Utley Traded: Now What?

ethanwitte
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The bombshell that many Phillies fans didn’t want to hear has been dropped. The team reportedly has agreed to send Chase Utley to the Dodgers for 2 minor leaguers. Instead of dwelling on that aspect, let’s focus on something a little more important: finishing the 2015 season.

More from That Balls Outta Here

For most of the season, the team has been content with Maikel Franco playing third, Freddy Galvis playing shortstop, Utley or Cesar Hernandez manning the keystone, and Ryan Howard playing first base.

Some combination of Odubel Herrera, Domonic Brown, Cody Asche and Jeff Francoeur has played the outfield, with Ben Revere factoring in before his trade to Toronto. Now that we know Utley is gone, and that Franco is probably done for the season with a wrist fracture, who is going to play the field for the team going forward?

As has been said many times in many places, this is a transition year, where the team is finding out who will help them later on. In order to best judge what is available for the future, the best course of action would involve running out a lineup such as this:

Hernandez 2B
Galvis SS
Herrera CF
Howard 1B
Brown RF
Aaron Altherr LF
Asche 3B
Cameron Rupp/Carlos Ruiz C

First of all, I will acknowledge the abject pathetic level of competitiveness with this lineup. Constructed this way, the team would be expected to score about 3.8 runs per game. There isn’t really any way to improve on this lineup.

Mar 3, 2015; Clearwater, FL, USA;

Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Altherr (40) during a spring training baseball game at Bright House Field.

(Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

You could substitute Andres Blanco, he of the 140 wRC+ in 123 plate appearances, for Asche, but to continue believing Blanco will keep producing with that sample size, while looking at his history, would be ludicrous.

I’ll also acknowledge that Asche has been terrible this year. At -1.1 fWAR, he’s been the worst player on the team. His defense in left field has been brutal (-9 DRS), which is to be expected from someone who had to learn the position on the fly.

A return to third base to finish out the year, where he wasn’t as bad (-3 DRS in 2014) could also help at the plate as well, as he might be more comfortable playing his old position.

However, this isn’t about who plays third, Blanco or Asche. With Franco around, neither will be there in the future anyway. No, this is about getting at-bats for Aaron Altherr.

This year, Altherr has seemingly broken out (.293/.367/.487 across two levels, with 32 doubles and 14 home runs) in the minor leagues after years of seemingly underwhelming performances. He’s always been a prospect who was considered “raw”, but this seems to be the season where he has put the whole package together.

His being recalled for the injured Franco meant that the team wanted to see what he can do in the Bigs. An Utley trade, along with this offensive alignment, could be exactly the break Altherr needs to perform well in his dress rehearsal.

Sure, he might be overwhelmed at first. That’s why you have veterans like Francoeur around, to soak up some at-bats that a rebuilding team needs down the stretch jn a lost season. Francoeur has played well enough that he can rotate around the corner outfield spots.

Either that, or Altherr can be the one to take on that position of rotating outfielder. Any way it’s done, Altherr needs to be at the plate as much as possible. As I stated before, the rest of the season should be about getting the younger players the at-bats needed to continue their development.

Hernandez has played well enough that the trade of Utley shouldn’t be that much of a hit to the production coming from second base. Galvis has performed about as well as someone who got the big leagues with a “defense first” reputation could be expected to perform.

Franco and Aaron Nola have given the fans something to dream on, as well as given the new club decision-makers players to build on. Having players such as Altherr promoted to show what they can do helps the decision-making process be that much easier when it comes to figuring out who can be a part of the next Phillies playoff team and who can’t.

Let’s just hope the Phillies brass recognize that, and get Altherr the at-bats he needs.

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