Phillies face big decisions at second base

Pete Mackanin pulled Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez into his office in April and reminded the infielders what this season meant. J.P. Crawford, the team's top-ranked prospect in the last five years, is coming.

The 21-year-old shortstop's eventual arrival likely means that Galvis and Hernandez - childhood friends from Venezuela - will compete for one job.

"I told them not to worry about him. Worry about what you're doing," Mackanin said. "If you're doing well, they're going to have to make a tough decision. So make it as tough as you can."

The Phillies could keep Crawford in the minor leagues until the middle of next May to limit his major-league service time and delay the year he becomes eligible for salary arbitration. They will then have to decide if their second baseman is Hernandez or Galvis. Neither player has been able to make the decision simple.


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Hernandez is batting .285 but has cooled after a strong five weeks. The 26-year-old's hot stretch was steeped in his ability to pull the ball and keep his hits on the ground. But his success at the plate has been paired with base running mishaps that have been maddening.

"This is the organization that I've been with all my life," Hernandez said. "I don't really worry about whoever is in triple-A making a good run because obviously there is going to be competition all the time. What I have to worry about is myself and be on top of my game."

Galvis keyed Wednesday's win with a three-run homer but is batting just .231. His .261 on-base percentage is the lowest mark among all shortstops. Galvis, 26, said the impending arrival of Crawford does not motivate him.

"I just see the game today and get ready for my game today and see what happens in Philly," Galvis said. "I say I don't control that. Pete's the manager. He's the one that is going to put the lineup out. I'm going to be available to play wherever he puts me."

Galvis and Hernandez will both likely be tendered a contract this offseason. The Phillies have the payroll flexibility to spend roughly $6 million to determine who is the best to pair with Crawford.

And the weight of that determination could be placed on defense, which would favor Galvis. He impressed the Phillies with his defense at second base in 2012 when he filled in for Chase Utley. He has shown flashes of that same brilliance at shortstop.

The Phillies expect above-average offensive production from Crawford at shortstop and Maikel Franco at third base. First base is an offensive position, and the team is shaping up to have a strong outfield unit. They should be able to sacrifice offense for defense at second base.

Whoever takes the job will likely be just a place holder. Scott Kingery, a 22-year-old second-round pick in 2015, is hitting well at double-A Reading. He is a good defender and a fast base runner and is held in high regard by the front office.

It would not be a surprise to see Kingery start next season at triple-A and join the Phillies sometime in the summer to be Crawford's double-play partner. But that would ultimately be the end for Galvis or Hernandez. Either player - especially Galvis - could assume Andres Blanco's role as a utility player and veteran leader for the team's abundance of latin players. Galvis can even play the outfield. But first, the Phillies will have to decide who is playing second base.

"I try to stay positive with the players, but they have to understand that there's a certain amount of urgency. Especially this is Freddy's fifth year in the big leagues and Cesar's fourth year," Mackanin said. "There's competition within the ranks, and they have to produce."