Phillies Revere Conundrum


Ben Revere started in left field for the Phillies on Saturday afternoon against the Toronto Blue Jays. It was the first time that the Phils regular starting centerfielder of the last two seasons has played left field in three years.

Revere had a decent game, playing clean defense, and even gunning down a runner at home for his efforts. At the plate, he went 2-4 to raise his spring batting average to .162 as well.

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This hasn’t been the greatest spring training for Revere, but for a player who is guaranteed a roster spot, he’s using the practice of the Grapefruit League season to gear up for the MLB regular season.

Revere has started to become a somewhat polarizing figure on this team among the fan base. On one hand, you have traditional numbers that suggest he is a fairly decent player.

Last season, he led the league in hits with 184, and stole 49 bases in 57 attempts, an 85.97% rate that was 4th in the National League. He also had a minuscule 7.8 K%, so he makes contact on a team that strikes out a ton otherwise.

I think left field allows Ben’s arm to play a little better” ~ Sandberg, on Revere

On the other hand, you have a player with a 93 OPS+, a .304 wOBA, -18 DRS, and a paltry 2.1 BB%. Baseball Reference credits him with 0.6 rWAR for 2014, while Fangraphs gives him 2.0 fWAR. That much of a difference sums up how fans see him: some like him, others wish he were elsewhere. So, what should the Phillies do with him?

Comments from manager Ryne Sandberg suggest that in moving Revere to left field, and inserting Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera in center, the outfield defense is more of a priority than offensive output.

Herrera’s arm, I think, plays in center field, and I think left field allows Ben’s arm to play a little better,Sandberg said to’s Adam Berry. “Overall, the defense we show [is] pretty solid in those two positions with that combination.

With the team’s offensive potential in question for 2015, management might be thinking that the best way for the team to compete on a daily basis will not be run production, but rather run prevention.

The club already acknowledged the defensive emphasis when Freddy Galvis was all but given the shortstop job this year, with no obvious challengers signed over the winter. Galvis’ offensive output figures to be meager at best, yet his glove alone could prove to make him a 2+ WAR player.

This brings us back to Revere. His offensive game was is not exactly power oriented:

The above graphic shows that when his playing days are over, Revere already has a head start on a profitable bug exterminator business. Killing worms seems to be his specialty. This type of offensive profile is not one you typically see from a left fielder, seeming to make him a poor fit there.

If Revere were to play left field on a permanent basis, the team is basically punting two spots in the batting order from producing at replacement value (the other being shortstop).

Sure, there is something to be said about getting a lot of hits, but of those 184 hits that Revere recorded in 2014, only 22 of them went for extra bases. Of the 52 outfielders who had 502 or more plate appearances in 2014, only 7 had a lower slugging percentage than the .386 registered by Revere.

Herrera’s strong spring has fans buzzing, and Sandberg experimenting.

Power is quite obviously no part of Revere’s game. Yet that offensive skill is exactly what is traditionally expected from a left fielder.

So again we’re back to the question, what should the team do with him? Right now, it would appear that playing him in center field would be the wisest option.

Many fans are getting excited about Odubel Herrera, and for good reason. Coming off of a highly successful Venezuelan Winter League campaign, one in which he won their Rookie of the Year and MVP honors, Herrera has now enjoyed a good spring, with a .389/.421/.417 Grapefruit League slash line.

Still, Herrera has never played above Double A, and he would be asked to play a full season against the best pitching in the world. Chances are slim that he will be able to maintain this type of production throughout a full big league season. Allowing Revere to continue in center field, while limiting Herrera’s exposure, could be a way of getting the best production from both players.

Another possibility for Revere could be the trading block. He has just entered his arbitration years, and with counting stats that usually look very good to an arbitration panel, he could start to get very expensive, perhaps too expensive considering his true full offensive value.

Were Revere to get off to a hot start, and should the team falter as many expect, capitalizing on his trade value could be the best move over the long-term. He will most likely not be a part of the next competitive Phillies team, so maximizing that value as soon as possible might be the wisest option.

Amaro has waited too long to pull the trigger on such players in similar situations in the past. Let’s hope with the new “anyone can be had” philosophy of building for the future, those bad habits do not continue.

The Phillies have Herrera already on the team, a player who could turn into a find at the level of Shane Victorino a decade ago from those same Rule 5 ranks. They also still are developing Aaron Altherr and others in the minors. 

Ben Revere won’t hit for any power. He won’t play the greatest defense either. Yet here he remains, a projected starter for the 2015 Phillies. He’ll continue to post a solid batting average, if only due to his speed and contact ability.

However, his offensive profile is likely to remain that of a barely above-replacement player. If a better solution were to come along, there should be no hesitation from the team to insert that solution ahead of Revere for the good of the team, and maximize any trade benefit they can derive from him.