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Phillies have a "good problem" with their middle infield
by Scott Butler 8/6/17

Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez

Good problem.

It’s a phrase front office guys like to use for situations when they have “too much” talent at a particular position.

Just think of the Ryan Howard and Jim Thome situation a few years ago. The club really liked both players, but there was no room for the both of them. It was a problem because they had to dispose of a very popular player and had to eat a great deal of Thome’s contract in the process. But it’s better to have too much talent than not enough, I guess.

The Phillies have a few good problems right now with Tommy Joseph blocking Rhys Hoskins at first, Cesar Hernandez blocking Scott Kingery at second, and Freddy Galvis blocking J.P. Crawford at shortstop. The Hoskins/Joseph dilemma has been covered plenty, so the focus here is on the two middle infield positions. Let's start with a few key facts:

What that means is that Matt Klentak doesn't have to do a thing until the 2019 season. He could keep Freddy at shortstop, Cesar at second, and leave Kingery and Crawford in the minors. Sure, he would take A LOT of heat for it, but Klentak has shown he is a very patient man.

That's not likely, though, because the begining stages of the rebuild to this point has mostly been a fact finding mission and there aren't too many questions left to answer. You need to get a grasp of the talent you have before you can decide whether to turn left or right at the next light.

At the big league level, the Phillies and the rest of the league know what they have with Galvis and Hernandez, and neither one of their trade values looks to increase or decrease all that significantly. Gavis is a below average hitter and elite defender. Hernandez is a plus hitter with good speed, limited power, and an average to above average glove.

Scott Kingery has little more to prove, either. He can hit, has shown some power, and is more than solid defensively. He’s ready. 

But J.P. Crawford? I don’t know if anyone is convinced he has earned a promotion yet. For the longest time, it was a foregone conclusion that Galvis was merely a placeholder at shortstop, but that is by no means the case anymore.

Here's another fact: Crawford is hitting .227 this season, and with 810 plate appearances in triple-A, he is hitting .235. And check this out. Here is how Crawford's 810 PA's at Lehigh compare to the last 810 PA's for Galvis in the majors:

Galvis and Crawford last 810 Plate Appearances

  AVG OBP SLG OPS
J.P. Crawford .235 .334 .356 .690
Freddy Galvis .259 .292 .432 .724

Crawford's on-base percentage is much higher, but Galvis has Crawford by a handy margin in the other areas. And that doesn't even factor in Freddy's gold glove caliber defense.

There is no ovelooking the sheer magnitude of Crawford's futility over a significant period of time, and his prospect rankings took an enormous hit. But sometimes such a huge sample size masks any improvements, and Crawford has been a different player in July and August. The splits:

J.P. Crawford 2017 Monthly Splits

  G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
April 21 88 76 6 11 1 1 0 4 2 0 12 22 .145 .261 .184 .446
May 26 117 95 18 24 3 0 2 15 0 1 20 13 .253 .379 .347 .727
June 19 86 75 10 15 4 1 0 8 0 1 11 13 .200 .302 .280 .582
July 27 113 96 21 27 4 3 8 18 1 0 16 21 .281 .389 .635 1.025
August 5 21 19 3 5 1 0 2 2 0 0 2 5 .263 .333 .632 .965

Not only did J.P. start to gather hits, but he added significantly more power, with 10 homers and 18 extra-base hits in his last 32 games compared to 2 homers and 12 extra-base hits in the prior 66 games. And he did this without sacrificing his on-base skills.

It's nice to see him rebound, but it probably is not enough to convince the Phillies to commit to him long-term just yet. The fact that Galvis is under team control for another season affords Klentak more time to evaluate his options. Give it another year and decide if you want to sign Galvis long-term or bring up the kid. Or, maybe this off season the Phillies try to package Crawford in a deal to land a big name. Again, by having Galvis under control for another year gives the Phillies some leverage.

It's hard to rationalize waiting for Kingery, though. Having Hernandez under team control for another three years is more of an advantage to the Phillies as a trade candidate than if he is on the roster.

Whatever decision they make, the Phillies have decent hand in front of them, and now it's just a matter of deciding whether to go for a flush or a full house. That is a good problem to have.

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