Opinion

Flawed Logic May Hurt Phillies’ Player Development

goeddelPhillies manager Pete Mackanin thinks Tommy Joseph should get more playing time to end the season, according to this piece by Ryan Lawrence of PhillyVoice.

“I think it makes sense to see Joseph as much as possible. I don’t want to happen to him (to be what happened) to Ruf, where (we) didn’t have opportunities to get him at bats.”

First, I think it’s time to get past bemoaning Darin Ruf’s flawed development. Yes, Ryan Howard’s presence made it difficult for Ruf to get consistent playing time, but through 807 plate appearances he put up a .238/.314/.425 line, which isn’t good enough, especially for a player who only truly profiles as a first baseman.

Ruf never showed himself to be a consistently above-average hitter. He can pop some home runs. That’s good for the bench, but not good for an everyday player. So despite the somewhat unfair shake he received, Ruf is still not an everyday major leaguer.

The jury is still out on Joseph, who is at .251/.296/.498 in 274 plate appearances. Mackanin seems determined to not repeat what happened early on with Ruf, and give Joseph the opportunity of getting consistent starts.

So yes, more time for Joseph. Good.

That logic, then, should be applied to any young and relatively heralded talent the Phillies have in the majors right now. Those players (with career slash) include:

  • Cameron Rupp (.244/.305/.406). 715 plate appearances is a decent read for an offense-first position like first base, but Rupp is playing the most defensively demanding position on the diamond. Catchers deserve more rope, and Rupp should get at least another half-season (if not a full season) of consistent playing time before we can evaluate him further.
  • Maikel Franco (.254/.309/.437). He’s at 914 plate appearances and should get to 1,000 by season’s end. That’s a good evaluation mark for a corner infielder, and while Franco has flaws, he still profiles as an everyday major leaguer.
  • Odubel Herrera (.290/.352/.415). At 1,081 appearances, Herrera has crossed an evaluation threshold. Still, we should be charitable, as he’s playing a demanding position that he hadn’t played before he reached the majors. Even then, though Herrera displays obvious flaws, he’s on track as an everyday major leaguer going forward.
  • Aaron Altherr (.233/.316/.428). Altherr has only amassed 292 plate appearances. Another full season in the outfield is necessary.
  • Tyler Goeddel (.191/.250/.296). Goeddel is at 217 plate appearances. Same problem as Altherr. Again, not enough, right Pete?

“I’ve seen enough of Goeddel to know – we’ve kept him (on the roster) this long and we’re going to keep him (as a Rule 5 pick) and we’ll see where we go next year with him. I don’t see a need to play him, especially after he hasn’t played so much. What’s the point?”

What’s the point? The point is Goeddel profiles as a possible everyday corner outfielder, like Altherr. He needs to play.

Now, baseball’s Rule 5 guidelines throw a wrench into the plan, since the Phillies couldn’t send Goeddel to Lehigh Valley to play in a slower, less-stressful environment. However, when Goeddel actually received regular playing time in the majors (after the team sacked Ruf), he was perfectly fine:

May 4-June 10 – 30 G, 104 PA, .260/.317/.438, 3 HR, 2 2B, 3 3B, 17 K, 7 BB

Then, once Cody Asche and Jimmy Paredes arrived, the Phillies put him back on the bench, using him primarily as a late-innings replacement. When Peter Bourjos returned from the disabled list, it buried Goeddel as a sometimes fourth outfielder, sometimes fifth outfielder.

The first problem with this is Asche had already amassed more than 1,000 plate appearances as a bad defensive player. He never showed enough hitting prowess to be an everyday major leaguer.

The second problem with this is Paredes had more than 800 appearances by the time he arrived in Philadelphia with only one relatively decent full season to his credit. Like Asche, Paredes never proved himself an everyday major league player.

In fact, Mackanin even noted that to Lawrence and the beat reporters.

“An extra player,” he called Paredes. “Not an everyday player right now here for us.”

And the third problem with this is Bourjos started 2016 as a veteran with more than 1,600 appearances. He was never very good offensively, and while his defense helped make him a better overall player, Bourjos was brought in to be a one-season stopgap. There’s no reason to run Bourjos out there every day when it’s painfully obvious that he isn’t starting in the outfielder for the 2017 Phillies.

In essence, Mackanin reduced playing time for a young outfielder beginning to figure himself out in favor of two known quantities who have no future as starting outfielders, and one veteran and known quantity who was brought in to fill space.

And now Mackanin’s excuse is they’ve seen enough of him to know he’s not ready, and it doesn’t matter at this point because he hasn’t played enough.

Newsflash to Mackanin: YOUR DECISIONS ARE THE REASON HE HASN’T PLAYED ENOUGH.

Maybe Goeddel can use some time in Lehigh Valley next year. But starting the majority of games from June to now wouldn’t have altered his development that much, especially considering he was improving once he received regular playing time.

Instead, you have a 23-year-old on track to maybe start in the outfield for several years sitting on your bench and not getting opportunities to develop at a high level. Instead, you may have stunted the growth of a potentially good player because you had to keep looking at known quantities.

There is flawed logic in Pete Mackanin’s decision making. And it may direly cost the Phillies.

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