Outfielders raking in Triple-A make the Phillies' struggling offense even more frustrating

Could a pair of hot-hitting veterans in Lehigh Valley put pressure on the Phillies' slumping outfielders?
Philadelphia Phillies minor league outfielder Jordan Luplow is swinging a hot bat in Triple-A
Philadelphia Phillies minor league outfielder Jordan Luplow is swinging a hot bat in Triple-A / Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

No one, no matter his salary, really wants to put on the Philadelphia Phillies pinstripes in the spring and then wade through a slow start. Phillies know their fans are frank and perceptive. They know they’ll hear about a poor start at Citizens Bank Park, and the vitriol on local sports talk radio can be surprising. The callers to those shows in the Delaware Valley are sometimes spitting angry about ballplayers they supposedly support.

Right now, outfielders Nick Castellanos and Johan Rojas are hearing that criticism for their failure to hit. The only reason newcomer Whit Merrifield hasn’t had to duck the same sort of incoming fire is that he hasn’t played as much as those two starters, but his batting average is .107. And if Brandon Marsh falls any further away from his fast start — he’s hitting .273 after peaking early at .344 a week ago — he’ll hear it too.

Everyone following Philadelphia this season knows the offense is failing, and the outfielders are failing perhaps worst of all, despite Marsh’s team-leading four home runs. Castellanos is hitting .169 with five RBI; Rojas is at .167; their OPS figures are .408 and .429, respectively.  

Fifth outfielder Cristian Pache is hitting .286 after his walk-off single on Monday, but he has only had nine plate appearances.

But this isn’t just about fan pressure in a big city. All the Phillies outfielders may have something else to truly worry about if they don’t pick up their paces: minor leaguers eager to shed their Triple-A uniforms.

Pair of veteran outfielders raking with Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs

Right about now, in fact, there are two quite reasonable options at Lehigh Valley if any of the current Phillies outfielders continue to stumble. They are Jordon Luplow and David Dahl. The Phillies signed Luplow to a minor league deal on March 16, after already inking Dahl to a contract early in spring training.

Both new IronPigs are brutalizing the MLB/MiLB mix of pitchers they are seeing. Luplow, a journeyman who has played for six MLB teams in parts of seven seasons, is hitting .386 with a 1.156 OPS, three homers and 10 RBI. Dahl, a former Rockies All-Star, is hitting .333 with a 1.200 OPS in seven of Lehigh Valley's 13 games. Twelve years ago, Dahl was the 10th overall pick in the MLB draft, and he has an aggregate .271 MLB average with three teams.

Additionally, Símon Muzziotti, another IronPig outfielder, is hitting .259 with five RBI. So, maybe there are two and a half or three players in Allentown who could be useful.

Both Luplow’s and Dahl’s fielding percentages in MLB games are five points higher than league averages.

All that said, it is still early.

Also, always keep in mind that players in the minor leagues are usually there for a couple of reasons. While he has also played some first and third base, Luplow’s MLB career batting average is .212. Dahl, who has 43 career MLB home runs, also has had over 200 more MLB at-bats than Luplow but has four fewer homers. Dahl has struck out 160 times per 162 MLB games played. That figure for Luplow is 118 strikeouts.

Therefore, don’t expect the Phillies to send Johan Rojas to the IronPigs just yet, or trade Nick Castellanos somehow, but those two may start looking over their shoulders in a few weeks at some veterans who surely believe they belong in South Philly instead of Allentown.