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March 09, 2017

Freddy Galvis is a wizard: 'He’s been doing (this) since he was 11-years-old'

CLEARWATER, Fla. – You can debate all you want about Freddy Galvis’s place in a major league lineup. 

Although he hit 20 home runs in 2016, he also had the lowest on-base percentage among qualifying major league hitters (.274). And he has a career .648 OPS in 480 games.

You cannot debate Galvis’s place on a major league field, however. 

Galvis’s defense was a well-known commodity as he quickly climbed through the Phillies’ farm system as a teenager, when he was penciled in as an emergency fill-in second basemen for Chase Utley five years ago (despite never playing the position), and then last year, in his second full major league season, when he was one of three finalists for the National League Rawlings Gold Glove Award for shortstops.

If it wasn’t every game, it felt like it was at least every other game when Galvis didn’t just make all of the routine plays but also provided some highlight-reel worthy material for the Phillies annual video yearbook and internet GIF makers alike.

Galvis struck again on Thursday afternoon in Clearwater (twice, really) and, frankly, this GIF doesn’t do the play justice. Perhaps if you had the technology to speed this up (x 10?) you’d have a full appreciation for how fast this play happened and how Galvis handled it with ease.

The game situation should also provide some context: Jerad Eickhoff was scuffling in the second inning, following a two-run triple by serving up back-to-back walks to load the bases. With two outs and a chance to put the game out of reach, Steve Pearce ripped a ball by Eickhoff and back through the middle…

… up until Galvis ranged to his glove side, scooped it up like a luxury vacuum cleaner, and, with his momentum taking him to shallow center field, spun around and, while losing his balance, let loose on a dart to first baseman Andrew Knapp. Knapp, a catcher by trade, caught the strike. Inning over.

“Unbelievable,” Eickhoff said.

“He’s been doing that since he was 11-years-old,” said second baseman Cesar Hernandez, Galvis’s double play partner and boyhood friend and rival growing up in Venezuela. “The same thing.”

“Too easy,” said Maikel Franco, who plays on the other side of Galvis at third base. “He makes it look too easy.”

And Galvis wasn’t quite through, either. Later in the game with Alec Asher on the mound, Toronto prospect Rowdy Tellez hit a hard chopper sky high, bouncing it in front of the mound.

“I thought it was an easy out,” Asher said. “But then I looked up.”

The ball was behind Asher. And up in the sun. And so Galvis, of course, flew in from his shortstop position and, in one motion, corralled the ball and threw to first. Knapp dropped the routine throw, but still.

“Unbelievable,” Asher said of both plays. “That’s why he’s the best shortstop.”

“He’s a Gold Glove (winner) in my book,” Eickhoff said. “I thought he should have got it last year. He’s unbelievable. If it’s hit to my right in that hole, it has a pretty good shot of getting made.”

Galvis finished Thursday’s game (a 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays) 1-for-3 with a run scored and a strikeout. Manager Pete Mackanin has gone out of his way to praise Galvis for his adjustments at the plate this spring, for shortening up his swing and staying within himself (similar to the work Maikel Franco has been doing, too).

"He’s unbelievable. If it’s hit to my right in that hole, it has a pretty good shot of getting made.”

But Galvis will always be known for his impeccable defense, a skill set that’s likely to keep him around somewhere in the major leagues (and maybe even with the Phillies) even after top prospect J.P. Crawford graduates from Triple-A Lehigh Valley and brings his own talented glove (and developing bat) to Citizens Bank Park at some point this summer.

According to Fangraphs’ metric Defensive Runs Above Average (DEF), which measures players' defensive value relative to league average, Galvis graded out as the third-best defensive shortstop in baseball in 2016, behind San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford (the two-time reigning NL Gold Glove winner) and Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor (the 2016 AL Gold Glove winner).

“Freddy is special for me,” Mackanin said following Thursday’s game. “He’s really fun to watch.”

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