Sunday, December 21, 2014

The expected cost of a Kenny Giles promotion outweighs its expected benefit

I fully understand the rationale that has fueled the swell in grassroots support for the promotion of Kenny Giles, as I write in today's Daily News. Bring him up, see what he can do, and the worst that can happen is that he costs his team some games, which would leave them in the same position that they currently inhabit. Except, that's not the worst thing that can happen. At least not from a macroscopic level. Anybody who has watched Giles -- and I mean watched him, not read about him, or looked at his statistics -- knows that he has plenty of developing left to do. I saw him throw three or four times in spring training. The fastball had impressive velocity. But it also had the potential to kill somebody. Word is, he's done a better job of commanding it over his first six appearances at Double-A. But the guy I watched in two televised appearances -- April 9 and April 12 -- was still a guy who I'd hesistate to run out in a big league game. In the first appearance, he threw first pitch balls to three of his first four batters. He went 3-0 on a batter who was leading off the final inning as Giles tried to protect a one-run lead. He threw just two sliders in the entire outing.

The expected cost of a Kenny Giles promotion outweighs its expected benefit

Phillies pitching prospect Kenny Giles. (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP Images)
Phillies pitching prospect Kenny Giles. (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP Images)

I fully understand the rationale that has fueled the swell in grassroots support for the promotion of Kenny Giles, as I write in today's Daily News. Bring him up, see what he can do, and the worst that can happen is that he costs his team some games, which would leave them in the same position that they currently inhabit. Except, that's not the worst thing that can happen. At least not from a macroscopic level. Anybody who has watched Giles -- and I mean watched him, not read about him, or looked at his statistics -- knows that he has plenty of developing left to do. I saw him throw three or four times in spring training. The fastball had impressive velocity. But it also had the potential to kill somebody. Word is, he's done a better job of commanding it over his first six appearances at  Double-A. But the guy I watched in two televised appearances -- April 9 and April 12 -- was still a guy who I'd hesistate to run out in a big league game. In the first appearance, he threw first pitch balls to three of his first four batters. He went 3-0 on a batter who was leading off the final inning as Giles tried to protect a one-run lead. He threw just two sliders in the entire outing.

Second outing: First pitch slider for a groundout, then first pitch ball, 2-1 on a slider, then 2-2, then a swinging K. Next: called, swing, K on a slider. Next: Called, High slider, Foul, Foul, High slider, K on a fastball.

I just don't think Giles will be in a position to have success on the big league level until he is consistently locating his fastball down in the zone, especially early in the count. His slider is still a work in progress, with emphasis on work. Bringing him up to the major leagues would drastically affect his ability to work on both of those objectives. Keep in mind, he has also battled injuries in the past, and being the member of a major league bullpen means being available to pitch whenever you are needed: two, three nights in a row. Right now, Giles is on a nice, even schedule, throwing every other day, with no back-to-backs. Bringing him up too early would A) risk injury, B) limit his ability to work on the things that he still needs to work on. Right now, the probabilities say that he should remain in the minors. He is not yet a lottery ticket worth scratching.

All of that could change in the not-too-distant future. I don't know how long he has to consistently locate his fastball down in the zone, and consistently throw first-pitch strikes, and at least show his slider enough to inject some level of uncertainty into batters. Maybe it is only a month. But it definitely isn't six outings.

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