all of this assuming that Harper is a Phillies next offseason. He will be the rightfielder. Andrew McCutchen, as effective as he might be next year in that spot, will probably have to cede the spot and move to left field. Herrera would occupy centerfield, leaving two roster spots for three capable players. What to do, what to do...

The case for Nick Williams

  • Highest ceiling of the three - When he was acquired in the Cole Hamels trade, Williams wasn’t exactly an afterthought. In fact, you might argue at the time, he was the prominent player in the return package. He was a regular on prospect lists coming up with pretty much the same caveat always following him about his pitch selection. Even after two years in Philadelphia, it feels like he has more in him. Sure he has warts on his game (coughpitchselectionstillcough), but to that end, there was a tiny bit of improvement throughout last year.

Of the three possible options, Williams feels like he still can get to a place with his ability that Quinn or Altherr cannot get to. It might never happen, but I would rather roll the dice he can get there than either of the other two can.

  • Pinch-hitter extraordinaire - You might remember how well Williams took to being platooned last season. He could have gone into a shell, pouted, then been tossed aside for someone else. Instead, he worked and eventually, thanks to the poor start by Altherr, found himself the regular more often than not. We’ve also seen this offseason how hard Williams is working to make himself better. He also presented himself as a very capable pinch hitter. He might not be the classic pinch hitter in the Greg Dobbs mold, but he still had a decent amount of success last season in the role (10 for 28, 3 HR, 8 RBI in 31 PA). That is a valuable thing to have on the roster, especially with as many changes as the manager makes to the lineup.

The case for Roman Quinn

  • He’s fast - In 2018, Quinn was the fastest runner in the game according to Statcast (min. 50 attempts). That speed is something that was exactly prevalent on last year’s team and can be used for multiple ways. First and most obviously, it helps Quinn’s defense. As a centerfielder, we all know the player has a ton of ground to cover. Having Quinn’s speed allows to him to get to balls that some players cannot. It helps him the basepaths, where his 10 steals was the same as Altherr, Williams and Herrera combined. He’s still one of the poorer baserunners on the team (according to Baseball Prospectus), but that is something that can be coached. Speed cannot and the element of speed he brings to the team is underrated.
  • He’s a switch hitter - We all know Gabe Kapler’s penchant for the double switch. He loves them. This is why the team strives to get players that can play more than one position, so Kapler has the flexibility to move players around the diamond without a drop in quality if he sees a batting matchup coming up he prefers. What makes a player like Quinn preferable is that his ability to be “platoon proof” by being able to turn around in the box means Kapler can insert him in any situation without having to lose the platoon advantage. It’s something that he as a manager has to prefer.

The case for Aaron Altherr

  • Defense, defense, defense - When you’re able to play all three outfield positions in a pinch, that bodes well for you. Altherr has made his bones being flexible in where he plays in the outfield grass. While he hasn’t graded particularly well at those spots, he’s not exactly a stone-handed statue either. In fact, he’s actually been pretty good at time. As I mentioned before with Quinn, Kapler likes to move people around. If Altherr was asked to remain in the game and play a new outfield position, he would be able to do so capably.
  • He’s more 2017 than he is 2018 - Altherr cratered last year. His final slash line of .181/.295/.333 was a more than 230 point drop in OPS over what he produced in 2017 (.272/.340/.516). It could have been injuries, it could have been the platooning situation, but whatever it was, Altherr just wasn’t good last year. Do the Phillies believe that he is closer to the 2017 version than he is the 2018 version? If they think that, then getting rid of him could be a mistake, especially with his ability to, as we said, play all three outfield positions at a competent level. Sure, there was ample evidence last year that he is not the 2017 Altherr, but were he to revert on another team competing against the Phillies for a wild card spot, then this team could regret that decision for a little while.

So there you have it. A case for all three players to remain, but realistically, only two are going to be around. So I sent it to you the readers: who would you pick?

Poll

You have to pick two outfielders for 2019 and beyond. Which two do you pick?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    Quinn and Williams
    (1682 votes)
  • 9%
    Quinn and Altherr
    (214 votes)
  • 10%
    Williams and Altherr
    (229 votes)
  • 3%
    They should only choose one and give the roster spot to a reliever
    (74 votes)
2199 votes total Vote Now