The Phillies remain in full rebuilding mode, a project that continues in its second full season, as the 2016 regular season moves towards the final three weeks.
The Fightin’ Phils have given position players such as 1st baseman Tommy Joseph and outfielder Tyler Goeddel their initial MLB playing opportunities this season as position players.
On the mound, the Phils have provided starting pitchers Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson and reliever Edubray Ramos with their debut in the big leagues.
Today another major step forward takes place in that rebuilding program with the big league debut in Washington against the host Nationals of the team’s likely center fielder of the future, speedy Roman Quinn.
Quinn is a 23-year old switch-hitter who was the Phillies’ 2nd round pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of Port St. Joe High School in Florida.
That selection and his subsequent signing began a nearly five-year, level-by-level progression through the club’s minor league system.
It is likely that Quinn would have already made his debut at some point earlier in the 2016 season. However, his progress through the minors was delayed multiple times
due to injuries.
due to injuries.
In 2013, Quinn was hit by a pitch that broke his wrist, ending his season early. During the off-season that year, an Achilles tendon tear forced him to miss the beginning of the 2014 season.
Then in June of 2015, Quinn suffered what turned out to be a grade 3 tear of his left hip flexor, an injury that would end his season.
Earlier this summer he was disabled with both a strained hamstring and strained oblique. This latest injury had many fans believing that he might never make it, with numerous comments that he was simply proving too fragile.
But what was also undeniable was that Quinn was talented. Across 1,592 minor league plate appearances, Quinn produced a .276/.353/.402 slash line with 159 stolen bases while playing a strong defensive center field.
I’ve been pushing the talents of Quinn in social media posts for the last year or so, to the point that some Phillies fans who follow me probably were starting to think that he was just some mythological creature made up in the depths of my imagination.
Well, the myth ends this afternoon. The Phillies called up Quinn as well as their likely catcher of the future, Jorge Alfaro, after the AA Reading Fightins were eliminated from the playoffs.
When manager Pete Mackanin released his starting lineup late this morning, there was Quinn, starting in center field and batting second in the order.
As I pushed Quinn, I was frequently met with questions wondering, if Quinn did indeed make it, and if he was indeed the future center fielder, what about current center fielder Odubel Herrera?
Many Phillies fans have grown fond of ‘El Torito’, the club’s lone NL All-Star representative this season. Herrera leads the Phils with 20 steals and 72 runs scored this year.
Herrera, a converted 2nd baseman who can still be considered to be learning the nuances of center field in just his second season out there, is far from a Gold Glover caliber defender. At times his speed allows him to outrun mistakes, but that’s about it.
Quinn is going to bring a new level of defensive excellence to that center field position for the Phillies, and will at least temporarily move Herrera to left field.
For the future, I can see a couple of possibilities. First, Herrera could be given a shot back on the dirt at 2nd base.
Of course there he would have to battle incumbent Cesar Hernandez, who has played well for the Phillies in 2016 and has been the club’s most consistent hitter since the All-Star break.
The other possibility, the one that I would encourage the Phillies to pursue, is a trade of Herrera.
The value of the player, who turns 25 years of age in December and cannot become a free agent until after the 2020 season, may never be higher.
That trade possibility completely would depend on some team paying up something that would be of value down the road in this rebuilding program, such as another good young pitcher.
My real answer to those wondering what would happen to Herrera if Quinn was indeed everything that I have been saying is this: it doesn’t matter.
If Quinn performs to the level that I believe he will demonstrate over the rest of this regular season and on into spring training of 2017, the Phillies center field job will be his for years, at least as long as he does indeed hold up as healthy.
That is the key for Quinn, to stay healthy. If he does, he will eventually become the Phillies leadoff hitter.
He will be a major force at the top of the lineup, and will create havoc on the bases. He will be a vital cog in the next Phillies winner. It all starts this afternoon in our nation’s capitol.