Phillies 2015 Report Card: Outfielders
By Matt Veasey
After previously handing out grades to the 2015 Philadelphia Phillies infielders and catchers, it’s now the outfielders turn. The starting outfielders based on playing time this season were Ben Revere, Odubel Herrera, and Jeff Francoeur, and there were 2-3 others who received substantive time.
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Others receiving significant time included Cody Asche, who started 61 games in left field. Domonic Brown, who the club released just yesterday, appeared in 50 games in right field. Aaron Altherr appeared in 37 games spread across all three outfield positions. The Phillies also got 31 early season games from Grady Sizemore in left and right field.
When spring training in Clearwater began back in February, few would have predicted that the Rule 5 draftee Herrera or the supposedly washed-up free agent signee Francoeur would end up as regulars, let alone as fan favorites. But that is exactly what happened as the 2015 season developed.
Below you will find letter grades assigned to the first seven names mentioned above, making up all of the players who appeared in at least 30 games in the outfield for the 2015 Phillies.
Grady Sizemore – F: it’s really hard to see why Ryne Sandberg kept writing the then-32 year old Sizemore’s name into the lineup during the months of April and May. Likely it was simply because the ill-fated skipper felt there were few proven options, with Herrera and Francoeur not yet having fully emerged, and with Revere as the only established, healthy, proven starter. Sizemore produced nothing in 104 plate appearances: a .245/.288/.296 slash line with no homers, six RBI, four runs scored, no stolen bases. He was released on June 1st, signed with the Tampa Bay Rays two weeks later, and actually produced well for the Rays over the season’s final three months. But again, with the Phillies he was nothing more than a complete waste of time.
Aaron Altherr – C: some over-exuberant fans or evaluators may be tempted to give Altherr a higher grade. Let’s not get carried away. He will turn 25 years old in January, so he’s not exactly a kid. He also hit for a just a .241 average, and the right-handed batter amazingly performed much worse against lefty pitching, with a .180/.276/.360 slash line in 58 plate appearances against southpaws. He did produce five homers, 22 RBI, 25 runs, and six stolen bases in 161 total plate appearances. Multiply those production numbers by four to get a full season. If Altherr can actually produce those types of numbers, he can be a full-time big league starter, at least for the next few seasons as the Phillies roster continues to improve. He committed no errors, and generally fielded well no matter where he was placed in the outfield. Expect Altherr to enter spring training as a favorite to win a starting corner outfield spot. If he can figure out lefties, the Phils may have themselves a productive, dependable starter.
Domonic Brown – F: never let it be said that I didn’t kick a man when he was down, at least when that man is someone who I have cringed at watching in a Phillies uniform as much as I have Dom Brown over the last few years. I already went over Brown’s disappointing performances over the last few years in yesterday’s piece following his removal from the Phillies 40-man roster. Let’s just focus here on what produces this grade, his 2015 performance. The season began with him on the DL, then with a .260 average and three homers in 248 minor league plate appearances. He certainly didn’t earn a promotion, but the Phils gave him one anyway. Back in the big leagues, Brown produced just a .228/.284/.349 slash line with five homers, 25 RBI, and 19 runs scored over 204 plate appearances. He committed just one official error, and did flash his strong arm with four outfield assists. But he continued a troubling lack of awareness of his place on the field at times, which directly ended his season and Phillies career in early September when he tumbled into the Citi Field stands, suffering a concussion. It was just more of the same disappointing failure time after time for Brown. Can you tell my feelings regarding his release? Good riddance.
Cody Asche – D: let’s be honest here, Asche wasn’t much better in 2015 than Brown, if better at all. His passing grade is barely, and is really only given due to his versatility in reasonably covering two positions on defense. Asche had been the club’s starting 3rd baseman, but was moved to left field with the development of top rookie Maikel Franco. While no Gold Glover, the athletic Asche did show that he can handle the outfield, at least in a backup role. In 2015, Asche produced a disappointing .245/.294/.395 slash line that was very close to his overall career MLB numbers across more than 1,000 plate appearances. While he didn’t hit righties particularly well, he did show far greater power against them. He will turn 26 years old right in the middle of next season, and looks like a backup player. Asche is going to need to show more, or as the overall roster improves he is going to find it harder and harder to keep a big league job, at least in Phillies pinstripes.
Ben Revere – C: the speedy Revere had an almost identical season to his 2014 campaign, when you combine his full Phillies and Blue Jays numbers. With the Phils, he produced a .298/.334/.374 slash line with 24 stolen bases and 49 runs scored across 388 plate appearances prior to his July 31st trade to Toronto. Revere was with the Phillies what he is overall as a player: a speed threat. His speed allows him to beat out enough infield hits, and he makes enough contact, to keep his average around the .300 level. His ability to get on base and use his speed fit perfectly with the Jays’ power-laden lineup. With the Phillies, his skill set was basically being wasted. He will turn 28 years old in early May, and becomes arbitration eligible this coming off-season, so he would have begun to become an expensive, limited option. Defensively, Revere’s speed allowed him to run down some balls, and he was willing to give up his body for diving grabs. However, he also took questionable routes at times, and has a weak arm. The Phillies were able to get a pair of young arms for him. If either pans out in any way that helps them down the line, this should prove a deal that works out for both teams.
Jeff Francoeur – C: it’s not that ‘Frenchy’ wasn’t a joy to watch for most of the season, he was. Especially during such an overall down season for the team. But we have to be reasonable about handing out grades. He produced a .258/.286/.433 slash line with 13 home runs and 45 RBI in 343 plate appearances. A few of those home runs were dramatic, coming at key moments, including to walkoff some of the Phillies few victories during the 2015 season. A former Gold Glover who was once a regular atop the NL outfield assists leaderboards, his still powerful arm produced some sensational throws. Heck, he even took the mound in a blowout, tossing two solid innings. He was also widely acknowledged to be a strong, positive influence in the clubhouse. However, Francoeur does turn 32 years old in January, and should not be considered a big piece of the future. He earned a return in the same role, at least for 2016: backup outfielder who will not embarrass himself or the team if needed as the regular right fielder at any point.
Odubel Herrera – B: there is nothing to say about the fact that a Rule 5 draftee who had never played center field in his career became your starting center fielder than “amazing”, and that was Herrera for the 2015 Phillies. Easily the season’s most pleasant surprise, the rookie Herrera was voted the club’s top offensive player by the staff here at TBOH, and was also selected by the Phillies as the team Hank Aaron Award nominee. He will turn 24 years old at the end of December, and thus is young enough that, if he continues to develop, he can become a key piece to the rebuilding program. The player known affectionately as “El Torito” (the little bull) hit for a .297/.344/.418 slash line, producing eight homers, 30 doubles, 41 RBI, 64 runs scored, and 16 steals across 537 plate appearances. While he won’t win the award, Herrera should receive some votes in the upcoming NL Rookie of the Year voting. Frankly, I’m not sure of what the Phillies have here. Is he their future in center field? Maybe back at his more natural position of 2nd base? Will he be a regular, a bench player, or a flash-in-the-pan who fades into a footnote in Phillies history? I honestly believe that all of those remain possibilities at this point.
OTHERS: Brian Bogusevic played 16 games in the Phillies outfield this season, receiving 13 starts in right field and one in left. Darin Ruf played 22 games, including 19 starts, in left field. We covered Ruf in our infield grades, where he started 43 and appeared in 66 at 1st base. Darnell Sweeney played 14 games in the outfield, starting 11 times in left. He also started eight games at 2nd base. Jordan Danks appeared in one early August game. None of these players received enough time to be able to give any a fair grade. Bogusevic was released from the 40-man roster along with Brown yesterday. However, it is believed that the club is interested in bringing him back, at least with AAA Lehigh Valley.
Towards the end of the season, manager Pete Mackanin was forced to bench Herrera due to an episode of pouting in which he also displayed a lack of hustle in a game against the Atlanta Braves. As reported by ESPN, Mackanin called Herrera out publicly after the outburst.
“Boys play Little League and men play Major League Baseball. We will not pout, we will not feel sorry for ourselves. If you want to, then you don’t belong here. He had to learn a lesson. Lately he’s been showing his emotions a little bit more. We’re just not going to stand for it. He’s got to understand that it doesn’t work that way. I’m sure he’s going to understand.”
No one wants or expects Herrera to play without emotion. He needs that aspect of his game, and it can bring energy to the entire team. However, he does need to grow and learn to harness those emotions, displaying them in a more positive way. If he can do so, his talent could allow him to become a player similar to what Shane Victorino became a decade ago.
The developement of the Phillies outfield, like the rest of the roster, will continue in 2016. You should expect to see Herrera featured prominently. Will the club decide to open up their wallet and spend for free agents such as Jason Heyward or Justin Upton? If not, you can also expect to see a lot more of Altherr, Francoeur, and even Asche.