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February 05, 2017

Freddy Galvis to start at shortstop (and for boyhood idol) in WBC, according to report

The Phillies will reportedly have two regulars in the starting lineup for Team Venezuela in next month’s World Baseball Classic.

According to a report Saturday by Cesar Sequera of Meridiano TV, a sports network in Venezuela, Freddy Galvis will start at shortstop for the Venezuelans in the WBC, joining an infield with second baseman Jose Altuve, first baseman Miguel Cabrera, and third baseman Martin Prado. Elvis Andrus and Asdrubal Cabrera played shortstop for Venezuela in the last WBC (in 2013) and it had been previously reported that Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar would start in this year’s tournament.

But, coming off a winter when his team (Aguilas de Zulia) claimed the Venezuelan Winter League championship, Galvis apparently impressed enough to earn a starting bid on manager Omar Vizquel’s team. According to the same report, Odubel Herrera is on tap to start in Venezuela’s outfield with Rockies start Carlos Gonzalez (and former Phillies Rule 5 pick) Ender Inciarte.

Luis Amaro, the GM for Galvis's Winter League team, spoke glowingly about Galvis in a story for last week.

"Freddy with the regular season and playoffs combined, I think he hit around .260 with [one home run], but we would not have had the run we had in January if it wasn't for him," said Luis Amaro, the brother of former Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "He's the kind of player that you toss out the scouting report on, because the intangibles he brings to the field don't have a column for it in the scouting reports. His instincts and baseball IQ are off the charts and he's a natural-born leader who works and plays harder than anyone on the field on any given day."

Playing for Vizquel (and obviously for his country) is probably the equivalent of a dream come true for Galvis. Two years ago, as he was set to take over as the Phillies regular shortstop for Jimmy Rollins, I wrote a story on Galvis and how, as a kid, he idolized Vizquel, a fellow Venezuelan and 11-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop.

“Every time he would turn a double play and jump over the base, jump over the guy - that was pretty cool," Galvis said of Vizquel, arguably the best defensive shortstop of his generation. "I have a poster in my room of one of those plays.”

The admiration has gone both ways recently (Vizquel watched Galvis routinely in the winter in Venezuela, along with each spring as a coach on the Detroit Tigers staff).

"He has all the tools to be a great everyday player," Vizquel said of Galvis two years ago.

The 27-year-old Galvis was one of three Gold Glove finalists among National League shortstops last season while hitting .241/.274/.399 with 20 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 158 games with the Phillies. 

It's hardly surprising Galvis looked up to Vizquel: defense has always been the strength of the Phillies infielder, from the days he quickly worked his way through the farm system as a teenager to the time he broke into the big leagues playing a position he had never played before (second base) when Chase Utley was unable to play with knee problems. 

Vizquel had already taken notice two years ago, before Galvis was an everyday big league player.

“He makes unbelievable plays out there,” Vizquel said in the spring of '15. “His defense is awesome.”

Galvis' continued maturation – and ability to stay on the field with prospects nearing the big leagues, including J.P. Crawford – will be the deciding factor of whether he sticks with the Phillies in the near future. He showed some pop last year (only nine shortstops had more home runs) but he also had an MLB-low .274 OBP. 

Similarly, Vizquel struggled to get his bat going early in his career, slashing .230/.290/.369 in his first three major league seasons (366 games).

“I know he has the hands," Vizquel said of Galvis at the time. "As long as you have the hands, they’re going to let you play, they’re going to give you chances. They already know him. So I think it’s going to be great. People are going to be surprised with how good this guy can be.”

Vizquel was already a fan of Galvis years ago, so I guess it shouldn't be surprising he has faith in the Phillies shortstop to anchor his own infield in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. 

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21