October 12, 2017
I was recently in a collegiate library and stumbled across a vending machine that had all kinds of stuff I didn’t expect to find in a vending machine, like a pen and paper combo, an eraser, and one of those blue book exam things that immediately sent shivers down my spine.
OK, I lied. As someone who could always write a little, those little blue books where you had to write essays or answers that obviously went beyond a multiple choice, I didn’t mind the little blue book.
Thankfully for you and me, however, sorting through the individual work of the Phillies this season as the 2017 marking period came to an end didn’t involve the laborious work of reading such little blue exam books.
We provided final grades for Phillies pitchers yesterday. Today, it’s time to dole out final grades for the position players.
First, a few notes:
• Each individual player’s grade begins with what the expectations were for that individual player when spring training ended. What was expected of Maikel Franco, for example, pales in comparison to what was expected of, say, Pedro Florimon. So while you’ll be tempted to compare players’ grades, remember what you thought about those players when the season began and whether that changed (for good or bad) during the season.
• Injuries would make it easy to assign “incomplete” grades. But if the player still played long enough for an assessment, he deserves a grade. If he was Clay Buchholz, he earned the Danny Tartabull Award and was not graded. Also: if a player has a history of injuries, he’s graded a little tougher since durability matters.
• Speaking of Buchholz, we decided on a very arbitrary figure of 10, for both pitchers and position players, as the number of games a player had to play for the Phillies in 2017 to be eligible for the 2017 marking period. So none for you, Kevin Siegrist. And you also had to be on the roster when the season ended, so, you’re out, Michael Saunders (but yes, 60-day DL guys do count for grading purposes).
All players are listed in alphabetical order.
Here’s a guy – considered one of the organization’s top prospects – who didn’t seem worthy of a promotion with a .241/.291/.358 slash line in 84 games at Triple-A Lehigh Valley on August 3. But then Andrew Knapp got injured and a major league-need created opportunity, and to Alfaro’s credit, he made the most of that opportunity. He slashed .318/.360/.514 with five home runs in 29 games. He would have bumped up to an A with better defense and strikeout/walk numbers (33/3 in 114 plate appearances).
Phillies fans should thank Howie Kendrick for his inability to stay on the field, eh? As a result, Altherr, who was deserving of more playing time coming out of camp, got it and thrived. He was one of 36 major league outfielder with at least 18 home runs and a .340 or higher OBP in 2017. The only knock on Altherr was that he was once again slowed by injuries. He hit .228 with a .288 OBP in his final 28 games (after the first or two stints on the DL with a hamstring injury in mid-July).
Blanco’s .549 OPS in 2017 ranked 401st among the 413 major league payers with at least 125 plate appearances. Before even checking up on that we had him destined for a D. But then we remembered he’s a 33-year-old utility infielder who is a bench player for a reason. No, he did not have a good year and he will almost certainly be playing elsewhere in 2018. But given expectations, and factoring in his leadership skills in the clubhouse, we’re OK bumping him up a grade.
Like Alfaro, Crawford surely didn’t look like a player working toward an obvious promotion as spring gave way to summer in Allentown. He was hitting .194 with a .251 slugging percentage in 57 games on the first day of summer. But at some point, a switch was flicked and his last 94 games with the IronPigs were pretty good (.271/.375/.469). His big league audition was brief (23 games), but Crawford showed off stellar defense at three infield positions and had nearly as many walks (16) as strikeouts (22) even if his batting average (.214) looked substandard on Phanavision.
Raise your hand if, back in March, you thought you’d read in August that Pedro Florimon could put himself in position to earn a 2018 bench job as the end of the ’17 season drew near. With an already crowded infield, I never saw that as a real thing. Regardless, Florimon excelled as a utility for a short, 15-game window when the Phillies were dealing with more than a couple of injuries to regulars.
Since the beginning of the 2016 season, only 10 major league players (min. 1,000 plate appearances) have had an OPS under .715. Almost all of those players are superior defensive players (Kevin Pillar, Billy Hamilton, Jose Iglesias, Jason Heyward, Freddy Galvis, etc). Only one was labeled a potential MVP candidate just seven months ago, and by a Hall of Famer at that. With tantalizing power potential and four more years of team control, the Phillies aren’t likely to give up on Franco just yet. But he’s failed to blossom into an impact hitter for two straight years now.
As we’ve mentioned, grades here are mostly concerned with expectations coming into the season. No one expected Galvis to hit .300 with a .350 OBP (his .274 OBP in 2016 was the worst among all qualifying hitters in MLB). But OBP might be the one thing Galvis doesn’t do well on a baseball field, and he even worked to bump that up 35 points from 2016. His defense at a premium position could lead to a Gold Glove and his durability and leadership made him arguably the most respected player in the clubhouse.
Earlier this week, Odubel Herrera was announced as the Phillies finalist for the 2017 Hank Aaron Award, which recognizes the most outstanding offensive player in each league annually. But you could have made an argument that Hernandez was worthy of the honor. Hernandez’s .294/.373/.421 slash line compared favorably to Herrera’s .281/.325/.452. Hernandez has established himself as a top leadoff hitter for two years now. The only flaw in his game is the inability to take advantage of his speed on the base paths.
At least Pete Mackanin won’t have to worry about dealing with Herrera’s monthly mental lapses anymore, right? Sure, the new Phillies manager will inherit Herrera, but that is hardly a bad thing. Herrera is just one of 11 major league outfielders to sport an OBP of .340 or better to go along with at least 35 home runs and 35 stolen bases, total, over the last three seasons. He also plays Gold Glove-worthy defense in center field. Probably would have received a better grade with more consistency throughout the season (he entered June hitting .218 with a 262 OBP).
We really don’t have to explain this one, do we? Hoskins basically did in Philadelphia what Gary Sanchez did for the New York Yankees the previous season, arriving on the scene late and creating nightly Home Run Derby drama. (Notable: Sanchez finished second in the 2016 A.L. Rookie of the Year voting, despite playing in just 53 games.). Hoskins slowed down in the season’s 2 1/2 weeks, but even with that slump, only Aaron Judge had more walks after August 31. Extra credit to Hoskins for playing predominantly at a position (left field) he hadn’t taken reps at since college prior to two months ago.
Joseph found his stroke in May (.300/.373, seven home runs in 28 games) but it was really the only period of sustained success for him in 2017. Like Franco, Joseph reached the 20-homer plateau again, but in the modern game, that’s almost commonplace anymore. Unlike a slick-fielding shortstop or outfielder, Joseph plays an offensive-first position and his .721 OPS and .289 OPS both ranked 23rd out of 23 qualifying major league first baseman. Would have graded lower if expectations were a touch higher, as they are with Franco.
This guy managed to stick around for a while, didn’t he? After appearing in 69 games and racking up 104 plate appearances, while hitting .193 with a .260 OBP, Kelly should be awarded the Michael Martinez Award. He stays above a D because of the almost nonexistent expectations and his uncanny ability to stay on the roster.
The Phillies acquired an outfielder who was only suited for left field not long after they decided to promote Rhys Hoskins and have him play left field. So, this wasn’t ideal. And it was memorable. And, for some reason, Phanavision decided they couldn’t play this when Kim reached base at Citizens Bank Park.
While Rhys Hoskins and J.P. Crawford were commended for their plate discipline upon arriving in August and September, Knapp quietly provided this in a catching timeshare with Cameron Rupp in 2017. Knapp didn’t show off much extra-base hit pop, but he reached base at a .368 clip, fourth behind Hoskins, Hernandez, and Daniel Nava among Phillies with at least 200 plate appearances. It’d be interesting to see what his ceiling could be as an offensive player with more (and more regular) at-bats in the big leagues.
It’s almost difficult to remember this guy existed – Nava had just 31 at-bats after August 1. But for a guy who made the roster on the penultimate day of camp in Clearwater to establishing himself as a pretty good fourth outfielder (hitting .301 with a .393 OBP), Nava should find a job again as a bench player for 2018. The only knock on him is one that’s prevented him from keeping a job in one place for the last few years: durability.
Remember back when the Phillies parted ways to Michael Saunders and, instead of calling on Nick Williams, they opted to give Perkins a look? It only made sense because Howie Kendrick still existed and they wanted Williams to play every day when he arrived, which wasn’t going to happen in the previously-crowded outfield. Anyway, Perkins played sparingly after starting 10 games in his first five weeks in the big leagues, failing to impress. But he was also never labeled a top prospect, either.
Hitting isn’t everything for major league catchers, but Rupp’s .716 OPS ranked 25th among 33 MLB catchers with at least 300 plate appearances, his .299 OBP also ranked 25th, and his .217 batting average ranked 32nd, ahead of only San Diego’s Austin Hedges. Could have received a lower grade, but this is a guy who had a .303 OBP in 2016, so it’s not like anyone was expected Johnny Bench. Still, his unimpressive season puts him in a tenuous position with two younger, better catchers also on the roster.
Nearly 30 percent of his plate appearances ended with strikeouts. And this is probably the only critical thing you could say for Williams, who always struggled with strikeouts (too many) and walks (too few) in his minor league career. Williams’ 811 OPS ranked 10th best among MLB rookies (min. 300 plate appearances), which was higher than Pittsburgh’s Josh Bell, a player some considered for the three-man N.L. Rookie of the Year ballot. With 12 home runs, 14 doubles, and four triples in what basically amounted to half a season (83 games), it’ll be fun to see what Williams can do over 150-some games in 2018.
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