|Time is running out for Rupp, Galvis and the current placeholder Phillies|
As management and ownership of the Philadelphia Phillies moved through their own transition period over the last couple of seasons, the roster has also been turned over.
Gone now are the last vestiges of the first decade of play at Citizens Bank Park. Heck, a few of those individuals – Charlie Manuel, Pat Burrell, Jim Thome – have already been enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
As the front office and playing roster changes have taken place, a group of ballplayers has taken over on the field over the last few seasons. This core group was always meant to be placeholders, while the real, serious talent was developing in the minor leagues.
That core has consisted of infielders Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis and catcher Cameron Rupp. I would also put 3B/OF Cody Asche, 1B/OF Darin Ruf, and outfielder Domonic Brown into the group.
Each of those players has been given an opportunity at one time or another to seize a starting role with the Phillies, to show that they can be a big league regular.
Only Hernandez has shown any consistent ability to successfully compete on both sides of the ball. Galvis has been strong defensively, but aside from some unexpected power has been an extremely inconsistent offensive performer. Rupp is inconsistent in every facet of the game.
This group began to really take over in the 2015 season. The Phillies bottomed out that year, finishing with the worst overall record in Major League Baseball.
A year ago, their 71 wins was an eight-game improvement. But that record was still two games worse than the disheartening 2013 and 2014 teams had finished.
Just one week ago today, the Phillies took an 11-9 record and a six-game winning streak out on the road to visit a pair of anticipated contending teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs.
After dropping six of the seven games at Dodger Stadium and Wrigley Field, the limitation of this group are becoming more and more apparent.
POSITION PROSPECTS PUSHING PLACEHOLDERS
Meanwhile, just about an hour and a half drive up the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs are fielding the future.
First baseman Rhys Hoskins is off to a torrid start, hitting for a .337/.431/.651 slash line with seven homers, six doubles, 16 RBI, and 18 runs scored. Tommy Joseph (.192) and Brock Stassi (.184) have to be feeling the heat in Philly.
Nick Williams is hitting .267 with 10 extra-base hits. Roman Quinn has a dozen runs scored and a half-dozen stolen bases. Even shortstop J.P. Crawford appears to be coming around after a horrendous start to the season.
Perhaps the Phillies’ top prospect, catcher Jorge Alfaro, is hitting .318 with three homers and 13 RBI. There are good reasons to hold him back until September, including giving Andrew Knapp (.296) more of an opportunity as Rupp continues to struggle.
MORE PITCHING COMING
On the mound, it’s hard to determine what more starting pitcher Ben Lively needs to do in order to earn a big league shot. The Cincinnati Reds organizational pitcher of the year in 2014 was obtained by the Phils on New Year’s Eve that year for Marlon Byrd.
Lively was last year’s Paul Owens Award winner as the top performing pitcher in the Phillies minor league system. This year, the 25-year old is off to a 3-1 start at Lehigh Valley. He has allowed just 24 hits in 29 innings over his first five starts with a 20/4 K:BB ratio.
Lively is the kind of pitcher that gets modest grades from scouts, yet does nothing but perform admirably on the mound almost every time out. Hoskins, by the way, shared the Owens Award as the club’s top performing position player with another interesting prospect, outfielder Dylan Cozens.
Perhaps the club’s top pitching prospect, 23-year old Jake Thompson has reeled off three straight solid starts after opening the year with a pair of duds. Thompson has allowed just nine hits over 18.1 innings with an 18/5 K:BB ratio in those last three outings.
It’s only the first week of May. The Phillies are certainly not going to throw in the towel on their current group of players this early. Ideally, the prospects would get at least a few more weeks to more fully develop.
GM Matt Klentak addressed the issue recently in a comment to Stephen Gross of The Morning Call:
“My expectation is that a number of those players from our minor league system will in fact come up this year and impact the major league club. It’s just a matter of when.”
This last week of play serves as a reminder to fans that the current group of players is not likely to be around in a couple of years. At some point, the talented kids in the minors are going to force the issue. A day of reckoning is fast-arriving for the current Philadelphia Phillies placeholders.