May 19, 2016
The Phillies are the surprise darlings of baseball at the quarter mark of their season and their record is somewhat difficult to believe not just because of what everyone expected them to be, but because of the lack of regular offense that team has received.
Especially from their outfielders not named Odubel Herrera.
Through the team’s first 41 games, Phillies outfielders other than Herrera are hitting .198 with 61 strikeouts and 16 walks.
But that’s probably about what you would have guessed. You’ve watched them struggle almost nightly to do something, anything productive at the plate.
Here is something many of you probably hadn’t expected this time a month ago, though: one of the players that has contributed to those above numbers is suddenly one of the team’s best hitters, and he’s young enough and talented enough that this might not be a mirage, but, instead, a glimmer of what’s to come in his career.
It’s come from a player that … let’s just say more than a few of you (and granted Twitter is probably small sample size of Phillies-fandom) had little faith just a few weeks ago.
Who's relative of Tyler Goeddel works in the Phillies front office?— RuinedJRuff (@Ruin2day) April 23, 2016
I’m trying to understand what the Phillies see in Tyler Goeddel. I see nothing.— Steve (@GalloSays) April 24, 2016
Tyler Goeddel is a good reminder that, w/r/t Rule 5 picks, Odubel Herrera last year was an anomaly, not the norm. Many aren't good— Chris Gold (@Phillies113) April 19, 2016
Yes, Tyler Goeddel has established himself not only as a regular in the Phillies lineup this month, but also as a productive player on both sides of the field in just about every game he’s played in in the month of May.
He had one defensive miscue two weeks ago that allowed two runs to score …but he also drove in the game-tying runs and scored the game-winning run that night. He’s also made catches like this and throws like this from his position in left field.
A converted third baseman, Goeddel is in the outfield for just his second full season. A Rule 5 pick who will play his entire rookie season at age 23, he is in just his second month as a big leaguer and is benefiting from increased playing time this month.
Goeddel went 3-for-4 with his first big league home run in the Phillies win on Wednesday, the sixth straight game he’s been in the starting lineup.
“It’s exciting,” Goeddel said. “Coming to the field everyday I’m expecting to see myself in the lineup. That’s a feeling I didn’t have last month. It’s a lot more relaxing, less stressful.”
Goeddel has already made 12 starts this month after starting just seven games in April. He’s been in Pete Mackanin’s lineup in nine of the last 10 games.
In those nine games, Goeddel has hit .387 (12-for-31) with a 1.037 OPS, two doubles, a triple, a home run, six RBI, two walks, and one strikeout.
But why did Mackanin suddenly give the rookie an extended look?
“What I did was look at his numbers at Double-A,” Mackanin said. “They have hard throwers in Double-A, they have pretty good pitchers in Double-A, guys that throw 95 (MPH) and plus. And I just figured he's got to be better than he's shown early.”
Goeddel, the first overall selection in December’s Rule 5 Draft and a former first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays, hit .279 with a .350 OBP, 12 home runs, 17 doubles, and 10 triples in 123 games at Double-A Montgomery last season. His bat really came alive int he season’s last six weeks, when he hit .331 with eight home runs in his last 40 games.
Goeddel can also run a little bit, too: he went 11-for-14 during that 40-game period and stole a total of 48 bases in his last two seasons in the Rays system.
"I’m glad [Mackanin] is giving me a chance, because I really didn’t play my way into a chance; he just gave it to me. So I’m trying to make the most of it.”
But none of the numbers translated in his first month in a big league uniform. Being a bench player was new, something he had never done before, but Goeddel didn’t use that as an excuse, saying he didn’t do enough to show he could contribute when the opportunities were there in April.
“It was definitely a big adjustment, going from playing everyday my whole career to having a specific role, and then not performing well in my role, it was a little tough,” Goeddel said. “But, you know, they’re giving me an opportunity now and I feel like I’m playing better, which is nice. I’m happy for myself. I always knew I could play up here, but I needed some results to prove it to myself. I’m glad, finally, there are some results to show.”
What’s the difference between getting regular at-bats every day for a couple weeks in a row vs. playing sparingly, with barely a handful of at-bats each week? It’s huge for any hitter, as they rely on timing and comfort at the plate.
The difference has been striking for Goeddel (pun not intended).
He’s struck out just one time in his last 44 at-bats after striking out in more than half of his at-bats in the season’s first 3 1/2 weeks.
|First 14 games||Last 11 games|
“We're trying to eliminate that little rap he's got at the top of his swing and little by little it's coming,” Mackanin said. “It's hard to do when you've hit that way. That's why we felt he wasn't catching up to fastballs. … He’s gradually improving.”
“Getting regular playing time and the confidence [from that] is huge, but I try to get started a little earlier on my swing so I can be on time with the fastball,” Goeddel said. “You need to hit the fastball if you want to play up here, obviously. I feel like I’ve made that adjustment and it’s been a huge help.”
Since little else was working with the personnel at his disposal, Mackanin put Goeddel in his lineup for three straight games earlier this month in St. Louis and Miami. Goeddel went 1-for-9 in those games.
After sitting his rookie left fielder for a day, Mackanin plugged Goeddel back into the lineup on May 8 in Miami, the beginning of his aforementioned run of nine starts in 10 games. During that 12-day span, Goeddel has raised his average from .147 to .262 and his OPS from .294 to .653.
Surely .262 and .653 aren’t where he’d like to finish, but, as Mackanin said, it’s a gradual improvement. The trend is encouraging for a 23-year-old who looked like an overmatched, Double-A player a month ago.
Tyler Goeddel's first big league homer! pic.twitter.com/YPoRJXkQh7— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) May 18, 2016
As a rebuilding team, the Phillies could afford to keep the former Rays prospect and Rule 5 kid on their roster, regardless of his underwhelming first month. While his current run is a small sample size, Goeddel is proving he was worth keeping around regardless.
If this equation continues -- increased playing time equaling increased production -- Goeddel could make the front office look very good again in their Rule 5 draft selection (following Herrera last season).
“I didn’t play how I wanted to play in April,” Goeddel said Tuesday afternoon. “And I’m glad he’s giving me a chance, because I really didn’t play my way into a chance; he just gave it to me. So I’m trying to make the most of it.”
Less than 24 hours later, he was making Phillies history: Goeddel hit his first major league home run on Wednesday, a day after Tommy Joseph did the same.
It was the first time in franchise history that two players hit their first big league home runs in consecutive games.
I was probably a little early to judge Tyler Goeddel. He's seeing more pitches , playing more and looking more comfortable— Brian Startare (@brianstartare) May 19, 2016