Some difficult decisions have confronted the Phillies as the days dwindle in a season mostly worth forgetting, and this is the next one: How do they get a decent big-league look at shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford during the final month of the season?
Three weeks ago, the Phillies found a way to get Rhys Hoskins’ bat in the lineup by giving him a crash course in left field, a position he had not played since his 2012 freshman season at Sacramento State. Silly, some said, to move a natural first baseman to left field just to allow Tommy Joseph, in the midst of a so-so season, to continue playing.
It all worked out for the best. Hoskins, thanks to his record-setting 11 home runs in his first 18 games, immediately became the most popular player on the team and has started to learn how to play another position. Dusty Wathan, the manager at triple-A Lehigh Valley, noted earlier this month that there’s nothing wrong with adding positions to your resume, and he is right.
There was also nothing wrong with letting Joseph continue to play first base in the hope that he increased his offseason trade value with a strong finish. That part has not worked out so well, but the logic was sound.
Figuring out the Crawford dilemma also seemed to have an easy solution when the 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft recently made five straight starts for Lehigh Valley at third base. Plug Crawford in at third base at least a couple of times a week during the final month and see how he handles it. Too bad if Maikel Franco does not like the idea because when you have had the kind of season he has had, you do not get a place in line at the complaint box.
In fact, you should go home at the end of the season nervous about your future with the organization.
Crawford, however, started five straight games at second base for the IronPigs before moving back to third base Wednesday night and another twist, that really did seem silly, was thrown into the musical-position equation in the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park.
After starting all 131 games at shortstop this season, Freddy Galvis made his 132nd start of the season in center field, a position he had played only in spring training during his 11 seasons in professional baseball. When Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley were still closer to their primes than the end, Galvis started 10 games in left field in 2013.
There’s no doubt Galvis could play center field. He did so flawlessly in the Phillies’ 5-2 loss that allowed the Braves to complete a sweep of the doubleheader. Galvis could play anywhere in the field.
“I have all the gloves,” he said.
Galvis could play the piano, ukulele and pan flute if the Phillies asked him, but there’s a great reason he had played exclusively at shortstop the last two seasons. It’s the same reason he should continue to be the Phillies’ shortstop for the foreseeable future.
At 27, Galvis has become one of the elite defensive shortstops in the game and he has hit enough this season to be in the conversation among the top 10 shortstops overall in the game.
To his credit, Galvis made no waves about Wednesday’s decision, which had been discussed a couple of days earlier with manager Pete Mackanin and general manager Matt Klentak. Galvis said it was still his intention to play all 162 games this season and Mackanin said he wants that to happen as well.
“As an organization, we’re at the point where we don’t have the greatest record and we’re going to cover all our bases and move people around just to make sure we don’t end up flat-footed on some kind of situation that might arise,” Mackanin said.
Oddly enough, the last time Galvis played in the outfield, second baseman Cesar Hernandez was in center field. Another thing we have learned about this season, however, is that Hernandez is among the top 10 second basemen in the game, so it would also make no sense to take him away from that position unless he was traded to make room for elite prospect Scott Kingery.
Speaking of Kingery, he started at shortstop Wednesday night for the IronPigs after playing four of his previous five games at third base. Kingery, who has hit 26 minor-league home runs this season, is also a top-notch defender at second base.
There’s no telling what the Phillies’ infield will look like when trades are made and the music stops at some point in the future. The Phillies should be quite sure that Galvis does not belong in the outfield. Besides, with Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr set to return soon, there’s no good reason to create a logjam in the outfield when you already have one in the infield.
The most sensible thing to do in September is to find out if Crawford can play third base. Let Franco feel the heat of possibly losing a position he has not earned this season. Sometimes that kind of thing can bring out the best in a player.