The vast majority of National League teams find a way to survive with a player like Freddy Galvis in the lineup. The Phillies lineups of yesteryear that boasted power at every position were more an unprecedented luxury than they were standard operating procedure. Even when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, their lineup featured Pedro Feliz, who hit just .249 with a .302 on-base percentage but provided one of the National League's most skilled gloves at third base.
But that does not mean the Phillies can spend the entire season with Galvis in the eight hole. Though they finished with the best record in the majors over the last two seasons despite 663 plate appearances from Wilson Valdez, the light-hitting utility man's .652 OPS during that time was still 39 points higher than Galvis has managed in five minor-league seasons.
There has never been a question about the defensive ability of the 22-year-old Venezuelan. From the time he entered the minor-league system as a 17-year-old at rookie-league Williamsport, team personnel have raved about his near-major-league-ready glove. So manager Charlie Manuel was not the least bit surprised at how Galvis handled the transition from his natural position at shortstop to second base, where he is expected to start the season in place of the injured Chase Utley.
"Am I surprised? Not really," Manuel said. The hardest part about it is probably going to his right and going across his back and turning the double play. But at the same time, he's done really good. He's been quicker to adapt to it than I expected, but I wasn't surprised. Freddy is a good player. He has good instincts. He knows how to play. He makes very few mistakes in the game. He's sure-handed. And he likes to play, too."
He is going to get the chance. While the Phillies will surely continue to monitor their options on the trade market, they showed last season that they can still win games while sacrificing offense at second base. The difference this time around is that the team will be without first baseman Ryan Howard in addition to Utley. Anything that Galvis gives them will be viewed as a bonus. But his 2011 season at least provided some reason for hope. After hitting just .233 with a .276 on-base percentage in 138 games at double-A Reading in 2010, Galvis appeared to turn a corner, hitting .273 with a .326 on-base percentage and eight home runs in 104 games at Reading. That earned him a promotion to triple A, where he played the final 33 games of 2011 and hit .298/.315/.364.
"Three years ago, I was like 150 pounds," said Galvis, who is now listed at 170. "And if I hit it hard, it went straight to an outfielder, you know? But now I have a chance to hit it in the gap."
He should get plenty more chances.
Contact David Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org