Stopgap Shortstop


One of the least discussed and yet most important and interesting players for the coming 2015 Philadelphia Phillies season is their stopgap shortstop, Freddy Galvis. We’ve discussed Galvis a couple of times this off-season here at TBOH, and now as spring training opens, it’s important to tie it all together.

For the last 14 seasons, Jimmy Rollins came to Clearwater, Florida for spring training as the team’s unquestioned shortstop starter, and for a couple of springs prior, there was a countdown of sorts as to when he would take over that position.

For the 1998-2000 seasons, between the ’93 NL champs starter Kevin Stocker and the full-time arrival of JRoll, the position was kept warm by Desi Relaford, and for a time by Alex Arias. Everyone knew their limitations. Good gloves, weak bats.

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What goes around, comes around. Now, over a decade and a half later, here we go again. Galvis very closely matches a description of Relaford: a couple of years as a big league backup, has shown a good glove and arm on defense, not many offensive tools.

This time around it will be top prospect J.P. Crawford for whom Phillies fans are waiting. Crawford turned 20 years old just last month. Rollins was 21-years old when he was called up and permanently took over as the starter in September of 2000.

Galvis has been a disappointment so far for the Phillies. He has only hit .218 in 550 career plate appearances, including just .176 last season.” ~ Michael Stern

The Phils are looking for something similar out of Galvis: a stopgap season or two. Give us a year and a half or so to allow Crawford about 800 more plate appearances and some all-around finishing work in the minor leagues.

With the club publicly acknowledging that it is in rebuilding mode, fans need to keep in mind that much of the rebuild will come not at the major league level, but at AA Reading and AAA Lehigh Valley. That is where top prospects like Crawford, Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, Roman Quinn and others will toil for most of 2015, some into 2016.

On the field at Citizens Bank Park, meanwhile, the big league Phillies need to continue putting out a team. What can fans expect to see out at shortstop now, with the iconic Rollins gone off to chase another championship in Los Angeles? Freddy Galvis, that’s what.

As our own Michael Stern wrote in his ‘Best/Worst Case’ piece on Galvis just a couple of weeks back: “Galvis has been a disappointment so far for the Phillies. He has only hit .218 in 550 career plate appearances, including just .176 last season. That is not an encouraging number from the guy who is probably your everyday starter at shortstop.”

There is enough of a track record for Galvis to get a firm read on his offensive capabilities. In the 3,369 plate appearances that he accumulated across parts of 8 minor league seasons, Galvis hit for a .253/.302/.344 slash line with a grand total of 32 homers, 285 RBI, and 89 steals. He has never hit more than 8 homeruns, and has only reached 20 stolen bases once.

In 2,739 chances as a minor league shortstop, Galvis committed 72 errors, compiling a .974 fielding percentage. That number is quite high for a shortstop” ~ Ethan Witte

In those 550 plate appearances at the big league level with the Phillies over parts of three seasons, his slash line is .218/.259/.362 and he has 13 homers, 55 RBI, and just 2 stolen bases.

It’s pretty clear that Freddy can run into a fastball now and then and hit it out of the park. Now and then meaning about once every 2-3 weeks at most. And unless something major changes in his game suddenly, he is not a threat on the bases.

Back in December, our resident stats maven here at TBOH, Ethan Witte, also took a look at Galvis. In evaluating him defensively, Ethan noted: “In 2,739 chances as a minor league shortstop, Galvis committed 72 errors, compiling a .974 fielding percentage. That number is quite high for a shortstop, who by the nature of the position, more often than not gets the most fielding chances in the infield.

In the big leagues, albeit always as a backup or injury substitute playing in short stretches of games and seasons, Galvis has upped his defensive game. He has a .994 Fielding Percentage as a shortstop for the Phillies. But that is over an extremely small sample size of 171 chances spread across just 303.1 innings and 41 games.

Now, Freddy Galvis is likely being called upon to start at least 3 times that many games here in the coming 2015 season. While we don’t know how he might respond to regular, everyday playing time, the now 25-year old likely is what he is: a solid glove, light bat ballplayer.

Phillies fans should expect quality work from Galvis in the field. Jimmy Rollins was a Gold Glove-caliber defender most seasons, winning the award four times between 2007-2012. Galvis will be hard-pressed to match that kind of sensational defense, but JRoll’s presence will not be missed so much in the field as in the batting order.

The fans should not expect quality work from Galvis at the plate. Our “best case” projection for him came in at a .255 average with 13 homers and 50 RBI. While that batting average would be very much in line with what Rollins has produced over the last half-dozen seasons, the power numbers are extremely generous, as projections go.

Freddy Galvis is the Phillies stopgap at shortstop, not the answer or the heir apparent. For now, Phillies fans have to be content with plain vanilla, where for 15 years they got to watch chocolate raspberry with whipped cream and a cherry on top. There are worst things than vanilla. I like vanilla. But vanilla at shortstop won’t win you many ballgames. Hurry up, J.P. Crawford.